When you are involved in politics there is often a level of paradox. There is the need to stand firm on your agenda, yet there is the requirement of being open to compromise if you are to get that agenda enacted. There is the need for cold, hard eyed realism, yet there must be passion to push forward, even when it looks as though you are going to lose. It all seems to come down to the idea of balance, the Yin and the Yang, constantly opposed, yet each needed to balance the other, if there is to be a harmonious whole.
“Originally posted at Squarestate.net“
This exists at the macro level as well as the individual. The system of governance our nation has created is really based on the need for a loyal opposition. As others have said, at this point I have kind of given up on loyal, the Dog would be happy if we could have a sane opposition. Still it is instructive to see what has become of the Republican Party over the last 15 years, as they have gone from being conservative to bat-crap crazy. There are lessons for the Liberal and Progressive parts of the Democratic Party as well.
The arch of the last 15 years, from the Republican take over of the House in the so-called Republican Revolution to last nights shameful sight of Republican Rep. Joe Wilson shouting out at the President of the United States “You lie!” in the middle of an address to the Joint Session of Congress is a pretty clear one. If we look back to 1994 and the tactics used by the Republicans we can see how this all started.
At that time we had a President who did not win the White House by a majority of the vote. With Ross Perot and President Bush splitting the conservative vote, President Clinton became president by a plurality not a majority. It was also a time in our history when the nation was trending more conservative, moving away from Liberal ideas and policies.
Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House, in part, using language we had never heard from a one political party about another. He is the one who urged Republicans to start talking about Democrats as “traitors”. This may not seem particularly strong from today’s standards, but think about that charge for a second. Treason is the one and only crime defined in the Constitution. It was defined and made specific because the Framers had just fought a Revolution during which, if they lost, they would all be charged with treason against the Crown. Part of the reasons for declaring their independence was the arbitrary way treason was used to suppress political dissent in England. The Framers wanted to be sure this would not be the case in their new nation.
Article Three, Section Three of the Constitution reads:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
The misuse of this charge never brought in court only used in the press and speeches, lead to two important aspects of the new Republican Majority. First off, it demonized Liberals in such a way that a generation of Democrats has run away from the title of Liberal. Second it created the image, both inside and outside the Republican Party that they were the “real Americans” the defenders of our nation from these traitorous Liberals.
The assimilation of this idea of Democrats as traitors has allowed a whole line of reasoning to evolve over time that has made the base of the Republican Party and its elected officials more and more radical. If your opposition is not loyal, if they are traitorous to the very nation you live in, then almost no tactic or talking point is off limits. “They are traitors and they are betraying us! Why should we be reasonable or compromise or even be in any way fair to traitors?” goes the thinking. This leads them be able believe insane things like the Clintons had Vince Foster killed, accept that it is appropriate to try to impeach a President for lying about sex, or any of the things which they used to spin themselves up about.
The Dog believes at the time it was just a means to an end for the business wing of the Republican party, use this side show to achieve their goals of ending welfare and deregulating banking and finance. The problem with this kind of tactic is it is very easy to become addicted to the high of anger, the fire of being righteously indignant, and like any addiction it can only be satisfied by more intense highs. This was the start of the long road to insanity for the Republican Party.
When the 9/11 attacks happened it fed right into the meme the Republican’s had been building for themselves. They were the only ones who understood how to protect this nation (even though the attacks happened during a Republican Presidency and in part because of their failure to take the threats seriously). This allowed them to paint anyone who was opposed to their actions are traitorous. The drum beat from talk radio on this meme was so strong a book actually claiming to detail a 60 year arch of Liberal treason by Ann Coulter spent 13 weeks on the New York Times best seller list. The acceptance of Liberal as traitor, at least among the Right, was complete.
Now it became okay to ruin careers of pop artists like the Dixie Chicks if they were so bold as to express their discontent with the President in public. It was completely acceptable for main stream media to repeat, without challenge the claims of the Bush Administration officials that those opposed to our war of choice in Iraq were similar to those who counseled appeasement with the Nazi’s.
