11 April 2011

The future leans left: the big picture


Sometimes one must step back from day-to-day events and look at the big picture. Here's how I see it.

1) The Republican party has entered a position similar to that of the Democratic party in the 1980s -- its radicalized base has pulled it too far from the political mainstream. In both cases the "out" party has been wounded by a failed Presidency (Carter, Bush II); its base is besotted with an ideology repulsive to most of the country (rigid PC leftist dogma, religious fundamentalism/Tea Party); the "in" party has a charismatic leader whom the "out" party demonizes and whose popularity it finds baffling (Reagan, Obama); rational members of the "out" party realize they need to move back toward the center, but the base seem unlikely to allow it. No analogy is perfect, but the parallels are real.

2) The 2006 and 2008 elections expressed a very real leftward shift of the nation during the Bush II era. Some of this shift was caused by the discrediting of conservative ideology under Bush -- tax cuts for the wealthy led to anemic job growth and a ballooning deficit, while financial-sector deregulation led to recession (the one big Western country that didn't deregulate, Canada, also escaped the worst effects). Other aspects of the shift, such as the doubling of the number of non-religious people and the dramatic growth in support for gay equality, were cultural changes which had nothing to do with Bush.

3) The 2010 election was not a "pendulum swing" back to the right; what happened was that voter turn-out collapsed (38% of eligible voters vs. 62% in 2008). The "in" party normally takes losses in an off-year election. Theocrat/teabagger candidates like O'Donnell and Angle cost the Republicans wins they could otherwise have achieved. The Democrats' biggest problem was leftists who didn't vote because they were disappointed in Obama's compromises.

4) Some voted Republican because they thought the Democrats weren't delivering job growth fast enough. But the empowered Republicans have delivered a flood of pro-creationism, anti-gay, anti-abortion efforts; they've pushed for draconian spending cuts that would cost jobs. There are already signs of buyer's remorse among voters.

5) The mass shift to the left is solid and continuing -- Americans' faith in "free-market" dogma is imploding, and a February poll on deficit-reduction options found raising taxes on the rich to be far more popular than cutting Medicare, Social Security, or defense (taxes on the rich were far higher in the 1950s and 1960s, times of high employment and strong growth, than today). One-fifth of the US population is "non-white", most of whom are unlikely to vote Republican. And don't forget the long-term trend.

6) If Palin seeks the Republican nomination in 2012, her chances of winning it are good -- she attracts far more interest than the "normal" candidates. Even if the non-nutty faction of Republicans manages to nominate someone like Romney or Daniels, Palin, as the darling of the nutty faction, would have a strong claim on the running-mate spot. Either way her unpopularity with the general public would doom the right's already-slim hopes of unseating Obama. (If Palin doesn't run, substitute Bachmann in the above.)

7) There's still the problem of perfectionists sitting out elections, but the new wave of activism launched in Wisconsin and elsewhere is driven by union workers, more pragmatic and practical-minded than ideological purists. Meanwhile, the Republicans are having their own problems with purists; teabaggerdom is throwing a fit at Boehner for compromising with Obama on the budget.

8) Economic trends in the US -- stagnant middle-class incomes and increasing concentration of wealth in few hands -- will eventually fuel support for redistributionist solutions. This has happened in other countries and in the long run the US is not immune.

9) The Christian Right is becoming the weird, nasty out-group, due to its extremism and society's growing secularism and acceptance of gays.

The last thing I want to do is encourage complacency, but there is no grounds for defeatism. Inch by inch we are winning. It will take hard work and there will be battles lost now and then, but we will get there.

15 Comments:

Blogger TAO said...

Pretty good analysis! But I am not real sure how you come up with your conclusion.

After 30 years of supply side economics and the shift of liberalism to neo liberalism it should surprise no one that the political mainstream is shifting left.

Using your own math it appears that "THE LEFT" represents 24% of the eligible voters (62% minus 38%). Now, maybe both of the parties represent "out" parties? Maybe the election of 2010 represents an overshoot of "the center" of the political mainstream that both parties claim to attempt to achieve.

Based on your own argument the reality is that the democrats should have been punished in 2010 for not capitalizing on the changes that your histronics suggest.

What is the benefits, long term to a party that compromises with the right in a country that is heading left?

Based on your own analysis it looks to me that compromising with the right gets you a losing percentage of 38% but compromising with THE LEFT would have gained you 24%.

That 24% would have given the democrats a landslide victory in 2010 and would have put them ahead of the curve in regards to projected political changes....

11 April, 2011 08:08  
Blogger Robert the Skeptic said...

Although I find satisfaction in the encouraging trends you outline, I have to know that the Conservatives are not blind to these facts as well. The ink hasn't sufficiently dried yet on the Supreme Court's decision to invalidate almost all campaign finance laws - I expect the newest wave of political advertising will be so over-the-top with propaganda and lies that it will make the last bout look tame in comparison. Look how utterly fixated the public consciousness is on the latest straw man, the horror of the budget deficit. If presented adroitly, you can screw people and they will actually thank you for screwing them. The power of the media/campaign machine is easily underestimated.

