Post-2006 Part One: Sesame Street or Lord of the Flies?

A few years ago, there was a blackout in New York City, and it was an incredibly docile and cooperative city.  In 1977, there was a blackout in New York City, and there was widespread looting and damage, with over 1000 fires and 1616 damaged stores, and every poor neighborhood in the city suffering looting.  

You don't really get a sense of the structural integrity of a system until it falls under pressure.  In 1977, New York was a lot sicker than it was in 2004, and this became obvious when the lights went out and Lord of the Flies, as opposed to Sesame Street, began.

If the Republicans go down this year, the entire right-wing system will be put under new pressure.  Not a lot of pressure, mind you, but a marginally larger amount of pressure than the wingnuts are used to.  So we have to start asking ourselves how their system will respond.  Will they regroup quickly and counterattack in 2008, or will they fall to backbiting and infighting as they try to distance themselves from Bush, who isn't of course a real conservative.

There's a fair amount of evidence both ways.  Grover Norquist's Wednesday morning group was created to stop Clinton's health care plan in the early 1990s.  Finding their backs against the wall, the right-wing began to collaborate and innovate, taking Congress just two years later.  And yet, the opposite happened for the Democrats in 1994, where a crushing defeat saw an eight year period where Democrats ate more of their seed corn every year.

Which will happen?  Who knows?  We haven't seen them respond to pressure yet, and we won't know until the pressure is applied.  But it's still worth thinking through, and also sort of fun.

Sesame Street on the Right

Ok, so first let's put out the evidence for the Sesame Street response, where the right suddenly finds common purpose again and begins to realize why they were put on the earth in the first place, to hate liberals and gays.  

1) A New Blame Game: If the Repubicans lose the House, they will no longer have sole governing responsibility, and so they will be able to credibly claim that mistakes are not their sole fault.  Recession?  It's the liberals.  War losses?  It's the liberals.  Gridlock?  See, that's what happens if you elect Charlie Rangel-types as Committee Chairs.  

2) 2008: It's amazing how a Presidential election can refocus a party and wipe the slate clean.  The Republicans are going to want to forget about Bush, and all candidates are going to distance themselves aggressively from Bush, allowing new Congressional candidates to point out that they are genuine conservatives and not Bushniks since they are following new standard-bearer McCain/Romney/Huckabee.

3) Lots of competitive seats: Democrats will have picked up a lot of new seats, which means they will have a lot of seats to defend.  The field will be open, and Republicans will have candidates without voting records that match up to Bush 97% of the time.

4) Lots of money:  The right-wing money machine - Cato, Heritage, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, developers, etc - that's not going away, though K-Street will be somewhat crippled and the loss of Congress will hurt.

5) New hunger:  The right-wing, like any successful political movement, operates through the passionate embrace of its principles by its grassroots.  This is withering on the vine right now because Bush is so dispiriting a leader, but it's possible that having someone to fight against could spark new passion among right-wing grassroots leaders desperate to hold to some sort of power.

6) Formidable church/database infrastructure:  The basis of wingnuttia is the megachurch, which is a pagan temple dedicated to the worship of power, along with daycare, ice cream parlors, knitting clubs, and sexaholics anonymous.  These aren't going away, and they form the base of the Republican party.  In addition, the Republicans have a trained cadre of effective pollsters, operatives, field people, media buyers, and data experts who are competent and learn from their mistakes.  While this advantage is somewhat blunted in an election where targeting past behavior doesn't always work, they will learn more than we will this cycle, and they will take that going forward.

7) K-Street Finds Its Sea Legs:  With fewer relationships to the party in power than it had since maybe the 1930s, the business lobby could become desperate to see the right retake power.  I'm not sure what form this would take, but there is a lot of money in corporate America, and some well-placed threats from credible Republicans could keep K-Street part and parcel of the Republican Party.  If Democrats are really smart and effective, they will enact serious lobbying reform to change the rules of engagement so that the business lobby no longer has to play the partisan game.  Democrats probably can't get that done.

