Monday, January 14, 2008

Redealing the deck

Is the Democratic Party's race-gender coalition in danger of fracturing? Captain Ed seems to think so. "The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have started trading allegations of race-baiting, and now John Edwards has jumped into the fray on Obama's side. The party of identity politics appears about to founder on its very premise." When a coalition -- any coalition fractures -- it is usually due to problems in the division of spoils. A conflict of interest emerges and the forces that divide them over the sharing of power begin to outweigh the incentives for cooperation. Is this happening in the Democratic Party?

If Barack Obama were another leader in the mold of Al Sharpton the structure of the Democratic coalition would have remained undisturbed. But he has positioned himself as a blank screen upon which different coalitions could project their thoughts. He is "Hope"; he is a "unifier". And that, by definition, is either a coalition maker or a coalition-breaker.

Hillary represents another type of coalition-breaker. Coalitions exist because each participant wants a share in the loot. But Hillary poses the threat of dominance; someone who can circumvent the rules of horsetrading because the Clinton dynasty is powerful enough to do so. Her threat is different from Obama's, who represents the possibility of forming new coalitions within the party that will sweep away the old ones. Hillary represents the subordination of coalition politics to the politics of the royal court.

Either way the Democratic Party's old political model may be coming to an end. It's new face can be glimpsed through the smoke and mirrors of media coverage. In a little while we might be able to see the whole thing walk through the mist. I'm not looking forward to it personally, but we shall see what we shall see.


Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

It is good to remember that William Jefferson Clinton was elevated to the presidency by a MINORITY vote, resulting from a division of the MAJORITY conservative-independent voters split by the candidacy of H. Ross Perot, may he rest in peace.

Look at the history of coalition politics in other countries lacking strongly-defined 2-party systems, particularly Italy, Israel, France, and to a lesser extent the U.K. It has been very difficult for these countries to sustain a coherent set of policies, foreign or domestic, because of the prolonged "churning" of the governments.

Of course, the parliamentary system is partly responsible for that, where some constitutions provide that a government can fall on a moment's notice as a result of a "no confidence" vote.

1/14/2008 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger The Duck said...

So who would a Bloomberg, Paul, Huckabee candidacy hurt most?

1/14/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

The Republican party is the "conservative" party. Conservatives, however can be classified as "fiscal conservatives" and "social conservatives".

George W Bush tends to lean to the social conservative stripe, but he is anything but a fiscal conservative and his aiding-and-abbetting the Republican Congress' out-of-control spending was a key factor in giving Congressional control back to the Democrats.

Maybe the trend at work here is the balkanization of American politics. It should also be noted that the number of voters self-identifying as "independents" keeps increasing as each party irrevocably alienates portions of their constituency. If this happens, a successful third political party could easily appear in the future.

The most popular question on election day will remain "Who are you voting against?"

1/14/2008 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/14/2008 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger LarryD said...

Peter, you left out the other flavor of conservatives, the small government conservatives.

They're the faction that has the most reason to be unhappy, because the federal government just keeps on growing.

I think they need to study the pro-life play book, and adapt a few ideas.

It should also be noted that the number of voters self-identifying as "independents" keeps increasing as each party irrevocably alienates portions of their constituency. If this happens, a successful third political party could easily appear in the future.

Problem is, independents have no agenda and no candidates, practically speaking. They are incoherent, thus impotent. To form a new party out of them, someone is going to have to find something they all agree on, something that could actually be achieved.

1/14/2008 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger shivermetimbers said...

I have often heard the GOP referred to as the stupid party, while the Democratic party was referred to as the evil party.

I think this is an apt description. There are few things that shock me any more with regards to how the democrats operate.

I have now been reading that the democratic play book on the success of the surge in Iraq is that the Sunnis and Shiites have only come together for fear of troop withdrawals due to the threats made by the democratic congress.

This is the narrative the democrats are taking. The recent success is all due to them.

When Hillary was asked recently about her 'suspension of belief' with regards to the surge and General Patraeus, she still stood by those remarks - not even the faintest acknowledgment of the heroic effort of our armed forces.

I doubt they will be called out on this shamelessness.

They probably know this.

