Catching up on some blogs I've been skipping over lately, I came across an excellent post by Digby, well deserving of being extensively quoted here:
It was clear to many of us in 2000 that the Republican Party had completely run amuck and that George W. Bush was simply a brand name in a suit that the Party was putting forth to hide their essential ugliness from the American people. It was obvious to some of us that this was an unprecedented partisan battle and that this insular, myopic view on the left was going to hurt us very badly. I have little patience for the idea that it took this massive demonstration of GOP power under the Bush administration to convince people that the first, most important order of political business was to check the Republican power grab. It was obvious in 2000 to anyone who was paying attention.
Nowadays, I'm told it's not that the Democrats are just corrupt but that they are corrupt pussies who never fought back until we gave them some spine. This is simply untrue. For a decade Democrats battled back a Republican juggernaut of unprecedented force (and a GOP landslide in 1994) while simultaneously fighting an extremely hostile media and a left wing faction that couldn't deal with the fact that the Democrats, after 12 years of right wing ascendency, found a way to get elected and stop the inevitable slide to a permanent Republican majority. On that, (and not for the last time) they actually joined with the right wing in their loathing of the strategy that won elections in a conservative era and kept the Republicans from total political dominance. (This is not to say that the same strategy would work today. But, the argument of purism vs pragmatism hasn't changed for the last thirty years, no matter what new strategy was proposed.)
Now that the purists have finally been sufficiently schooled in the consequences of letting Republicans have their way, I'm glad to see they are rejecting quixotic, third party politics for the time being. However, their view of modern partisan politics is as parochial as ever. For instance, I hear tell that we are going to finally "fight back." And that seems to consist of charging mindlessly onto the battlefield, shouting slogans and beating our chests about taking our country back. It seems to be thought that if only we shout loudly enough, everyone on the sidelines will be impressed with our passion and join the fray on our side. And the Republicans, I guess, will be so shocked and awed that they will lay down their arms and capitulate.
I'm afraid that it's far more likely that when the Democrats rush onto the field shouting our high minded slogans, the Republicans will simply explode a dirty bomb, killing untold numbers and scare the shit out of everybody else. The cable news ratings will go up and up and up as the media once again embeds itself on the side of the GOP in denouncing the "crazy" left wing terrorists.
Inchoate passion is not persuasive. And, to believe that "fighting back" consists of browbeating our elected politicians into standing up and denouncing Republican badness and wrongness is infantile. We grassroots types and bloggers and blowhards --- as well as strong unelected voices like Gore, Dean and others --- can stand up and give fiery speeches and have some effect if we're willing to take some social heat for it. But in the real world of power and politics, passionate rhetoric is just one small piece of the puzzle.
The reason the Republicans have been as successful as they are, despite their policies being unpopular, is that they use their power to the nth degree, whether the public mandates it or not. They are confident in their ability to spin their partisan use of democratic institutions with bromides about values and morality and freedom and democracy. Underneath their rhetoric is a pure lust for power, but they have been very good at obscuring that by claiming victimhood and portraying themselves as the party of strong individuals speaking truth to(liberal) power.
Our problem is that we actually believe in democracy so we don't think it's right to shove our agenda down the throats of the American people without their permission (hence Clinton actually delivering on the centrist policies he ran and won on.) This means that in order to defend the country from impending fascism while we try to further a progressive agenda, we have to to protect democratic institutions, allow moderates a voice proportionate to their constituency and patiently try to bring the country around to our way of thinking.
Bill Sher at Liberal Oasis has been talking about this for months. As he says, liberals haven't made the case that "liberal ideals are politically pragmatic" (and it's not as if they weren't given the opportunity during the primary campaign to do that.) Deluding yourself into believing that the public is just going to wake up one morning and reject this Republican image of us (and them) that's been painstakingly stitched together for decades is wishful thinking. Only 20% of people people identify themselves as liberals and that should tell us something. We have a lot of work to do and it isn't going to get done by standing around giving our politicians vague orders to "fight back" whatever that means.
