Thursday, December 27, 2007

To Hell With Bipartisanship

Paul Krugman was on Charlie Rose last night (watch it), and today I find it pretty much word-for-word in Slate, although on Rose he went more into racism as a Repug get-out-the-vote tactic. As usual, I think Mr. Krugman's right on the money.

Here's a thought for progressives: Bush isn't the problem. And the next president should not try to be the anti-Bush.

No, I haven't lost my mind. I'm not saying that we should look kindly on the Worst President Ever; we'll all breathe a sigh of relief when he leaves office 405 days, 2 hours, and 46 minutes from now. (Yes, a friend gave me one of those Bush countdown clocks.) Nor am I suggesting that we should forgive and forget; I very much hope that the next president will open the records and let the full story of the Bush era's outrages be told.

Note to prison administrators and judges: One door closes, another one opens. Even with fairer crack cocaine sentencing guidelines, we can still fill all those prisons, this time with white Repug politicians and Bush cronies. Win-win!

But Bush will soon be gone. What progressives should be focused on now is taking on the political movement that brought Bush to power. In short, what we need right now isn't Bush bashing - what we need is partisanship.

OK, before I get there, a word about terms - specifically, liberal vs. progressive. Everyone seems to have their own definitions; mine involves the distinction between values and action. If you think every American should be guaranteed health insurance, you're a liberal; if you're trying to make universal health care happen, you're a progressive.

And here's the thing: Progressives have an opportunity, because American public opinion has become a lot more liberal.

He goes on to 'splain this. Go read.

The question, however, is whether Democrats will take advantage of America's new liberalism. To do that, they have to be ready to forcefully make the case that progressive goals are right and conservatives are wrong. They also need to be ready to fight some very nasty political battles.

And that's where the continuing focus of many people on Bush, rather than the movement he represents, has become a problem.

Well, you have to cut off the snake's head before you can safely make dinner and a hatband out of the rest of him, but I get his point.

But any attempt to change America's direction, to implement a real progressive agenda, will necessarily be highly polarizing. Proposals for universal health care, in particular, are sure to face a firestorm of partisan opposition. And fundamental change can't be accomplished by a politician who shuns partisanship.

I like to remind people who long for bipartisanship that FDR's drive to create Social Security was as divisive as Bush's attempt to dismantle it. And we got Social Security because FDR wasn't afraid of division. In his great Madison Square Garden speech, he declared of the forces of "organized money": "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."

So, here's my worry: Democrats, with the encouragement of people in the news media who seek bipartisanship for its own sake, may fall into the trap of trying to be anti-Bushes — of trying to transcend partisanship, seeking some middle ground between the parties.

That middle ground doesn't exist—and if Democrats try to find it, they'll squander a huge opportunity. Right now, the stars are aligned for a major change in America's direction. If the Democrats play nice, that opportunity may soon be gone.

I'll be for bipartisanship as soon as we get politicians from 'our' side who are willing to stomp the Repugs into the ground. And I mean that literally if need be. Once they are beaten, broken, exposed, jailed, crushed, cowed, and powerless, let the bipartisanship begin!

Quite frankly, I doubt if the present Democrats are capable of that. There are some outstanding individual ones of course, but as a group, a well-motivated Girl Scout troop trying to sell cookies in a seedy neighborhood is ten times braver.

There's two things you have to understand if you are going to get into a fight:

1) There is going to be blood shed. Yours and theirs. Ya gotta bring some to get some.

2) You must not think of what your opponent might do to you, only what you are going to do to him.

Corollary a) If the stakes are high enough and the matter important enough, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an unannounced ax handle to the back of your opponent's head, AKA 'ambush'. This comes in particularly handy if you are outnumbered or outgunned. Cuts the odds down.

I'll add a third: You can be as afraid as you want. Just don't let your opponent know. That's the rub - the Dems are very afraid, for what reason I do not know, and everybody knows it.

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