Several years ago I had predicted that the Republican Party would, by around 2008, self-destruct. I had based this assumption on the growing rhetoric about neo-conservatives verses paleo-conservatives, and how the two really weren't on the same page when it came to anything other than the War. I had assumed that Bush would be a one-term president in part based on that assumption, and in part because historically Democracies don't willingly go to war--and often persecute it's leaders once the war appears won. (That's the pattern the Classical Greeks set a couple of thousand years ago, and that's the pattern today.)
This assumption was also based on the assumption that the Democratic Party would do the sensible thing: bide it's time, and occassionally attempt to exploit the differences between paleo- and neo-conservatives by essentially playing the religion card. (The primary difference between paleo-conservatives and neo-conservatives fundamentally is religion: neo-conservatives have latched on to a philosophy that suggests our greatness comes from our steadfast support for the institutions of egalitarian consensual democratic government, while the paleo-conservatives believe we are great because we're a "christian nation.")
But something happened along the way which blows two assumptions out of the water.
First, the paleo-conservatives and the neo-conservatives seem to have reached a certain grudging respect for each other. Sure, magazines such as The American Conservative, Buchanan's Paleo-Conservative creed, often rails against neo-conservatism with articles such as "Defining Conservatism Down", which assert that the bigger the Republican Big Tent became, the "dumber" conservatism has become. (I guess they think it's a shame too many people have decided to call themselves "conservative", started brushing up on conservative philosophy, and started supporting George W. Bush out of knee-jerk stupidity...)
By and large the Republican "Big Tent" appears to be working, where differences between various flavors of economic and social conservatives attempt to settle their differences by debate rather than by dissent, through argument rather than through destroying the party.
That wouldn't have happened, however, if it weren't for the second development--and that is (to me) the rather surprising self-destruction of the Democratic Party by it's own radical fringe. Instead of the Republican Party becoming too big to cover everyone--and fissuring in the process, the Democrats, suffering from a string of electorial losses, is now in party "purge and destroy" mode.
See, the thing is, I thought the Democrat's failure to come up with a consistent message on anything--such as the Iraq War--was simply an attempt to bide their time. After all, they just need to be the "other", and so long as they didn't define what "other" they were, it would leave the spotlight on the people within the Republican Party who were agitating for a split between Paleo- and Neo-Conservatives. Though I did find it odd that the spotlight kept being shifted back on the Democrats even though they didn't have a message--just spotlight whoring, or so I thought.
Apparently I was wrong in my analysis. The Coming Democratic Split?
Make no mistake -- this radical movement that gets its support from well-funded organizations like MoveOn have threatened to rip the Democrats in half. Their radical wing had mostly found itself marginalized during the 1990s when the Clintons took over the party and the centrist DLC provided them with their power base. While national-security issues took a back seat to economics, the radicals had little to fuel their steam. The invasion of Afghanistan brought them back with a vengeance after 9/11, but the real boost to their fortunes came with the ascension of Howard Dean and his Internet campaign. For the first time since the Viet Nam War, the radical fringe showed real power through its support of Dean and MoveOn and found a deep-pockets sponsor in George Soros.
The DLC has found itself on the ropes ever since. The centrists have tried mightily to maintain some distance from the radicals but cannot afford to lose them or their fundraising abilities, regardless of how the Republicans fare in the polls. This has led to a complete abandonment of message, as the two cannot agree on strategies for a single, coherent Party stance on issues. As the Times points out, that applies to domestic issues as well, especially on the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Roberts should have been a slam-dunk for the GOP and a pass for the Democrats, most of whom knew that Roberts represented the best they could expect from George Bush: a non-political straight shooter who would be conservative but not an idealogue. However, the fringe would not sit still for anyone nominated by the man who won the election:...
Part of the problem with the Democrats is that the Democratic Fringe, represented by folks such as Moulitsas Zuniga of the Daily Kos, have risen to a tremendous amount of power. And they are more interested in their message than they are in the coherency of the Democratic Party: in many ways, the Democrats have found themselves being controlled by amateurs who don't realize that in a Democracy, the powerless--well, they don't have any power. And power can only be obtained in a Democracy by convincing the majority of the correctness of your message.
Folks like the ones who hang out at the Daily Kos are amateurs not because their ideas are not well thought out or internally consistent based on their current understanding of the world. They are amateurs because they haven't figured out that they need a majority--and you don't get a majority by being a condesending jerk who calls people who oppose you every name in the book. Which is precisely what they do: Daily Kos Top Secret Plan
My draft version of this post included a whole refutation of Marshall’s aargument, but really, it’s all irrelevant. Ultimately, this is the modern DLC — an aider and abettor of Right-wing smear attacks against Democrats. They make the same arguments, use the same language, and revel in their attacks on those elements of the Democratic Party that seem to cause them no small embarrassment.
Two more weeks, folks, before we take them on, head on.
No calls for a truce will be brooked. The DLC has used those pauses in the past to bide their time between offensives. Appeals to party unity will fall on deaf ears (it’s summer of a non-election year, the perfect time to sort out internal disagreements).
We need to make the DLC radioactive. And we will. With everyone’s help, we really can. Stay tuned.
"We had to destroy the village to save it."
In a way I feel sorry for the various Democratic politicians who find themselves having to read from talking point sheets they probably find disgusting. Some of the latest Democratic talking points have been homophobic (by attacking their opponent's homosexuality--a tactic which would not work if homophobia was passee--and a tactic which only affirms homophobia), anti-semetic (hinting that Israel benefits from the War on Terror), and generally disgusting (attacking the children of judicial nominees). But these are the Democratic Party faithful; people who are willing to take the talking points and run with them because they are faithful to the Democratic Party, without realizing that it has become rotten in it's core.
The 2006 mid-term elections will be very interesting, and the 2008 presidential elections will be really very interesting with the field being wide open for President. Unfortunately, however, a Democratic President won't be able to do in 2008 what presidents have done in the past, which is to guide a bureaucracy without opposing it. Any Democratic President who gets into office with the current mandate of the radicals will be pressured to do a lot of damage--far more than Clinton's "holiday from history" where Clinton simply ignored over-seas international developments. Any future Democratic President will be constantly pressured by the part faithful to actively destroy our international capacity--after all, to the radicals, we are the "Great Satan", not Osama Bin Laden, not radical Islam, not the suicide bombers on 9/11, who the radicals secretly think were funded by Israel--rather than engage in the destructive neglect of Clinton.