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October 20th, 2008


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02:36 am - Factio Republicana Delenda Est
This will likely be my last political post for a few weeks, since I'm both more hopeful than I have been and also getting rather tired of the overly long election process. This post is in two parts, the first is a rather lengthy analysis of US politics, and particularly of the Republican party, the 2nd half is a strong recommendation for what to do about this rather horrid situation. Even if you aren't interested in the first part, look at the second and please at least consider acting on my recommendation.

1) The biggest problem in US politics today is that the Republican party is utterly monstrous. I remember an article in the local free paper shortly before the 200 election, one of the points it made was that we shouldn't worry too much about that election, because Shrub couldn't really be as bad as we expected and also if you were at a point where one of the candidates truly was that vile, then the problems were a lot deeper and more serious than just that candidate. Well, he was and they are.

The Republican party has been primarily the party of bigots, hate-filled religious zealots, and the dangerously paranoid for more than 30 years and they've largely been in charge of the federal government for most of this time. The reasons for both of these facts are not complex or secret. It involves a well organized conspiracy, but it was one that not remotely hidden. It all started with Richard Nixon. Although he was a far better President than Shrub, he did a vast amount of harm. One of the worst things he did was his so-called Southern Strategy. Republican strategist Kevil Phillips said in 1970:
From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that . . . but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangements with the local Democrats.
Obviously, the Republicans couldn't openly call themselves the bigot or segregation party, but they had a useful code word, already used by both Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, in their campaigns as openly segregationist candidates - states rights. Any candidate who used that phrase was openly appealing to racists in a way that was both obvious, but more difficult to attack.

That was election gold in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the US was first adjusting to desegregation. Unfortunately, by making one of the two political parties the segregationist party, that particular bit of vileness has been fed and nurtured rather than allows to fade away. The fact that this stuff is still going strong and is an integral part of the Republican base is especially obvious in this election Here's a particularly vile example. Here's a particularly vile video of the behavior of some McCain supporters at a rally, and a perfect example of precisely the behavior and attitudes that the Republican part has encouraged for the last 35 or so years.

Of course, that's not a solid path to victory, since there are only so many hard core bigots. Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan (or more accurately, his staff) came up with a winning strategy. In addition to open appeals to "states rights", they also found another sort of vile intolerance to appeal to – fundamentalist Christianity. The current fundy revival and the rise of the mega-churches. For the prior 15 years, religion was at all all-time low in the US, but the fundy revival was big, powerful, and well-organized, and by embracing Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, the Republicans had a large ready made base with lots of money and a huge grass-roots organization. This match served the Republican Party frighteningly well, with the US having a Democrat as president for only 8 of the last 28 years, combined with Republican control of either the House or the Senate (or for a while both) for the vast majority of that time.

So, by 1980 you had a party that had as its base bigots and intolerant religious fanatics. Fortunately, many of the fundamentalists were also bigots, so the two groups largely got along well together. Obviously, not everyone who voted Republican was either a bigot or a fundy, but those people formed the party's core supporters and so no federal level candidate could last long who didn't appeal to them. There were exceptions, mostly among Republican Senators and Representatives who had gotten into power before this transformation of the party, but they started retiring in the 1990s and were almost exclusively replaced by candidates who appealed to the party's core supporters. As one example, look at what happened to John McCain in the 2000 presidential primary. He made one attack on the fundys and suddenly he was effectively out of the race. Around four years ago, he clearly rethought his opinions and has done his best to win himself back into their good graces, a process he cemented by appointing a fundy wackjob as his vice presidential candidate.

So, that's where we're at – a political party who has gained control of much of the nation's mass media, who made the term "liberal" into an insult and who has as its core supporters – the people it made certain to appeal to and who effectively vetted all candidates, bigots and intolerant religious fanatics. The Republican party of the late 1960s was very different from the current Republican party, and I'm hoping that a sufficiently bad defeat will reshape it into some new and less horrible form.

2) My basic recommendation is very simple. I urge everyone considering voting for independent candidates for any federal level office [[1]] to vote a straight Democratic ticket this November. I'm suggesting this not because the Democrats are especially marvelous or wonderful - mostly they're overly timid centrists. The point is that the Republican party has been sufficiently bad for sufficiently long that we need to do whatever we can to cause it to change. I urge you all to help be a part of this change, even if you normally vote for the Green Party or some other third party. If we can clean up the Republicans even somewhat, then there will be vastly more room for non-ultraconservative ideas to flourish and spread.

Currently, both individual and corporate donations to the Republican party are down significantly compared to previous elections. What voting for the Democrats in November does is help insure not just large-scale Republican losses, but exceedingly severe large-scale Republican losses. This is badly needed because it will cause the Republican party to reshape itself into something at least somewhat less monstrous, if for no other reason than that bad losses mean even less money, and every political party rises and falls on its ability to obtain money from its supporters and few people and corporations support hopeless losers. While I'd never have voted for the Republicans from the first 2/3s of the 20th century, mostly they were not particularly more monstrous than the Democrats of that era. That's no longer remotely true.

