July 11, 2012

Why There Isn't a Party for Most of Us, or It Only Pays to Like Donkeys in Tijuana (Allegedly)

In a post from a little while back I shared that the Pew Center for Research thinks I am a "Solid Liberal".  That may be true - though they are vastly oversimplifying - but I also mentioned that I'm not a member of the Democratic Party.  Why, you ask?  It's simple, and it has nothing to do with the silly stigma against the term "liberal" that the screaming morons in the far-right media have engendered.

The reason: Team Donkey is the most disappointing, frustrating political party in the long and disappointing history of disappointment.  What self-respecting, responsible citizen would sign on to board the Titanic of politics?  Por exemplo, I sight the party that was too fractious, too disorganized, too timid to take advantage of the historic opportunity presented by the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.

What opportunity was that?  Well, after the first five and a half years of the W Administration, the general opinion of the Republican Party was at it's lowest in my memory.  Years of moving farther to the right began to really piss off sensible people.  By early 2008, the Dems controlled Congress by electing center-left candidates from predominantly red states, plus then-Senator Barack Obama was beginning to explain the vision of his presidential nomination campaign.  Candidate Obama was raising gobs of money from an army of mostly middle class donors giving modest sums.  He was talking about building a government from the center majority.  He was, in short, generally doing everything possible to convince us that he was a new breed of leader.
Team Donkey's official mascot
So, the pieces were in place for the Democrats to come out of their post-Clinton cocoon and be reborn in a form that could build a permanent majority based on a coalition of moderate, centrist, middle-class voters.  They were going to fix healthcare, invest in technology and clean energy to create a future-proof economy, and set the country on a path to lead the world throughout the 21st Century.  This was all just a pipe-dream, in retrospect.  Oh, and that pesky financial crisis didn't help matters, either.

As we all now know, once in power the modern Democratic Party was destined to self-immolate.  It's not that surprising, really.  Here is a short list of the satellite factions whose internal competition ultimately unhinges the whole progressive caucus:

The Labor Movement
Poverty and social justice crusaders
Civil rights crusaders
Blue Dogs
Charles Rangel

Each in turn confounds anything like a coherent message or mission from the party as a whole, thus ensuring no way to convince the public that they know how to govern themselves let alone a country. So, naturally they were routed in the 2010 midterm elections.  Now here we are left watching the Congressional Democrats, responding to the continuing swift march to the right by Team Elephant, move sharply to the left like a stubborn child shouting, "He started it!"  The middle of the electorate is left to look on in horror and disgust.

Except that the middle is not looking on politics at all.  They have largely turned away preferring to ignore the silliness and mud-slinging and vilification in the hopes that somehow Congress will fix itself in their disaffected absence.  That is what we call wishful thinking, and while sensible people turn away, the two parties are further incented to pander to the base and increasingly radicalize.

Team Elephant's official mascot: a canned ham
At this point in the discussion someone - this has sometimes been me in the past - will come along and propose that a third party can fix our politics...I'll wait while you stop laughing.  Assuming for a second that it could raise enough money AND convince voters to actually elect it to a plurality in Congress, a single party in the middle won't work.  They would be constantly bombarded from both sides with silly, but impassioned attacks from the two extremist parties.  Ask Barack Obama how that's working out for him.

What we would need is for there to be four parties.  In order to successfully marginalize the screaming morons on the far right and the far left, there would have to be two parties in the middle - a center-left caucus and a center-right caucus - to play off of one another.  Counterpoint is often necessary in properly articulating one's message to voters.  Likely, neither of the center parties could generate a majority on it's own, which would regularly force the two to work together to get things done.  Heaven forbid!

(There may actually be good news on that front.  If we go back and look at some of the last votes in the House before summer recess we see a kind of de-facto four party system.  The tea-baggers rebelled against nearly everything that the Boehner-leadership team tried to get done, leaving the majority dozens of votes short of passage.  So, majority whip Kevin McCarthy would have to go make friendly with Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats in order to find the needed votes.  This shocking example of bi-partisan cooperation actually led to a slight but real moderation in the House recently.  If only, we could count on that continuing, which we can't in the new reality of gerrymandered congressional districts.

But I digress...)

So, here we are again.  The opportunity for one party to sweep up the vast majority of voters is presenting itself once more.  We know there are huge swaths of voters ripe for the taking.  After all, something like 88 - 91% of those polled disapprove of Congress, and a little over 50% disapprove of the President.  By my math, that is an awful lot of people that really dislike both parties.  The danger is that disaffected middle is more swayed by Fiction-Based Truth of the Rove-led super PACs, than the timid reasoning and pleading from Dems, and we are plunged back into the Bush years.


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