January 27th, 2008
|10:20 pm - Excellent posts on Republicans and Political Divisiveness|
My friend athenian_abroad has written an excellent post about what being "politically divisive" really means, and how the far right continues to dominate US political discourse. I completely agree, for far too long, the far right has been setting the political agenda - with everything from the ludicrous idea that Clinton (either one) is anything resembling a socialist, or even significantly liberal, to the entire idea that "liberal" should be in any way a pejorative.
NYT Columnist Paul Krugman has an excellent column with a very similar message, that's about the lessons of the 1992 election
"So what are the lessons for today’s Democrats? In any case, because the Republican party has repeatedly shown itself to be exactly that bad (and for many other reasons) in the November election, I want to urge everyone reading this to vote a straight Democratic ticket for all federal elections, even if you normally vote Green or for some other 3rd party, not because I agree with the Democrats, but because the Republican party is utterly monstrous, and perhaps this year there will be a chance to utterly cripple it in the House & Senate and the presidency.
First, those who don’t want to nominate Hillary Clinton because they don’t want to return to the nastiness of the 1990s — a sizable group, at least in the punditocracy — are deluding themselves. Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false (at least not on Page 1)."
Perhaps if the loses in the House & Senate are as large as predicted and we have Democrat as the present, the Republican party may start to rebuild itself into something other than the party of bigots, religious zealots, and the greediest and most self-serving members of the upper class. If nothing else, a severe enough loss would kill most of its funding and so it would need to change or die (my own preference would be for it to die and be replaced by something completely different).
The Democratic party needs to start doing something other than blaming the Republicans. In other words, it needs to get off its butt and quit blaming Bush for its lack of accomplishments.
At least they've got candidates who can actually campaign for a change. Kerry and Gore had all the personality of a mud fence.
|Date:||January 28th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)|| |
Alternatively, Democrats could simply tell the truth about what movement conservatives have done and how they have done it, at a moment when the public seems inclined to listen, and to hold the GOP accountable for its many contributions to our public life.
As to candidates, I suppose it's a tiresome fact, but Al Gore did win about half a million more votes that George W. Bush; this is undisputed. Which leads me to suspect that perhaps he wasn't all that bad a campaigner. I suppose I could apologize if John Kerry, a decorated combat veteran with a lifetime of public service, was insufficiently entertaining to hold your interest, but it's also true that almost 56 million Americans managed -- somehow! -- to rouse themselves from their ennui sufficiently to vote "No" in an election that was universally understood to be a referendum on the Iraq war.
Finally, as to accomplishments, let's review the difference between "party in power" and "party in opposition." It is the party in power that is supposed to produce "accomplishments." The job of the party in opposition is to eject the party in power, nothing more. Plainly, the Democrats have failed to accomplish this, and, in the bottom-line world of politics, this must be accounted a failure on their part. They were, however, aided in this both by the Republican noise machine, and by the voters -- who, in astonishingly large numbers, didn't want the Republicans ejected.
If I thought that pointing out the role of movement conservatives in consciously and intentionally creating the poisonous atmosphere would somehow induce Democrats to run a less-than-vigorous campaign, I suppose I wouldn't do it. But I think (perhaps contrary to available evidence) that we can walk and chew gum at the same time.
"Finally, as to accomplishments, let's review the difference between "party in power" and "party in opposition." It is the party in power that is supposed to produce "accomplishments." The job of the party in opposition is to eject the party in power, nothing more. Plainly, the Democrats have failed to accomplish this, and, in the bottom-line world of politics, this must be accounted a failure on their part. They were, however, aided in this both by the Republican noise machine, and by the voters -- who, in astonishingly large numbers, didn't want the Republicans ejected."
The Democrats have control of Congress. Both houses. I expect them to NOT rubber-stamp every thing Our Dear Leader rams through. Why can't they create some gridlock? They can do that, at least.
However, your point is quite valid, and one I have not considered. The balance of power is with the executive, and the Republicans have that.
They can't create gridlock if some of the Democrats are effectively lite Republicans. But there's not much the progressive Democrats can do about that, especially in the short term.
They did raise the minimum wage from about $5 to about $7. No small thing there.
Keep in mind as well that the D's have held Congress for only one year, and that the R's will continue to control the judicial branch of government for at least a decade, and very possibly more than one.
If we look at the last year or so, I think we can say the the Dems have accomplished a certain amount of blocking. The Bush tax cuts haven't been made permanent. The last I saw of it, we hadn't granted retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that (perhaps illegally) cooperated with (almost certainly illegal) surveillance activities. (I may be out of date on that, though....)
