The Party Is Not the Mindset

September 20th, 2009

Based on a recent poll, a graphical breakdown of support for the Republican shows a daunting picture for the GOP:


The thing to note, however, is that this does not reflect a decrease in conservatism, but rather a decrease in support for the GOP as the party contracts into a tight, densely-packed ball of, shall we say, people with a dislike for certain attributes of our current president. In the meantime, the GOP is alienating most other people–but it is not really turning them away from their values.

One effect of this is Blue-dog Democrats, which one might say are DINOs (Democrats in name only), people like Max Baucus who joined the Democratic Party perhaps as much for strategic campaign reasons than because of their policy stands. That’s one of the drawbacks of big-tent politics: you have members of Congress in your party who, while a minority, can still throw a wrench in the works and cause things like health care reform to get mucked up. While Democrats enjoy a majority, Republicans at least have party unity.

Fact is, American government has been mostly conservative since Reagan took office. Clinton and Obama both are moderate Democrats, centrists really–decidedly not the full-out liberals that right-wingers have ranted about–while Reagan and Bush 43 were strong conservatives. Actual liberals have not had a president of their own for a long time (actually, have we ever had a president?)–which makes us the only large constituency not to have been fully represented in recent history. Right-wingers and moderates have been getting more of their fill, while the liberal third of the country has had to enjoy pseudo-representation and compromised crumbs falling off the edge of the table.

We’re the ones who are tolerant–we’ll be satisfied if things are simply balanced between all parties and will sometimes tilt our way. Look at Sotomayor–a centrist judge, far from the real liberal warrior that the left wing would like to have–but we’re OK with it. The third at the other end of the spectrum, however, as we have seen amply demonstrated, go completely fracking apeshit when things even look like they might be anything less than exactly what they want. And we are discovering that having mass tantrums like mobs of infants actually translates into getting a lot of what you want–if nothing else, it certainly helps weight the scales. It’s amazing, really–you like to think that Americans can be responsible, mature, tolerant adults, but about a third of the nation starts whining like babies when everything doesn’t go their way. We saw this during the Bush administration when Republicans were furious that Democrats didn’t let every single Bush nominee get confirmed.

I like to call that the coffee-cup effect, based on the classic story of a conservative woman during the deep-red days of the Bush era, when all the branches of government and almost all of the media were strongly on her side, but she claimed that she felt under-represented in life because most of her Starbucks coffee cups bore quotes she disagreed with.

Like it or not, as much as the GOP continues to implode, despite the majority that Democrats now have in Congress, as much as liberals like to hope that Obama will serve them, and as much as conservatives scream about how excessively liberal Obama is, the fact is that only centrist or conservative interests will be addressed. Health care reform, for example, is a centrist concern. If this were truly a liberal campaign, it would be about making a universal, government-run, single-payer health care system; it would not be about whether or not the public option is something we can do without.

For all the hoopla and all the “D”s we see after politicians’ names today, the truth is that liberals have virtually no hope of getting their core concerns addressed in a manner that they would prefer.

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