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April 29, 2009

Comments

You are quite a groupie aren't you?

I'm glad of Specter's jump because it makes the rightwing radicalism of the Republican party so much more obvious--even the most dedicated Villagers are going to have a hard time now keeping up the pretense that it's the Democrats who are hostage to a radical minority. How is Broder going to spin this as an example of the Democrats not being bipartisan enough?

My lingering resentment about Bill Clinton goes back to what he did in office to undermine Democratic values (like a safety net for poor women otherwise known as welfare), not anything he said about Democrats. He cared about his personal political viability, the hell with anything else. Yes, I resent that.

My lingering resentment about Bill Clinton goes back to what he did in office to undermine Democratic values (like a safety net for poor women otherwise known as welfare)

like the "Defense of Marriage Act"
like the V-chip
like don't ask don't tell
like NAFTA
like not enforcing Wagner/NLRA

Never to forget. Never to forgive.

I see stuttering dave compain here all the time about how people are violating posting rules in how they address him and his arguments. Let me then be the first to note that his ad hominem is not only a breach of the rules but also happens to be offered without any other attempt at addressing any arguments made by publius.

I mention this largely because stuttering dave is a big part of the reason that I no longer bother with the comments much anymore. He tends to dominate comment count on any threads I pop in on and his posts seem to be nothing more than incessant attempts to piss people off. I allow that he could just have really terrible world choice. However, if that is the case, he might want to work on his interpersonal communication skills.

"...to ban things like genital electrodes and simulated drowning"

Correction: controlled drowning.

" And even then, it’s less about enforcing an ideological litmus test than about enforcing Democratic “pride.” "

This strikes me as one of the least impressive things about the liberal blogosphere. The netroots aristocracy (such as it was) quickly embraced Langevin over Whitehouse in Rhode Island and Hackett over Brown.

In both cases, the ideologically superior candidate was ignored for pretty dubious reasons.

With Jim Webb, you didn't have a better choice and Tester was the better liberal, so maybe we are getting better. But I would like to see the netroots focus more on ideology, not less.

The real question is how will politics funciton in the future as the U.S. becomes a one party state. Will anyone capable of winning challenge Specter in the Democratic Primary. If no one does, then Specter is assured of re-election and the voters of PA will have little say in the process.

In addition, will the blue dog Democrats become irrelevant as much as the Repubicans are now irrelevant.

What happens to politics in the U.S. will in no incumbent Democrat will be at risk during an election and more than 50% of seats are re-elected unopposed.

>>"The quest to say anything original about Specter may well be hopeless."

'I don't know that this is such a good idea. Just wait - lulled into celebratory complacency we'll drag him inside the party gates, and then when everyone's asleep a little hatch will open in his underside and tiny GOP warriors will pour out to burn, loot, and kill!'

What? You said original - you didn't specify relevant, reasonable, or rational . . . geez, picky, picky, picky . . .

Will anyone capable of winning challenge Specter in the Democratic Primary.

I hope so, unless he ends up supporting EFCA.

If no one does, then Specter is assured of re-election and the voters of PA will have little say in the process.

The voters of PA will have as much say as they ever do. The reason Specter switched parties is because of what some polls told him about the preferences of the voters of PA -- i.e., that he could get reelected as a Democrat but not as a Republican or an independent. Looks to me like he's giving the people what they want.

All I can say is, he's your's now, may he be as reliable a Democrat as he was a Republican.

In other locations they are betting that Holy Joe will see this as the opportunity to switch sides too (meaning that all this is about is just a Liebermann exchange).
My opinion: Come 2012 the pendulum will swing in the other direction (more Dems have to defend their seats than GOPters then).
If the GOPs stays the course and there is no second 9/11 (and I do believe that a number of prominent right-wingers ardently hope for just that), then the Dems will one day split into a liberal and a moderate conservative party. Wash, rinse, repeat. About the only thing the US will not become, is a truly leftist state. If on the other hand the current GOP gets its hands back on the levers of power after another 9/11, then the world should consider preemptive nuking of Washington.

"The real question is how will politics funciton in the future as the U.S. becomes a one party state."

So, SD, you are conceding that the Republican Party has almost totally alienated itself from the amjority of Americans. It should be noted that this kind of lament is not a comment against the Democratic Party, but rather against the Republican Party.

More like, after you've taken over the media like you're taking over the auto industry, (A controlling share in GM, literal ownership of the means of production!) reconstituted the fairness doctrine, Expanded campaign censorship laws, and given all the territories seats in Congress, it won't be legally possible for any other party to displace the Democratic.

Brett,

Fairness Doctrine? Do you have minutes from a super secret liberal/Democratic Party meeting that I missed where that was even on the agenda? Or is this the assumption that at some point this will be required?

And as far as his reliability? You know what? I'll take it. He's been a fairly moderate Republican, and thus he'll be a fairly moderate Democratic Senator. If he goes along with the party 90% of the time on almost all of the big votes, even if only for Cloture, then that'll be enough, he can vote his conscience however he wants.

Oh yes, and darn that whole contemplating giving representation to those people we govern. That's a shameful, shameful thing.

Ned Lamont. Sigh. The guy wins the primary and then seems to disappear.

I'm with Glenn Greenwald on Specter. The guy is a creep.

He switched parties because he thought he would lose in the primary in '10 and (so I read) could not do a L. and run independent. If so, he would have lost to someone who would be disfavored in general. And, PA might have got a real Dem, not some johnny come lately that I want to smack every time I listen to him.

Now, Obama on down, the Dems are tied to him. This is a bit depressing, even if it will result in some short term gain.

The GOP is down to 21% party ID, roughly half of the democratic party. This is not a temporary lull to be followed by a recovery. It's looking more and more like a terminal decline - and I base this largely on the fact that the remaining members of the party seem to be celebrating the loss of a prominent moderate.

The GOP that remains is enthusiastic about torture, completely out of touch with younger voters, and doesn't even appear to recognize how unpopular their positions are.

My forecast: two more consecutive electoral debacles for the GOP. In 2010 they will lose whatever House seats remain to lose and will lose a number of Senate seats. In 2012 redistricting will clean out a number of state legislatures and house seats.

We may actually see a new opposition party emerge, which would be a fitting legacy for George Bush - the destruction of the Republican Party.

Fairness Doctrine? Do you have minutes from a super secret liberal/Democratic Party meeting that I missed where that was even on the agenda? Or is this the assumption that at some point this will be required?

I find this to be a useful marker. Once you find out that someone gets their information from Official Rightwing Extruded Processed News Product then you can set your expectations accordingly.

My view of Specter's defection is that it's most helpful as yet another nail in the Republican coffin. The media and the usual Washington elite are a herd, and a few members bolting in one direction can send the whole mindless bunch in a 180.

@Joe: Yes, he's kind of a creep, and yes, Obama definitely has some short-term gain in mind here, but consider the long-term, as well: That means 18 months Senate Democrats can get important bills passed, instead of more of the Republican filibuster (Which, as has been noted many time, has reached record numbers since '06), meaning that the populace in general will start to see the changes they elected the Dems to make actually happen. That will in turn translate to more votes, especially as the Dems get seen as the inclusionary party.

Besides, Specter's 79 years old, and from what I've heard, isn't in the best of health. Sure, he'll win the election in PA, but he'll probably retire in the next few years anyway, and it will probably be easier to field a more progressive candidate after a moderate Dem, anyway.

I suppose that tactically, and in the short run, Specter's opportunistic defection is net plus. But, long term, I'm afraid this is just evidence that the parasite has successfully jumped from a sickly host it's eaten from the inside out to a newer, fresher, stronger one. Expect it to lend its strength to the DLC types and to aggressively shut out the more 'liberal' voices of the Democratic party.

I want to hear more about Specter's just-released New York Review of Books article, "The Need to Roll Back Presidential Power Grabs." (must read)

Is he serious? Will he actually introduce the legislation he mentions in it? Who will wind up siding with him? And how much does it have to do with his party switch?

after you've taken over the media like you're taking over the auto industry, (A controlling share in GM, literal ownership of the means of production!) reconstituted the fairness doctrine, Expanded campaign censorship laws, and given all the territories seats in Congress, it won't be legally possible for any other party to displace the Democratic.

You could always try coming up with better, more popular policy ideas than the Democrats have, rather than just relying on disenfranchisement and the support of a few very rich men.

"It's looking more and more like a terminal decline"

I tend to agree, and I won't mourn the GOP. '94 gave them their chance to actually run the country, and they're suffering now because they proved to everyone who wasn't hiding in a cave that they didn't mean a thing they'd been campaigning on all those years, it was all just noise to fool the rubes.

There are major divides in this country which are utterly unrepresented in our politics, because the Democratic party upholds one side, and the GOP is AWOL. Maybe a new party will chose to give the voters a choice, instead of an echo.

But I'm not joking about expecting the Democratic party to make an attempt to give itself an unbreakable institutional advantage, make this a one party country. Politics isn't a game, political parties tend to do things like that if they become dominant enough that nobody can stop them.

Is Arlen a creep? You bet. BTW, Specter has for years led all Senators in office turnover; he's well known in DC to be terrible person to work for.

And let's face it, Spector's switcheroo was all about Arlen wanting to have Senator in front of his name.

That said, it's still a big gift for the Dems in many ways. One, it moves a Senate seat from one that would be hotly (and expensively) contested to the 'safe' Dem side of the ledger. The 60 votes thing is overplayed--after all, we have Nelson, Bayh, and several others who are wobblies. But it does help in that will prevent the GOP from slow-walking a lot of legislation that has bipartisan support. Lastly, it's a PR boon. Try as they might, the GOP can't put a happy face on this.

To those of you forecasting the permanent demise of the Republican party, I'd just like to point out that they look an awful lot like the UK Conservatives circa 1997. They got an absolute drubbing (43% Labour / 30% Con) in the 1997 election and performed similarly in 2001. They were also riven with infighting, with many of the faction claiming to be the ideological heirs of Margaret Thatcher - much like your Republican lot all claim to be Reagan 2 - and given that there wasn't any hard power to be fighting for (the public had broadly rejected them and their policies) they still went ahead with their circular firing squad.

And yet, the table are now turned; they're united behind a young, charismatic leader and embraced various positions on climate change, social policy, etc. that even 10 years ago would have been unthinkable for them. As a leftie, I still tend to switch off every time I hear a Tory (it's the Etonian accents and transparent attack-dog politics I can't abide) but I don't violently disagree with everything they say, unlike 10 years ago.

On top of that, the governing Labour party is incredibly unpopular and the reason is not necessarily policy or ideology (we're tonnes richer than we were a decade ago, they pretty much halved the unemployment rate they inherited in 97, we now have an NHS and schools we can be proud of, etc.) but because a) the economy is a mess, which isn't necessarily their fault, and b) fatigue has set in.

The Labour party are almost certain to get kicked out at the next election (the polls look something like 40% / 30% at the moment) and it'll be a good thing. Any party that is in power for a decade or so doesn't get a chance to renew itself - the wilderness did the Tory party good, and it will do Labour and the Republican party good too.

Well, if you ask me, I'd prefer a crazy liberal too a crazy GOPster state (not that I'd like to emigrate to the US). As I said, imo there will be either a new (sane)conservative party* springing from the Dems, should the GOP not recover or a (hostile) GOP takeover bringing an end to the democratic republic(in all but name).

*symbol: the blue dog

I pretty much disagree with everything in this post. Some highlights...

Today’s flip further vindicates Clinton’s decision to fight it out to the bitter end in last year’s primary. Looking back, nothing but positives came out of that contest...

And it’s that structural shift that doomed Specter. He couldn’t afford to lose hundreds of thousands of moderate PA Republicans.

Just limiting the discussion to what the Clinton decision to fight in PA did to the Pennsylvania Senate situation.

First, it didn't doom Specter. Arlen Specter will win reelection as a Democrat in 2010.

What it did do is shift moderate voters from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, thus dooming Specter's chances for renomination as a Republican.

So what effect did that have on the Keystone State's representation in the Senate? Without this shift, there's a good chance that Pennsylvania would have been represented in the Senate after 2010 by a moderate-liberal Democrat. Failing that it would have most likely been represented by Arlen Specter, a center-right Republican.

With the Clinton run, Pennsylvania will be represented by Arlen Specter, now arguably the most conservative Democrat in the Senate. Failing that, it will be likely be represented by total wingnut Pat Toomey.

Sorry, but I don't think that change is a net plus.

Whoops...the italics didn't work on that last comment.

Everything from "Today's flip" to "hundreds of thousands of moderate PA Republicans" was quoting publius.

Disagreement #2: "Toomey Does Not Equal Lamont"

Let me join those others who say that the problem with Bill Clinton and Joe Lieberman is the policies they supported not their disloyalty to the Democratic Party.

I know that the party line among leaders of the "Netroots" has long been that it's about party loyalty not ideology. But among the grassroots of the Netroots (as it were), I've never been convinced that that was the dominant view. I sent a little money to Ned Lamont in 2006 because I wanted one less militarist in the Senate. I would have been just as happy to get rid of other, more superficially loyal pro-war and pro-torture Democrats. But Lieberman appeared to present a target of opportunity.

And that's the real problem with the Club for Growth. As publius says (and here I do agree with him) they pick their targets terribly. But the Club for Growth is not wrong to have ideological goals rather than simply partisan ones. Ideological goals often make more sense than partisan goals, especially when, as a matter of political reality, one often finds oneself having to vote for a "bit tent" party like the Democrats.

"The real question is how will politics funciton in the future as the U.S. becomes a one party state."

I think that's not actually out of the question, but I also think that that "one party" will basically the Republican party, in its pre-Reagan Revolution form.

There will probably continue to be a so-named Republican party devoted to rolling back all of the social and political changes of the last 120 years, but outside of rural Dixie, pockets of the back-of-beyond mountain west, and Columbus OH, I don't think they'll be very influential.

Oh yeah, and there will also be Bernie Sanders.

Other than that, I think we're heading back to "I Like Ike" territory.

Could be a lot worse, but it ain't gonna be a lefty paradise.

"you've taken over the media like you're taking over the auto industry, (A controlling share in GM, literal ownership of the means of production!) reconstituted the fairness doctrine, Expanded campaign censorship laws, and given all the territories seats in Congress"

BWA-HA-HA-HA!

But the worst is yet to come -- we're gonna make everyone drive a Volt!

" But it does help in that will prevent the GOP from slow-walking a lot of legislation that has bipartisan support."

??? Even with Spector the Republicans didn't have enough votes in the Senate to effectively oppose anything that had bipartisan support. Unless by "bipartisan" you mean opposed by virtually every Republican and a fair number of Democrats.

NickFFF makes some good points - certainly, we should expect (and hope for!) there to be two viable parties at some point, and it's easier to see the second reality-connected party to emerge from a renovation of the current second party than from a major split in the Democrats or de novo.

Still, it took the UK's conservatives a long time to get serious about even appearing to have moderated the traits that made them so noisome to the electorate, such that even though (it seemed from several thousands of miles away that) few people much liked New Labour and even though Blair dragged his country (and especially his party) kicking and screaming into Basra, the Tories still had no traction until they got the combination of Iraq, economic collapse, and a Conservative party willing to make at least overt concessions to modernity.

The national Republican party thus far has made no progress on this last, vital point; indeed, those Republicans that could conceivably have stood out as Republican exemplars of moderation have thus far either run away from moderation and back to the medieval sympathies of their base (such as Romney, who was the moderate governor of a liberal state, or Giuliani, who lived with a gay couple after his wife rightly kicked him out) or wound up leaving the party (Jeffords, Specter) or hinting at leaving (Snowe's Op-Ed in today's New York Times).

I fully expect the Republicans to emerge from the wilderness at some point - but barring truly astounding events, they will not do so until they concede that they should give up the course that took them into the wilderness.

Oh, and if he cares to, I'd really like to see Ddddave's explanation of what his comment is supposed to mean; quite a groupie of what? Surely not Specter; I haven't seen anyone having that much nice to say about him, and definitely not here. Can one be a "groupie" of the continuing self-destruction of the Republican party and how it could help promote a progressive legislative agenda?

I think that's not actually out of the question, but I also think that that "one party" will basically the Republican party, in its pre-Reagan Revolution form.

That's pretty much how I've got it sussed. There will be minor gains on the cultural side, say 'gay marriage' bans will fade away. But expect the same old same old tax and economic policies that heavily favor the upper one percent.

Other than that, I think we're heading back to "I Like Ike" territory.

Exactly. There will still be Keynesian-style 'big' projects - just like Ike and the highway system - but other priorities, such as the war on poverty, will be dead, dead, dead, save for a certain cursory lip service.

Otoh, some major structural reforms on concerns like health care seem to be in the offing, so, like the cultural stuff, it won't be precisely Ike, but Ike updated for modern times with modern economic concerns.

one party state! yay!

??? Even with Spector the Republicans didn't have enough votes in the Senate to effectively oppose anything that had bipartisan support.

I'll give you an example. Recently, there was a piece of anti-fraud legislation (FERA, if you wish to look it up). The bill enjoyed significant bi-partisan support--it eventually passed with 92 votes. The GOP leadership held up a vote on this bill by repeatedly adding amendments and requesting more debate time.

"Some have argued that Specter’s switch won’t matter because a few Dems will always defect – and because Specter isn’t reliable.

Perhaps. But it’s still a big help."

I agree with your subsequent remarks about Specter's presence helping out with minor issue votes, but given that Reid has (supposedly) promised he can keep his seniority and head a committee--and that he comes in at the very conservative end of the Party, it seems that the actual balance on votes that really matter will shift further to the right. Because Specter is not a moderate, much less a progressive, and is not going to work to push through any of the less timid moves that might slip out of the Obama administration. Unless, of course, he changes his tune and suddenly morphs into Moderate Specter, which is highly unlikely, as he's gotten all the things he might need (seniority, the DCCC and Obama both promising to work for him in the next primary) without offering anything in return.

So I see this as a win for Harry Reid, the human brake pedal in a Democratic Senate, and not much of a gain for those of us who saw the 60 vote pot-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow as anything other than cracked iron.

I don't mean to be doom and gloom, btw. It's just that this long drift to the right happened over thirty or more years. Realistically speaking, we're not getting back to 1979 in terms of a viable agenda in five or even ten years.

There is also the fact - I've come to this unhappy conclusion - that the years 1945 - 1970 were something of an anomaly in the tug-of-war between the haves and the have-nots. In those halcyon times, it was easy for the haves to concede a larger piece of the pie since the pie really was growing just about as fast as the free-marketers would like to have us believe. In these latter days, however, the bitter truth is that the size of the pie doesn't really change all that much from year to year, and if there's one perennial constant, it's that - to quote Lem from "His Master's Voice" - The Thin starve before the Fat suffer.

Iow, the only way to get more for the bottom 95% is to take it from the top 5%. They are heavily armed and ready for a fight, have been for some time, since about 1880 as a matter of fact. And that's what the Republican party, so-called think tanks like Heritage and Cato are really all about; they're weapons in the fight to see who gets how much of what. Don't expect that struggle to abate any time soon.

Posted by: NickFFF | April 29, 2009 at 10:23 AM

I'll second (to some degree) what Nick sez: I've always thought the later GW Bush Administration resembled in large part the Terminal Tories of the mid-90's. Ideologically committed, but, in practice, shackled to a politics-of-consensus; no clear legislative majority; no inspiring leadership, embarrassed by strings of tawdry scandals - and most importantly, seemingly oblivious to their own drift out of the political mainstream (and, IIRC, making the same mistake, at first, of assuming that the corrective to that was to tack farther to the right).

But what's also true is that where there have been major shifts in political alignments (1932, 1980), the "corrective" path for the out Party has taken about 20+ years to come around. The turnaround time may have been accelerated a bit of late (ten years for New Labour, just four to collapse Dubya Republicanism), but the general rule-of-thumb seems to be that the "years in the wilderness" can often stretch to decades.

"Fairness Doctrine? Do you have minutes from a super secret liberal/Democratic Party meeting that I missed where that was even on the agenda? Or is this the assumption that at some point this will be required?"

"I find this to be a useful marker. Once you find out that someone gets their information from Official Rightwing Extruded Processed News Product then you can set your expectations accordingly."

Hmm. When blocking an amendment to keep the FCC from discriminating on the basis of political content, Democratic Senator Durbin offered:

Mr. Durbin: I'm sorry to interrupt you but I really wish that through the commerce committee or the appropriate committee of jurisdiction, we can really get into this question. But the senator is arguing that the marketplace can provide. What is the senator's response if the marketplace fails to provide? What is the marketplace does not provide opportunities to hear both points of view? Since the people who are seeking the licenses are using America's airwaves, does the government, speaking for the people of this country, have any interest at that point to step in and make sure there is a despair balanced approach to the --a fair and balanced approach to the information given to the American people?

Also:

“It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”

cite


Senator Feinstein:

U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said Sunday she is "looking at" the possibility of reviving the fairness doctrine for U.S. broadcasters.

Feinstein, speaking on "Fox News Sunday" with Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said talk radio in particular has presented a one-sided view of immigration reform legislation being considered by the Senate.

U.S. talk radio is dominated by conservative voices.

"This is a very complicated bill," said Feinstein. "Most people don't know what's in this bill. Therefore, to just have one or two things dramatized and taken out of context, such as the word amnesty -- we have a silent amnesty right now, but nobody goes into that. Nobody goes into the flaws of our broken system."

Feinstein said the measure before the Senate "fixes those flaws" but that doesn't get presented on talk radio, which she said "pushes people to ... extreme views without a lot of information."

Asked if she would revive the fairness doctrine, which used to require broadcasters to present competing sides of controversial issues, Feinstein said she was "looking at it."

"I remember when there was a fairness doctrine," she said, "and I think there was much more serious correct reporting to people."

UPI cite

On Pelosi:

At a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor yesterday, I asked Pelosi if Pence failed to get the required signatures on a discharge petition to get his anti-Fairness Doctrine bill out of committee, would she permit the Pence measure to get a floor vote this year.

“No,” the Speaker replied, without hesitation. She added that “the interest in my caucus is the reverse” and that New York Democratic Rep. “Louise Slaughter has been active behind this [revival of the Fairness Doctrine] for a while now.”

Pelosi pointed out that, after it returns from its Fourth of July recess, the House will only meet for another three weeks in July and three weeks in the fall. There are a lot of bills it has to deal with before adjournment, she said, such as FISA and an energy bill.

“So I don’t see it [the Pence bill] coming to the floor,” Pelosi said.

“Do you personally support revival of the ‘Fairness Doctrine?’” I asked.

“Yes,” the speaker replied, without hesitation

cite (Though I'm not as sure about the reliability of the Pelosi quote, I've never heard of the organization).

You can argue that the Democrats aren't particularly serious about reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine. I believe I once said that on a scale of One to Health Care, it probably rates a ‘four’. But the idea that it is just some made up right-wing talking point is false.

I think that we are going to be in far better shape than we were in 1979; the current situation for political change is much closer to being 1932 (or, for Brits, 1946).

I think this is distinct from a normal partisan swing because the GOP has single digit approval ratings in most of the country and is especially unpopular among young voters. There is a tribal element to politics - a big part of the lingering strength of the GOP was the attachment of folks who came of voting age under Reagan.

There will be an right-leaning opposition party, but there is no guarantee it'll be the Republicans. Canada may be a better model than Britain.

For some reason, Cleek's 11:07 comment used to contain a hyperlink, and now it no longer does. I admit that his hyperlink implicitly mocked an upthread comment, but it seemed to me to do so in a relatively gentle way. I may be blinkered, but I didn't see it as being abusive. Did a Mod remove the hyperlink, or is the page just displaying oddly to me right now?

The problem for the GOP is that, at this point, they could promise to implement heaven on earth, and provide a detailed and plausible roadmap as to how they were going to do it, and it wouldn't do them a bit of good, because nobody takes Republican campaign promises seriously anymore. Deservedly.

Not much you can do, when your credibility is shot like that.

A lot of this Dem triumphalism is premature at best. The Dems had more seats in Congress and had won the WH in an epic landslide after the 1964 elections. The GOP was in deep disgrace after Watergate and did poorly in the 1976 Congressional elections while also losing the WH. They came back very quickly after both of those low points. So did the Dems after their low point following the 2002-2004 elections.

More broadly, US 2-party politics tends to be highly cyclic because of the unstable internal dynamic of broad coalitions. Everybody is willing to put aside some of their pet causes for the sake of winning for the broader grouping at the beginning of a new electoral coalition, but over time fatigure sets it, corruption and screwups accumulate, power is taken for granted, and growing hunger for ideological purity chips away at the bonds holding together that coalition, while at the same time the oppositions grows hungry and more willing to make the ideological compromises necessary to attract new converts and broaden their own coalition (see the Dems re: Webb and Tester for a recent example of this).

So the GOP is currently down but they will be back. I expect that as the Dems in power become progressively more entangled with Wall St and big business interests, at some point a populist figure in the GOP will arise who can attack the Dems using class warfare from below and break them out of the neo-Confederate regional prison they are stuck in now. Wilson and FDR did it for the Dems starting about a century ago, and I expect that history to repeat itself in the mid-21st Cen.

Having said that, the current fall of the GOP from favor is pretty impressive. Within 5 years they gone from controlling basically everything in 2003-2004 (both houses of Congress, the WH, and having a very favorable and ideologically friendly SCOTUS and mass media) to being out of power or wobbly in all those areas. That is a fall from grace faster and on a broader front than anything which happened to the Dems in the their ups and downs over the last 100 years. The Bush admin really was an epic clusterf*ck for the GOP.

For some reason, Cleek's 11:07 comment used to contain a hyperlink, and now it no longer does.

it does now. i think this is due to the new "SometimesStripHTMLFromComments" Typepad option.

A lot of this Dem triumphalism is premature at best.

you can say that again.

The problem for the GOP is that, at this point, they could promise to implement heaven on earth, and provide a detailed and plausible roadmap as to how they were going to do it, and it wouldn't do them a bit of good, because nobody takes Republican campaign promises seriously anymore. Deservedly.

Not much you can do, when your credibility is shot like that.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore

I've apparently deleted the relevant bookmark, but from what I understand, more libertarians voted for McCain than they did for Obama. In fact, more libertarians voted for McCain than any of the other alternatives, including sitting out the election. If those are the 'conservatives' you are referring to, this does not bode well for your theory.

As I said, I've deleted the bookmark; also a cursory search with Google finds cites on libertarian voting patterns thin on the ground. You are free to take what I wrote with a grain of salt until I can track down the relevant quote.

Dang. Let me try that again:

The problem for the GOP is that, at this point, they could promise to implement heaven on earth, and provide a detailed and plausible roadmap as to how they were going to do it, and it wouldn't do them a bit of good, because nobody takes Republican campaign promises seriously anymore. Deservedly.

Not much you can do, when your credibility is shot like that.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore

I've apparently deleted the relevant bookmark, but from what I understand, more libertarians voted for McCain than they did for Obama. In fact, more libertarians voted for McCain than any of the other alternatives, including sitting out the election. If those are the 'conservatives' you are referring to, this does not bode well for your theory.

As I said, I've deleted the bookmark; also a cursory search with Google finds cites on libertarian voting patterns thin on the ground. You are free to take what I wrote with a grain of salt until I can track down the relevant quote.

Can't blame the system for stripping the tags on that one :-)

Relatively topical:
Former Rhode Island Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee is running for Governor as an Independent; having lost in 2006 in part because of a damaging primary with a Club-For-Growth candidate, Chafee recently said the Republicans may no longer be a national party.

Olympia Snowe writes New York Times Op-Ed about how the Republican party needs to stop marginalizing moderates.

I agree with those who point out that Democratic triumphalism would be wildly premature (I'd at least like the Dems to enact meaningful and enduring legislation before claiming any lasting impact; say, health care?), but the Republican party, with its convincing self-portrayal as a party lucky to claim the loyalty of 20% of the electorate, seems to be pretty thoroughly determined to help those Democrats inclined to triumphalism ...

For reasons that escape me, their most high-profile attempts to oust incumbents are in vulnerable (if not hostile) districts.

sounds like the CFG assumes that because Specter can win in light blue PA, any Republican can win it. and if that's the case, they might as well give the people a Real Republican ™ , because that's what people really want (as they keep telling us).

that's why they say things like:

    "Our view is the best strategy on RINOs is not to have them elected in the first place"

(CFG pres responded in comments to that article, b.t.w.)

Warren @ 12:04: this has been happening to me for several days. Something (italics, a link, whatever) is visible on one view, then not visible later, then maybe visible again. If Typepad is broken, part of the brokenness at this point would seem to be that the details differ from one moment to the next, or one set of thread details to the next.

In addition, will the blue dog Democrats become irrelevant as much as the Repubicans are now irrelevant.

You say that as if it's a /bad/ thing. :>

I keep hearing people point to the power reversals of the last 30 years, particularly in '94, as a cautionary tale for reading too much into the GOP's collapse. While I take their point, I think that the ongoing implosion of the Republican Party is closer to the split of the Democratic-Republican party, or better yet, the collapse of the Whigs--which, in no small irony, was what led to the creation of the modern Republican Party.

In short, the Whigs were a major political party in the US for about 20 years, divisions over slavery (among other factors) began to split the party along regional lines, with the northern Whigs largely joining the Republican Party in the 1850's, and the southern Whigs scattering to the winds or joining the Democrats.

The main reason that the modern Republican Party's problems are so much larger and more insurmountable than the ones they faced after Nixon or 1992 is that nobody wants to buy what they're selling. This isn't a temporary backlash in the wake of an unpopular president--it's a wholesale repudiation of the core issues the Republican Party wants to run on.

Gay marriage: the writing is on the wall. A plurality of Americans support it, and that goes up every year. It goes up not only because of generational demographics, but because people see it happening now without the world ending. Yet the GOP is committed to dying on this hill.

Economics: the last eight years, if not the last 20, have decisively refuted most Republican economic shibboleths, particularly that noxious bit of silliness known as trickle-down economics. Their answer to everything is "deregulation" or "tax cuts", despite overwhelming evidence from the Bush recessions that this is what got us into this mess.

Competence: after Bush and Palin, not to mention the clown show that is Republicans in Congress, how many people really take seriously the idea that Republicans can govern at the national level anymore? A vanishingly small number of the electorate.

Small government: If I hate dogs, I'm going to be a crappy dog trainer. If I have no interest in reading, I've got no business being an editor. The Republicans have spent years trying to convince us that the government is bad, and people have finally realized that means they suck at running it. Pace Reagan, Most Americans want the government to help them.

Healthcare: Most Americans, including the usually-Republican business demographic, want universal health care. The Republicans don't want to give it to them. The Democrats do. Yet another of the sad hills they've chosen to die on.

On issue after issue, Americans prefer the solutions the Democrats have over the zombie-Reagan culture war nonsense the Republicans are peddling.

The only way out of this for the Republicans is to become more like the Democratic Party. As a party, they're probably not doomed--there are certain core conservative principles that are a valuable addition to our political discourse, and those will find their way through somehow. But the Republican Party of the Reagan-Bush era, the party of culture wars and racism and homophobia and nativism and privatization... they are as doomed as the Whigs. Outside of people like Larison, they just don't know it yet.

But Catsy, was any of that ever anything but a front for the Money? A bit of faux populism to distract the masses(enough) so that they would not, for example, realize how business friendly the Supreme court has become? As opposed to 'conservative friendly'?

The only good I see coming out of this is health care reform of some sort . . . and that's only because as an industry their interests are not aligned closely enough, enough of the time, with the interests of a broad coalition of elites.

SoV, I have no idea what point you were trying to make there, or how it relates to what I said.

Although I would be remiss in not adding one of the more recent examples of the GOP being on the wrong side of history: torture.

SOV, many people did not, and for some reason, still don't view McCain as a real Republican. Which is part of the reason he got as many votes as he did. So I don't think that really shoots down Brett's theory.

It’s really hard to express how stupid the [Club for Growth] primary challenge against Lincoln Chafee was. I heard Specter said it again today – the GOP would have maintained control of the Senate but for that quixotic attempted fratricide.

Interesting that you should bring up Rhode Island; we ended up with a pretty good, quite genuine Democrat out of that idiotic CfG primary challenge... because the Democratic "leadership" didn't decide to prevent a real Democrat from running so we could all get behind Chafee. (Though there was plenty of that sentiment from NARAL and the Steve Clemons bipartisanship-for-its-own-sake beltway types).

But that's what's happening now. Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and Ed Rendell get together in a room, and to hell with what Pennsylvania Democrats might want.

There's almost no upside to this at all, once the ten minutes of kvelling over Republican unhappiness dies down. Malibu Stacy has a new hat! (h/t The Editors)

[Possible walkback pending a reading of the NYRB article; thanks very much to S.G.E.W. for the pointer.]

The only way out of this for the Republicans is to become more like the Democratic Party.

Would the movement conservatives who took over the GOP ever allow it? As SOV notes, they were always a front for the Money, but the inmates took over the asylum.

"Although I would be remiss in not adding one of the more recent examples of the GOP being on the wrong side of history: torture."

This is NOT just an "everyone did it" distraction. The "everyone did it" distraction is intended to downgrade the importance of the underlying act/problem.

This comment is meant to highlight the importance of the underlying problem.

It wasn't just the GOP. There were a very few Democrats who stood up against torture. Pretty much everyone else, Democrat and Republican alike, did not.

You can't trust a politician on the torture issue based on a (D) after his name. If you care about torture, you can't cease your vigilance just because Democrats are around.

Now Obama himself seems to be doing a fine job so far. So that is a good thing.

Thanks Hillary

Thanks Limbaugh. His Operation Chaos encouraged his fans to register as Democrats in hopes of making the Democratic Party primary as long and bloody as possible. But here Specter is, citing Republicans changing registration as a reason for the switch. That sure worked out well for conservatives.

Cyrus, you're living in a dreamworld if you think more than a sliver of those voters who changed their registration from Republican to Democratic did so at the urging of Limbaugh.

The overwhelming majority of them were the former moderate wing of the Republican Party, which at this point in Pennsylvania is a purely right-wing entity.

I’m curious about this “drift to the right” meme.

Reagan years: ERA off the platform. Tax cuts and small government (for real). Cuts to PELL, food stamps, Medicaid, EPA, EEOC, etc. Human Life Amendment, Mexico City Policy, and the Family Protection Act. Just to name a few…

1994 – Contract with America etc.


Now:

First, let’s deal with the canard that the GOP has moved “far to the right”. When exactly did that happen? When a Republican-controlled Congress, yoked to a Republican White House, grew federal spending by 50% in six years? Would that be the GOP that created a new entitlement program for prescription medication? The same Republicans that expanded spending above inflation on discretionary areas like education (58%), health research and regulation (55%), community and regional development (94%) and on entitlement programs like Medicare (51%)?

I have to go with Ed here. The thought that the GOP has moved “far to the right” the last few decades is silly. Whether we’re talking about social or economic policies, the GOP has moved pretty far left in the last few decades. (And I think that’s a good thing.) Foreign policy – was the Cold War, Central America policy, and Iran-Contra really much better than Afghanistan and Iraq?

I suspect that some folks who believe the GOP moved far right in that time period are too young to have been paying much attention to politics during the Reagan/Gingrich heydays. Other folks may honestly remember the GOP being a lot more centrist back then, but I honestly don’t understand how. Some though (like Specter) are flat-out being disingenuous.

They are far right on gay marriage, but that is a relatively new issue and they haven’t moved anywhere – they’re stuck in a rut.

Anyone have examples of GOP positions today that are far to the right of where they were in 1980?

'Deficits Matter'.

"Anyone have examples of GOP positions today that are far to the right of where they were in 1980?"

For some of us older coots the "last few decades" extend even further back than 1980.

Tax cuts and small government (for real).

Not quite. Reagan cut taxes, but then raised them SEVEN times. Unlike Bush. And the modern GOP. Also, Reagan was lambasted by the right for his "appeasement" of the USSR when he reached out (or back) to Gorby. That same hard right fringe is now in the driver's seat - with Reaganites like Scowcroft marginalized and belittled.

Also, Reagan didn't initiate an era of small government, he vastly increased the size of government, the budgets of government, the budget deficits and the debt.

SoV, I have no idea what point you were trying to make there, or how it relates to what I said.

Although I would be remiss in not adding one of the more recent examples of the GOP being on the wrong side of history: torture.

Posted by: Catsy

My point is that the Republican party is and always has been about the money. Nothing more. So they somehow have to a) cater to the same interests who have been their chief constituency for the past century, and b) differentiate themselves as being something other than Democratic Light.

To be 'more like the Democrats' they would have to, for example, embrace gay marriage while at the same time working to eliminate banking regulations. In short, they would have to become the 'libertarians' that Brett describes as having fled the party.

I don't see this as being a viable strategy. I think that instead the Usual Suspects will start funneling vat-loads of money to the DLC types while at the same time engaging on a new round of dirty tricks to discredit the more 'progressive' wing of the Democratic party.

Also, Reagan didn't initiate an era of small government, he vastly increased the size of government, the budgets of government, the budget deficits and the debt.

Some of the government, and more in his second term - as he moved left. ;)

Initially: cuts to entitlement programs like education, food stamps, and Medicaid. Welfare Moms? Budget cuts for departments like the EPA and the EEOC.

Reagan was lambasted by the right for his "appeasement" of the USSR when he reached out (or back) to Gorby

And the other hand was “reaching out” to Central America and into Iran-Contra.


For some of us older coots the "last few decades" extend even further back than 1980.

I’ve only been paying attention to politics since about then, so I stuck with first-hand impressions.

OCSteve: Also hard to the right on evolution and science in general.

The overall dynamic has less to do with the existence of GOP positions now as opposed to 1980, but to what extent the erstwhile fringe ideas/groups are now in charge and enforcing a rigid ideological purity (of the fringe variety).

This is NOT just an "everyone did it" distraction. The "everyone did it" distraction is intended to downgrade the importance of the underlying act/problem.

I see what you're trying to say, Sebastian, but it's beside the point.

It's fairly indisputable that plenty of Democrats took morally indefensible positions and made equally indefensible votes on the issue of torture. I'm not defending them. I don't know anyone who is.

I'm a bit more forgiving of the ones who "kept silent" on what they were briefed about--you have to keep in mind that these were classified briefings, and the administration went out of their way to shut down any legal avenue they might have had to blow the whistle. They're not off scot-free, but I'm a bit more understanding of the impossible position they were in.

But there is a whole moral universe of difference between those who took the path of least resistance in not staking their careers on taking a stand on principle, and those who actually developed the torture policies, ordered the torture, and are defending it to this day.

And that's I'm we're talking about here. The GOP has committed itself to doubling down on defending the Bush-era torture policies. The Democratic Party has committed to ending them, and has actually done so. Torture opponents are rare in the Republican party these days. Torture apologists are as rare or rarer in the Democratic Party.

When it comes to voters who care about the United States not being a torture regime, which one do you think they're going to vote for?

That's my point.

I don't see this as being a viable strategy. I think that instead the Usual Suspects will start funneling vat-loads of money to the DLC types while at the same time engaging on a new round of dirty tricks to discredit the more 'progressive' wing of the Democratic party.

Okay, that makes more sense, but I don't really see how it refutes the point I was making about the really-and-actually-doomed nature of today's Republican Party. If anything it supports it.

"For some of us older coots the "last few decades" extend even further back than 1980.

I’ve only been paying attention to politics since about then, so I stuck with first-hand impressions."

That's cool.

For comparison, compare current-day Republicans to Reagan, as opposed to comparing Reagan to Nixon.

1980 was the sea change. 1964 tried to be the sea change, but the Goldwater faction had it's @ss handed to it on a platter. 1980 is when they got to drive the bus.

If you only started paying attention in '80, then Clinton is your idea of "left". Trust me, it hasn't always been like that.

Okay, that makes more sense, but I don't really see how it refutes the point I was making about the really-and-actually-doomed nature of today's Republican Party. If anything it supports it.

Posted by: Catsy

Let me try again: Whether or not the Republican party will be permanently marginalized is not all that important in the long term. What's important is that the force that animated it for so long, it's raison d'etre, is alive and well and in the process of transferring over to the Democratic party.

What's important is not mistaking the snake's host for the snake itself.

"Anyone have examples of GOP positions today that are far to the right of where they were in 1980?"

-Legalized torture, openly admitted and formally justified.

-ditto for Habeas Corpus.

-Warrantless wiretapping.

-Using the theory of the unitary executive, signing statements, etc. to nullify the power of Congress and the Courts. E.g., willfully ignoring Congressional subpoenas by using control of the Justice Dept. to shield the targets of supoenas (rather than fighting them in the courts).

-Science policy (especially creation "science" and global warming denialism).

-Cutting taxes during a time of war and associated heavy fiscal burdens.

-Meeting with enemies in direct negotiations.

-Being able to address foreign audiences in a sympathetic and engaging and politically effective manner ("Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!") rather than only being able to talk in such a fashion to a limited subset of Americans.

These are just things that via the Bush admin the GOP actually did or openly supported. There is an even longer list of things they would have liked to do but couldn't, such as privatizing social security, or more recently the alternative GOP version of the stimulus plan (tax cuts!) and their neo-Hooverite economic plans more generally.

GHB, Reagan, Ford, Nixon and Eisenhower were all well to the left of the current GOP on at least one of these issues. That may have been in part a byproduct of needing to work with Congressional Democrats. Having control of both the WH and Congress and a supportive mass media all at the same time brought out the worst in the GOP in terms of authoritarianism and intolerance IMHO, and now they can't get that genie back into the bottle.

Having said that, I think the "rightward drift" of the GOP recently is one that is as much due to a "leftward drift" of the electorate as it is due to a shift in the objective content of the GOP platform. In other words they have drifted both in absolute terms and relative to a population which has been slowly shifing the other way.

In a democracy the difference between these two forms of ideological drift doesn't really matter all that much - out of touch with the electorate is out of touch no matter how you slice it.

The thing which really strikes me about the GOP is that they seem to have completely lost the ability to empathically imagine what they sound like to people who aren't already with them. That is an essential skill if you want to grow a coalition - you have to be able to step back and listen to yourself speak and critique what you hear from the viewpoint of somebody who isn't already a member of their choir. They can't do that anymore.

Eric: Also hard to the right on evolution and science in general.

The overall dynamic has less to do with the existence of GOP positions now as opposed to 1980, but to what extent the erstwhile fringe ideas/groups are now in charge and enforcing a rigid ideological purity (of the fringe variety).

Fair point. But you guys certainly have a fringe, and they have some control – admittedly not as much as the whackos on my side. The GOP has driven off everyone except the nut jobs at this point. They are welcome to them. If I consider that specific issue, and admit that they are now the party, I can concede “far to the right”. But in general, I’ll still say that the GOP between 1980 and 2006 (or so) went left and not right.


russell: If you only started paying attention in '80, then Clinton is your idea of "left". Trust me, it hasn't always been like that.

Well, I have read about McGovern – but at the time I was just at the point of thinking girls might be something other than yucky.

If I judge Democrats by that – than you all have moved pretty far right. That would be a fair headline would it not?

ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

- Legalized torture, openly admitted and formally justified.

With Democrats on board.

-ditto for Habeas Corpus.

With Democrats on board.

-Warrantless wiretapping.

With Democrats on board.

-Using the theory of the unitary executive, signing statements, etc.

How’s Obama doing at rolling that all back? ;)

Science policy (especially creation "science" and global warming denialism).

Science policy (especially GW alarmism to drive policy.) And flu alarmism to get a nominee past the Senate. Crap – every one of Obama’s science appointees is a hard political appointment. Name one who could be called objective…

-Cutting taxes during a time of war and associated heavy fiscal burdens.

Got me there.


I don’t agree with much of the rest except this:

Having said that, I think the "rightward drift" of the GOP recently is one that is as much due to a "leftward drift" of the electorate as it is due to a shift in the objective content of the GOP platform. In other words they have drifted both in absolute terms and relative to a population which has been slowly shifing the other way.

Agreed.

With Democrats on board.

Elections have consequences. One of them is, when you are the ruling party, crying "But Mom! That's not fair. Bobby did it too! He so did too did too did too!!!", well that just doesn't cut the mustard.


Crap – every one of Obama’s science appointees is a hard political appointment. Name one who could be called objective…

Sour grapes, much?
How about the Secretary of Energy?

And flu alarmism to get a nominee past the Senate.

WTF are you smoking, OCSteve? Seriously. This is the kind of trash charge that makes me lose respect for someone.

Oh I almost forgot.

Barry Goldwater and the Religous Right.

"Crap – every one of Obama’s science appointees is a hard political appointment. Name one who could be called objective…"

If you mean they are subjective in terms of believing in science over ideology, you got me.

Sibelius was being held up for moronic reasons and you know it OCSteve. Heck, even senators who are about as hard right as possible on abortion policy supported her, as shown by the final vote.

In terms of signing statements, Obama has been very articulate about them, saying they are to be used seldom and more indicative of the President's opinion of the law and not to hold the same status of the law.

And yes, there were some Dems on board in the execution of those other things. But there were many that were not. Name some Republicans that weren't and when you get past 5, it will matter. And I am not talking about lip service, like Specter gave, but actual action.

But, I do want to make this point. Through much of the past 8 years, and even now, people on the left have complained about Republicans walking in lock step with the Presiden or at least the Party talking points. Unfortunately, I am starting to see the same demand for ideological purity of Democrats. That demand from the base is what has come close to killing the Republican Party. If the Dems demand the same, it willcome back to haunt them.

I don't see the Republican Party making a comeback without some major overhaul. But I can foresee a viable third party movement if the Dems become too hardened.

ThatLeftTurnInABQ : Elections have consequences. One of them is, when you are the ruling party, crying "But Mom! That's not fair. Bobby did it too! He so did too did too did too!!!", well that just doesn't cut the mustard.

Huh? I’m just saying that it makes it kind of hard to call it a “far right” position when plenty of Dems are on board. That makes it kind of “centrist” IMO. “Far right” would imply IMO at least a party-line discrepancy.


How about the Secretary of Energy?

Chu?

'We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California,' Steven Chu says. He sees education as a means to combat threat.

California's farms and vineyards could vanish by the end of the century, and its major cities could be in jeopardy, if Americans do not act to slow the advance of global warming, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said Tuesday.

Oh, that’s objective. Examines all sides carefully and makes arguments backed up by facts - or at least something more than unproven hypothesis... It’s a pure political appointment because he already arrived at the opinions the administration wants. You all would throw fits over this in the previous admin.


Nell: WTF are you smoking, OCSteve? Seriously. This is the kind of trash charge that makes me lose respect for someone.

Nothing, unfortunately. You got something good? Seriously Nell – you don’t think this went through now at 65-31 on principal? Democrats were all set to lay any flu crisis at the feet of Republicans for obstructing this nominee. They are idiots – but they ain’t that dumb…

you guys certainly have a fringe, and they have some control

Who are the 'fringe' of the Democratic Party, OCS? What are some examples of the fringe exerting 'control'?

People like me, with my craaaaazy 'investigate and prosecute torture' demands? If so, then that'd be a case of the fringe not having enough control, since you seem to think elected Democrats are on board with torture.

Despite my own disgust with the D leadership's refusal to consider impeachment or investigations during the 110th Congress, that is simply not the case. It requires obliterating distinctions in just the way a regular commenter here has done to imply that Hilzoy is an apologist for torture or you for genocide; see Catsy at 5:26.

The letter yesterday to Holder from the head of the House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Nadler calling for a special prosecutor -- that would have to be 'fringe', right, because otherwise you'd have to acknowledge that a significant part if not an absolute majority of Democrats are not just opposed to torture but also willing to bring those who set a torture policy to account.

OCSteve, I thought better of you than your recent comments seem to merit. Mving swiftly past your wholly unsubstantiated (and already rebutted) accusation that "every one of Obama’s science appointees is a hard political appointment" - and I have literally no idea what examples you could even have in mind, unless you've confused "political" with "politician" and "science" with "cabinet", your invocation of this recently popular meme that the illegal, immoral, and inappropriate actions were done "With Democrats on board" really chafes my hide.

Now, I'll grant you that most of the Dems are no great prize, courage-wise, but some context would be helpful:

On many of these actions, especially those occurring long after 9/11, only a minority of Democrats voted in favor of laws approving the abuses. In other cases, where no relevant votes were held, selected Democrats were informed, but were not making decisions.

On at least one of the more important "Democrats were notified" cases (of the illegal warrantless wiretapping program, iirc) some Democrats were told - under truly absurd conditions that did not them allow the Democrats to consult with anyone, anyone at all (say their chief of staff, or the best Constitutional lawyer or federal judge they knew), and threatened them with prosecution if they said a word about the program. Now, they shouldn't have accepted the conditions, but if they followed those conditions their knowing empowered them to do nothing (as I recall, one Dem - Rockefeller? - wrote a strong letter to either the Attorney General or the head of the agency complaining, bcause that was all they believed they could legally do).

More generally, the Dems spent years getting Mau-Mau'd by your friends on the right, for one example being told that if they didn't crush the public workers' unions it was because they wanted the Terrorists to win (Midterm elections 2002, Homeland Security bill, if you don't recall, as when Cleland was morphed into Bin Laden). Similar nonsense about the "PATRIOT" act, supporting the troops, wanting the terrorists to win, ectetera was a constant theme of the years 2001-2006. By the time the Dems reclaimed the tiniest bit of power (and, with it, gumption) the main revelations (wiretaps, torture, etcetera) were largely in the past, so the Dems had an incentive to keep their complicity covered up (remember, I said they were no prize).

And that's the silencing effect of the general Terrorist-lover accusation; who knows how many corrupt dealings there were, such as have recently been alleged with respect to Congresswoman Harman, reportedly protected from criminal prosecution because of her support for warrantless wiretapping.

More generally, while a failure to intervene is not admirable and may even be actionable, surely you do not seriously intend to propose that those who knew and did not stop the illegal and immoral acts of the Bush Administration are equally culpable with the progenitors of those acts? And on those issues where votes were held, do you really think the Dem caucus has more to be ashamed of than the Republican caucus? Especially now that the Republican caucus has expelled Chafee and seems to be working on Snowe?

John Miller: Through much of the past 8 years, and even now, people on the left have complained about Republicans walking in lock step with the Presiden or at least the Party talking points. Unfortunately, I am starting to see the same demand for ideological purity of Democrats. That demand from the base...

Could you give an example of a demand from the Democratic base for ideological purity? Because I have a feeling that if you are able to come up with some, they will be examples of the base being in disagreement with the President or the 'official'/leadership talking points.

@OCS:

Give an example of any member of the Senate or Obama administration engaging in 'flu alarmism' before the Sebelius vote (the timing of which was agreed on last Thursday between Reid and McConnell, before any flu stories whatsoever).

Nell: Who are the 'fringe' of the Democratic Party, OCS? What are some examples of the fringe exerting 'control'?

Started with Dean. Netroots from there. Are you saying they have no influence at all? Or are you saying they are mainstream rather than fringe?

since you seem to think elected Democrats are on board with torture

I’d qualify that to say that top Democrats like Pelosi are complicit. Do you disagree?

The letter yesterday to Holder from the head of the House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Nadler calling for a special prosecutor -- that would have to be 'fringe', right, because otherwise you'd have to acknowledge that a significant part if not an absolute majority of Democrats are not just opposed to torture but also willing to bring those who set a torture policy to account.

Fringe? I’d say posturing. They know it ain’t going to happen because top Dems are complicit. Who is in control right now and who is responsible for shutting down pretty much any type of investigation before it gets off the ground? Is that really the GOP?!?

Nell, shall we discuss Bayh or Nelson or other Dem politicians who have talked about being against certain items on the agenda?

That would be just a start. I don't agree with them, necessarily, but I have seen an awful lot of demonizing from the left.

Warren: Mving swiftly past your wholly unsubstantiated (and already rebutted) accusation that "every one of Obama’s science appointees is a hard political appointment" - and I have literally no idea what examples you could even have in mind, unless you've confused "political" with "politician" and "science" with "cabinet"

Where is it unsubstantiated or rebutted? It was rebutted and I rebutted that… Seriously – Chu? You want to make a stand there?

I’m not going through every one up front to make my point. You tell me one who you believe is not political and I’ll tackle that. (May take a few days as I’m swamped at work.)

The rest of your comment I can’t really respond to except this:

More generally, while a failure to intervene is not admirable and may even be actionable, surely you do not seriously intend to propose that those who knew and did not stop the illegal and immoral acts of the Bush Administration are equally culpable with the progenitors of those acts?

The most I ever said was complicit.

Here's the breakdown of the vote on Specter's amendment to preserve habeas corpus protections in the Military Commissions Act, Sept. 29, 2006 (roll call vote #255):

Democratic 43 yes, 1 no
Independent 1 yes
Republican 4 yes, 50 no, 1 not voting

The Supreme Court ultimately sided with the Democratic Party position (and its four Republican adherents, three of whom were removed by voters in favor of Democrats in the 2006 and 2008 elections, and one who is as of yesterday a "Democrat").

Nell: Give an example of any member of the Senate or Obama administration engaging in 'flu alarmism' before the Sebelius vote

First 2 of a Google search:

(1)

Her backers said that her confirmation was essential now to help coordinate the government's response to the swine flu outbreak, which has been led so far by Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano

(2)

Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said the threat of a flu pandemic made it urgent for the Senate to confirm Ms. Sebelius, “so President Obama has in place a strong secretary of health.”

OCSteve, yes I would make my case with Chu. The fact that you are in the minority in denial of potential catastrophic climate change does not make his appointment ideological. His scenario is one of the predicted outcomes by an awful lot (dare I say majority) of people who study this.

If your definition of ideological is anything that disagrees with your position, then I guess all appointments are ideological.

Shorter version of replies to OCSteve:
Since the Dole GOP convention in 1996, prominent and highly visible Republican spokesmen (both Buchanans, DeLay, GWB and Jeb of course, so many many others) have been scaring the living crap out of ordinary Americans. While its been a central tactic of GOP scaremongering since Goldwater that the commie libruls want to control everything you do, see and think, in fact it was the GOP that gave us anti-science, anti-evolution, Terri Schaivo, regulate what your doctor can tell you (especially if you're a woman), etc, etc. Now none of these things really mattered in policy terms in the long run, but they were constantly featured on the cable outlets, and people were alarmed.

Now you add to that, the sheer governing incompetence and mendacity of the last administration and the GOP in congress, and you've likely created impossible conditions for a revival anytime soon.

As was noted following Watergate, the American polity is like a supertanker: very very slow to change direction, but once moving in the new direction, just as difficult to move back. The political physics just don't look good for the party of hate and torture.

In the olden days, there would have been more than four Republicans willing to preserve one of the longest-standing linchpins of individual liberty in our legal system. Some would have been "liberal" or "moderate" Republicans; others would have been genuine libertarian or paleo-conservative traditionalists. Under Bush, the party proudly went over to authoritarianism as a group.

Twelve Democrats voted for the final bill despite the defeat of the habeas-preserving amendment; some did so out of fear of being tarred as "soft on terrorists" by their Republican opponents, others because they . Arlen Specter, who voted for the bill after his own amendment failed for lack of three more Republican votes, didn't even have that excuse. The lone Republican to oppose the MCA was Lincoln Chafee, a holdover from the era when there was a liberal wing of the party.

OC Steve, Dean's positions in 2004 seemed pretty middle of the (Democratic) road to me. Nothing Jimmy Carter would have been startled by. http://www.ontheissues.org/howard_dean.htm
What makes you consider him "fringe"?

Dean was "fringe" because he was willing to say meaner things about Bush than were acceptable to the Very Serious People who decide these things. It had nothing to do with his political positions, which were moderate. OCSteve, like many people, seems to be confusing degree of partisanship with position on the political spectrum.

OCS: [fringe that exerts control]: Started with Dean. Netroots from there. Are you saying they have no influence at all? Or are you saying they are mainstream rather than fringe?

Well, considering that Dean became the DNC chair and presided over two of the most successful election cycles for the party in its history, with the groundwork of his 50-state strategy making possible Obama's truly national campaign, I'd said "they" (we) are mainstream.

The message of Dean and the netroots was and is: Don't be ashamed of being a Democrat. Advocate for the policies that we support rather than trying to be Republican-lite. Do so everywhere; don't assume any district is hopeless, because Dems and independents who will support us will gain strength from being organized and activated.

In terms of specific issues and policies, we were never "fringe". The most distinctive issue was opposition to the Iraq war, and there we simply had the guts not to cringe about a position that had aggressive and emotional opponents. Most Democrats who voted for the war didn't really believe in it, they just didn't want to stray from the Republican waronterra herd. The Dean / netroots movement was a mass movement of Democratic voters who'd been sold out by our leadership.

Opposition to the Iraq war was never a fringe position, unless you view anything less than whopping majority as "fringe". About 35-45% of the public was opposed in the runup to the official invasion, reaching a low point of 30% in April-May 2003, then rising again until it became a majority position for good in 2005.

Otherwise, the Dean / netroots tendency within the party stood for nothing exotic, just the ideas that have been identified with Democrats for the last thirty to forty years: economic fairness (progressive taxation, minimum wage / living wage, pro-unions, universal health care), government as a potential solution and force for good rather than a necessary evil, and social equality. We just declined to be embarrassed about it, convinced that voters would choose our approach if we made the case with confidence.

And if, as we expected, the Republicans under Bush continued to wreck everything they touched, though that went further than most of us could have imagined.

An awful lot of how people are percieved relative to a left right scale is a matter of style, not policy, especially if the politician in question is a Democrat.

Yeah, that's some wiiiild flu "alarmism" there, OCS. Imagine, using real-world health events as an argument for confirming the Health and Human Services Secretary.

By the way, the World Health Organization today raised the pandemic alert level to 5, "very high likelihood or inevitable."

But I'm sure it's just something David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel cooked up to get rid of the threatened filibuster of Sebelius' confirmation.

Started with Dean.

Dean is "fringe" like I'm from Mars. The only reasons Dean got a reputation as a fringe candidate were (a) he called Bush out on his rank BS and (b) he's kind of a hothead.

He may well be more centrist than Obama on the issues, he just doesn't have the eloquence and the "no drama" vibe.

Kucinich is arguably fringe. Dean, not so much.

Turn off the AM radio, dude.

I've actually been impressed by the lack of alarmism about the flu from the Obama administration. I think they've walked a good line between making it seem like a non-event, which it is not, and sounding alarming, which would really be a bad thing. It's a tough line to walk, but I think they've done very well.

Does it surprise me to learn that someone, somewhere pointed out that it would be a good thing to have an actual secretary of HHS round about now? No. It is a good thing. CDC and Napolitano can do a lot, but they can't do everything.

And she was being held up for stupid reasons -- by which I don't mean that opposing abortion is stupid, but that historically, people in both parties have generally acknowledged the President's right to choose his own cabinet members, and have actually held up nominations (as opposed to voting against them, but letting the vote proceed) only when there was some reason to think that the nominee was objectionable in some way other than "sharing the President's views". (Felonies, etc.)

I also deeply disagree that Chu is political. He's probably the least political appointee in the cabinet.

On Specter: I think the little votes are crucial, as publius said. The fact that he will not be under pressure to stick with the GOP party line on things like workplace safety, which really matter but are not widely publicized, is enormously important.

I agree with ThatLeftTurn when he states that talk of Democratic triumphalism is premature. The Democratic Party has long been adept at shooting itself in the foot, not exactly the prototype for a country of one-party rule.

Let's face it. The Democratic rise to power is as much about, as Nell said, the Republicans under Bush wrecking everything they touched. It took the country two disastrous Bush terms to notice -- but it noticed.

The GOP needs new leadership to be a force again, and that could take several election cycles. As Catsy noted, being "the party of culture wars and racism and homophobia and nativism and privatization" is archaic. I'd call it unAmerican, too.

You'd think the Specter switch would be a wakeup call. Instead, the GOP has adopted Brett's you-can-have-him stance. Party chairman Michael Steele said Specter "flipped the bird" at the the Republican Party.

I'll welcome any Senator who flips the bird to the current GOP. (Make sure you read the NYRB article linked upthread where Senator Specter sounds quite Democratic.)

Like John Miller, I like belonging to a big-tent party, one that doesn't always walk in lockstep with its leaders, one that values questioning authority and encourages dissent.

Once someone of stature within the Republican Party can effectively espouse these ideas, these criticisms -- once the GOP finds its Barack Obama, a party-changing, party-unifying figure -- it can come back. As any alcoholic will tell you, the road to recovery starts with recognizing you have a problem.

OCSteve, I'm confused: why would you expect Sebelius to get any less than 65 votes in the Senate? I mean, she's a popular two term governor of Kansas. She doesn't exactly have a lot of skeletons in her closet and she's clearly been able to convince lots of Republican voters to vote for her in the past. What possible reason would you have for voting against her?

If Obama had nominated some illiterate snake handling faith healer, I could see why you'd be outraged, but a popular well respected governor from a conservative state? Isn't that the best that Republicans could possibly hope for?

I think it will take just one thing for the GOP to get back to power: amother 9/11, otherwise (as I said above) it is more likely that the Dems will split when the GOP dies (and the blue dog replaces the elepahnt).
I would agree with OCSteve on one thing: the Dems went right in the last decades, although not as fast as the GOP. As a result the 'center' is to the right of where it was in the past. In order to move the center back to where it should be the Dems would have to go "fringe left" in order to compensate for the GOP going mad (unless the GOP shrinks faster than it moves along the right arm of the lever).

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