For example, When I worked for a major bank we wanted to save the postage of mailing everyone's checks back to them. Even though we were taking away a service from the customer to increase our profit, we "sold" it as a benefit; we called it "check safekeeping" and the customers happily smiled as we took something away from them to benefit the bank.

I hate to harp on the wealthiest 2% but they are basically funding, thereby directing, our political process. I agree with the trends, but I think the power of the media will continue to encourage people to vote against their own self interest. Police and fire fighters, for example, individually lean conservative but many are in unions as well, so where will their loyalty lie? Though the trends are encouraging, I am less inclined to share your optimism and fear it will need to get much worse before it gets better... if at all.

11 April, 2011 10:18  
Blogger Robert the Skeptic said...

No sooner do I compose and post a comment than someone else comes along and lays it all out far better than I can.

11 April, 2011 11:29  
Blogger godlizard (aka dotlizard) said...

I'm seeing an encouraging number of lefties voicing their early support of the President in 2012, saying "I'm in." Though it pains me to see this done from an apologetics perspective, as if supporting the President was something inherently flawed that cannot be said without incurring instant wrath.

Romney just announced, but I'm holding out hopeful for a Palin/Bachmann ticket, or something equally insane. I think one of the greatest dangers we face is having a non-threatening, moderate/sane GOP nominee, because I still feel like we have to scare the snot out of the disaffected progressives in order to insure their attendance on voting day. I don't know that we could get their attention with a Romney, or even a Huckabee or a Trump -- though Trump is definitely angling for serious consideration in the batshit category.

California (where I live) went contrary to the rest of the nation in 2010, due in part to the fact that the greater of two Gubernatorial evils really motivated the electorate to get out and vote against her. Sharon Angle did that same thing for Nevada, by being the poster child for violent rhetoric and intolerance.

It is the nature of liberals and progressives to be conflicted, so I feel much more comfortable when we have an unambiguous set of choices, complete with one really scary alternative that they can actually all agree needs to be avoided.

11 April, 2011 13:26  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Thanx for the read ... like I said a couple year's ago about 2012 ... it should be entertaining ... heh, heh, heh, heh, heh ... I of course am still halfway sane and WILL vote straight democrat ... after all ... I enjoy eating other food's beside's a diet of frijoles/ bean's only. :)

11 April, 2011 16:27  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

As you know Infodel I voted straight republican most of my life, well ... from mid/ late 1970's till early 2000's (beside's Bill Clinton)... I voted for Bush only worried about religion crap, and ended up shafted not expecting to get robbed by strongarm gvmnt/ corporate robbery (boy, did that SOB take me by suprise) ... heh, heh, heh, heh, heh. But I was thinking the other day ...in a restaraunte eating and watching the news on their tele ... who would be worse for GOP candidate for Pres ... Palin, Romney, or Huckabee? ... dude ... I busted out laughing to myself sitting alone and spit some of my food out, and folk's at table's around me were looking at me weird ... I mean ... it was a nightmare of humor just trying to imagine which one would be the worst ... and Hell no ... I dont trust Romney even, despite how nice he look's and talk's, a damn bit ... he has mega corporate interest's written all over him.

Later Guy ....

11 April, 2011 16:41  
Anonymous nonnie9999 said...

i agree with much of what you said, but i disagree on princess sarah. there's no way she can win the nomination. she's barely mentioned in the news these days. batshit bachmann has stolen princess sarah's thunder, and princess isn't smart enough to figure out how to get it back.

11 April, 2011 18:25  
Blogger Jack said...

Wise words, Infidel753 and I agree with the judgment you have made. The only thing we can't forget though, is the effect determined behind-the-scenes oligarchs will have with their massive campaign contributions, which I believe will sponsor one negative lying ad after another. The conservatives may yet be able to lie themselves back into power with enough Koch and corporation money...

11 April, 2011 21:07  
Blogger tnlib said...

The disaray within the Republican party can only help the Dems but the damage this group of Yahoos is doing will take a long, long time to coreect. In the meantime, people suffer. But I like your "big" picture; it puts this whole ugly scenario in perspective.

12 April, 2011 07:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Tao: I don't get your point. The difference between the 38% and the 62% includes the normal drop-off in turn-out in off-year elections, not only the disgruntled leftist-purists who stayed home. And most of the left did vote in 2010 -- it's just that more rightists did, in that election.

the changes that your histronics suggest.

"Histronics"? If you mean "histrionics", I don't think the term applies.

What is the benefits, long term to a party that compromises with the right in a country that is heading left?

