Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Car Crash Politics

If we go back to the day before the presidential election of 2000 we can see that the two political parties in the US were both trying to stake out the center ground. Democrats were the New Democrats of the Clinton era. Republicans were the "compassionate conservatives" of George W. Bush.

Obviously, that era is over. Instead of Clinton's promise to end welfare as we know it, triangulating the Republicans on welfare, we have Donald Trump doing a Macchiavellian forced march to get his entire agenda done in the first weeks of power. And we have Democrats erupting over Trump's first immigration initiative.

Obviously President Trump's shock and awe rollout was carefully planned. Someone decided that Trump had to get his agenda going before the Democrats had time to get organized. Obviously the Democrats' immediate response to Trump's immigration pause was carefully planned. Reducing immigration destroys the Democrats' strategy to replace today's America with a new nation of immigrants that will vote Democrat for a generation or two.

Both sides in the political wars are deciding that they have to go for broke. You can see how that makes sense for both sides.

For Republicans the "compassionate conservatism" of the Bush years turned into a bust. A bipartisan No Child Left Behind education effort with Sen. Ted Kennedy failed because Republicans compromised on more spending but got stiffed on school choice. The Iraq invasion, a continuation of the bipartisan "regime change" policy, fell apart after Democrats got redirected by their anti-war faction.

For Democrats the whole New Democrat era was a massive frustration, because Democrats live for big new programs, universal health care, climate change, bending the arc of history towards justice for all the marginalized and oppressed of the world.

So when Democrats retook Congress in 2006 and the presidency in 2008 they went for broke. They didn't say they were going to do that. They didn't have to. They just needed to let their activists go to work and let the media nod it through. And anyone that objected was a racist, sexist, homophobe, or a denier.

The only problem with the Democrats going for broke was that it immediately provoked push back. First there was the Tea Party in 2009. Then there was the flip of the House in 2010. Then there was the flip of the Senate in 2014. Now we have the most Republican national government since 1928. Obviously, someone out there in the hinterlands ain't happy.

Notice the difference between the two movements. The Democratic push to the left was driven by its activist core that is connected to its leaders in Washington by ties of patronage in the vast administrative state and the activist community.

But the Republican push to the right was a genuine populist rebellion that took the GOP establishment by surprise. It was telling that House Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke of the Tea Party as astroturf. Of course it was; all Democratic activist groups are astroturf, so Nance assumed that the same was true of right-wing activism. But it wasn't. It was earnest middle-class people doing their earnest civic thing.

The populist rebellion wanted leaders that would fight back against the Democratic administrative state and political correctness. But how? The whole GOP establishment was reared on the idea of go along to get along with the liberal power structure. As blogger Mencius Moldbug writes, the Democrats are the Inner Party; they get to rule when in power. The Republicans are the Outer Party; they get to govern when in office.

But where would the Republican populists get a leader they wanted: a man who would take the fight right down the Democrats' throat?

Amazing isn't it, that Donald Trump should turn out to be that man. Who woulda thunk it?

Obviously, nobody knows how this will turn out. Both parties have stopped circling each other; each is driving right at the other. It is going to end in a mighty car crash.

The only thing to hope for is that the crash doesn't end up as a real shooting civil war.

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