Saturday, June 03, 2006

Mark Schmitt - Parliament Lament

I just got done reading Mark Schmiditt's excellent article in the current American Prospect. It is behind a subscription wall, unfortunately. The gist of the article is that the US is leaving a period of unusual bipartisanship because the peculiar overlap of the major parties is finally coming undone, now that the last of the pro-racist, pro-fascist elements of the Democratic party jumped ship (after 1994, Clinton's first off-year election) and the remnants of the old "Rockefeller Republicans" look like they will be ousted in this year's electoral cycle:
...Back in 1994, many conservative Democrats were wiped out in the election and the party switching that followed. This year, whether Democrats win enough seats to control the House or not, the second shoe will drop. The hardening of our country into a parliamentary democracy, with two parties representing distinct ideologies and political traditions, will be complete.

...Anomalous or not, that [bipartisan] framework is exactly what almost everyone in Washington was trained for. We were all brought up knowing that the first thing you must do to pass legislation is to build a solid bipartisan coalition. But soon, whether we choose partisanship or not, we will all be absorbed into a more partisan world, and those who fight that trend will be left behind.
This is why I've been going hammer and tongs the last few months about the need for party discipline and rejection of emotive politics. Under a condition of party polarization, party control is the requirement for any effective politics. When the party is ideologically compact, as the Rethuglicans are now, they have no need to cooperate because they have little fear of significant defection. The flip-side of that situation is that voting and popular support also becomes more polarized, and the more ideologically rigorous the party, the smaller and more dedicated the base. This is what is behind W's precipitous drop in the polls - he loses general support, but what remains is more fanatical.

Schmitt's point that the moderates in the Rethug party will be punished, even though it is the extremists who are driving supporters away, may seem counter-intuitive. Moderate Rethugs tend to come from environments where people still cross party lines to vote for familiar faces and reasonable candidates. This was once the expected state of things in places like Washington, where Dems gladly voted for Republican Dan Evans because he was simply a damn good governor. It is not a mistake that Evans was part of a rump group of Republicans who objected to the hate politics of the 2004 election and have been treated as pariahs in their party ever since. The moderates hanging on are getting a good amount of Dem votes, probably because they do a reasonable job of caring for their local districts. But if the Dems decide to vote the parrty, not the person, and if the Rethug machine is captured by the fascists, they will increasingly get cut out in primaries and general elections.

So, where do these people go? I think the Unity08 movement is an attempt to provide a "bipartisan" safe harbor, and I suspect that it will be very appealing to the Chafees and Snows of this world. Bad move, kids. In a highly partisan world, you have to choose. Ain't nuthin' in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos, as Jim Hightower likes to say. They will need to move to one side or the other. If they are smart, they will move to the left. It is that or they will leave politics as their old party doesn't want them.

Dems have to realize there is no working with the Rethugs ever again. Compromise is to be done within the party only. If they can capture the Congress (good chance, though probably not possible in one electoral cycle), then there must be severe discipline of those who break ranks. If that makes Holy Joe bolt the party, boo fucking hoo. Discipline is hard when you have valid differences of opinion, believe in freedom of thought and honestly care about having a good government (vs. pigs at the trough Rethuglicanism), but it can be done.

Without control of Congress, and significant numbers of statehouses, there isn't much Dems can do in this regard. They have to have things of value to offer (or withhold) for (dis)loyalty, and they can't offer shit right now.


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