Saturday, January 05, 2008

Yesterday's Battles

I find it fascinating that, as the Republican Party disintegrates under the centripetal forces of its various factions spinning around looking for a Reagan or Gingrich to lead them, many liberals and progressives are sounding the "they're still dangerous" horn. The most coherent piece is this one by tristero at Hullabaloo. There have been many, many others - Alternet is rife with articles warning of theocratic Reconstructionists who want to (gasp!) end abortion, put mandated Christian prayers in public schools, and define the United States as a Christian nation.

The problem with all these articles, essays, and blog posts is simple - they were all written twenty-five and more years ago, in different forums, saying the same things, sounding the same alarms, and everyone shook their head and insisted that "it can't happen here". Now that their moment in the sun has come and gone, we are warned that the most virulent strain of American conservatism may still toss a spanner in the works and destroy the last vestiges of American democracy. "Florida!", "Ohio!", "Voting Machines!" are all recalled as if these were not each unique moments in American history, or processes that are already overcome by new technologies. While the right is howling madly on the national stage, the truth should be pretty clear - we are witnessing the final death convulsions of the dominance of American conservatism.

The election will not be canceled. There will be no post-election shenanigans, or even election-day shenanigans, a la Florida or Ohio in '04. I'm surprised some conspiracy mongers aren't warning of the turnout numbers for the Democratic candidates in the Iowa caucuses; the top three Democratic contenders all received more votes than Mike Huckabee; apparently, this is a sign that Republicans, guided by evil spirits and Washington insiders, planted themselves in Democratic precinct caucuses around Iowa to support the potentially most electable Democratic candidate in 34 years. Sounds good right up until the end.

The reason they aren't spouting this kind of stuff is simple - American politics, except in rare, extreme circumstances (Connecticut in '06, when Republicans flocked to Joe Lieberman), doesn't work that way.

Furthermore, all the nonsense about authoritarian personalities misses the point that most Americans are not so much scared as disdainful of the kind of authoritarianism represented by the Bush Administration. The American people have turned away from the President, his Administration, and his lack of any policy center. They want not so much change, but a government that actually responds to their needs - kind of like what we had before Bill Clinton was elected, and the Republicans decided that they'd rather exercise power than govern. It may be true that there are people in the United States willing to submit to authority; for the most part, though, we thumb our noses at authority, and sneer at people who grovel at the feet of power.

There is far too much of this kind of thing out there. I think we need to take a clear look our our current historical moment; we are living in what is perhaps the most exciting, indeed revolutionary, moment, certainly in my lifetime. The entire shape of the American electorate is changing before our eyes. This is no time to warn of the imminent threat of Christian Reconstructionists. This is the time to realize the old rules, old labels, old rhetoric, don't apply anymore.

I have been saying this kind of thing for a while. In the summer of '06, I was saying the Christian Right should toss the Republicans overboard because they haven't delivered. Last summer, I said that I thought we might be moving towards realignment. It seems that only now, as the Huckabee/Obama wins start to sink in, is it becoming clear that I was right on both counts - but even I had no idea how shocking things would appear once the clarity of events took hold.

A year from now, as the Democratic President-elect finalizes his/her cabinet, and the new Congress starts to elect its leaders, and the press blathers on about the lack of a role for Republicans in a Democratic Administration, and the exclusion from leadership of "Democrat" Joe Lieberman, I wonder - will it have sunk in, to the fear mongers on the right and the conspiracy-mongers on the left, that the American people might actually know what they are about, and that elections really can be about change?

We shall see.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More