Thursday, November 13, 2008

All this talk about what Obama's victory means and whether was or is now a center-right country or a center-left country is... not interesting, but notable.

I think that what happened was that the Republican Party was discredited by the events of the last 4 years - starting with Katrina and the quagmire quality the Iraq war took on, continuing with power abuses and the US attorney scandal, and finishing up with the economic collapse. Events proved the Bush administration's ideas to be without merit. And since the Republicans did such a good job of sticking together over the last eight years, there was no way any Republican could separate him or herself from Bush. And McCain didn't really try the 'distancing' approach until after the economic collapse. It was way, way too late.

It could be said that the only chance the Republicans had was to tack leftward. Only McCain, Giuliani and possibly Romney could have done that, but usually a moderate doesn't win a primary. In this case, almost miraculously, McCain won. He could have picked Lieberman or another more moderate Republican. He would have risked ascending the candidacy of Bob Barr, but that still might have been a better risk for him. Instead he picked Palin and tried to tack leftward and rightward simultaneously.

What does it mean? As I said, I think this election was about the failure of Republicans becoming apparent. However, it was also about the success of the Democrats' campaign - Hillary's as well as Obama's - to take advantage of the fracturing of the Republican coalition. But they did it not by forcefully espousing liberal or progressive ideas. They did some of that, but mostly they did it by truly capturing the center. Over the years, they've abandoned or de-emphasized some of the liberal views that many people find offensive. They've also repositioned themselves as the party of responsible, mainstream adults. They are not particularly hawkish or doveish. They don't generally put forth european solutions to social issues. They believe in God and go to church. They have marriages that often stay together. They're not gay, but they're OK with it. They're not super rich.

And as they've slowly convinced the American people that they're absolutely mainstream, the Republican Party has begun to eat itself in frustration. One head, the fearful, anti-intellectual country folk, blames the socially moderate, fiscal conservative monied head.

Has America changed? I'd say not much, other than people have sat up and started to notice things a little more. More people have bothered to get informed. And more people have decided that it's worth it to go and vote.

But America was never a center-right country. The unholy marriage, aka the 'southern strategy' , with a lot of corporate help, managed to elect a center-right Government. A long time ago, in 1976, an unholy marriage of old southern Democrats and liberal northerners managed to elect a center-left Government. Actually it may have been a right-left coalition Both fell apart, as unholy marriages do.

I think Obama will govern from a pragmatic place. I think it is pretty close to the center. The center is a place that Republicans have been calling radical left for years, but they only got away with that because of the temporary power afforded them by their unholy alliance. Meanwhile the Democrats have been utterly mainstream and uncontroversial for at least eight years, and I think people started to see that. Indiana started to see that.

This is all still Civil War stuff resolving itself. The Democrats, being the pro-slavery party, seceded from the Union in the face of a populist uprising of abolitionism. The Republicans, having defeated the Democrats, lost the will and the popular mandate to continue to occupy the south, so they let the Democrats back in. Slowly, by the 1920's, the popular tide had turned racist and the Republicans largely went along, clinging only slightly to Lincoln.

With FDR and the Depression, the Democrats began to capture the national needs, and then, with Kennedy standing up for Blacks in the south, they suddenly turned the country on its head by 1964. The chaos of the Vietnam war allowed a moderate Republican to be elected, who later damaged their brand further.

Finally, Reagan appealed to southern whites left behind by the Democratic Party's transition. And they rode that train as far as they could. But in the last eight years, they've completely discredited themselves by abandoning any sense of honor and fiscal conservatism.

I don't see the Republicans, as currently constituted, being able to hash together an alliance to win a national election. I think they will have to tack centerward, toward reason, honor and accountability, at some point. Perhaps the Democratic party will become too progressive in a way that turns off a lot of Americans and makes them ripe to be swiped back again. Maybe the Republican party will redefine itself as the anti-corporate party. Or the anti-interventionist party. Stranger things have happened.


Blogger Andy said...

I don't see the Republicans going anti-corporation. I can see them saying it, I just can't see them doing it.

9:21 AM  

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