It is sad, really.
I am a political junkie. I have been for as long as I can remember. I believe it was in 7th grade where I received my first detention hall punishment for turning my yellow “Support Our Troops” ribbon into an anti-war message. That was during the first Gulf War, and my interest never waned. At 16 I handed out campaign literature at a polling location in Martinsburg, PA, supporting soon to be President Clinton and other Democratic candidates while doing volunteer work for the AFL-CIO. Martinsburg is a farming community of about two thousand a short drive away from Altoona. It is a beautiful rural area, and like the vast majority of rural Pennsylvania, it is very conservative. Still, people were polite to my fellow volunteer and I, with a fair number of Republican voters striking up conversations with the two of us, not to debate politics, but rather just to say it was nice to see young people taking an interest in the nations system of government.
Even after I started to fill my veins with poison, I held onto my interest in politics. For those of you who have never seen the inside of a cell, believe me when I say you die a million little deaths when you are locked up. One such death that I will never forget was the re-election of King George the W. It haunted me, with my mind overwhelmed with unrealistic “what-if” scenarios; would the result have been the same if I would have been working the phones, going door to door, handing out literature, putting up signs, casting my ballot instead of being locked away? Rationally, of course I realized that one more person working against Bush wouldn’t have swung the election; that Kerry was a flawed candidate who wasn’t prepared to deal with the dirty tactics perfected by Karl Rove’s merry men with the character assassination of John McCain during the previous election cycle. And of course, perhaps most importantly, I didn’t live in Ohio anyway.
It is a subject that I love. It fascinates me, the strategy, the tactics, the struggle for a majority of votes for the honor of representing a portion of the population, in order to work for the good of the nation.
So what went so wrong?
Yes, I am a registered Democrat. For the longest time, I was an independent. I switched in order to vote in primary elections. Do not, however, equate my registration with blind allegiance to the party line. As much noise as Fox News and other conservative media outlets may make about the socialist, liberal, communist tendencies of the Democratic party, the truth, as any liberal realizes, is the party has been steadily moving to the right for years. Obama’s stance on executive power is Bush’s wet fever dream; one that Bush never would have dared to reach for. The Affordable Care Act is not socialized medicine, it is a Republican plan that benefits private insurers. Mitt Romney is the plans primary creator.
It is not a secret why the Democratic party is drifting right. The party knows that it has people like me by the short hairs. When it comes to election day, what am I going to do? Vote Republican? No, the Democrats know that as long as they keep supporting equality and freedom of choice, we have no where else to go, no matter how repulsive the rest of the platform becomes. And every time the threat to break away, to cast our votes off to a third party becomes more than idle whispers, two words are enough to whip us back into line; “Ralph Nader.”
While the party has us, lock, stock, and barrel, they have every reason to swerve to the right. Because for the party as an entity, it is not about governing policy, integrity, morals, or a idea of how the nation should be run. Rather, it is about power; taking control and keeping it in anyway possible. As the GOP continues their self-destructive game of “I’m more conservative than you,” the moderates and the independents are suddenly without a political home. And since, for the Democrats, our stance on the issues is no where near as important as holding on to power as long as possible, a rightward we will go, to pick up those now abandoned.
I’ve said it many times here at the blog. I want a strong Republican party. I do not believe a two party democracy can succeed without two strong parties. You need an opposition; conflict clarifies. Our policies should be battle hardened, not rubber stamped. The current GOP, no matter what their media bubble tells them, is currently committing suicide. The only question is if it is a murder/suicide as well, with the victim being our method of government. For what can a two party, representative democracy do when one party refuses to acknowledge the results of national elections? When one party makes obstructionism their primary, in fact, only tactic? When one party is so opposed to the very idea of government, that they are willing to hold the very government hostage as a bargaining chip? Where they are willing to harm the nations credit rating and the nations image on the world stage to score political points?
