Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Republican Party Establishment v. the Democratic Party Establishment

For the past few years, I've been ruminating on the differences between the Democratic Party Establishment and the Republican Party Establishment, and since I'm foolishly seeking to avoid writing a brief right now, I might as well write up my thoughts.

To understand the Parties, we have to understand history. When the country began, the Democratic Party establishment came from the farming elites, and the Republican Party Establishment came from the merchant elites. By the time of the Civil War, agricultural elites were outpowered by the merchant and industrial elites, and so the Democrats took to broad-based support to match the Republicans. But building a broad base takes time, and it wasn't until the 1930's, when the agricultural elite was more or less dead, that the Democrats were able to combine labor unions, African Americans, immigrants, liberals, and farmers to come to power.

In response, the GOP took to building its own broad base of support, but ultimately couldn't find a particular issue until the 1960's and 1970's - abortion and civil rights - to get the kind of broad-based support it needed to take power. In the meantime, the bottom-up organization of the Democrats was amazingly disorganized, and Democrats were pushed too hard to the left by their base.

As a result, the modern conservative movement developed and took power. In response, the Democratic Party Elites began pushing back against the base, leading to the famous "Sister Souljah" moment by Bill Clinton, and thus, began the sport of "hippie punching."

I mention all of this because right now, I see the GOP as falling into the trap the Democrats fell into during the 1970's. That is, because the Party is so well connected to its grassroots, and thrives on them, that no Republican who wants to hold power will ever have a "Sister Souljah" moment. There will be no teabagger punching.

Additionally, Rupert Murdoch found that inflaming the base = money. Not some money, but a whole shitload of money. And right now, the crazier the conspiracy, the more money there is to be made. In short, the mechanisms used by the GOP to communicate with its base has found other, more profitable lines of work - stirring up crazy shit.

On the Democratic side, the opposite is true - rather than listen to the base, the Party elders think that we're completely fucking nuts, and instead listens to the D.C. cocktail circuit. And here's the problem - the D.C. cocktail circuit has its own agenda of elitism, lack of acrimony and well, more cocktail parties. A good example of this was health care reform. For months, Obama tried to get Republican support for health care reform, something that every liberal blogger in America pointed out was never going to work. Instead, almost everyone pointed to using reconciliation. Surprisingly, the Republicans en masse reject health care reform, and the Democrats use reconciliation to pass the law. Ugh.

So what happens now? Honestly, I don't know. On the Republican side, there's simply too much money to be made by stirring up the crazies. As a result, politicians like Michele Bachman and Sarah Palin are going to get a lot of airtime by the right-wing media. The saner elements of the GOP are either going to be pushed into the Democratic Party (Colin Powell, Arlen Specter), or are going to be pushed away entirely (Lincoln Chafee, Charlie Crist). The whole vortex is self-sustaining.

On the Democratic side, I don't see an end to the hippie punching from Obama, particularly with his recent decision to allow offshore drilling. But other Democrats, like Alan Grayson, may have figured out that playing to the base means easy fundraising. At this point, I'd like to ask Bogart what he thinks.


  1. While I am sitting in an airport and typing away on my blackberry, I will not be able to offer a full rebuttal, but I will tell you that #1. Saying Pres Obama "tried to get Republican support" for HC reform is revisionist history (will explain later). #2. While I am not a tea party member, I agree with them more than I disagree and can clearly see how the money they are stirring up will be very useful this fall. #3. The national elections are less important to me this fall than the state legislature elections...all I have to say right now is for you to be afraid, be very afraid about the wave that is coming. Redistricting is very powerful!

  2. 1) A minor correction - It wasn't Obama trying to get Republican support so much as it was the Senate Dems, who were cheered on by Obama. But of course, I'm happy to read your rebuttal.

    2) A good portion of the money being raised by the tea partiers isn't going to pay for GOP campaigns, its being turned into profit. As David Frum points out, Fox doesn't work for the GOP, the GOP works for Fox.

    Here's one point I forgot to mention in my original post - the GOP grassroots for 120 years were doctors, small business owners, and the like. These aren't people that politicians ignore, and so the GOP got into the habit of listening to their grassroots. If I wanted to categorize you, Bogart, you'd fit into this category as a traditional grassroots Republican.

    The tea partiers aren't typical GOP grassroots - they're older, some are unemployed, and were brought into the Party by the GOP's stances on social issues.

    3) The redistricting thing would be ominous but for the nutty crusade against the Census, which is artificially depressing the count in socially conservative areas.

    And actually, the Census is a good example of what I'm talking about. No Republican officeholder has gone on Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck and reminded the base that failing to submit Census forms means less votes apportioned in conservative areas, and helps the Democrats. Instead, they're either silent on the issue, or go into full conspiracy mode.

  3. From the begining of the HC debate, House Repub's were shut out. Rangle and Waxman crafted a deal, behind closed doors, and then brought it out to the floor. Republican leadership were told that unless they were okay with a public option, then there was nothing to talk about.

    The GOP even sent a letter to President Obama to request a meeting to discuss ideas. They never heard back. The president only made an effort after the opinion polls started to come crashing down.

    The Senate was not quite as bad, but clearly if they could not even find a way to pick off Snowe or Grassley, then they were not really willing to make concessions.

  4. Oh, and I can't take your comments about Fox seriously...yes, they are well right of much so that I don't watch them. I can't take them seriously...but MSNBC is as far Left and yet you don't seem to have an issue quoting them or turning to them for information.

    The "movement" against the census is silly and clearly not anyting that is real. It is like saying all the Tea Party members are racist and that is why they are against the president. Are their some? Sure, but it is a very small minority.

    Saying that the Tea Party or the Republicans or Conservatives are all like the crazies is like saying all Dems or Progressives are like George Soros or Jessie Jackson.

  5. Actually, MSNBC gives three hours to Joe Scarborough every morning, and he's a dyed in the wool conservative. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that MSNBC figured out that by moving left they get more ratings. By the way, I don't look to MSNBC for information - I use the internet to look up shit.