More importantly, voting for a 3rd party does nothing to stop or change the Republican party. It also means that the Republicans don't have to worry about the political power of people who aren't either ultra-conservatives or centrists.

My wise friend bruceb posted the following a while ago:
When it's the final election, you can either help the worst candidate win or the next-worst one, pretty much. That's how first-past-the-post balloting works, and it will continue to work that way until people promote alternative systems for actual use at lower levels - get folks used to proportional representation, ranked preferences, and the like for their towns, counties, and states, and then it'll be ripe for change nationally. Voting for someone who cannot win does not change the system, it only increases the chances that the worst candidate will win.

Changing a national party happens between elections. It takes people making challenges in primary races, and pressuring candidates and officials all the time. Accountability Now, for instance, is supporting media campaigns in key districts, and also funding the challenges mounted by people who are better on issues like war and human rights than the Democratic Party leadership cares to be. Sometimes they win, sometimes not, but the fact that there is a sustained effort by this visible group gets the leadership's attention in a way that literally nothing else does. Ditto with, say, Blue America.

It's not fun, a lot of the time. It's certainly not as much fun as hoisting the jolly roger and helping the ship go down that much faster. But over time, it pays off. Remember that it took nearly half a century for the folks committed to undoing the New Deal to get real working control of the Republican Party. It will take time to change the Democratic Party significantly. It's just that it can be done, and there are useful things to do right now to help make it happen, and it is the avenue of change that works within American politics as we have it. The Democratic Party got commandeered as a wing of the conservative machine, in the last twenty years; it can be commandeered again. Get started on the siege engines and sapping tunnels.
As an addendum to Bruce's comments, it's worth noting that the only way the Democratic party is going to head left is if it starts seeing the ultra-conservatives losing badly. For most of the past 25 years, the accepted wisdom for the Democratic Party has been that the only way to beat the Republicans is to be centrists conservatives – Bill Clinton won handily, twice, more liberal candidates like Walter Mondale lost very badly indeed. The only way to change either political party is to end the Republican dominance and the only way to do that is to vote in Democrats. This year more than ever, a vote for a third party in a federal election is an utterly wasted vote. Also, Be wary of trusting any alleged progressive who tells you that there's no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. While many simply have a destructively powerful desire for ideological purity, some of them (sadly, now including Ralph Nader) are getting at least some of their backing and their funds from the Republican Party, because the Republican Party finds such people and such ideas to be exceptionally useful.

[[1]] I trust that no one reading this is foolish enough to consider voting for any federal-level Republicans, and if any of you are, I don't want to hear about it & I also urge you invest in either sense or morals.
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful

(31 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:dulcimergoddess
Date:October 20th, 2008 09:46 am (UTC)
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a very cogent analysis -- thank you for this.

i plan to do as you recommend....
From:metaphorge
Date:October 20th, 2008 10:20 am (UTC)
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Very well said, and I have my own version of this same plea percolating. Your analysis is concise and cogent... I'm planning on talking a bit more about filling Supreme Court vacancies in my version, but that's only a tactical difference.

I think Obama is going to win. I just hope that everything does not fall apart in such a dramatic manner that he'll get left holding the bag in much the same way Jimmy Carter (my favorite President in the last 50 years) did.

If the Republicans manage to pull this one out, I'm not sure there's any real way to recover. I don't want to think too much about that.
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From:heron61
Date:October 20th, 2008 10:23 am (UTC)
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If the Republicans manage to pull this one out, I'm not sure there's any real way to recover. I don't want to think too much about that.

*nods* *shudders* Btw, I love that icon.
From:metaphorge
Date:October 20th, 2008 10:21 am (UTC)
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BTW, it was really good to see you last week. I'm looking forward to visiting Portland when we're not OMGWTF busy so we can hang out more.
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From:heron61
Date:October 20th, 2008 10:24 am (UTC)
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I completely agree. I'd love to have a chance to sit down and actually have a chance to chat more with you folks.
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From:sythyry
Date:October 20th, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC)
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Preach it, brother!

Um...

...

Lecture it, brother!
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From:heron61
Date:October 20th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)

Re: P.S.

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Thank you muchly!
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From:queen_in_autumn
Date:October 20th, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for this. You and bruceb express very well what my own thoughts have been.
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From:slothman
Date:October 20th, 2008 03:03 pm (UTC)
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There are also a lot of people still registered as Republicans who are genuine fiscal conservatives (unlike the party leadership, who vary from plutocrats to kleptocrats) and social moderates. (One friend of mine is an accountant, a Buddhist, and a Republican, and he sees the flaws in the current party leadership but still votes in primaries to attempt to steer the party toward sense.) Gutting the ultra-conservatives may give the more sensible conservatives a chance to control the party.


