Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Choking On Success

The Left (including the Center Left) in this country are on a pretty good run.  Since 1988, they have lost the presidential popular vote once, to an incumbent in the middle of a war who had the lowest margin of re-election since Woodrow Wilson.

They control the Senate and while they don't control the House, more people voted for Democrats for the House than for the Republicans in the last election.

And while Obama's and the Democratic Party's approval ratings are not great, they are stellar compared to the GOP's.

Iraq, Katrina and the Crash of '08 have widely discredited the GOP, as have their continued intolerance of minorities and the poor.

But at the same time, I'm really worried.  Will Rogers famously said, "I'm not a member of an organized political party, I'm a Democrat."  And during the latter part of Rogers' life, FDR cobbled together an somewhat unsustainable coalition of urban ethnic groups, Southern conservatives and the old Progressives.

By 1972, that coalition had collapsed at the national level.  While it could still control Congress because of its conservative Southern members, it was basically hapless at the national level for 20 years, with only Watergate gifting it the White House.

And the reason was because the Democratic Party seemed to be carrying on a conversation exclusively with itself.  In other words, they were in exactly the same place that the GOP is now: talking to itself, ignoring the broader political culture and alienating large swaths of voters.

Obama's recent agonistes over Syria has alienated large swaths of his base, but his actions from a long range perspective have been trying to balance prudence with America's commitment to international norms and laws.  But watching the commentariat at several left wing blogs, there were not a few "just like Bush" comments floating around.

Reading Salon has been interesting, as it has been like a caricature of leftist gobbledy gook.  There was a piece yesterday about the oppressive nature of the word "wife".

When I was in college in the late '80s, "liberalism" was also becoming a caricature of itself.  I remember the "Antioch Rules" for dating, Catherine McKinnon's arguments that most heterosexual sex was rape and the beginning of "meat is murder".

As the Left moves into ascendancy, it has a tendency to eat its young.  It forgets that it takes a coalition and compromise to govern.  This was the outrage over the public option in the ACA that was simply never going to happen.  If the Democrats lose the Senate seat in Louisiana next November, they may come to regret not having Mary Landrieu in the Senate, not matter how annoying it can be to work with her on environmental issues.

Now, this is happening just as much or more on the Right.  Part of this is the effect of parties re-aligning ideologically over the past twenty years.  As the parties become more polarized, it becomes harder to stray from the party line.  We see this in the House, as Boehner's inability to govern is because his Caucus demands a level of purity that is unreasonable and unsustainable.

What I worry is that we are just a few election cycles away from the same sort of internecine warfare and purity standards.

When Democrats stand for marriage equality, they will win elections.  If they have to pay for hormone treatments for transgendered prisoners, they will lose.  If Democrats stand for health care and a livable wage, they will win.  If they stand for massive redistribution of wealth, they will lose.  If Democrats try and thread the line between imperium and prudence in foreign affairs, they will win.  If they become isolationist and pacifist, they will lose.

We shall see what the future holds.

No comments: