Politics as usual?

With Trump in the presidency and Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, liberals, or progressives, if you prefer, are apparently in a rout. We’re certainly behaving that way, with Democrats quibbling over the direction the party has to take in order to win everything back by the next election, temporary Democrats back in their old roles as independents or third party provocateurs, and the legions of newly, if vaguely, defined remnant left posting stern lectures on social media.

The gist of these last is that Democrats have lost control because they have drifted too far from their principles, and what is needed is retrenchment, a purge of whatever the self-appointed Guardians of the Left consider apostasy. They point to the Tea Party as a Republican movement back to the fundamentalist right, and see this purge as the reason for the party’s success in last year’s election. It worked for them, they say, so we should do the same.  Yet how many of us engaged in this lofty debate have actually read the 2016 Democratic Party Platform?  Certainly not those people claiming that there’s no difference between the two parties, the two candidates.

But is it even true that Republicans prevailed because of a purification of ideology? The truth is that most people couldn’t care less about ideology, or if they do, they fear it.  They are political pragmatists, and this explains the otherwise incomprehensible shift of many voters from Obama to Trump.

Today’s Republican party is actually a loose coalition of theocrats, libertarians, corporatists, and outright fascists. These groups have very little in common except a fear and hatred of the left, yet they voted, all of them holding their noses, for Donald Trump, a man who not only lacks a coherent ideology, but very likely doesn’t even know what the word means. A demand for ideological purity by any one of these constituencies would have resulted in a rout of Republicans instead of Democrats.

Yet, we hear from the Sanders wing of the Democratic party that that is exactly what we must do in order to win in the future, that what we need is to purge all that is not leftist dogma. Throw out the doubters, the apostates, go with an unabashedly socialist program, and “the People” will rally round.

It is not at all clear why “the People,” who went in unexpected numbers for the Republican party, would suddenly decide socialism was a great idea. Fear of socialism, or what they thought was socialism, was pretty much the glue that held the right-wing coalition together long enough to vote. We love to cite the fact that Clinton got over 3 million more votes than Trump to show the bankruptcy of the system, but neglect the obvious conclusion that the Democratic coalition, yes, the current Democratic coalition so abused by leftist purists, was sufficient to beat Trump if the vote had not had to be filtered through the electoral college.

If the United States were a parliamentarian democracy, like the vast majority of European nations, retrenchment would make sense; go with a pure (and therefore exclusionary) message, get as many votes as you can, then join a coalition to have a share of the governing system. But we’re not. Like it or not, the US is a kind of hybrid beast, a republic in which the executive and legislative branches are elected separately.  The only possible result of a less than plurality vote is a loss, and therefore coalitions must be made before the elections, not after.  If we want to prevail in the next elections, we have to find ways to draw in as many of the electorate as possible, not ways to exclude as many as possible.  And we have to find a common denominator for decent people to rally around, a glue.  Donald Trump is doing his level best to give us that.  Not only are his actions so far unacceptable to most Americans, but he’s exposing Republican cadres as spineless sycophants.  Let’s not sacrifice this gift on the altar of ideological fundamentalism.

Politics, huh!

I contributed a fair amount of money this last election cycle, in a few cases to elect someone I thought would be good, in most cases to defeat someone I thought would be a disaster.  Oh, well, c’est la guerre, I suppose.  The vast majority of the people I thought would be a disaster I didn’t even know; it was the keep the Other Side from ascendancy.

Politically, I’m liberal, ish.  But I have some experience with countries that have gone to extremes both left and right, and I’ve come to believe the real culprit is ideology itself, irrespective of which particular flavor.  Being pragmatic doesn’t mean, however, that there can’t be certain guidelines, and, for me, that mostly ends up siding with the party slightly left of right of center, the Democrats.  They used to be lined up against the party slightly right of right of center, the Republicans; they still are, but the Republicans lately made a strategic decision to appear as insane as possible, probably on the inexcusably cynical notion that most Americans would find that attractive.  It worked, for awhile.  I’ll leave it to you to figure out why this coincided with the tenure of our first African-American president, whom the Republicans quite clearly and explicitly vowed to expel from the government.  This personal vendetta was their highest priority in the most complex global environment in recent history, and it was this complete lack of perspective that drove me to contributional excesses.

Well, now it seems the Dems have decided to flatter the dickens out of the Republicans, if imitation be the sincerest form thereof.

It is, of course, understandable, if indefensible, that when you contribute money to an enterprise, the most immediate response is for them to deluge you with requests for even more money.  If you respond to that positively, they crank it up a notch or two.  At a certain point, the requests become more like demands, and the demands contain threats of dire consequences to the nation, indeed, to humanity itself, of you not personally forking over yet more.  I understand all of this.  It is deplorable, but the nature of the beast.

Here’s what I don’t like, and what is turning me completely off:  More and more, the stated primary goal of some campaign or another is simply to embarrass the opposition.

“If we get this amount of money, or if this bill passes/doesn’t pass,  Boehner will be furious!”  Or the Tea Party will be livid.  Or some other such nonsense.

What?  Since when is that of any importance?  What happened to the consequences of the bill in question as an issue?  It’s as if they’re saying that once your financial contributions reach some critical point, they can drop the pretense of any substance, and go after the real target, the Other Guy.

This is precisely the kind of BS from the Other Guy that prompted my concerns in the first place.  Now it seems that even ideology is irrelevant, except to the extent it can be used to pry more money from a gullible electorate.