Certainly, fighting back as a minority party is about as useful a pitting a high school baseball team against the New York Yankees. The first order of business to is win the presidency so that we can reverse this frightening foreign policy debacle and stop the bleeding on the domestic front. And that's a big agenda at this point. But if we want to actually enact a progressive agenda it will not be enough to stand around and rail at the Democratic minority in congress for being unable to "win." We need to be in a majority before anything gets done.
The fact that in one short three and a half year period this government has managed to spend the country into oblivion to the benefit of the very rich and has completely shot a half century of international leadership all to hell should, by all rights, translate into a landslide election for our side. And, yet it remains neck and neck. We have a Democratic base as fired up as any in my memory and yet we are still fighting among ourselves about the relative purity of our candidates and how if only they'd "fight" we'd win --- as if we haven't had some recent lessons in how certain satisfying fiery rhetoric is spun in the media to our extreme detriment. We can go down "fighting" like that or we can win by "fighting" using superior tactics and strategy.
And, yes we need to work to change this toxic political environment over the long term. We should use the newfound energy created by this Bush backlash and the new communications tools at our disposal. It was long past time that we created some political instutitons of our own to battle the political institutions of the right and groups like CAP and MoveOn and fledgeling efforts like Air America are our future.
But, right now we simply cannot forget that the single biggest problem we face is not our own lack of ballocks or the perfidious compromising DLC or the money that is required to run a modern political campaign. This country is in grave danger if the Republican Party maintains its grip on total institutional power. And they will not give it up easily and if they lose in the short term they will scratch and claw to get it back. They aren't going away. Keeping them from total power must be our first priority, what ever it takes.
I frequently come across complaints from my friends about Kerry (or the Democrats in general) not being liberal or progressive enough to please them, or not "fighting back" hard enough, and there is some truth in the charge that extremists in the DLC would like to see Democrats present themselves to the public as "GOP Lite," but my response has been consistently that we have to keep the proper perspective and our "eyes on the prize."
If this election turns into an attempt to make liberals and progressives feel good about themselves (as with the lift they got from the Dean campaign), we will lose it, plain and simple. That doesn't mean that Democratic candidates should reject liberal principles or become ersatz Republicans, nor does it mean that they shouldn't indulge in any crowd-pleasing liberal-populist rhetoric at the convention (since that's partly what conventions are for), but it does mean that candidates must present themselves in a way that is appealing (and, just as importantly, non-threatening) to moderate swing voters, and they're not going to be able to do that if liberals and pressure groups representing other interests within the party are too diligent about "holding their feet to the fire." I've written this before, that Democratic candidates, especially Kerry, need to be given some breathing room to operate without fear of being taken down by radical discontent from within.
And that thought extends to after the election as well. If Kerry wins (sorry, when Kerry wins) there is not going to be any broad mandate to radically shift the country back to where it was ante-Reagan, and any attempt by liberals and progressives to force Kerry to move faster and farther than the center is willing to move is going to end up in continuing long-term disaster for us and for the country. It took 30 years or more for the political center to shift as far rightward as it has today, and that shift isn't going to be rectified in 4 or 8 years of a Kerry presidency. It's going to take decades, and that means multiple Democratic administrations and at least some years of effective Democratic/moderate Republican control of Congress -- and the only way that is going to come about is by careful alliance building and liberal/moderate bipartisanship, which has to start on Day One of the Kerry Administration.
Even if we don't take back the Senate or the House, there is every possibility that a Democratic White House can work with the Democratic caucus and moderate Republicans (more so in the Senate than the House) to move moderately liberal programs forward and start the process in motion of shifting things back. Once the initial inertia is overcome, and the far-right stranglehold on the process is broken, then we're on the right track.
(Another essential part of the long-term program is to continue the building of center-left institutions to counter the influence of the insitutions of the right which have sprung up in the last 30 years. If these institutions are purely liberal or left-wing in orientation they will likely fail to take root, but a center-left outlook can, I think, suceed and have a major impact.)
Update: Dignby has more on this topic, including good insight into the equivalent problem for the GOP, here.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.