1/14/2008 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

I wouldn't put too much credence in this coalition cracking idea within the Dems. In the main, they believe America is the source of all evil at home and abroad, all because of Republicans. At home, all Dems want more government support, imagining that higher taxes will always be paid by the evil rich. And even though the Dems acted if there were no wars during the '90's (constant bombing and sanctions on Iraq, overthrow and occupation of Serbia to this day, Mogadishu, etc. apparently don't count), they are now convinced that the evil Republicans started a war out of the blue for no reason and caused the world to hate us. (Pay no attention to 75% Congressional vote on the AUMF, Bush "lied" them into that.)

No matter if it's Hillary or Obama, Dems will vote for either of them because of the above facts.

I bet if we analyzed Perot supporters, the vast majority were Independents, some were Republicans disgusted by Bush's tax increases, and very few were Dems.

Don't give them credit for thinking, that would be inaccurate.

1/14/2008 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

Very off-topic, and Doug may have already uncovered it with his prodigious surfing, but this is about as pregnant a news story on religious texts as I've ever seen:

Missing for a half century, a cache of photos spurs sensitive research on Islam's Holy text.

Spengler at has an article on it as well.

Whether it turns out to be stillborn or not, it is an absolutely surreal development.

1/14/2008 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

Re those Perot voters -- it is worth looking at total votes cast in presidential elections since Watergate.

Number of Democrat votes has gone up steadily at the rate of population growth, regardless of the Democrat & Republican candidates. I.E. the Democrat candidate does not matter -- Obama, Mrs. Rodham-Clinton, and the proverbial yellow dog would all get the same number of votes.

In contrast, number of Republican votes has gone up & down like a yo-yo.

Looks like there are millions of people who could be classed as "Contingent Voters".

If the Republicans run someone like Reagan, the Contingent Voters will vote for him -- and provide the margin of victory. If there is no Reagan, but Perot runs as a third candidate, they will vote for Perot. If the Republicans run a Bob Dole, the Contingent Voters stay home. And the Contingent Voters never vote for the Democrat.

Maybe those Contingent Voters are the small-government Republicans, who are too often disappointed by the big-government Republicans favored by the Beltway crowd.

1/14/2008 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

The Republicans have the power to influence the narrative while Democrats in general have the power not only to set the tone of the debate, not only within their party, but in society at large. With the passage of time, the ability to steer the direction of culture within a society has political consequences. We are all of us, perhaps, unconsciously, the product of the Democratic ideology.

1/14/2008 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

But Prof Wretchard,

In the long run, the society steers the culture. Using the geographical metaphor of Oz, around America there is a thin coastal aberration surrounding a big red center.

Once you drive 50 miles inward from either the East or West coast of USA, all you hear is country music stations on your car radio, by far the most popular american style. That majority of Americans are not into government, they are free people, and don't vote much unless it will make a difference.

Like when Jimmy Carter let us get our ass kicked seven ways from Sunday. Like when a disrespecter of our troops like Kerry runs. (Hillary may very well qualify, Obama doesn't.)

Our big red majority listens to songs like "Beer for my Horses" by Toby Keith and Willie Nelson:

Well a man come on the 6 o'clock news
Said somebody's been shot, somebody's been abused
Somebody blew up a building
Somebody stole a car
Somebody got away
Somebody didn't get too far yeah
They didn't get too far

Grandpappy told my pappy, back in my day, son
A man had to answer for the wicked that he done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street for all the people to see that

Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we'll sing a victory tune
We'll all meet back at the local saloon
We'll raise up our glasses against evil forces
Singing whiskey for my men, beer for my horses

But this big red cowboy majority of Americans doesn't usually bother with voting if they don't think America is threatened.

Regardless of the evolving cultural narrative, I think we're all (the Free World) a product of this historic social effect, of America rising up over the last 100 years to confront global enemies of democratic civilization.

Ps. Obviously, I agree with Kin.

1/14/2008 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

Elections are about alternatives. Whoever wins the primary, voters in November will have a choice between a Democrat and a Republican. Why black Americans would choose the Republican because of what happened in the primary is beyond me. That didn't happen in 1984, the year of Jesse Jackson, and I doubt it will happen now.

A similar argument is that evangelicals will abandon the Republican party if Huckabee doesn't win. For what? Why would they join a Democratic party that seems to paint them with a very broad brush as ignorant, racist, and theocratic rustics?