8) Rightwing Media/Netroots:  Will the right be able to turn its netroots into something formidable?  I don't think so, but it's not unreasonable to suspect otherwise.  The right-wing media has functioned effectively in opposition to Clinton - can it work effectively against a Democratically led Congress?

I'm sure I'm missing some advantages the Republicans will have.  My sense is that the biggest danger for progressives is that all the nice new Congresscritters will immediately have to start raising reelection money, and we won't be able to supply it.  That means turning to K-Street, which will then turn the party towards conservatives once again, who will then turn over the country to wingnuts in 2008.

This is all highly, highly speculative.  But it's fun, isn't it?

Tags: conservative movement, netroots, post-2006, progressive movement (all tags)

Comments

14 Comments

Pull of K-Street

... all the more reason to deny Lieberman the opportunity to be the deal-making/breaker.

Lieberman must be defeated.

by xtrarich 2006-10-16 05:55AM | 0 recs
WSJ, College Repubs

I don't know if the WSJ is any indication what's to come, but they seem to have made a decision recently that bloggers are the future.  They've been running front-page blogger stories one after the other lately.  I think we can expect FOX to try to buy some bloggers.  The worldview that it's "all about markets" is hard to shake in these folks on the right.  

Also, the Repubs have dumped a boatload of money into the College Republican movement.  Win, lose or draw in November, these college kids will be rocketing out of their semester in Washington programs to become the next Karl Roves.  So, maybe we'll see lots of diry campaiging as a result in 2010.  The College Repubs make me more nervous than anything.  I think Democrats are basically ceding University campuses to these folks and I'm not sure what to do about it.

by Jeffrey Feldman 2006-10-16 06:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Post-2006 Right: Sesame Street or Lord of the

All the power of the right gets focused on the choke point: election funding.

As long as elections are expensive and politicians are not millionaires they will dance to the tune of those paying the fiddler. In this case it is big business. This is true for the Dems as well as the Repubs. This is why people like Hillary seem to waffle so much. The need to appeal to populist voters and business interests at the same time makes for a difficult task.

Two simple changes would cause the dynamics to shift. There needs to be public funding of elections and/or restrictions on how much money can be spent, especially on TV ads. In addition the revolving door between government service and private industry needs to be eliminated. This should include congress, federal officials in policy positions, members of the military and their immediate families.

In many private industries employees sign contracts which prohibit working for a competitor and/or using any of the specialize information they have obtained while employed. The one year "ban" now in effect is useless. If this means that the salaries of key congressional staffers and department heads need to go up so that they are more competitive with private firms then this is a small price to pay for cleaning up the lobbying mess.

by rdf 2006-10-16 06:11AM | 0 recs
Free Airtime Requirements

for political candidates to discuss issues should be added for TV and radio stations.  The airwaves are a public domain, and the users of the airwaves should have to fork over a little bit of that airtime for candidates to use.

WRAL TV-5 in Raleigh, NC has done this the past couple elections.  Candidates are allowed 60 second time slots during the evening newscast to either discuss an issue of their choice or an issue selected by the station.  This has been done as a public service.

Why should radio and TV station owners reap a huge reward each fall from ever-increasing rates paid for political ads?  They should give a little back, and help to level the playing field for candidates without millions of dollars in the bank.

by Bear83 2006-10-16 06:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Post-2006 Right: Sesame Street or Lord of the

My WAG is for 6-8 months of infighting and blaming, before the big-money boys get fed up and tell everyone it's time to shut up and get back with the program.

To the extent that blogging has an influence on the right, it will actually be to undermine TPTB.  The Right is still a top-down political structure, and for those who are happy to work within that structure, the medium scarcely matters.

