Wednesday, October 01, 2003


I'm not going to take a bunch of quotes here, but this one struck me:

Plus, you establish yourself (and your faction) as unreliable supporters thus making it less likely that the party will move in your direction.

By your own testimony, the effect is exactly the opposite. If you were reliable, the party would see fit to move away from you to pick up the unreliable votes. Game theory and all that...

All that aside, Bill Clinton's tax policy was not such a great factor in 1994. It was his mere existence that pissed off Republicans. Decades of hard work laying down grassroots organizations and developing think tanks paid off for them when Reagan blew Carter out of the water. Over the same period most of the grassroots support for the Democrats had dried up. The civil rights and women's lib movements had for the most part accomplished their goals and dwindled. The labor unions have been in retreat since the beginning of the Cold War. There was no more Vietnam War to rally against, and the hippies were all grown up. The Democratic grassroots had dissolved. The Republicans owned at the grassroots level. They destroyed Carter, destroyed Mondale, destroyed Dukakis. The incumbents in congress carry a lot of inertia, but they were eating away there too. Clinton came as a shock to them. He understood that the Republicans had altered the political landscape, and he won, aside from his considerable personal political skills, by invading their territory (not to mention the massive helping hand that Perot gave him).

The Republicans were infuriated and hated him with a passion from the day he took office, and haven't stopped hating him yet. They won in '94 because they were fired up, and because their tactic for selling the core values their grassroots movement had popularized, the Contract With America, was pure political gold.

When so much had gone against them for the past 20 years, the Democrats were tremendously encouraged by Clinton's success. But they learned the wrong lesson from it. Instead of trying to reclaim the political landscape, they decided, like Clinton, to cede the landscape to the Republicans and try to co-exist in it with them. As a long-term strategy it is suicide. They will never be as good within that context as the Republicans. This is the exact reason why the Iraq resolution failed to have the effect that the Democratic leadership had hoped for. And even when they do win it is only a half victory as they have to abandon a certain degree of their core values to do so. In my opinion any liberals who take action to try to divorce the party leadership from this tactic are not sabotaging the Democrats, but are doing them a service. The grassroots must be reclaimed. Four years of George W. Bush is not too high a price to pay.

I view Howard Dean as a direct response to this problem. I think much of his support has little to do with him personally. For whatever reason the faction of liberals who understand what needs to be done claimed him as their guy and their threw support behind him early. And it has spread like wildfire. I suspect there are many who support him, not for the man himself, but for the revolutionary sort of campaign that his supporters have built around him. I count myself in that category. I made my first-ever political campaign contribution last week, to Dean, for precisely this reason. I still have plenty of reservations about the guy, but his campaign is exactly what the party needs. His campaign is a middle finger extended at the party leadership. It is a statement that we will bring liberal activists back to the front. That we will instill at the ground level of the party the sort of passion and vision that we need to compete with the religious right, the NRA, and the right-wing think-tanks. That we will no longer be embarrassed to call ourselves liberal. If he can win this election, I think (I hope!) he can effect the sort of housecleaning at the upper echelons of the party leadership that is needed to turn things around.

ps. There are number of other sources that cite a 49.3% turnout of voting age people. In any case it's difference of a point and a half and is pathetic in comparison to most other democracies (although one has to wonder what kind of monkey business is going on in Guinea-Bissau).

No comments: