Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Two Parties' Internal Civil Wars


Here at DWT, we spend a lot of time fretting about the future of a very divided Democratic Party, in which grassroots progressives are fighting to prevent the party from wandering off in the same old disastrous neoliberal direction its elites insist on in return for the financing they provide to bolster the careers of the elected officials who dominate the party's decision-making process. But not today. Today, we'll start by fretting about the future of the Republican Party instead, as it battles internally between the forces of conservatism and the forces of fascism that Bannon (and Trumpanzee) have let loose.

I cop, readily, to knowing more about the divisions that wrack the Democratic Party than those that plague the Republicans. So let's turn to someone who has a good understanding about the context of the Republican civil war and where it's leading, Weekly Standard editor-- and former Dan Quayle chief of staff-- Bill Kristol. "Many Trump critics," he wrote today, "relished a recent Quinnipiac poll showing that President Trump's job approval had fallen to a new low, at a net -23 percent (34 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove)." But he asserted that "the most notable finding in the poll... had to do with age. Donald Trump's job approval/disapproval was 40 percent, 54 percent among Americans 65 and over; it was an almost identical 39 percent, 55 percent among 50-64 year olds; it was slightly worse at 35 percent, 55 percent among those 35 to 49 years old; and among Americans 18 to 34, Donald Trump's job approval was 19 percent approve, 67 percent disapprove, an amazing -48 percent. That's the future of the GOP being flushed down the toilet, worries Kristol.
[O]ne would have to be blind not to see the political risk for Republicans and conservatives in these numbers. First impressions matter. Most people don't change their political views radically from the ones they first hold. For young Americans today, Donald Trump is the face of Republicanism and conservatism.

They don't like that face. And the danger, of course, is that they'll decide their judgment of Trump should carry over to the Republican party that nominated him and the conservative movement that mostly supports him. If he is indeed permitted to embody the party and the movement without challenge, the fortunes of both will be at the mercy of President Trump's own fortunes.

Perhaps the danger is exaggerated. One could argue, after all, that the worst-case scenario for Trump's first term is Nixon's second. Yet the Republican party and the conservative movement recovered quickly from that, didn't they?

Well, those of us who made the case for Nixon in the fall of 1972 on college campuses, who cast our first vote for him that November, who were tempted to rationalize his behavior for at least a while as Watergate unfolded, and who couldn't help but feel a pang of sorrow as he resigned amid victory whoops from his critics in 1974 remember those years all too well. They weren't the easiest of years to be on the right.

But we also remember that the new and exciting conservative columnists in the Washington Post and the New York Times, George Will (in his early 30s) and Bill Safire (in his early 40s), were tough on Nixon. We remember that one of the most prominent conservative Republican senators, James Buckley, who had won dramatically as a Conservative third-party candidate in New York in 1970, did not join other Republicans in rallying to Nixon's defense. We remember that Jim Buckley's younger brother Bill made sure National Review was no cheerleader for Nixon. We remember that John Ashbrook, an eloquent and principled congressman from Ohio, then 43, launched a quixotic primary challenge against Nixon in 1972 to ensure that voters understood Nixon didn't speak for conservatism. We remember Jack Kemp, a Republican congressman turning 40, who was shaping a new economic message for the party. We remember neoconservatives of all sorts who had very little history with Nixon or the GOP providing fresh thinking and new energy.

In sum, we remember that young Americans could look at the Republican party and the conservative movement and see fresh faces and other voices than those of Richard Nixon and his defenders.

One might add that dozens of those defenders in Congress were wiped out in the 1974 midterm elections. One could also note that the subsequent GOP comeback was made easier by the fact that Spiro Agnew had resigned, so that Nixon was succeeded by a vice president who had been in office for only a few months and who wasn't particularly identified with him. That incumbent was then challenged in the 1976 primary by a governor of California who had his own political identity distinct from Nixon's, and who won the Republican nomination in 1980. Thus the GOP and the conservative movement were quickly able to achieve real separation from Nixon.

Can they do the same from Donald Trump? It's urgent that Republicans and conservatives begin to try. The future of the Republican party and of conservatism depend on their standing for loyalties and principles more fundamental than the fortunes of Donald Trump.
Instead they have an outrageous political coward in Paul Ryan leading their party over the cliff. The sooner the better. But going back to the Democrats for a moment and the Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin Times piece linked at the very top, the fight on the left is between liberal activists dreaming of transforming the health care system, reinvigorating FDR's vision of a New Deal (and impeaching President Trump), while the establishment and their candidates are just looking for some good old fashioned personal career advancement. Burns and Martin are creatures of the establishment and aren't really able to understand what the woke Democratic base wants, so their reporting is flawed with years of wrong-headed assumptions straight from the strategy sessions of the conservative opportunists like Rahm Emanuel, Chuck Schumer and Debbie Wasserman Schultz who have largely wrecked the party's brand.
The growing tension between the party’s ascendant militant wing, and Democrats in conservative-leaning terrain, where the party must compete to win power in Congress, was on vivid, split-screen display over the weekend: in Chicago, where Senator Bernie Sanders led a revival-style meeting of his progressive devotees, and in Atlanta, where Democrats are spending colossal sums of money in hopes of seizing a traditionally Republican congressional district.

