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Monday, December 09, 2013
Two Ways To Disarray
Democratic clashes of progressives like Elizabeth Warren against DLC/Third Way types are more substantive than the mostly tactical disputes between the Tea Party's avowed reactionaries and the more "mainstream" GOP's stealth reactionaries. Pundits sometimes try to frame this difference as evidence that Democrats are in a worse position than Republicans as we approach the 2014 mid-term elections or even in a more general way, despite ongoing and amplifying signs of Republican dysfunction and disarray. But it is crucial to grasp that the reason the GOP is clashing over tactics rather than substance is because on the substance the GOP is actually united... in a host of completely discredited and also enormously unpopular ideas and attitudes: They are united in declaring that mandating participation in a more regulated private insurance market is somehow the same thing as imposing totalitarian socialism. They are united in advancing discredited austerian cruelty against the unemployed people and hungry children. They are united in pretending that advocacy of common sense gun safety measures is hate speech against hunters and also an inevitable prelude to universal gun confiscation. They are united in the desire to restrict access to contraception and also to force women to bring unwanted, often quite dangerous, pregnancies of their bodies to term against their will. They are united in climate change denialism and in affirming the literal truth of the Genesis folk story anthology (or at any rate too timid and ashamed to say they don't in public). They are united in evidence-free voter-fraud rationales for widespread disenfranchisement of citizens they have given up trying to convince to vote for them on the merits of their proposals -- Because they in united in their championing of the ridiculous, the outrageous, and the unpopular they are with merely tactical disputes over the best ways of distracting majorities from and misinforming majorities on the ridiculous outrageous unpopular substance to which they are so united in their devotion. It is worth noting that the rage and panic that attends these tactical disputes derives from the realization that they are united in preposterous, marginal, unsustainable positions in a world that is passing them by demographically, institutionally, culturally. Not to put too fine a point on it, the GOP is in fact united in suicidal self-marginalization, and this has lead in turn to a curious sort of internalization within the Democratic caucus itself of what remains of both the legibly governing progressive left and the legibly governing corporatist right. The present Democratic disagreements attest to the conventional skirmishing of left/right stakeholder politics within socioculturally stratified representative government. Do not get me wrong, this strange state of affairs is far from a good thing for Democrats when what is most needed in this moment of unsustainable wealth concentration and environmental catastrophe is a left party united in the advocacy of sustainable equity-in-diversity and hence united as well with both practical progress and majority support. Substantial Democratic disagreements attest to the reality that right now the Democratic party is where all the action is, whether your politics are of the left or the right, if you concede that governing as such is indispensable to the political. Substantial GOP agreement, to the contrary, attests to a profound anti-governmentality yielding a politics reduced to tactical skirmishing over the best way to hide from the consequences of this anti-governmentality. The usual false equivalence framing of these differently disputatious Democratic and Republican parties would be bad enough given the stakes of the actual substance in play -- but to pretend GOP skirmishing is less damaging in either the short or the longer term is truly preposterous the better you grasp what is truly afoot.