Politics Looking for a Problem
posted by November 21 at 1:13 AMon
The Seattle Times ran a political cartoon on Monday (by Jack Ohman of The Oregonian) which shows a grumpy Nancy Pelosi at one end of the breakfast table and an icy Stenny Hoyer at the other end. There are two squabbling children (Dem Liberals and Dem Moderates) sitting between them. An observer standing in the kitchen doorway remarks to another (I guess they’re supposed to be social workers) : “I hope the children stay together for the sake of the parents.”
Cute. But wrong. For starters, the assumption that the Democrats are facing some sort of crisis right now, just comes out of nowhere. The fact is: the Dems aren’t in trouble. They just won the elections in a landslide. They’re in control—232 to 198. And I’m not sure what issues the critics actually think the Dems are seriously divided over. (The war? Well, okay, but the GOP doesn’t seem in lockstep on that one either.) I mean, the Murtha/Hoyer split was over the war, but otherwise, both guys were moderate to conservative Dems. So, for starters, before glomming onto a pseudo piece of analysis, critics need to actually explain what the hefty divisions in the D House are about. Of the 27 D pick ups, just five are anti-choice.
More important, the grating conventional wisdom that (thanks to conservative and liberal factions) the Dems are in some kind of trouble right now, misses the whole point of what just happened.While conventional wisdom casts the Democrat’s breadth as a weakness—that breadth is actually its strength: The Democrats represent the majority of Americans, while the diminished GOP, in glorious lockstep, represents its circle-the-wagons, Southern Evangelical base.
(Even the minor majority on the Senate side is a big deal. If each senator represents half of his or her state’s population, then the Democratic Senate, with Joseph Lieberman and Bernie Sanders, represents about 58 percent of Americans.)
The Democratic Party was split in the 1950s (over civil rights), in the late 1960s (over the war) and in the 1970s (over social issues), and guess what: They dominated the agenda throughout that lengthy period of history. The GOP was irrelevant. Yes, Eisenhower and Nixon were in the WH for part of that time, but the Democrats, with Senate leaders like LBJ in the 50s, were dominant. And with Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter, they controlled the WH for a bulk of the time. They set the agenda, and in fact, ran Nixon’s ass out of office.
The fact that the Democrats are slightly divvied up now, simply highlights that they are the relevant, lively party. For example, moderate Joseph Lieberman wants to be there. And lefty lefty Bernie Sanders wants to be there. That’s a broad sweep of America. And it leaves the monotone GOP out of the equation.