The funny thing about politics (funny sad, not funny ha ha) is that perception equals reality for most people, and our perceived “reality” then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for the country.
We have a crappy, partisan hell where nothing gets done because that is how Americans who care about politics (a pathetically small number given the relative importance of the issues involved and mostly of a certain age given the tone) assume tactical partisan warfare is most effective way to accomplish their side’s specific goals. Never mind the lack of effectiveness that such tactics have historically delivered. We have been convinced that politics is a brutal, dirty game played by brutal, dirty people incapable of empathy or compromise or an objective understanding of historical trends.
That’s the way it is. The way it will always be. So get over it, naif, pragmatism’s for sissies and losers. We’re gonna get 1960s on their republican (or democratic) asses!
Yet what happens when our situation is so dire and our position so precarious that status quo partisan politics makes it impossible to create the reality we need in order to actually survive?
Partisan politics ensured Barack Obama and the democratic party would fail to capitalize on his unprecedented victory last year as the first democrat in a generation to get more than fifty percent of the vote and a healthy chunk of republicans and conservative independents from around the country. The first democratic president since LBJ to have a shot at a true governing majority. When the democratic Congress decided to pursue the initial rounds of much-needed reforms as fait accompli, requiring no debate or discussion, they tied the president’s hands with regards to that continued outreach to grassroots conservatives as a means of crafting a governing majority.
That Obama tied his own hands first by setting unrealistic deadlines and forcing predictable (and avoidable) responses from opponents is perhaps my biggest complaint with our new president.
Which leads us back to the current debate on health care reform and why the democratic party is finding it hard to develop solutions to garner votes from republicans, given the wide-spread support for substantive reform at the grassroots of both parties. The so-called Blue Dogs get a lot of grief from the left wing of their party, but I would submit that the legislation emerging from Congress right now represents a huge win, even with no republican support. I think the final bill may get more republican votes than seems apparent today. They still have their own constituents to make happy and many will demand an explanation once the final legislation is going to the floor and seems reasonable and logical.
Partisan politics keeps us from making that essential connection today and has become the sole province of the most fervent followers of both parties, leaving the 80% silent majority of both parties who won’t bother to vote in next year’s midterm primaries to wonder why this country keeps falling farther and faster than ever before. It will leave the 70% silent majority of both parties who won’t vote in a primary election during a presidential year to wonder why it is always the choice between the lesser of two evils when they decide to show up in November.
Fixing this problem will be the work of a generation and not a single man, no matter how charismatic or misunderstood.
Where the political junkies of the world can make a difference is by learning to communicate more effectively here at TPM in an effort to develop the right voice for having similar discussions in the real world. I would see political moderates around here become pebbles of change dropped into the pond of the common narrative happening over the backyard fence rather than across well-drawn partisan channels on the Internet. Those moderates who are part of the 20% who will vote in next year’s primaries need to commit to dragging at least one person (or two or three) to their local polling place along with them.
Sustainable change in this country has always happened from the bottom up, requiring much more than the political fringes to deliver and maintain.