Red Red Meat (Or, Why Are Democrats Afraid of Getting Their Hands Bloody?)

by matttbastard

Following a long summer recess spent navigating heavily astro-turfed town halls and trying to bring yappy Blue Dogs to heel, President Obama finds himself  barely clinging to a piss-poor public option on health insurance (after preemptively tossing single-payer aside) and his once-formidible public approval rating.  More ominously, the GOP (and its once seemingly irrevelvant wingnut media proxies) has regained control of the malleable DC media narrative, with usefully idiotic outlets like Politico dutifully playing stenographer while chronicling the (as-yet-unfulfilled) Republican ascendancy. With what Michael Tomasky calls “a high-stakes address” on health care reform from Obama only hours away, one must reflect on why, after decisively winning what many at the time called a ‘transformative’ general election, the Democratic Party is now fighting for its political life.

Conventional beltway wisdom on how to survive as a mainstream political entity is as follows: Appeal to the centre, courting noble independents and so-called ‘moderates’; electoral success hinges on support from the unaligned mushy middle.

Sounds exactly like what the old white blowhards on Hardball are constantly yammering on about, right?

Well, don’t buy it.

In a TNR piece published in 2006, Thomas B. Edsall debunked the myth of the centrist swing voter as nonpartisan kingmaker, noting that most so-called independents are actually rather, well, partisan:

In late 2000, even as the result of the presidential election was still being contested in court, George W. Bush’s chief pollster Matt Dowd was writing a memo for Rove that would reach a surprising conclusion. Based on a detailed examination of poll data from the previous two decades, Dowd’s memo argued that the percentage of swing voters had shrunk to a tiny fraction of the electorate. Most self-described “independent” voters “are independent in name only,” Dowd told me in an interview describing his memo. “Seventy-five percent of independents vote straight ticket” for one party or the other. Once such independents are reclassified as Democrats or Republicans, a key trend emerges: Between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of true swing voters fell from a very substantial 24 percent of the electorate to just 6 percent. In other words, the center was literally disappearing. Which meant that, instead of having every incentive to govern as “a uniter, not a divider,” Bush now had every reason to govern via polarization. This ran counter to Rove’s previous thinking. In 2000, he had dismissed the tactic of running on divisive issues like patriotism, crime, and welfare as “an old paradigm.” And Bush had followed his advice by explicitly reaching out to the center-left. For instance, during the campaign, he held a press conference with a dozen gay Republicans and sharply criticized the GOP Congress for a plan to save money by slowing distribution of tax credits for the working poor. But Dowd’s memo changed all that.

Republicans know that investing in polarization, not aisle-crossing bipartisan capitulation, pays dividends  — it’s why they haven’t been afraid to break out barely-muted racist dog whistles and fall back on appeals to naked fear of all-powerful government intervention (Death panels! FEMA camps! ACORN!) Rather than moving to the (constantly shifting) centre, which some talking heads have suggested is key to a return from the wilderness, the GOP has instead gone hard right, doing its goddamndest to engage/fire up its conservative base, especially those wayward souls who last year stopped publicly identifying as Republicans and, in some cases, voted for Obama or, more often than not, simply stayed home (and, most importantly, didn’t donate to the RNC). What the GOP is trying to do with their seemingly self-destructive obstruction uber alles strategy is simple: work the base into a free-spending fever pitch while simultaneously demoralizing Democrats and disengaging skeptical independents (an effort aided quite handily by ineffectual leadership in both Congress and the White House, both deeply in thrall with the oracular advice imparted by those self-appointed soothsayers of Byzantine Washington protocol, the DC punditocracy and press).

The GOP aren’t concerned if ill-defined centrists/independents are (purportedly) turned off by gauche appeals to right-wing base impulse. If centrists/indies are dispelled from participation in the political process (ie, by not voting for/donating to ANYONE) and the GOP’s white, red state evangelical base does show up (angry, inspired and with checkbooks in hand) the Republicans stand to gain in 2010 (and, hopefully, 2012). Republicans don’t give a rat’s ass if centrists/indies swing to the GOP or not, as long as they don’t vote for the Democrats.

Furthermore, by discarding the strong change mandate voters handed them last November, the current Democratic leadership has done absolutely nothing to give the general public–especially left-leaning Democratic partisans–a reason to renew their current lease on Congress (much less the White House).

I’ll give the GOP one thing: they know when to throw hunks of bloody red meat to the more voracious animals that reside under the increasingly constrained boundaries of the Republican “big tent.” By comparison, the treatment progressives receive from the Democratic Party (perfectly encapsulated by the ritual purge of one of the few actual progressives in the White House, “Green Czar” Van Jones) is largely based on thinly-veiled top-down contempt. Recent rumblings from certain progressive circles about sitting on their check-scrawling hands  and staying home in 2010 perfectly illustrate why you don’t brazenly and repeatedly spit in the faces of the ones who brought you to the goddamn dance in the first place.

