Atrios has a very good post about the Permanent Overclass in D.C.
There's a permanent class in Washington, various orbits of power centers, who really believe they run the town and by extension the country. Politicians come and go, but the permanent ruling class is always there. Its members shift a bit over time, and there are those higher up in the perceived power structure than others, but the class remains. It's what Broder meant when he said [...] of Clinton, "it's not his place." They set the rules, define the parameters of debate and acceptable conduct, and every now and then step in and Make a Decision which they assume Will Be Listened To. Once the Wise Old Men finally got around to realizing that Iraq was a disaster, they assumed They Would Be Heeded, especially if they did it in a nice way which didn't blame anybody for anything and let Bush off the hook.
This is the true High Broderism - not just a belief in the ultimate rightness of the club of bipartisan technocrats, pundits, and other elites, but a belief in their actual power.
The Permanent Continuing Punditocracy of D.C. is only a part of our problem, of course, although it's a significant one, since their power outlets include the Sunday chat shows ("Sabbath gasbags"), the real hurdles that all serious candidates and politicians have to clear in order to succeed. (Primaries and elections are only of secondary importance in this view of power, a view that is therefore threatened by any movement or change which serves to make democracy more democratic and less aristocratic -- movement such as the participatory activism of the blogosphere.)
But in addition to resistance from the royalty of the political media that Atrios refers to, there is also a more generalized resistance from the media collectively. Today, Kevin Drum had a post about the Hacker-Pierson Off Center thesis, that the Republicans were getting away with their move to the right through their strict institutional control structure which served to mask and hide the shift. The question is, if the Republicans had this great system as a basis of their power, which was posited to be quasi-permanent, why did things fall apart in this last election? The answer from Hacker and Pierson is "Iraq" and Drum, rightfully, finds that a bit wanting.
Drum does agree, though (more or less) with the idea that it's going to be a lot harder for the GOP to get away with their bullshit as a result of the Democrats' return to power in Congress. I think that rather overstates the case -- consider:
While the Democrats' majority in the House is a healthy one, slightly larger than the one the Republicans most recently had, their hold on the Senate is tenuous, as we were all reminded with Senator Johnson's emergency brain surgery. The death or retirement or tempting away or defection of a single Senator from the wrong state (one with a Republican governor) can throw everything into doubt.
Not only that, but Democratic party discipline is generally not as strict as Republican disclipline, and will certainly not be as tight as the extremely strict discipline of the most recent Republican Congresses. Consequently, we shouldn't expect the Democratic-controlled House to be as unerring a mill for progressive legislation as the Republican one was for regressive, authoritarian and corrupt legislation.
There's also the matter of the Supreme Court and the Federal judiciary in general, which has been salted with right-wing Republicans, Federalist Society members and other conservatives for years now. It's not too much to say that the movement (as opposed to the Republican party per se) controls the Federal judiciary, and will for the foreseeable future. This of course means that the guts of any progressive legislation can potentially be scooped out by activist right-wing judges and justices. (Though it's true that even judges are effected by changes in the political weather, which means that the continued strength of the Democratic party and the progressive movement may inhibit a certain amount of Federalist mischief.)
Finally, and the reason I mention all of this here, there's the media. As I wrote in a comment over on Political Animal:
As several others have commented or alluded to, one thing which *hasn't* changes as a result of the 2006 election is the media. For reasons that are difficult to pinpoint, but seems to have to do with the conservative ownership of much of the media, a rightward shift to the political beliefs of many journalists, a desire to service the perceived rightward shift of the audience, and an institutional disinclination to buck authority, the media has (collectively) not been inclined to put the Republicans to the test, expose their mendacity and investigate their corruption and ideological extremism -- and without their willingness to do so, the Democrats will continue to compete on an extremely uneven playing field. The upshot of that is that the election, although a signficant step forward, is probably not as totally an indication of change as it might otherwise appear.
For this reason while I'm certainly happier than I was, I'm not nearly as optimistic about the idea that the Republican Party is going to fall apart quite so quickly.
And then there's the Permanent D.C. Punditocracy, which generally likes to attach itself to those in power, but also generally prefers authoritarianism over democracy, and is undeniably dismissive of progressive ideas, especially when they conflict with their cherished Conventional Wisdom. (Perhaps they should codify Convention Wisdom-worship into a bona fide religion?)
Certainly, Kevin is right when he says "Most people -- including a lot of rank-and file Republicans, I think -- simply don't realize just how radical the modern, Texified GOP is," but I think it goes too far to continue, as he does "But with majority control Democrats now have the institutional power to expose this at every turn, and Republicans have far less ability to hide it," because, despite the gains made in the election, all the factors I've just mentioned are still working against us.
Addendum: I should have mentioned one other structural imbalance which still favors the Republicans: fund-raising.
Being the party of corporations and the rich, they have access to more money in larger amounts than the Democrats do. The imbalance is now somewhat offset by the rise of blogospheric fund-raising and the existence and activities of various quasi-independent groups (independent of specific control if not of basic philosophy), but it's still fundamentally in the Republican's favor. This is because the Republican party essentially exists to service its clientele, Big Business and The Rich, while the Democrats have a more general philosophy of governing in the best interest of the people, and not simply to serve the agenda of its constituent groups.
Because of this there will always be some discord among the various parts of the Democratic coalition, and between those parts and the party itself, which will serve to diminish contributions -- it takes a crisis such as the one we're facing now (and still face despite the results of the 2006 election) to rev up donations from individuals in large enough numbers to bring the party to rough parity with the Republicans. On the other side, however, the Republicans being the party dedicated to representing their interests, money from corporations and the wealthy will always be forthcoming (with or without the existence of the K Street system), without the necessity of a specific impetus to give.
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.