Ultimately, I want instant runoff voting for single-seat elections and the single transferable vote for multi-seat elections (and to coalesce clusters of adjacent congressional districts that are in the same social/geographic region).

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From:mindstalk
Date:October 20th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)
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Australia has IRV and it still has only two big parties in those elections; reportedly the Green Party there wants to move more from IRV to PR, because they can't get elected in IRV. IRV lets you vote safely for your favorite if it doesn't matter -- Green 10%, Dem 45%, Rep 45%, Dem wins 55% to 45 -- but not when it does -- 31% Green, 18% Dem>Green>Rep, 11% Dem>Rep>G, 40% Rep, Republicans win 51% to 49%.

Try score voting.
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From:rjgrady
Date:October 20th, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC)
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1) So true. I considered Gore and Bush virtually interchangeable from my political standpoint, but I completely failed to detect how corrupt and incompetent the Bush regime would be.

2) Yes. I'm a pretty big fan of voting your conscience, but this election is not a forum on governance. It is war, and in war, you play to win. Period.
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From:rhiannasilel
Date:October 20th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
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Speaking as someone who voted for a third party candidate in the Florida election in 2000 (talk about post-election guilt!) I second your sentiments to vote Democratic this election. This is especially true for people in states where the Republicans have a chance of winning. If we lose this time, we may as well hang it up and consider our alternatives.

Ideally, what I would like to see is a complete dissolution of the Republican party with the Democrats replacing them as the token conservative party and a more liberal party closer to Labor come up on the Left. I doubt that will happen, but it would be nice.
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From:mindstalk
Date:October 20th, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
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While I'd never have voted for the Republicans from the first 2/3s of the 20th century,

First third of the century, pre-FDR, wouldn't the GOP still be the part of Lincoln? While the Democrats were the party of the racist South.
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From:heron61
Date:October 20th, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC)
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That's an excellent point.

Woodrow Wilson was a Democrat, and I'm fairly certain I'd have voted for him. OTOH, I'm far less certain about the other elections - for example, Davis vs. Coolidge looks like a choice between two equally horrid options.
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From:helen99
Date:October 20th, 2008 07:17 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the analysis - very nice.
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From:johnaegard
Date:October 20th, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
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...Although he was a far better President than Shrub...

Whenever I hear anyone favorably compare Nixon to Bush 43, I reflexively like to point out how Nixon played nuclear chicken with the Soviets over Vietnam.

Bush is an odious fuck, but his bodycount has got to be less than Nixon's, and (so far as I know) he's never posed an existential threat to human civilization.
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From:heron61
Date:October 20th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
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Fair enough. Under Nixon civil rights expanded, while they've definitely shrunk under Shrub, but Shrub didn't risk nuclear war. OTOH, if the Cold War had still been going on in 2000, I also having a feeling Nixon would have done far better than Shrub (likely in the sense that nuclear chicken beats the heck out of nuclear war). The point about relative body counts is however very true.
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From:kitten_goddess
Date:October 20th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
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I'm an anomaly: a registered Republican who is extremely liberal by this country's standards. My vote for Obama will mean something more to the political machine than a Democrat's vote for that party.

I'm changing my party after the election. I change parties a lot, since I have no party loyalty. That concept went out with the rule about no white shoes after Labor Day.
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From:silvaerina_tael
Date:October 20th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
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We had an appeal for strategic voting via http://www.voteforclimate.ca/en/ and http://www.fairvote.ca/en/ And we *still* voted in Harper, even if it was in a minority capacity again (just). One of the things I noticed when I did a bit of analysis, is that overall voter turnout was at an all-time low. Obviously people either don't care (idiots), or they feel that voting isn't going to make a damn bit of difference (perceived powerlessness coupled with idiocy). If you look at "Results by Riding" map from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/40th_Canadian_federal_election you will see that if people had voted strategically, the results would have very likely been different - had people actually voted.

That said, I have no idea, on a federal level, how to actually get people interested in the voting process, and off their arses to vote.

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From:mindstalk
Date:October 20th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC)
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You also had the introduction of voter ID to depress turnout.

Canadians do seem to vote strategically less than they 'should', though a friend agreed that it was more a vote against the Liberals than anything else. (Ironically, for a moderate Liberal supporter wanting to punish them, a Conservative vote might well have been the best strategic choice.)

Glad to see your FairVote is openly backing PR; I think ours is for IRV. Possibly as a stealth horse for STV/PR, but I find that dishonest, and in the US risks getting stuck with IRV and single-member districts. I note fairvote.ca suggests a hybrid of STV and traditional single-member voting, when they could just as easily throw in a better scheme for the single-member election.
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From:heronheart
Date:October 21st, 2008 04:42 am (UTC)
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I plan to pretty much vote straight Democratic this time around, but I have to ask myself just how spineless and conservative would the Democrats have to get before we just abandon them no matter how bad the Republicans get?
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From:rjgrady
Date:October 22nd, 2008 01:27 am (UTC)
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See election year 2000.

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