No matter what the election result, no matter what the polling data, no matter what, the answer for the base of the GOP is always the same; the candidate wasn’t conservative enough. The elected members of the GOP who are willing to work across the aisle are put on notice; the Tea Party is watching you. Compromise, and get primaried. There is no room for working together for the good of the nation any longer. Ideological purity trumps all. Stories like this latest example used to make me laugh. From the Salon:
The powers that be in the Arizona Republican party are none too happy with renegade John McCain who, in their eyes, appears to have gone soft. On Saturday, the party formally censured the senator, citing his “insufficiently conservative” voting record and support for issues “associated with liberal Democrats,” like immigration reform and Obamacare.
State party spokesman Tim Sifert told the Associated Press that the resolution, which characterized McCain’s record as “disastrous and harmful” to the state and nation, was approved during a meeting of state committee members in Tempe. “Only in times of great crisis or betrayal is it necessary to publicly censure our leaders,” it read. “Today we are faced with both. For too long we have waited, hoping Senator McCain would return to our Party’s values on his own. That has not happened.”
There was a time, not too long ago, where this story would bring forth nothing but snark. I would make some quip about McCain going rogue, point, laugh, and perhaps make it into a “Wait, What?!?” This is John McCain, after all. The GOP’s presidential candidate in 2008, responsible for raising Sarah Palin to national prominence, forever altered by the smear campaign ran by Bush and Rove in the run up to the 2000 election. Before that fateful primary season, McCain was seen as a renegade by many, one who would put the good of the nation ahead of the good of the party. But that was a long time ago. The current McCain is a bitter hawk, and while still a member of the old guard, hence willing to cross the aisle to pass legislation, he hardly deserves to be censured for his voting record. The GOP is begging for comparisons to past fascist parties with these purity tests. And once I would have found it hilarious.
Now, just sad. Why?
Because in a way, the far right has already won. Sure, they lost on some issues. The current GOP may never be able to win a national election again unless they change their policies. The farther to the right they run, the more moderates slowly back away.
But after the 2010 elections and census, they have gerrymandered the House into practically permanent GOP control, and wrapped up more than a few states in the same way. While Pennsylvania has been a reliably blue state in the last several national elections, the newly drawn districts leave me with little hope that the GOP will ever not control the state congress. With the state congress wrapped up, they are free to work on ways to subvert the will of the people statewide. Voter ID, which was admittedly a naked attempt to turn PA red in a national election, has been defeated in the courts, but that is not the only threat to democracy in PA. The latest GOP lovechild is a plan to split the electoral votes by congressional district, a plan that would hand the majority of PA’s electoral votes to the GOP candidate every election, even with the Democratic candidate carrying the state as a whole. None of this is about ideological purity. It is all about the same sickness that the Democratic party suffers from; a desire for power, and once power is achieved, a desire to hold onto that power no matter the cost. How many times a day do you hear about the GOP complaining about how much money the Government spends? Yet how much tax money was spent by Gov. Corbett in an attempt to disenfranchise majority Democratic voters through voter id? Remember, they admitted it was a political partisan move. They also admitted that there was no problem with in person voter fraud, the only type of voter fraud Voter ID laws would help stop. In order to halt a non-problem, so honestly, in order to gain a political advantage, Corbett and the state GOP was willing to spend tax dollars on an deceptive ad campaign touting the new law even after the courts put it on hold, and spent tax dollars indiscriminately to attempt to defend the law. Ask yourself, ideologically, is that what the GOP thinks government should be spending your money on?
And even if they fail with voter id, which it appears that they will, and if they fail with plans to split electoral votes by their own gerrymandered district lines, which appears to be a non-starter, hopefully, they can still claim at least one victory.
By venturing into the land of batshit insanity, by jumping multiple sharks, by making ideological purity a requirement in the party, they have pulled the nation as a whole farther to the right than I ever could have imagined. The further they slid into insanity, the more the center moved rightward. The more rightward the center drifted, the Democrats were quick to claim the vacated space.
Until now our landscape is one where a horrible right wing solution to the healthcare crisis is now considered “socialist” by a depressingly large portion of the electorate. Where a President who illegally spies on the citizens of his own nation while using drones to kill and maim not only enemy combatants, but “enemy” civilians as well is routinely smeared as a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
If they call their own policies from 10 years ago communism now, what reaction would true progressive ideas face?