The two anti-parties

Some believe that the Democratic party is united like it hasn’t been since Roosevelt, but note that Bush’s base seems to be holding steady around 45% as well, so is this unusual unity or just a core, a base, hanging together even when going off the cliff together?

I ask this because I’m starting to think that the dialectic between Republican and Democrat has played out so far that each party has essentially turned inside out twice, switched regions, traded demographics, and exchanged voting blocs with the ultimate result that neither party fully exists except as a bulwark against the other its identity has evolved to oppose.

For example, the unity of Democrats now is anti-Bush unity and more largely anti-Republican unity. If Kerry wins, get ready for fragmentation several orders of magnitude larger than the Dean diaspora of this spring.

Similarly, I may now be able to find articles written by Clinton-hating conservatives, asserting that Bush is a disaster and Republicans are blinding themselves to apparent truth and send them to my utterly reasonable at times liberal progressive conservative and reactionary father and possibly convince him not to vote for Bush, but I still won’t be able to convince him to vote for Kerry.

I was having lunch with Kos on Friday, as part of the work on my book (he claimed to recognize the name “Edgewise,” which was kind of him!) and we talked about the low turnout in US elections and the way campaigns are run to expel all of the undecideds (sort of like the way juries get picked, come to think of it) and then turn out the base. We can keep Bush’s negatives up, we in the Democratic (meaning anti-Republican party), but we can’t prevent the Republicans (anti-Democrats) from driving up Kerry’s negatives to a similar degree, regardless of the underlying ‘facts on the ground’.

My father’s father ran for congress in Philadelphia as a New Dealer in the 30s and lost to “an illiterate Republican.” Arlen Specter replaced another Democratic family member of mine in his climb to the senate. My father somehow reacted against the corruption of machine politics and became a Republican when he moved to New York. His drift, voting for Nixon in ’72 and living to regret it, then voting for Reagan, against Clinton, for Bushes with no regrets, matched that of his demographic profile as a northeastern Catholic.

When I point out problems with his Republican bedfellows, he simply outlines his view of a failed, corrupt, decadent, socialistic, nonwhite-favoring Democratic party “that left him.”
So there is my dad in the anti-Democrat party. Maybe he’ll vote for Nader. I can only hope. Then there’s me in the anti-Republican party, ambivalent about my own bedfellows but crystal clear on what I’m against.

Is this the end or is this how parties always renew themselves?

(Note: Kos said a lot of other interesting things too, and I took some notes but mostly I’m going to have to go on memory. Regardless, I will publish an official version of the Interview over at the Power of Many blog.)



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2 responses to “The two anti-parties”

  1. Boris Khadinov Avatar
    Boris Khadinov

    Interesting approach here. I’m looking forward to next installment.
    I think the main problem is that we essentially have only two parties. If we had a true mulit-party system, in which compromises must be struck among parties in order to set priorities and get things done, the notion of black/white, right/wrong, patriot/traitor wouldn’t be so strong and the media wouldn’t be so quick to help us polarize into opposing corners. Politicians couldn’t do it, the media couldn’t facilitate it, and the public couldn’t be so lazy about picking affiliations.

  2. xian Avatar

    I think that’s right on, Boris. We have a Model-T style democracy where most of the world has figured out the proportional representation helps consensus building.
    I see they’re experimenting with instant runoff voting in San Francisco. We’ll need a Democratic alliance with “third” parties to get that through everywhere.