There have been disappointments, of course. My favorite is the failure to close the "carried interest" loophole, which allows hedge fund managers' pay to be taxed at the lower capital gains/dividends rate. But closing a loophole requires an affirmative change; it's not something you can do with gridlock.
|Date:||January 28th, 2008 07:34 pm (UTC)|| |
I think it's basically very naive to think that we won't have a lot of very bad feelings this election.
The simple fact is that about half of the voting populace has mutually exclusive goals with the other half of the populace: we cannot simultaneously maintain troops in Iraq and Afghanistan while pulling troops out of those places; we cannot both be devoting more money and less money to social programs; we cannot both tighten and ease environmental restrictions.
Net result is that half the country is very angry with the other half. And, as a production of our election system, that means that roughly half the country will be disenfranchised.
Now, I think it's worth pointing out that overall the democrats/liberals/etc tend to be NICER about it when they're the losers. The bar's set pretty low anyway, but they do manage to not be such incredible asses about it. Maybe this is psychological. Maybe the Republicans/conservatices/etc are just better at game theory.
But it's necessary to bear in mind that whatever the outcome, half the country will lose.
|Date:||January 28th, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC)|| |
But it's necessary to bear in mind that whatever the outcome, half the country will lose.
Actually, from everything I've seen on voting patterns, I'd put it more in 3rds. Approximately 1/3 of people are non-conservative (ie they support centrist candidates like Clinton and Obama, sadly, few people support actual liberals), 1/3 of people are conservatives, and 1/3 of people seem to wildly swing one way or the other based on ephemera like media spin, details of candidate personal appearance, or catchy slogans.
I'm utterly baffled by the last 1/3rd, but they are clearly the people who were completely behind Bill Clinton in 1996 and equally behind Shrub in 2002. I have no clue how their minds work, and my only assumption is that they simply do not care about or even particularly think about politics at all. The existence of such people makes me doubt the entire worth of the US political system, and I cannot speculate about them or their desires.
As for the conservatives, I divide them into a small number of wealthy people (simply because, we live in a highly economically polarized nation with a large lower middle class and not very many wealthy people), who I have nothing remotely resembling sympathy for, and a majority of middle class and (especially) lower middle class voters. Given the horrid state of the US economy, the incredible cost of healthcare, and the fact that most of the US soldiers come from the lower middle class, a president who actually support social programs, passes some laws that regulate the health insurance industry, starts pulling troops out of these wars, and actually helps improve the US economy will greatly benefit these people, and so I hardly see them as losing.
|Date:||January 28th, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC)|| |
Well, I'm going strictly on poll numbers - in the last presidential election, pretty close to 50% voted for Bush, and pretty close to 50% voted for Kerry.
While you can break the demographics down to much greater granularity, everyone who votes for the losing candidate will "lose", and everyone who votes for the winning candidate will "win".
|Date:||January 28th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)|| |
If we're lucky that won't be the case in the upcoming election. If it's Romney vs. any of the remaining Democratic candidates, then it's going to look far more like the 60+% voting for the Democrats win and the 40-% voting for Romney lose.
Beyond that, I'm far from certain I see the point of the POV you are suggesting. The fact remains that the degree lingering hard feeling about elections are fairly recent problem. I don't remember the same level of bad feelings after the Carter election of 76 (the first election I was old enough to pay close attention to). Also historically, this has also been largely true. What we have seen is more than 20 years of deliberate (and unfortunately successful) Republican efforts to drastically polarize elections and shift the entire political discourse vastly further to the right. There are a number of events that contributed to this change, including both mass media consolidation and the elimination of the FCC's Fairness Doctrine in 1987 (after it was substantially weakened in 1985). You seem to be asserting that the resentment of the "losers" is in some way inherent and inevitable, when I see far more evidence that the current degree of it is a deliberate construct.
|Date:||January 28th, 2008 09:48 pm (UTC)|| |
Historically, no, it hasn't always been so polarized (though some elections have been).
This election? Yeah, it's inevitable. There's nobody running who will not be loathed by a large portion of the populace.
The Nation has claimed polls show a growing liberal majority on specific policy issues, such as universal health care, stopping global warming, gay rights (if not marriage), abortion. The Democratic failure is arguably a combination of failing to stand up firmly for such policies, and getting overwhelmed by a counter-majority stampeding over "terror" and the war. Not so much half and half as which 60% issue trumps other 60% issues.