I was disturbed by a recent discussion on my favorite cable TV news channel. Anchors and pundits were discussing the different approaches used by the Republican vs. Democratic Party in the heath care reform fight. An anchor was pressing the two guests about this difference in strategy, challenging them with the idea that the Republicans were better at this sort of thing because they were coordinated and in lockstep. The word “lockstep” was used. Every single Republican will vote the same exact way on the health care reform bill (against health care). The Democrats, on the other hand, will be more diverse in their voting patterns and are currently more diverse in their arguments and positions on various aspects of each issue. This was clearly and unquestionably seen by these youngsters (I think everyone in the conversation was under 40) as a sign of weakness in the Democratic Party and strength in the Republican Party. Lockstep = good. Diversity of opinion and open, rational dialog = bad.
Holy crap. Do people really think that?
While I agree with many of my fellow liberals that the conservative wing of the Democratic Party is annoying, I would like to point out that this diversity of opinion among Democrats is actually the STRENGTH, not the weakness of the party. Republican lockstepism is mindless zombie politics. Republicans are not allowed to act on their own, and since acting usually follows thinking, thinking is optional. Well, actually, thinking is discouraged. Just do what you are told.
When people say Rush Limbaugh is the intellectual and spiritual leader of the Republican Party, they are not joking. They are observing. People with law degrees, decades of experience in government, who have been the authors of major legislation and who have been interviewed on Meet the Press because people have wanted to hear their opinion, who have non-trivially engaged in campaigns for the highest office in the land, and so on, are dittoheads. They think and do what Rush or Hannity or whoever tells them to do. This is pathetic beyond belief.
Let me remind you of how pathetic this really is. On March 2, the head of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, was being interviewed by D.L. Hughley on CNN. Hughley was talking to the elected head of the Republican Party, and had the unmitigated gall to casually refer in that interview to Rush Limbaugh as the de facto head of the Republican Party. Steele replied that he, Steele, was the de facto head of the Republican Party, and Hughley sort of agreed (“…you know what? I can appreciate that. But….”).
Rush Limbaugh, in hearing that the elected head of the Republican Party claimed to be the de facto head of the Republican Party, and that Rush Limbaugh was not the head of the Republican Party and was instead an over-the-top entertainer, slapped him down: “It’s time, Mr. Steele, for you to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do instead of being some talking-head media star.”
Mr. Steele is recorded as having said, “Yessir, massa Limbaugh,” and then, suddenly realizing that this might sound bad, changed his tune slightly and said, “My intent was not to go after Rush — I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh … I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking … It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people… want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he’s not.” ((The Steele-Rush affair is documented at Think Progress, Salon, and The Moderate Voice. ))
Blah blah blah. Mr. Steele certainly has learned his place.
Nothing even remotely like this could have ever happened among Democrats. Democrats are diverse on purpose. I’ve written before about this, in reference to working on the Franken/Coleman senate race recount. Hanging around with a bunch of Democrats you discover what that diversity means. The Democratic Party position on abortion is a good example: The Democratic Party respects and will leave alone Roe v. Wade. Many Democrats would prefer to see anti-abortion legislation, yet they understand that this desire is not something they can really push into policy within the party. So while it may appear that the party has a single-minded view of abortion (pro-choice), this is different from what Republicans do. If the Republicans heard one of their own say, “You know, nobody really likes abortion, but a woman should have the right to choose,” what do you think would happen to that Republican? If a Democrat said, “I don’t really like Roe v. Wade,” what do you think would happen to that Democrat?
The Republican position on abortion is whatever Rush says, and you are not allowed to disagree under any circumstances. If you do disagree, you can’t be a Republican, and if you continue to disagree, threats of violence will be made against you. If you continue to disagree and have some prominence and are at a public event of some kind, people with guns will show up outside the door.
Are you listening to me? People with guns will show up if they don’t like what you are saying. You are getting that, right?
Lockstep. People with guns threatening you if they don’t like what you say. People shouting you down if they don’t like what you say. What is next?
The position on gun control across the Democratic Party is a veritable market place of ideas, while the Republican Party’s position on Gun control is lock-step and armed to the teeth. The pro-gun, anti-restriction argument is one of the oldest extant Astroturfing games. I have written many times about gun control, and I’ve expressed opinions ranging from, “I wish there were safety devices added to some guns,” to, “Ban all guns now!!!!” I’ve issued these opinions mainly as experiments, to get people talking. As I have often said, I hold no strong opinion at this time about gun control. But if you read the comments on my blog posts, you’ll see that the reaction to my statements have always been exactly the same. Astroturf. There are no brain cells working in the pro-gun lobby, just a lockstep, heavily armed opinion, enforced by a subset of spokespeople and repeated by the dittoheads.
When a Democrat fails to support the party line and is more conservative than the rest of us like, that person is labeled a Blue Dog or some other such thing, but if that is the Democrat running for office in your district at the end of the primary process, you still vote for them. For crying out loud…last election I supported a minister for one position in Congress and worked many hours for a candidate that I liked quite a bit (Ashwin Madia) but who was nothing close to as liberal as I am. If I was a Republican and my views were mainstream, I’d have vilified Madia. Instead, I respected our differences. We don’t hate each other when we are not exactly like each other. We like each other when we are different. More or less.
Republicans don’t really have town meetings. And the Republican Party is usually the mouthpiece of Teh Corporate. The only real ideology of the party, outside of continuous sucking up to the corporate entities that usually support them, is racism and libertarianism. And most true libertarians hate Republicans.
It makes sense for a small party to be narrowly focused and diligent in expressing its opinion. If we had a multiparty system, that could happen; there could be four or five parties on the left, four or five on the right. A feminist party, a green party, a libertarian party, a pro-business party, a labor party, etc. However, if there were several such parties, at some point, they would have to work together to legislate and lead. If each of these narrowly defined parties acted as the Republican Party does now, nothing would happen. Our country would be paralyzed and the Canadians would invade, and we would welcome them. (Hey, if the Canadians take over, does the Queen go on our money, or would it be the Maple Leaf or some other Canadian thing? Loons would be cool….)
One could say that a multiparty system could never work in the U.S. Or one could say that the Republicans are simply doing it wrong. Which they are. The Republican philosophy is actually quite simple: “We have to be in charge, and if we are not, we’ll act like bullies until we are.”
Well, there is a way to deal with bullies. Stand up to them.
Bite me, Republicans. I would appreciate it if you were to stop breathing my air.