When will the Democratic Party give its long-forsaken liberal partisans something to chew on (even if it risks staining its collective hands bright crimson)?

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With Democrats Like These, Redux

by matttbastard

Upon reading his latest public statement on health reform legislation,  it seems all-too-apparent that co-op-luvvin’ DINO Sen. Kent Conrad, one of 6 senators inexplicably tasked with determining the fate of US health insurance,  has officially lost the plot, as publius notes:

When law students learn about murder, they learn that you generally need to kill knowingly — that is, the prosecution must show that the defendant actually intended to kill the victim.

In some cases, however, a defendant can be so utterly reckless that he is assumed to have knowledge.  For instance, if I drive drunk really fast down a crowded street, I might not have knowingly tried to kill someone.  But because I was so knowingly reckless — so oblivious to the obvious risks — I could still be charged.

That’s basically what Conrad is doing. If he’s not knowingly trying to kill reform, he’s acting with such an extreme recklessness that we might as well assume that he is.

Really hope someone opens up a can of primary whoop-ass on Conrad. The tiresome Lieberman 2.0 “centrist” posturing has gone too far this time. There must be consequences for blatantly pulling a hit on the public option at the apparent behest of his loyal patrons in the health insurance lobby (and, perhaps, the White House).

Some things are more important than Pollyannishly striving to achieve a hollow bipartisan consensus for its own sake (that leaden thud you heard was David Broder’s wrinkled carcass hitting a real American’s kitchen floor. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. He has great health insurance.)

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More On Blair Wilson, Elizabeth May, and The Green Party of Canada

by matttbastard

Self-described “card-carrying Green” Stuart Hertzog is none too pleased that Blair Wilson is now Canada’s first Green MP:

Why don’t I see this as good news? Because in accepting Blair Wilson into its ranks, Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May has shown that she’s prepared to throw out fundamental Green political principles just so she can be included in the nationally-televised leadership debate. Put simply, that sucks.

[…]

[W]hat effect will this appointment from ‘on high’ of a fallen Liberal star as Canada’s history-making first ‘Green’ MP have on local Green Party members? Were they consulted about this, or did they learn about it from the media?

I’m not living in that riding, but as a card-carrying Green I’m disgusted with this display of old-style, back-room political thinking that believes that secret negotiations to persuade star candidates to run under the Green Party banner is the way to open, democratic politics and ecological security.

Such shenanigans may create a brief flurry in the media — but at what cost? Blair Wilson MP has done well in the past by toeing the Liberal Party line, but the Liberal party’s environmental record is not good. Canadians saw little genuine progress in environmental enforcement during the decades it was in power.

Has Blair Wllson suddenly discovered a new ecological consciousness as a newly-minted Green? Or is his greening as pale as the current attempt to paint the Liberal Party green after its decades of environmental neglect? What are his Green credentials? He may call himself a Green MP — but is he really one?

[…]

Green politics was supposed to be different, an alternative to the moral and financial corruption of old-style politics. But Canada’s Green parties seem to have drifted away from these Green ideals. As the Green ‘brand’ grows in popularity, a new wave of political opportunists are hopping aboard the Green Party wagon as it trundles slowly but seemingly inevitably towards Ottawa.

Make sure to read the whole thing.  I think pogge nails it when he says (in comments; scroll down) “[t]he way to fix a broken electoral system isn’t to game it even more by exploiting whatever loopholes you can find. That’s a recipe for making voters [and, apparently, ideological partisans–mb] even more cynical than they already are.”

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Axes And Allies

by matttbastard

Gene of The Cylinder, bumped from comments:

I think that we’ve got to be careful here. This is absolutely not a comment to clear the RCMP of any wrongdoing. There is an urgent need to fix it. “Fix” is the operative word here.

A while ago I read a Ron [Dart] post in which he wrote about “legitimate criticisms” of the world order and I believe it applies in the current context as well: “The much more difficult question to answer is this: what is the best and wisest way to oppose such an order, and, equally important, how do we create a just and equitable world order and standards that serve a nation well?” (See also here)

I think that it may be well to keep in mind that while many of us would like to see the RCMP fixed, there are many others who would truly, really like to see the whole apparatus destroyed … to be replaced by the likes of Blackwater. Dart gets it.

JFTR, Dawg contends that he would like to see the RCMP replaced with “a new national police force, one not only sworn to uphold the law rather than break it with impunity, but under a civilian review board with the power to ensure that the oath is kept: one that can actually bring errant officers, and indeed the Commissioner if need be, to account.” To me, that can be defined as ‘fixing,’ in a “destroy in order to rebuild” sense. I still think, qua Greg Weston, that before any creative destruction takes place a public enquiry first needs to be convened post haste, if only to take full stock of just how corrupted the force has become; then we can most effectively begin mulling diagnoses (including the scorched earth option).

But I’m unsure where the likes of (eg) Terry O’Neill stand on this issue, beyond agreeing that the system is, in fact, broken.

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