Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Why the Wheels Fell Off

Democrats smell blood in the political water and seem to share the view that now is the time to strike as the enemy appears weak. Try as they may they don't seem to be able to exploit a situation that they regard as pregnant with wonderful possibilities. Some of them engage in “What do we really stand for?” navel gazing while others stew in the juices of their vindictive rage. A once great and powerful party seems enfeebled, divided, confused and indecisive? Why?

During its heyday the Democrat party was a grand coalition of Marxists, populists, left-leaning pragmatists, Big Labor and traditional party apparatchiks later supplemented by black grievance peddlers. The elements of the coalition were on the whole patient and flexible and with the exception of the Marxists no less patriotic than the average American. The interests of one group were not largely inimical to the interests of any other group. There was much common ground to be found. The programs, policies, initiatives and messages originating in this shared interest space were appealing enough to allow Democrats to dominate the political landscape. Then something changed and it all came tumbling down and before long it was the Republican fox frolicking in the political henhouse. What changed?

The civil rights movement won and blacks have more than equal opportunity and are no longer objects of pity or sympathy for most Americans. Reasonable feminists won and no plausible argument can be made to the electorate that women are victims of institutional oppression. Marxists lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Their numbers were decimated and most of the remaining true believers left demoralized. Big labor declined in the private sector. Americans on the whole became wealthier thereby making them less susceptable to populism. Class warfare, never a popular cause for most Americans, became even less appealing. There was an onset of compassion fatigue for the poor, the homeless, unwed mothers, and whoever we were supposed to feel compassionate towards. "The War on Poverty", the most ambitious public policy initiative in America's history, proved to be a complete failure.

At the same time polymorphous leftist radicalism flourished. Environmentalist groups dedicated to the destruction of industrial civilization joined the party and their interests were inimical to almost all other interests. Multiculturalism blossomed and was hostile to the values of most Americans. Gay rights groups blossomed along with “Queer Theory” and their interests were inimical to those of blacks and Big Labor as well as most other Americans. Radical femininism flourished and it was inimical to the interests of everyone except militant lesbians. Postmodernist factions, claiming to be the avant garde of progressivism, declared war on objective reality thereby alienating every serious scholar or scientist in search of universal truth. Blatant anti-Americanism, once the exclusive province of communists, became a defining characteristic of the left with Noam Chomsky leading the charge. Anti-semitism flourished as the radical left made common cause with Islamists and Arab radicals. Those groups and others like them demanded seats at the Democrat political table and if they didn't get them they at least got standing room.

Building a political majority entails forming a coalition where everyone gets some of what they want while no one gets a lot of what they don't want. There has to be a net return on political investment. The common ground that once united the Democrat Party has shrunk to the point where I am not sure you can stand on it with both feet. Another word for this is chaos.

Political parties in the past have been torn apart, albeit briefly, due to irreconcilable differences between constituencies. Over the last 100 years we have seen the Republican Party twice divide and briefly spawn entities that called themselves progressive parties. Communists, Marxists, democratic socialists and their sympathizers bolted from the Democrat Party in 1948 and again formed a Progressive Party because their interests couldn't be harmonized with the Democrat mainstream. Southern Democrats bolted at the same time in the course of creating a racist Dixiecrat Party.

The bonds between the constituencies the Democrat Party caters to have not weakened to the point where they will cause a party split before the next presidential election. If Democrats can regain control of the Presidency or at least one house of congress in the next election their constituencies will be motivated to continue cooperating. If Democrats have their clocks cleaned once again there is a good chance that an increasingly fragile Democrat coalition will bifurcate and spawn yet another so called "progressive party" that will be so thoroughly trounced in the following election that it will attempt to return to the Democrat fold. If that were to happen I would advise the Democrat mainstream, for its own future health, to deny readmission.

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