Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The "Death" of the Parties
It seems nearly inconceivable that this time last year many were pondering, with all seriousness, as to whether or not the Republican Party was dead. What a difference a year makes. Still, the almost certain GOP gains at the end of this coming election cycle are not a result of the rebirth of a party, any party, though this will certainly be the narrative the media spins out this November. Democratic incompetence has created this unfortunate situation, just as Republican incompetence led directly to the last substantial power shift in 2006. And, in all fairness, this is usually how it happens. The party in power proves to be all talk and no action, and the opposition party runs against it and capitalizes on voter ire. This should, of course, never be confused as a mandate. The GOP has no more new ideas then it ever did.
Evan Bayh's decision yesterday to take his ball and go home was immediately taken in many corners as some centrist repudiation of President Obama's so-called "liberal" agenda. I have to say I took great offense at this argument. When was the last time centrism did anything positive for anyone? The passion and the dreams of a better society lie with Progressivism. Forgive me for believing that centrism in the context of Leftist politics is merely some middle ground created purely out of expedience, with a foot in both the liberal and the conservative, but being firmly indebted to neither. I see nothing remotely inspiring about running to be re-elected, instead of running to guide our country in the proper direction. The Democratic politicians who cite the polarized times in which we live as their reason to leave the stage do sound, for to my ears, exactly like a band of whiners, complaining how their previously cushy jobs as stewards of the peoples' trust is now challenging and time-consuming. Forgive me as I remove my violin from its case.
We might be wise to reintroduce into the discussion the ways in which liberals and liberalism set to improve conditions and level the playing field for everyone, to push back against those who still demonize the very word as proof of its ultimately destructive agenda. Bayh merely used it as a convenient excuse from an ancient script. Though Republicans may label the programs Democrats and President Obama pushed as socialistic and wasteful big government, these derogatory denunciations aren't nearly as effective as the overlying anger of not having a job, making less money at work if one is gainfully employed, a decrease in spending power, and many other discomforts that were a long time in coming and may very well be a long time gone. Everyone's hands are a bit tied in this regard, but not in all areas.
If I could impress any concept upon the presumptive voter it would be that prior attempts to change horses in mid-stream haven't necessarily made us better off. I recognize that it's our system of government that is to blame and that reforms must be made. I certainly know I'm far from the only one to make this argument. And when over a third of voters surveyed would support a third party rather than giving their allegiance and voters to the two established players, then one understand the deep well of dissatisfaction driving the political climate. Our Progressive legislators have not forsaken us. Instead, it has been the mushy centrists like Bayh who have tried to triangulate and posture to no positive end besides their own poll numbers. Allow me to qualify my remarks slightly. There will always be a need and a place for moderate voices in the Democratic Party, but this also means that Progressive voices deserve a spot at the megaphone too. If President Obama's legislative slate were really as far Left as some have characterized it, then criticisms of it would seem less vituperative. The reality is that most of them are sensible and far from some sort of imaginary radicalized Jacobinism. Myths like these need to be addressed and repudiated while at the same time we confront those who make them.
It is up to us, then, to drive the narrative forward into the fall. If we don't do it, then Democratic movers and shakers certainly will not do it for us. There are winning issues out there beyond the superficial and most of them revolve around frustration with business as usual. The party in power will always find itself drawing most of the heat in situations like these, but if we assume that we have little to no control over the health of the economy and the rate of unemployment, there are still other bread and butter issues which need to be revealed to all and then fully fleshed out. A year ago, I, like many people, believed that handing over the reigns of power was sufficient enough to accomplish the change I knew we needed. Now I recognized that I should have never placed complete faith in those with no clue how to navigate through perilous terrain. If you want something done properly, sometimes you have to do it yourself.