I have to say, it’s been a long time since I felt like the Democrats did anything politically savvy, but I think running with the recent re-branding of Rush Limbaugh as the head of the GOP qualifies. Incredibly both Fox and the Huffington Post seem almost to agree on the substance of the story: the GOP is currently in disarray, and searching for leadership. The dittohead masses that follow Limbaugh are a big enough voting bloc that the party’s current nominal spokesmen cannot be seen to oppose him too much outright, lest he savage them from his bully pulpit.
The Democratic leadership were at first warned against elevating Limbaugh to the level of the President… but seem to have decided now that they’re just fine with it, and I can think of at least one good reason why. Limbaugh and his followers have, so far as I’ve been able to tell, little to offer in the way of substantive governance. Their arguments are mostly emotional, moral, personal, and downright anti-intellectual. The brains (and a lot of the cash) of the Republican party has tended to reside with the corporatists who have been (and are now) willing to screw over the taxpayers, the economy, the legal system, the environment, and each other, in the name of short term shareholder value and golden parachutes. The populist Republicans (Limbaugh’s folk) are finally, and rightly, disgusted with corporate America, who in reality have little to do with capitalism and private enterprise. The populists succesfully scuttled the first attempt at a bailout bill in September of last year. So now there’s an opportunity to split asunder these two traditionally Republican strongholds of influence. Appointing Limbaugh to lead the GOP in the current vacuum, if it sticks, renders them gadflies, without meaningful policy, and potentially makes it harder for corporate Republicans to rally support.
Of course, the problem is that the Democrats are close to being as much in bed with corporate America as the Republicans were, and similarly unwilling to break some heads on Wall St. by taking over and re-privatizing our insolvent financial industry – not, as some would cry, Socialism, just an extension of what the FDIC already does a couple of times each week, when a small (or even, not that small) bank fails.
I have a nightmare running in my head that now, after 8 years of canonically Republican governmental failure: corporate cronyism and poor market regulation favoring (some) business, military adventurism, and moralizing through government, what we may have in store is a period of canonical Democratic failure: wasteful domestic spending for spending’s sake, and poor regulation that’s broadly anti-market and centralizes many decisions. Are we all really that dumb? Do we need to have two episodes of abject failure to realize that our problems are not just tied up with who is in power, but with the structure within which they all operate? A structure that encourages partisanism through gerrymandered districts and empowerment of swing voters and extremist minorities, a structure that’s unduly influenced by the perpetual need to raise campaign funds for your next election bid?
I still have some hope that there’s change in store – mostly it’s bound up in issues of transparency and the possibility of better participation in government via the Internet. But really, those things should transcend party, and be more a function of younger people getting involved in politics, and bringing their technological familiarity into the realm. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.