Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's Not 1992

I don't know why our entire political industrial complex thinks it is. Digby:

So, he did what he did and received huge plaudits from the punditocrisy. Jesse had a fit and that made everyone even happier. And Clinton won, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the candidacy of Ross Perot. (Whether you agree that Perot took votes from Clinton or Bush, there's no doubt he scrambled that election.) It became, however, a matter of conventional wisdom that Democrats needed to distance themselves from their "special interests" and liberal base in order to win elections.

Now, fifteen years later, it's become a tic, a reflexive point that is no longer used for any specific purpose but rather serves as a political ritual designed to assure the conservative political establishment that the candidate does not associate himself or herself with undesirable liberals. The members of the base who have been used for a decade and a half as the human sacrifices to the pundit Gods of the beltway are starting, quite naturally, to rebel. It's not, however, just because they are sick of being scapegoated; it's because it's become part of the predictable "braindead politics" of Washington that Clinton so rightly ran against in the first place.

I don't blame Bill Clinton for doing what he did. Indeed, I give him credit for having the guts to point to a specific act instead of adopting the modern mealy mouthed rhetoric ("some on the left need to stop ...") which at least allowed for an honest debate about something identifiable and real. And, in the wake of the riots, as part of a serious national debate about "law and order" and race in the middle of a presidential campaign, it made sense for a Democrat to try to thread that needle.


Today, it's the Republicans who are seen as captives of their own worst impulses which is why it is so out of sync and dissonant for Obama and others to still be triangulating against their own base. It feels odd --- discordant. The Democratic rank and file are no different than millions of average people in this country who are feeling uncomfortable with the radicalism, incompetence, hubris and corruption of the Republican party after six years of one party rule --- and a quarter century of conservative consensus. And the activist base from which these politicians are trying to distance themselves is where the energy and future of this new majority party rsides. Why would you run from them just when the other side's consensus is starting to fray? It's far more politically useful to present them to the public as the average people they really are. We're all just like you --- regular everyday citizens who believe that the country needs a new direction.

As we have seen, triangulating can sometimes be the politically smart thing to do. But not right now. This is the political moment for the Democrats to seize the mantle of the mainstream --- to argue that we are the big tent, where people of conscience from all over the political spectrum are coming together, concerned about our nation, ready to work in common cause. The Republican party has abandoned the concerns of the American people. The Democratic party is the party that will secure the future.