The brillance of the American system is that it forces the electorate, the ordinary voter, to make real choices. We have to give up some of what we want when we choose. We cannot vote for a pure party line and then let the coalition builders do their thing. We have to choose individual human beings with their own merits and flaws. There's no one to praise or blame but ourselves.

Some year there will be a real electoral realignment. That happens. But most years it does not. That doesn't keep us from talking about whether this is the year. But I'll believe it when I see it.

Right now, it's business as usual in the Democratic party. A Clinton is the frontrunner, and the Democratic coalition is alive and well. There's nowhere else for a progressive to go.

1/14/2008 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

1. Adam Nagourney in The New York Times: "race and to a lesser extent gender have burst into the forefront of the Democratic presidential contest, thrusting Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton into the middle of a sharp-edged social and political debate that transcends their candidacies."

2. The Clintons care about nobody and nothing other than themselves. If Hillary falls behind they will be willing to start a race war.

3. Obama is not a man who has transcended race. He is obsessed by it. Check his choice of churches. Read Bruce Brawer's very sharp analysis of Obama's memoirs:

"While occasionally gesturing toward an ideal of colorblindness a la Dr. King, in his heart of hearts he's anything but colorblind, fervently endorsing black solidarity while repeatedly expressing distrust of, and even contempt for, whites."

4. If Hillary wins the nomination but leaves African-Americans with the impression that she did it by mobilizing white racism, the nomination may be dust in her hands.

The key word there is impression. It does not have to be true, it just has to be believed to be true by a large number of African-Americans.

5. If Hillary falls behind, the odds are that she will play the race and gender cards. It will split and destroy the Democrat Party.

1/14/2008 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

"When a coalition -- any coalition fractures -- it is usually due to problems in the division of spoils."

First, African-Americans have been the most loyal members of the coalition for the last generation. But, what do they have to show for it. Not much.

Second, the Clintons are raging narcissists. They don't have friends, just toadies, and they don't have allies, just the defeated and the subservient. They have been first class abusers of the African-Americans. They have received a great deal and given nothing.

Does this sound like a recipe for a happy marriage?

1/14/2008 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Democrats "What's the Matter With Kansas?" (a book by a leading Dem wondering why working class people don't vote Democrat) have a big problem.

Their support is from rich people angling for social status and approval as in a Jane Austen novel. With a shaky coalition of ethnic/racial groups, various identity politics groups (gays, feminists, etc.)

Republicans are everyone else, particularly white working-middle class people.

Each party and coalition tries to maximize it's gains and that minimizes the other coalition. For example, Affirmative Action -- helps rich whites (threats from working class whites are blocked) and ethnic/racial groups.

What has happened is that the fractures of 1968 when the rich status-seekers took power are now becoming undeniable. Yes polls show a Dem lead, but that has more to do with the economy and lack of a clear Dem candidate with all his coalition's flaws.

Regardless of Obama or Hillary, the Dem Coalition WILL punish Joe Average in order to reward the elite and identity/interest groups. They have to. And that way lies electoral defeat.

GWB is probably the weakest and laziest candidate ever to win the Presidency twice. That alone should tell us something.

1/14/2008 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Hillary vs. Obama? It's kind of one step below the ultimate conundrum of democrat victim identity politics.

It is fine to say that who you are politically is imprinted deep within your psyche and stands in natural oposition to the white male oppressor (Aside from the small detail of telling white men they cannot openly espouse their own victim identity politics in turh because to do so would be a vile act of pushing racist, misogynist on behalf of white supremacists.)

But now in order to get ahead and grab the prize both want so much- the Presidency - they will have to criticize each other and their supporters - which in current Democrat identity politics is impossible without arguing over who is more persecuted and thus more victimized and thus more deserving of the Oval Office.

One step below the ultimate...which would be if John Edawards was gay. Then you could have a Dem 3-Way Victimhood race - who was the more racist, misogynistic, bigoted homophobic based on the slightest criticism that crosses the hypersensitive line.....and blubbering about which of their idols like MLK, Oscar Wilde, Shepard, 100 million persecuted housewives is the Greatest and Noblist victim of all.

1/15/2008 03:44:00 AM  

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