Monday, November 23, 2009

Can We Stop with All the Self-Congratulatory "Crazy Right" Crap Now?

Commenter shepherdwong at Swampland says this about the difference between our threats to primary centrist Dems, and the rightists' dissatisfaction with the comfortable establishment GOP:

Anyway, "conservative" "ideological purity" just makes the Republican Party even crazier and less responsive to middle class issues, our purges make the Democratic Party more responsive to average voters and more small "d" democratic. That's no eff-up.

I respectfully disagree. I think that the Republicans do speak to middle class issues, and very effectively in comparison to most Democrats. It is probably only that they've been such naked, catastrophic failures over the past eight years that they've lost credibility and majority power.

I believe that there is a large constituency that is sympathetic to populist conservatism, mostly because liberals have yet to effectively address that population. Liberals haven't had the opportunity to speak, have our ideas debated and prove ourselves through successful governance because the Democratic party is controlled by a centrist faction (the DLC and New Democrats) who are largely hostile to liberalism, liberals and popular accountability in general. We can't get a fair hearing. The people who speak "for us" on Meet The Press are centrists --either politicians or journos-- matched up against movement conservatives.

Also, the right has an established messaging infrastructure all to themselves, while we largely depend on institutional media, which are dominated by centrists or their corporatist allies. The left has nothing analogous that's that large and organized...yet. Liberals who do make their way up the establishment ladder do so by appealing to elites, and looking the other way when press corps hierarchy and conventions damage our interests.

The whole "crazy Republicans" thing is a way for the centrists who control our discourse to demean populism, period. The only reason they're "crazy" now is because they're accountable to their base, which the political-media establishment despises and fears.

We fucked up, because "our purges" will be portrayed by our populism-fearing political press corps as identical to the right's, and indicative of our decline. The whole idea of being "responsive to average voters" in a way that doesn't come from Madison Avenue techniques is alien, and will be denounced as subversive, just like the tea party movement ultimately was --not because it was portrayed as inauthentic astro-turfing, but because it was portrayed as authentic, angry people demanding things from politicians.

It's not that the people at the Post and NBC hate the right and believe they're wrong on the merits when they mock the tea partiers, it's that they don't have respect for normal people expressing themselves in an unmanaged way --right or left. When they mock the tea partiers, it's just another version of their contempt for us.

Does anyone really imagine that elites like Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell, or David Gregory and Brian Williams, or Joe Klein and David Ignatius, or Rick Stengel and Ruth Marcus think there's any difference between the "activist, liberal base" of the Democratic party --people who opposed the Iraq war in 2003, for example-- and the firearms-at-rallies popular right?

We fucked up.

When the rightists demanded the Republican party be accountable to the folks who reliably turn up and vote, and who donate their time and effort to elect candidates and spread messages, and who show up across the country and in the capitol at political rallies, we should have cheered, not screamed "Oh my god, look at the crazy people carrying signs and demonstrating!". We should have said "Good for them! That's democracy in action," not "They're crazy to think that politicians should be accountable! They're sure to lose elections!" We should have talked about how it would motivate the Republican base in 2010, instead of reciting the anti-populist, centrist CW script about how people "naturally gravitate toward the center."

We took our eye off of the ball, and let ourselves be manipulated. Look, how can we call the GOP crazy, and then say that the goal of legislation should be "finding common ground" with their representatives in Congress? Let's not kid ourselves: the Republican Party isn't being called crazy on our behalf --Krauthammer, Gingrich, the Cheneys & co still have platforms, don't they?-- it's that ordinary people are being called crazy again, and this time they're Republicans.

We fucked up because, when it comes right down to it, so many of us just love to hate the right, so much so that we forget about the center who hates us even more. We so predictably love to hate the right so much that we just can't seem to get our minds around the notion that such reactions are being manipulated largely to keep us out of power.

1 comment:

stuart_zechman said...

Matt Taibbi kinda sorta says what I mean here, but stops just short of recognizing how fucked we are because he's too busy laughing at the hated rightists.