Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The new debate over the state of the Democratic Party

"In what universe must someone be living to believe that the Democratic Party is controlled by 'the Left,' let alone 'the furthest left elements' of the Party?" asks Glenn Greenwald today.

Frank Schaeffer is a former Christian Right activist and the son of one of the early major leaders in that dubious movement. The younger Schaeffer does some good analysis of the Christian Right. He's actually defining himself in his public persona these days as a classic convert. He used to be part of a movement (the Christian Right) that he now understands was hate-filled, anti-democratic, theocratic and pushed a cruel, perverse view of the Christian Gospel. And he's uniquely qualified to explained its dangers to the rest of us because he used to be one of them and worked to enact their hate-filled, anti-democratic, theocratic, cruel and perverse brand of Christianity.

But those of us who have been saying since, say, Anita Bryant's bizarre jihad against gays in 1977 that the Christian Right was a hate-filled, anti-democratic, theocratic, cruel and perverse brand of Christianity may find it a bit difficult to be lectured on the evils of "the left" in the Democratic Party by someone who had the poor judgment to be an active part of such a movement for years. Which is what Shaeffer tries to do in his blog in Anti-Obama Lefty Perfectionists Killed Us In MA 01/20/10.


Them dang liberals pushed for a meaningful health care reform that addressed one of the major problems of the general public and one that with the public option included is a very popular reform, he says. Those doggone gays and lesbians kept bitching and moaning about how they were being unfairly treated as second-class citizens. Those blasted "Lefty critics" criticized Obama and Bush for bailing out big banks with hundreds of billions of dollars public money while neglected to broader target employment needs or even put meaningful restrictions on exhorbitant bonuses and executive compensation. Those silly-ass "Lefty" pinko hippies even criticized escalating a war in Afghanistan, fondly known to history as "the graveyard of empires". So obviously it's all the fault of "the Obama-hating Left" that the Democratic Senate candidate lost in Massachusetts Tuesday. Franky doesn't cite any kind of polling data or anything for this. But all the Pod Pundits are saying the same thing, so it must be true, huh?

Let's see, when Franky was supporting that hate-filled, anti-democratic, theocratic, cruel and perverse brand of Christianity that he now repents of, he and his Christian Right fellow travelers were blaming the evils of the world on gays, lesbians, women, liberals and antiwar activist hippie peaceniks. Today he's blaming pretty much the same set of villains for the momentary evils of the Democratic Party.

I'm more inclined to listen to people who didn't lose their minds for the Christian Right, and who don't hold on to their constant bogeyman villains of hippies-feminists-gays-liberals-peaceniks as they switch their politics from far-right to moderate concern troll, still advising liberals and progressives that we should just shut the hell up and go away.

Notable commentary of the sensible variety that I've seen today include:

Glenn Greenwald, It's the fault of the all-powerful Left Salon 01/20/10 and "A Party in Denial" New York Times (part of The Democrats' Day After) 01/20/10.

Joe Conason, What would the GOP do? Salon 01/20/10 and No Obama Obits, Please New York Observer 01/19/10. Conason in the latter piece:

After a run of extraordinary luck that helped get him into the White House, Mr. Obama is indeed confronting his share of trouble. He may well encounter more and worse as the midterm election approaches. But he and his critics should remember the last time a Democratic president had to listen to the drafting of his own political obituary.

Those premature farewells came early in Bill Clinton’s first term.
Conason points to some important indicators of both Obama's effectiveness in getting legislation enacted and delivering on campaign promises. Although he also notes that Obama's popularity has suffered from two big mistakes in particular, "pursuing a stimulus program that was too small and scattered, and a health care reform that is too compromised and timid."

But if Joe's Observer article sounds like it may be encouraging complacency among Democrats, he offers an important historical observation in his Salon post that the Democrats should take very seriously. The Republicans in 1998 suffered midterm election losses far more serious than any hits the Democrats have taken in special election over the last year. Yet they continued on with their program, culminating in the successful theft of the 2000 Presidential election:

Aside from losing the popular vote in the presidential election, by the way, they again lost seats in the House and Senate in November 2000. Did that second consecutive drubbing shame or embarrass them? Did they reconsider their policies, move sharply to the left, abandon long-standing objectives, plead for bipartisan comity? No, of course not.
The Republicans fight. And they fight to win. The Democrats do have something to learn from that, though they can certainly do so without resorting to the criminal acts committed by Republicans in their pursuit of permanent partisan dominance.

Dave Neiwert has a cautionary word for Democrats looking at the result of this election in Martha Coakley concedes: Let the circular firing squad commence Crooks and Liars 01/19/10. While Democrats (understandably) point fingers at each other, there is the Republican elephant in the room: "This was a victory for the right-wing propaganda machine, and no one is even facing up to how to deal with that."

In other words, this wasn't just a loss for Democrats, it was a victory for Tea Party Republicans. And it means that Democrats have to look closely at how that plays out. On that topic, see Michelle Goldberg, Tea Party, Meet the Religious Right The American Prospect 01/13/10.

Steve Singiser, MA-Sen: The Turnout Tells A Tale Daily Kos 01/20/10, argues that the depressed turnout among Democrats hurt Coakley but we can't say that was the whole story. It's important to look at low Democratic turnout, but assessing just what effect it had on a particular race is tricky.

Also:

Michael Tomasky, Democrats may be in despair at Scott Brown's victory but it's not the end The Observer 01/20/10

William Greider, Coakley's Loss: Pie in the President's Face The Nation 01/20/10

Matthew Rothschild, Fire Rahm Emanuel Today! The Progressive 01/20/10

Tim Fernholz, It Wasn't About Coakley The American Prospect 01/20/10

Robert Scheer, What Massachusetts Got Right TruthDig 01/20/10

Drew Westen, Obama Finally Gets His Victory For Bipartisanship Huffington Post 01/20/10

Norman Solomon, Democrats Boosting Right-Wing Populism CommonDreams.org 01/20/10

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