The meme of Conservatives as the protectors of the nation was so strong that when the news of massive warrentless wiretapping broke, most of the nation shrugged and thought, well if you don’t have anything to hide, then you have nothing to worry about. At this point we began to see the next level of this spiral of insanity emerge, the acceptance of the eliminationist fantasy as political discourse. It became acceptable on the hard core Right to talk about someone putting lye in the latte of Supreme Court Justices or the killing of Democratic politicians. We would still remove people like Don Imus from his show for making racist remarks, but people like Ann Coulter could go on Good Morning America and denigrate the 9/11 widows almost without cost.
As the war in Iraq dragged on and it became clearer and clearer that the Bush Administration we basically a bunch of incompetent boobs, some of the nation began to wake up and become uncomfortable with this level of hate and anger, but there were still the hard core Republican who not only accepted this kind of speech, but craved more in their addicted state.
In 2006 the Democrats took back both Houses of the Congress. Instead of learning the lesson of this rebuke by the voters, the Republican Party looked at this through the lens of their addiction to anger and passion and decided they needed to do more of this, not less. The result was rather predictable, they not only lost the Presidency in the next election as they worked the tiered memes of anger and fear, and they lost ground nationally. This led to their Representatives and Senators being the hardest of hard core acceptors of the memes of traitorous Liberals.
This summer we have been treated to the horrible sight of senior United States Representatives and Senators saying “You are a great American” to those saying they are Right wing terrorists. We have seen them feeding the fear that a insurance plan which the government would offer is somehow a take over of medicine in this nation. We have had them condoning the bringing of weapons to Town Hall events. We have not seen a single one condemn the disorder and disrespect shown to elected officials and those with opposing views.
All of which leads us to last nights inexcusable outburst by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-Crazytown). This is a man who has been so normalized to angry outbursts, so accustomed to shouting down any opposition that he felt perfectly comfortable with shouting “you lie!” at the President of the United States. To the Dog this is the very nearly the end point of this arch. The Republican Party has shrunk to the point where it is on the verge of dissolution. There is not much that could damage the Republican Party brand more than this incident and the failure of Rep. Wilson to resign in complete disgrace. The Dog doubts he will do so which means they will give tacit approval to this kind of behavior, which will feed their insane base even more. What this will lead too is frankly scary to contemplate, but the Dog will leave that for another day.
The point the old hound would like to make for Liberals and Democrats is the dangers of too much passion and anger in our own rhetoric and thinking. There is no doubt we have reasons to be angry. There is no doubt the opposition we face is incredibly well funded, well organized and completely lacking in any moral or ethical constraints in the tactics they will use to appose our agenda. However, this can not become an excuse to constantly and completely demonize them. It is a sad fact there a many of their adherents who are uninformed and completely mislead by their leadership. This in and of itself does not make them bad people, it merely makes them foolish. If we are to do better, if we are to have any chance of really governing this nation, then we have to be better than the opposition, as insane as it has become. There is a power in passion, but the fire of hate and disdain for your opposition. It can activate and engage the base of any party, but any fire consumes its fuel. If that fuel is the political movement you belong too, then this is a self-defeating tactic.
We can see what it has done to the Republican Party; we do not want it to do the same to the Democratic Party or the Liberal/Progressive movement.
The job of governing a nation of 305 million citizens is too important to allow the kind of unbalanced thinking and action that the Republican Party has engaged in to become the norm. We need our passion; it is what brings us to action, but also need our cool, hard-eyed appraisal of realty to balance that fire. Without balance Yin overwhelms Yang and all is darkness. So in the end we come back, as all things seem to do, to balance. With one Party seeming to descend into insanity becomes our job to be the reasonable and sane ones. Don’t give into the temptation to be like our opponents, they have traded long term effectiveness for short term wins, and all it cost them was their national status and their ability to view the world as it is. We should not pay this price, ever.
Be passionate about our issues, but remember none of them will ever be complete, none of them will ever get done instantly and above all those who don’t agree with us, no matter how crazed they become are not traitors to their nation, they are merely out of control and need to put in a time out until they can regain the balance required to actually participate in the governance of a nation, our nation.
The floor is yours.