But there's already been some creative use of the Web by Southern Baptist bloggers to upset their denomination's status quo.  And I don't think it's going out on a limb to say this trend's gonna continue: many rank-and-file evangelicals really are sincere in their faith, and recent developments (reaction to Foleygate and Kuo's book) have completely unmasked the 'name' televangelists as GOP stooges whose motto might as well be "Party before country, country before Christ."

I don't know just how that will change things, but it will change things.  As evangelicals find new ways of self-organizing, they're going to lose interest in being part of anyone's hierarchical structure.  That will take some years to reach its full effect, and it's not like it's going to turn them into liberals or even moderates.  But they're going to be a lot less a part of anyone's political machine over time.

by RT 2006-10-16 06:39AM | 0 recs
Importance of An Agenda

The possible resurgence of the right is another reason for us to focus attention on our out-of-the-box agenda.  I think that it makes a great deal of sense to put a Veterans Defense Act, a Servicemembers Defense Act and a Guard and Reserve Defense Act at the top of that agenda.

I'm not enough of an expert on such things to say precisely what they should say, but the main thrust should be to protect them against being wantonly exploited as they have been by Bushco and the GOP.

The military should not be sent into battle without body armor--but the next time it could be something else that puts them needlessly at risk, which is why it needs the advice of others more expert than I.  OTOH, codifying the Powell Doctrine into law--and creating independent review bodies so that it's not a mere formality--would seem to be a no-brainer.  There also need to be significant safeguards against fraudulent recruiting.  You can't build a strong military based on lying to get people to join.  And there should be strengthened provisions that protect servicemembers from being put into positions where they're ordered to do things that violate international law and/or basic human decency.

Veterans need protection to ensure they get what's been promised them.  It's just that simple. Short-changing veterans is a practice that's as old as the Republic.  There were two major exceptions: the Civil War vets and the WWII vets.    Those examples show that we know how to do things right.  All it takes is the will to do so.

The Guard and Reserve have been horribly misused.  The Guard belongs at home except in rare emergencies.  Failure to follow the Powell Doctrine does not qualify.  Nor should we voluntarily choose to go to a war that will require repeated overseas deployment of the Reserve.  Limitations of how long they can be deployed need to be written into law.  If another real Pearl Harbor should ever happen, there would be no difficulty in repealing the law.  But it should be crafted in such a way the repealing it would be very unpopular with the military itself, so that a repeat of the Iraq War could not be easily engineered.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-16 06:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Post-2006 Right: Sesame Street or Lord of the

All of this may happen, but will it change the minds of Ameican Voters in just 2 short years?  I doubt it.  It takes years to change the minds of millions of people, and the minds that have been pro-republican that have now been changed to at least anti-republican, won't switch back quickly.  And all those who have switched to pro-democrat will give their change of mind a long while to settle in before they can start to accept that they need to reconsider.  So all the benenifits of the Republican Power Machine will grind in futility for quite some while before it has any effect...and it will have no effect if the Democrats wield their power in a transparent, fair and honest way.

The Republican New Coke will taste awfull, no matter how much they pour into their marketing campaign.  

by David in Burbank 2006-10-16 06:46AM | 0 recs
Breakup of the coalition ahead!!!

The biggest problem the Republicans have post-2006 is the breakdown of the coalition that they have had since the Reagan era.  In particular their fiscal indiscipline, and the demands of the fundamentalist base for satisfaction, have led the party to alienate some critical partners (the secular rich, small-government Republicans, and libertarians) to a degree that they simply can't hold their noses long enough to participate any longer.  

When you mix those factors in with the obvious incompetence of the Bush Administration, and loss of the Party's sheen as a "winner", we will see a sharp decrease in motivation to maintain the coalition.  Even the fundies may withdraw some of their activism, writing off politics as a "wordly" enterprise that corrupts the spirit.  For these reasons I anticipate more of a "Lord of the Flies" scenario.  

