The political lamp is still lit...
Before we begin, if the situation in the Middle East is getting you down, you might try reading words from an adult. The fellow who would have been (and rightfully is) our Secretary of State in the parallel universe where George W. Bush did not get crony’d into his latest fantasy job.
Last time, I spoke despairingly about our chances of reclaiming the government of the United States for the people, for the Enlightenment, and for the sake of continuing our Great Experiment. Things are certainly not looking good, right now. For example, even with GOP support plunging to unprecedented lows, and a Republican led Congress even more universally despised than the Do Nothings of 1948, you still see very little fear on the right. (Not as if they really expect Congressional committees to resume work and start issuing subpoenas.)
Why is that? Because gerrymandering ensures that the kleptocrats still have a better than even chance of retaining both houses of the national legislature. Giving BushCo yet another 2 years to reinforce a culture of fear justified secrecy and unaccountability, helping gradually to establish a new feudal age.
Ah, but gerrymandering only provides a tool, one of many tactical innovations that they can use effectively only because others let them. Indeed, the majestic sweep of their strategic victory has arisen from something far more broad and general. That sweeping strategic success arose from the suicidal tendencies of modern liberalism. Tendencies that Karl Rove & ilk been able to use to their advantage, for 14 years.
Some of you have heard me mention this pattern before, but it so bears repeating.
BIG TENTS WIN ELECTIONS... AND POWER
Forget all of the policy issues for a moment. After all, polls show that the US public agrees with Democratic policies more than 80% of the time. Hence it has been vital for the neocons to veer attention away from actual, implementable policy initiatives, over to matters of “culture war”. An area where liberals have behaved positively addlebrained, letting Rove benefit from a dream situation, in which it’s impossible for him to lose.
For 14 years and more, Rove & allies have bent all efforts toward maintaining a Big Tent coalition, uniting a melange of contradictory groups. With the sole aim of achieving and holding actual political power, they managed to wed together:
- Xenophobic-isolationists... and interventionist-adventurers.
- Free-marketers... and big government contract-parasites.
- Lifestyle libertarians... with bedroom-voyeur fundamentalists.
- Deficit hawks... and spendthrift pork barrel hogs.
- Snooty Straussian neocon eggheads...and proudly anti-intellectual know-nothings.
- Small business owners... with megacorp monopolists.
- Nativist border worriers... and exploiters of cheap, undocumented labor...
... and so on.
A great... nay incredible... morass of contradictions! How on Earth did they manage that? There is one simple answer. By getting every last one of these forces to call themselves “conservative.”
* This Big Tent is THE SALIENT FACT about the neocon success story. Because they could never have achieved any power at all, without it.
Let me reiterate. Opinion polls show relentlessly that a majority of the American people prefer Democratic policies in general - not only the classic ones (protecting the environment, civil rights, compassion) but also as they were modified by Bill Clinton, to include prudent deficit-cutting, strengthening alliances, government efficiency, taking advice from serious science, reducing secrecy, and a generally positive attitude toward incremental progress in meeting human needs.
Given this Democratic advantage, it has been essential for Rove & Co. to welcome any and everybody into their “tent”-- any person who might remotely call him or herself “conservative,” for any reason! Any reason whatsoever.
Without this unifying umbrella, the stew of conflicts that I listed above could never have elected a dog catcher, let alone squeaked the entire Red America alliance into power, seizing control over every major U.S. institution. Above all, the Rovean Big Tent policy has held to one utterly pragmatic principle, implicit in every word spouted from Hannity and O’Reilly and the entire machine.
"If you hold EVEN ONE "conservative" opinion, that makes you a conservative."
In contrast, the reflex among liberals has been quite the opposite.
"If you fail to support EVEN ONE standard "liberal" opinion, that makes you a conservative."
Yes, yes. I can well imagine bile igniting behind the eyes of some who just read that. If you are a “standard liberal” you may deem what I said (above) to be insulting. Indeed, did my saying it cause me to be instantly dismissed as... well... a conservative?
Please, I am making this effort in hopes that liberalism will be more effective at retaking power away from a deadly foe of our entire civilization. A foe just as deadly to freedom and justice as Communism ever was. Hence, I offer these criticisms in good will. So will you please suspend judgement and come with me just a little way?
Won’t you try this little mental experiment yourself? Start by listing a dozen or so “standard liberal positions.” For example you expect a liberal to:
- oppose the Iraq War
- welcome immigrants
- support the undiluted right to abortion
- oppose Arctic or offshore drilling
- oppose nuclear power
- oppose tax cuts
- support gay marriage... and so on.
If you don’t like my list, write one of your own! Make your own list of positions you deem important. I’ll wait.
Now try this. Imagine a person who holds all of the correct views except one.
Suppose - on just that one issue - a person strongly takes the opposite view. Not quietly, but openly, and vigorously.
Now picture how that person would be received in most liberal gatherings.
What name would they be called?
If you are honest, you can immediately see my point.
* Please note: in raising this point, I am not arguing against ANY of those classic liberal views, listed above. This discussion is about tactics. It is about suicidal reflexes. And, at a tactical level, the worst, most self-defeating trait of liberalism today is NOT to be found in any of its policy positions, most of which are noble or at least supportable. Or at least legitimately arguable.
The calamity that has kept their entire movement out of power is a completely indefensible and utterly suicidal reflex. A smug tendency to apply litmus tests. To maintain a Small Tent.
To show intolerance and to drive away anyone who holds only a 90% score.
Consider the result! We are driving away people who agree with us 90% of the time! Because we call them "conservative"... and Karl Rove also gladly calls them "conservative"... is it any wonder that millions of people who hold just one conservative opinion thereupon use the word to describe themselves? Even when they agree with 90% of other liberal positions?
This is the real, self-inflicted catastrophe. It has nothing to do with policy fights, say, “left-vs-moderate" within the DP. Indeed, it is only tangentially related to the recent toppling of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, in his state’s Democratic Primary, since he clearly had taken the wrong side in the Culture War. In many ways. It is one thing to agree with a few conservative and moderate positions. It is quite another to sleep with the enemy.
Come on, folks. Stop giving the Roveans more credit than they deserved. They shouldn’t be winning ANY kind of power, right now. Not on the basis of policy comparisons. So why do they keep winning?
Because they have been relentlessly empowered by bad liberal tactics that decent American moderates and Barry Goldwater conservatives and even liberal-minded folk who hate litmus tests, making such people feel they only have one home. Despite all of the relentless evidence that we are being ruled by kleptocrats, hypocrites, neo-feudalists and outright morons, millions of decent Americans have nevertheless clustered inside a big tent that stinks to high heaven! A tent they despise. But where they sit in misery, because they are offered nowhere else to go!
"You must overnight become a Santa Monica liberal, on all issues, or else call yourself a conservative. Identify yourself that way. Stay loyal to that side. Even if it is one you inherently despise."
What all of this has to do with is nothing less than mean-minded dogmatism, resulting in suicide for the Democratic Party... and thus for the nation. Because this is exactly why enemies of the Enlightenment now hold all three branches of government, right now, turning the greatest nation in history into a world laughingstock.