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Hullabaloo


Monday, November 19, 2012

 
The other side of soul searching

by digby

It's natural for the party that loses two presidential contests in a row to do a postmortem and try to figure out what it needs to change in order to compete in the future. We are seeing lots of that happening right now with the GOP, although I agree with Sahil Kapur here that there's a lot more talk about "tone" than about policy. (Certainly, the self-righteous denunciations of Mitt Romney from the 2016 potential president club couldn't be more disingenuous.)

But as much as that story is fascinating, Ed Kilgore pointed out that the Democrats are going to face their own internal battles:

But underneath all these indicators of unity and ideological coherence, and the defensive crouch in which all Democrats found themselves during and after the 2010 midterms, there are unmistakably intraparty tensions on a significant range of issues domestic and international. Many of them go back to the more visible fissures of the Clinton presidency. And several could very rapidly emerge quite soon, depending on how the administration and Democratic congressional leaders handle the negotiations with Republicans over tax and spending issues during and perhaps immediately after the current lame-duck session.

At a minimum, if Obama accepts as part of some “grand bargain” on fiscal issues actual benefit cuts in Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, and/or major structural changes in how these programs operate, there will be a backlash among Democrats in and out of Congress that could be significantly fiercer than the one favoring a “public option” which for a while threatened the enactment of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. And now that the threat of a Republican president has subsided, we can also expect to hear much more vocal Democratic objections to Obama’s foreign policy, particularly its continuation of the “war on terror” and its heavy use of drone strikes in the Greater Middle East. Long-simmering progressive resentment of Obama administration positions on civil liberties, and on its support for relatively high defense spending, will also re-emerge for the same reason.

I couldn't agree more. These are the two big fault lines and they are very deep indeed. But Kilgore makes a very keen observation that's sort of politically incorrect, but cannot be ignored: any Democratic leader who has a strong personal bond with minority voters is unlikely to be challenged. I don't think this is a criticism of either the left or minority voters, but rather a simple observation of the dynamics of the center left coalition generally. (I actually think it's less about minority voters than the left being so repulsed by right wing racism and misogyny that they simply can't join the chorus of criticism out of solidarity on those points.)

And because of all that, this is worth noting:

It’s fascinating, therefore, to observe the possibility that Democrats could continue their intraparty detente by uniting around the 2016 candidacy of Hillary Clinton, whose 2008 candidacy aroused significant progressive opposition, much of it owing to misgivings about her husband (buried during his last two years in office as liberals rallied around his fight against impeachment). If HRC’s current numbers are any indication, she could all but rout the field should she make an early and decisive move towards a presidential candidacy. What’s less certain is what sort of ideological profile she might present, given her complex background and image.

I'm fairly sure that the same dynamic that protected President Obama from any serious challenge from the left would protect Clinton as well --- the first woman president would suffer terribly at the hands of the right wing, and none more than her. Whether you think this is the correct way to look at politics is up to you, but it is a human affair, and people are going to identify with leaders on a very fundamental level. (The ideological fight is largely about that in any case.)

If a woman or minority are not front runners in the next contest, however, things could get scrambled in some different ways. Progressives will argue strenously for the party to move away from the mushy centrism of the Clinton/Obama era.

Kilgore issues a warning to the political establishment:

Those elements in the Democratic Party who applaud Obama as a “centrist reformer” who proved once and for all that the Clinton legacy provides the sole path to a Democratic Majority (arguing, quite naturally, that it’s no mistake the two men, plus fellow “centrist” Jimmy Carter, have been the only Democratic presidential winners since LBJ) will find their own presidential champions, and many long-submerged intraparty controversies may finally come back into full light.

It is, in fact, just a matter of time.

Indeed. Now, you can only imagine the reaction of the Villagers to any attempt to move the Democratic party to the left after having absorbed nearly a decade's worth of GOP propaganda insisting that Barack Obama is to the left of Fidel Castro, so it won't be an easy lift. And, as Kilgore points out, there is always going to be tension if people identify with the leadership (or the leadership is seen as being under siege because of that identification.) But I guarantee it will happen at some point. The country is ideologically polarized, but the only place that it is polarized between centrism and conservatism is in Washington. Many Democrats around the country have an agenda too and it's ... liberal, even if they don't know it.


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