Health Care Debacle: R.I.P Democratic Hopes for “Permanent” Majority?
Is it over before even some analysts and Republican pundits said it would be over? In his wildest dreams did Rush Limbaugh really think this could happen?
The sound you’re hearing and angry words you’re reading suggest that the Democratic party is now being strained at the seams. That’s followed by a sweeping sound, as old conventional wisdom is being swept under the rug (again). Some 13 months ago, some analysts were predicting the consolidation of a new Democratic, permanent majority.
That has proven to be about as likely as the consolidation of a new Republican, permanent majority — although the Democrats are now so busy shooting each other and themselves in their feet that you can come up with a scenario where the Demmies will be out of power for a long time.
In the wake of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman’s sudden about face to oppose a Medicare buy-in, Democratic progressives are now up in arms, slipping into the same tone and mode they displayed in the late 60s and early 70s where they would teach their party a lesson by not voting or voting for a sure-to-lose third party due to the war and some other issues. Then their party would lose and they’d bitterly complain about all the changes the Republicans made on various fronts because the Republicans now had power due to some Democrats sitting on their fannies on election day.
Some of the developments in the past 24 hours:
All of this taken together suggests the Democratic coalition could be unraveling. The main question is whether this is a temporary unravel or the beginning of a major one.
The tensions will continue if health care reform in its present downsized incarnation passes; if it fails in the Senate, then GOP needs to start measuring a lot of House and Senate drapes — and send someone to the White House to put the order in for 2012 as well. Why?
Traditionally democracy and political parties have put a premium on aggregating interests and seeking compromise. But compromise is now a dirty word to some on the left and on the right. In the case of the Democratic party, since the 60s part of the Democrats’ political narrative has been a segment of the party at war with another segment or in uneasy truce. If an issue comes up that a segment feels passionately about, part of the party will sit on its hands during elections.
After the elections the Democrats then learn — as GOPers have learned since Obama took power — that elections have specific consequences. Some of these consequences are about enacting highly specific policies. Others are about a more general tone and an administration’s approach to a host of issues, which could include environment, court appointments and social issues. Despite Ralph Nader’s nice-sounding 2000 and 2004 battlecry, few on the right or left now believe that there was no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush: it’s the one thing Glenn Beck and Ed Schultz fans will agree on.
What remains fascinating now is watching some in the Democratic party now dig in their heels and essentially go to political war against their own President who is now portrayed as gutless, a political wuss, or (here comes the dirtiest word of all) a centrist.
So what we may be seeing today is the beginning of a process where some Democrats being moving to sit on their hands and teach their party leaders a lesson by not supporting the Democrats in 2010 and 2012 — years when tea party protesters and Sarah Palin fans are sure to be out in force.
But politics isn’t simply “to the victors go the spoils”; it’s also about to the apathetic goes the loss.
Centrists aren’t popular in either party. But the big difference between the GOP and the Democrats since the late 60s has been this: once in power Republicans generally make greater inroads into institutionalizing their ideas and approach and consolidating and holding onto power.
When the Democrats won in 2008 it was said that it was a golden opportunity for the Democratic party to to re-introduce itself to the American people and show it could govern after the disastrous final years of the Bush administration.
Right now it appears that when the health care debate and voting clears away, the choice in 2010 and 2012 could boil down to this:
Precisely which of the two incompetent political parties is less incompetent?
And which incompetent party do you choose to bollix up the country and disappoint you for a few more years?