Besides, all the remaining Goopers have their fingerprints ALL OVER the Bush agenda, and BushCo will be stinking up the place for two more years, so plausible deniability is going to be very scarce--particularly if the Dems are sharp about picking their moves early on.  Pelosi's agenda looks like a great place to start, if you ask me--DARE the Repugs to vote against a straight up minimum wage increase!!!!  

by paul minot 2006-10-16 07:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Post-2006 Right: Sesame Street or Lord of the

A couple points...

First - I worry a lot less about K Street "finding its sea legs" than simply finding a new home.

While there's little doubt to me that the corporate brothel would prefer to wed itself it to their champions in the Republican party, I think their close knit ties were at least partially a marriage of convenience, as well.  Dollars to donuts they'll be just as happy to latch their fortunes to the Biden wing of the Democratic party, which sadly -- even with some great progressives likely to be part of the 110th congress -- still has more than their fair share of power.   You can talk about the Norquist gang uniting to stop the early 90s health initiatives - but more than 10 years on, that game has changed.   Corporate interests, I think, would by and large welcome a move towards universal coverage... especially if the cost burden falls squarely on "people taxes" rather than corporate taxes.

Setting that aside -- I look at my own little corner of the world, Illinois -- and am hopeful that we'll see a long term Republican crack-up.   Years after the party imploded around George Ryan (and keep in mind -- before Blago, despite federal successes, the state assemblies and governor mansion were fairly red... moderate red, but still red) - they're still lost in the woods.   The few hardcore conservatives got their way with the disaster that was Alan Keyes, the moderates got their way with the disaster that is Judy Barr Topinka -- and nothing's working.   If Hastert gets picked off (and I think it's becoming a 1 in 3 shot he will) - the IL GOP looks like it's going to plumb some truly unseen-before depths of irrelevance.

by zonk 2006-10-16 07:24AM | 0 recs
A lot of money in corporate America is Dem $$$

Don't forget that increasingly, both parties are viewed as having a business wing.

The GOP business wing is vewed as the wing of oldmoney.

The Dem business wing is viewed as the wing of entrepreurialism, startups, tech, innovation and research.

It happens that their business wing is stuck with relatively set resources that cannot be expanded.

Our business wing can grow without any checks.

And thanks to issues such as net neutrality, our business wing is starting to become political.

by jcjcjc 2006-10-16 07:27AM | 0 recs
Re: A lot of money in corporate America is Dem $$$

Still -

I'll not trade one set of corporate masters for another (even if the new set prides itself on slogans like 'Don't be evil').

The Fords, the Aetnas, the Glaxo-Smiths, the Merks -- they were once the new kids on the block, too.

Please don't write me off as some socialist wannabe -- I'm most certainly not -- but corporate interests generally have far too much power in our nation.   The answer isn't changing which corporate interests, rather -- it's changing the limits of their power across the board.

I readily concede it's nice to have big money players like Google and MS on 'our' side when it comes to something like net neutrality... but I just don't want to make the mistake of thinking we're now "allies"... it ain't UK/US in WWII... it's more like allies/USSR in WWII.

by zonk 2006-10-16 07:54AM | 0 recs
In defense of our allies

If the model sticks, our allies should experience much more growth and turnover, thus reducing the odds that a dependent relationship, such as Big Oil, emerges.

by jcjcjc 2006-10-17 10:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Post-2006

Will they regroup quickly and counterattack in 2008, or will they fall to backbiting and infighting as they try to distance themselves from Bush, who isn't of course a real conservative.

Democrats had better become concerned about what liberals will do about their own party's leaders who, after all, aren't real liberals or even progressives.

by Liberal Avenger 2006-10-16 08:15AM | 0 recs
Re: The House in 2008

Rove & Co. twisted a lot of arms to foreclose Republican retirements from the House this year.  If the Democrats win the House now, there are going to be a lot of Republicans who go ahead and retire in 2008 after experiencing life in the minority in the House, which is No Fun.

by InigoMontoya 2006-10-16 08:40AM | 0 recs

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