Friday, August 04, 2006

Matt Taibbi on the Connecticut primary

Here is a great article by Matt Taibbi (who is, by the way, a deliciously irreverent writer) on what Lieberman's problem is. Er, sorta. Really it's about what the Democratic Party's problem is, and it's very good.

Taibbi's vision of the problem (and a hint at the solution):
"Well, I've got grass-roots support that is perceived as a threat to the established order," [Lieberman's challenger, Ned Lamont] said. Then he scratched his head. "But it's weird. It's like there's a signal sent down from somewhere. The other day I was with this reporter from The New York Observer, and he was reading down a list of talking points: Why is it that bipartisanship can't exist in the party? Are you a pacifist? And so on. And I was like, 'Man, where is this coming from?' "

Of course it's fairly obvious where it's coming from. Even the most casual Democratic voters understand by now that there is a schism within the party, one that pits "party insiders" steeped in the inside-baseball muck of Washington money culture against . . . well, against us, the actual voters.

The insiders have for many years running now succeeded in convincing their voters that their actual beliefs are hopeless losers in the general electoral arena, and that certain compromises must be made if the party is ever to regain power.

This defeatist nonsense is sold to the public in the form of beady-eyed party hacks talking to one another in the opinion pages of national media conglomerates, where, after much verbose and solemn discussion, the earnest and idealistic candidate the public actually likes is dismissed on the grounds that "he can't win." In his place is trotted out the guy the party honchos insist to us is the real "winner"—some balding, bent little bureaucrat who has grown prematurely elderly before our very eyes over the course of ten or twenty years of sad, compromise-filled service in the House or the Senate.

This "winner" is then given a lavish parade and sent out there on the trail, and we hold our noses as he campaigns in our name on a platform of Jesus, the B-2 bomber and the death penalty for eleven-year-olds, consoling ourselves that he at least isn't in favor of repealing the Voting Rights Act. (Or is he? We have to check.) Then he loses to the Republicans anyway and we start all over again—beginning with the next primary election, when we are again told that the anti-war candidate "can't win" and that the smart bet is the corporate hunchback still wearing two black eyes from the last race.

I think it's worth noting that this more accurately reflects Taibbi's (and many people's) idea of what's been happening, than what's necessarily been happening. For instance, I found myself nodding along during that last part, yet I don't think we've had a real "third way" guy heading the Democratic ticket since, well, Clinton, and Carter before that. This is a backhanded complaint about the intraparty takedown of Howard Dean, which I don't think has many precedents (at least, not recent ones-- but then again, I dunno that candidate Dean has many recent precedents). And the only guy to run for Prez twice in my lifetime (at least, who actually became a party nominee) was Ronald Reagan.

What's important here is that Taibbi is noting how much of the blue electorate feels about their own party. That they don't listen to them. That they look down scornfully upon the masses to whom they owe their f$&king jobs. That they're unnecessarily concessive. That they're, as a whole, more conservative than the voters are (and certainly vastly more pro-business).

Why such a sentiment? Well, for one, it's probably true that Democratic candidates tend to be somewhat more conservative than their voters. A large percentage of Democratic voters, for instance, favor gay marriage, yet the only candidate willing to come out (no pun intended) in favor of it in 2004, to my knowledge, was Dennis Kucinich. Also, the majority of Democrats wanted out of Iraq at that time, but none of the frontrunners were even willing to entertain the possibility. Hell, Howard Dean supported NAFTA, and Lieberman was for school vouchers!

Also, I think people feel this way b/c the party anointing of the elite centrist really does happen frequently in the races further downticket. People frequently have to settle for squishy centrist Senate candidates, people like Bob Casey in PA. This year's actually quite rare in that a number of real progressives like Sherrod Brown, Jon Tester, and yes, Ned Lamont, are getting their shot at the seat.

The Democrats are taking their party back. It's a process that will take far longer than just this electoral cycle, but with Dean at the helm, hopefully we'll see real changes.

Beginning with a spine transplant.

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