It may be essential for Democrats to reconcile the party’s two clashing impulses if they are to retake the House of Representatives in 2018. In a promising political environment, a drawn-out struggle over Democratic strategy and ideology could spill into primary elections and disrupt the party’s path to a majority.

On the one hand, progressives are more emboldened than they have been in decades, galvanized by Mr. Sanders’s unexpected successes in 2016 and empowered by the surge of grass-roots energy dedicated to confronting an unpopular president and pushing the party leftward.

Mr. Sanders rallied his youthful, often-raucous coalition Saturday night at a gathering dubbed the “People’s Summit,” where supporters hailed him in worshipful language. One Colorado couple hauled a small banner through the hangar-size McCormick Place, pleading with the still-independent Vermont senator to create a new “People’s Party.”

Mr. Sanders and many attendees enthused over the surprise showing of the British Labour Party, under the left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn, in last week’s election. Democrats can electrify voters, they warned, only by embracing the Sanders agenda of universal health care, free college tuition and full employment.

Speaking for just under an hour, Mr. Sanders, who was met with chants of “Bernie, Bernie” and pleas of “2020!,” crowed that while he may have lost the 2016 primary, “We have won the battle of ideas and we are continuing to win that battle.”

He assailed President Trump in blistering terms, but earned some of his loudest cheers for attacking the party whose nomination he sought last year. “The current model and the current strategy of the Democratic Party is an absolute failure,” Mr. Sanders said to booming applause, arguing that Democrats need “fundamental change.”

“The Democratic Party must finally understand which side it is on,” he said.

Goal ThermometerYet the party’s elected leaders, and many of its candidates [though not the ones-- with the exception of Ossoff, a special, somewhat expedient exception himself-- you'll find by tapping on the Blue America thermometer on the right], are far more dispassionate, sharing a cold-eyed recognition of the need to scrounge for votes in forbidding precincts. They have taken as a model the Democratic campaign of 2006, when the party won control of Congress in part by competing for conservative corners of the country and recruiting challengers who broke with liberal orthodoxy.

Outside Atlanta on Friday, Jon Ossoff offered a decidedly un-Sanders-like vision of the future in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, a conservative-leaning patchwork of office plazas and upscale malls, where voters attended his campaign events wearing golf shirts and designer eyewear.

In a special election that has become the most expensive House race in history, Mr. Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional aide, presented himself as essentially anti-ideological. Greeting suburban parents near a playground and giving a pep talk to volunteers, he stressed broadly popular policies like fighting air and water pollution and preserving insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Bucking the left, Mr. Ossoff said in an interview that he would not support raising income taxes, even for the wealthy, and opposed “any move” toward a single-payer health care system. Attacked by Republicans for his ties to national liberals, Mr. Ossoff said he had not yet given “an ounce of thought” to whether he would vote for Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, in a future ballot for speaker.

His own race, Mr. Ossoff told supporters, was about “sending a message to Washington.” But that message, he said, was about “decency and respect and unity, rather than division.”

“There’s a coalition of folks here in Georgia who want representation that’s focused on local economic development and on accountability,” Mr. Ossoff said in the interview, “and not on the partisan circus in Washington.”

The tension between Mr. Ossoff’s message and the appetites of the national Democratic base has not appeared to hinder his bid for Congress. He has raised more than $23 million, an astonishing sum, largely in small online donations from Democrats seeking to put a dent in the Republicans’ House majority. Several polls over the last week showed Mr. Ossoff leading his Republican opponent, Karen Handel, though both parties agree that the race remains a tossup.

Winning over Republican voters remains a critical task. Though he launched his campaign pledging to “make Trump furious,” Mr. Ossoff did not bring up the president in his campaign events, and he has called talk of impeachment premature.

Stephanie Runyan, a business consultant who is a precinct captain for Mr. Ossoff, said he had recognized the limits of a liberal message in the affluent Atlanta suburbs.

“A lot of us are not true-blue liberals,” said Ms. Runyan, 46, who is a Democrat.

It is unclear, however, whether Democratic activists across the country will tolerate an army of Ossoff-type candidates in 2018, when party leaders believe the path to capturing the House runs through purple-hued suburban districts that are somewhat less Republican than Georgia’s Sixth.

Friction has already flared between Democrats heavily invested in Mr. Ossoff’s race and activists closely aligned with Mr. Sanders. In April, Mr. Sanders declined to say if he considered Mr. Ossoff a progressive, causing an uproar that he calmed by urging Mr. Ossoff’s election.

Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator who is on the board of Mr. Sanders’s political organization, suggested in Chicago that Democrats risked slumbering through the revolution, suggesting an unofficial slogan for the party: “Hashtag, ‘Not Woke Yet.’”

“Unity for unity’s sake,” she warned, “is not going to happen.”

Party strategists say they have taken steps to build a relationship with Mr. Sanders and his organization, and a top Sanders lieutenant, Jeff Weaver, attended a recent briefing hosted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, along with representatives from Planned Parenthood, the liberal group Swing Left and Third Way, a centrist think tank, according to a person involved in planning the meeting. [Note that The Times should have explained: Swing Left appears to be a DCCC front group and Third Way is a very corrupted right-leaning establishment outfit.]

...[S]ome Democrats competing in difficult elections have taken up ideas once associated with the hard left. Doug Applegate, a retired Marine colonel who narrowly lost a race last year to Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, said he would endorse single-payer health care in a new bid for Mr. Issa’s affluent coastal district.

“Single payer has become a moral issue,” Mr. Applegate said, adding he would be delighted to campaign with Mr. Sanders.

Others are warier: Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus [very much a sold-out Clinton person], said the party should give “some leeway” to candidates to match the politics of their districts. Mr. Cleaver said he recently ran into former Representative John Barrow of Georgia, one of the last moderate [a poor choice of words since Barrow was first and foremost right-wing enough to be a Republican], white Democrats elected from the South, and recalled telling him: “We’ll know that we’re on the winning track when you can get back to Congress.” [The worst possible thing that could happen to the Democratic Party brand would be to bring back heaps or raw stinking sewage like Barrow and Chris Carney.]

“We are going to lose every possible winnable seat, in a year where there are many winnable seats, if we come across as inflexible left-wingers,” Mr. Cleaver said. “I respect Bernie-- I just don’t think we can become the party of Bernie.”
Cleaver could easily have joined Jim Messina, very much his kind of values-free/vision-free Democrat, in advising Theresa May's catastrophic Conservative campaign. I'd say he has a lot more in common with Messina (and May) than with Bernie, who had some much-needed words for Democrats this weekend at the Peoples' Summit in Chicago: "The current model and the current strategy of the Democratic party is an absolute failure. The Democratic party needs fundamental change. What it needs is to open up its doors to working people, and young people, and older people who are prepared to fight for social and economic justice. The Democratic party must understand what side it is on. And that cannot be the side of Wall Street, or the fossil fuel industry, or the drug companies." I wonder what Bernie will think when he hears the party is about to sell some guy who won the lottery the party nomination in CA-39.

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At 7:13 AM, Anonymous xavier said...

Interesting take.
Very captivating

At 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Each Party is split between their corporatists and the grass roots. The Democratic Party corporatists are largely the investor class, who relish that they finally became powerful enough to step out from behind the Republican Party carbon fuels corporatists.

The seeds for a real and truly populist party exist. Bernie showed he could bridge this chasm, attract popular support, and could draw sufficient funds to run a campaign. It's no longer clear that Bernie himself could repeat this feat after his post-convention campaigning for HER!, but someone could.

Bill Krystol -whose smarmy visage makes me want to slap him silly- sees this in his demographic warnings to his Party. It's clear from the quoted article that the Democrats do not. The authors -Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin if I'm not mistaken- are clearly Party functionaries intent on restoring the "Where else are ya gonna go?" meme that that the Democratic Party has depended upon since Poppy Bush broke his "No New Taxes" promise.

I have known since Reagan that I have other options. More people need to see this forest for the party propaganda trees - and act on them.

Remember - Lincoln was a Third Party candidate in 1860. It took his victory to eliminate the zombie Whigs, and damaged the Democrats so badly that it took FDR to rebuilt their reputation with action. It can -and hopefully will- happen again against BOTH of the corporatist options.

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:52, excellent comment.

I would add that the noted "conservative" wags who were less than kind to Nixon were largely objecting to Nixon "dealing" with congress on things like EPA and advocating for some form of universal health care. There are several other things as well.

They did not object to his '68 treason nor to Watergate nor the coverup (until it was obvious that these would destroy the president and, by extension, the party) nor the bombing of several countries in SE Asia nor his many character flaws nor the fact that he was a serial liar. Their problem with him was that he actually signed lege that would help people and the environment, neither of which are rich white men.

At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no civil war within either party.

The Rs only discuss how fast to kill the poor and how much money from them and the middle to give to the rich (also how fast).

The Ds are nearly united in their desire to take bribes and ratfuck their rank and file voters. Their only discussion is in how to fool the rubes who vote for them. They only have a micro-minority insurgency at the bottom who want to take the party back from the Clintons/obamanations and return it to the party of FDR. But they are being deftly handled by the DxCCs and DNC who will primary as many as they can to keep that insurgency too tiny to be any threat. Hardly a civil war.


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