The Democratic leadership needs to deal with the make-up of Congress at any given time, much more immediately than the make-up of the country. Also, I think Obama is just a compromiser by nature.

Anyway, there's a lot more to my argument here than just the difference in those two turn-out figures -- which, as I explained, doesn't mean what you seem to think it does.

12 April, 2011 12:36  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RtS: I don't think propaganda is so universally effective. if it were, public opinion would be much more uniform (whoever had the most effective propaganda, their view would prevail with most people).

Nor is money always determinative. There have been plenty of elections in which the side which spent more -- even far more -- lost.

The power of the wealthy couldn't secure a Republican win in 2008, nor a Republican Senate take-over in 2010. Not everybody can be fooled or swayed. In particular, I don't think any amount of money will save the Republicans from a walloping if they really attack Social Security and Medicare -- provided, of course, that the Democrats firmly defend those things.

Things may very well get worse before they get better; as I said, there will be some battles lost along the way. But I'm looking at the over-all trend.

12 April, 2011 12:41  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

GL: It's encouraging that more people are seeing the light. I suspect that the antics of the Republicans since the last election have reminded people of what's at stake.

I think one of the greatest dangers we face is having a non-threatening, moderate/sane GOP nominee, because I still feel like we have to scare the snot out of the disaffected progressives in order to insure their attendance on voting day.

I see your point, but remember that whoever the Republicans nominate, there's a chance, however remote, that that person could win. I'd rather see a nominee from the sane faction, just in case. Unfortunately, even if the nominee were sane, they'd likely feel obligated to choose a running mate from the nutty faction (Palin or Bachmann, say) to unify the party.

Remember that Obama won't be the only guy on the ballot in 2012. If the stuff the Republican Congress and Governors have been pulling doesn't "scare the snot out of the disaffected progressives", their snot must be super-glued in place.

Me, I'm counting on the union workers energized by Republican union-busting. They're more pragmatic and sensible than the ideologists; they understand about going for something imperfect to avoid a far worse alternative.

The drop-off in turn-out among left-purists in 2010 sent a very clear message to Democratic politicians: Those people's votes can't be relied on. This may account for the moves Obama has made to position himself as more of a centrist.

12 April, 2011 12:56  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RC: I think the diet the other side has in mind for you is more like this.

It says something about how far gone the Republicans are, that Huckabee, who seemed like the nutjob of the pack in 2008, now almost seems like one of the more normal ones.

Nonnie: You could do a pretty good cat-fight poster with that idea. To me, it doesn't really matter whether it's Palin or Bachmann -- the point is the same.

Jack: Thanks. As I noted above, while money has its influence, that influence has limits.

TNLib: Let's hope that damage proves to be the wake-up call people need. Of course the Democrats (not just Obama) need to do their part by standing up for what's right and providing a clear alternative. That doesn't mean trying to cater to every agenda item of the ideologists. The principle that Medicare and Social Security are untouchable has a solid mainstream constituency.

12 April, 2011 13:14  
Blogger TAO said...

Infidel,

YOu want to know what my point is? Its real simple...

If you want to support Obama and you want to get whatever it is in policy from the political process then those of us on the LEFT have to get pissed off and demand something.

We are sitting here at a critical junction in our countries history and we are blogging about the 12 people who make up "The Left" and the "Young Whiny Democrats" and in reality we should be organizing and preparing for the reality of a bitter fight.

If you don't want Obama to compromise with the right then he has to know that there is a left that will get as pissed off at Washington as the Tea Party is. We need to let the democratic house members and senators know that if they cave in we won't vote for them. No, we sit around and make fun of the stupid people in the Tea Party but the reality they control our political process right now and they only have a minority of house members...and we control the Senate and the Presidency!

If you want to protect our social safety net then all of us need to be prepared to fight hard, to raise hell, and to scare the shit out of the democrats if they cave in over the course of the debt ceiling and FY 2012 budget battles.

Remember, the squeeky wheel gets the grease....and right now all the squeeking is coming from the right.

We need our left wing crazies....we need them now more than ever.

12 April, 2011 16:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

None of which conflicts with my own viewpoint (although this is hardly relevant to the posting any more). I'm all for making demands on the Democrats and pressuring them to do the right thing, and there are groups out there doing that. What I have a problem with is the people who, when election day actually comes, decide they're not satisfied and sit out the election or throw away their votes on a meaningless third candidate.

That helps the Republicans, period. And if people do it, I'm going to call them out on it. There's blood on their hands, even if the hand that makes the cuts belongs to the Republicans they helped get into office.

Yes, by all means, put pressure on the politicians. But don't sit out the election. Not only does that make Republicans more likely to win, it also exerts pressure on Democratic politicians which is the opposite of what we want -- because if they think the hard left won't turn out for them, they'll have no choice but to make up the loss by trolling for votes in the political center.

12 April, 2011 17:09  

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