Wednesday, February 03, 2010

From GOP to Pop! Pow!

Winger talking heads and Boston Herald columnists alike are fairly soiling their Depend® diapers in squealing excitement. We're about to have a Republican U.S. Senator from here for the first time since Edward Brooke snuck away in a fusillade of allegations, personal and financial.

This Scott Brown is easy to ridicule. He was also nearly useless as a state senator. However, most obviously, on the surface, he is pretty in a two-pint beer goggles way and as my high-school chum Paula Delancey used to say, "Sometimes pretty is enough."

Of course, what gets the right panting is that he is at least a partial antidote to the GOP diseases. Effeteness is a chronic and bad one. Finally most Americans admitted that Republican politicians and the party were ineffective and out of ideas. In fact, most looked at the legacies of the Reagan and Bush 1 and 2 periods for the economic, diplomatic and policy disasters they were. We did want to be believe we could have guns and butter, we really did want to think that borrow-and-spend debt accumulation was somehow not taxation and national destruction. No matter how many times we click our heels or they sprinkle their elephant dust, those weren't, aren't and won't be true.

The party and wingers should, in fact, revel in this victory. In their glee that has been stifled so long and so often, they do extrapolate too far and wide though. That Brown's win came in the stereotypical liberal, Democratic Massachusetts is allegedly proof of the GOP's renewed mojo. This goes far beyond counting chickens before the eggs hatch. This victory is supposed to show that Americans are willing to forgive decades of GOP failures. As portent, many times too much rests on the jutting Play-Doh® chin of soon-to-be-Senator Brown.

Instead let us reflect on two key political and cultural issues:
  1. As Aasif Mandvi so cruelly and brilliantly portrayed it on the Daily Show (see 'possum symbol for the DNC and click the clip below), the GOP doesn't have to kill the Dems — "We're already dead." Congressional Dems have not pressed their agenda, much less forced it.
  2. Then in this commonwealth, there is in fact a political portent, but it almost certainly will not be massive Republican victories in 2010 and 2012 Massachusetts elections. Instead, it is past time to flush the DINOs out and end up with a real GOP here.
Depending on whether you count registered voters or actual ones, prima facie Republicans are under 16% of the electorate and about 10% of the legislature. Again at first glance, that seems very Democratic and undemocratic. Of course, a slim majority of voters are unenrolled in any party. They tend to vote for Dems most often, in no small part because typical Republican candidates are gormless and without a meaningful platform, and in many elections, no GOP pol is on the ballot.

More important, we have ended up with a large DINO base. While the rest of the nation looks at how the Dems outweigh the GOP in voter registration among that 49% of affiliated voters, they are badly deceived. For example, we almost always go for Dems for President, but trade off on our own governors by party. Many voters love the idea that if only the executive branch is a different party, somehow that's a magical check against political abuses. You may pause to laugh derisively now, but that has been a solid campaign strategy for the local GOP for decades here. Also, for legislative offices, when half-way decent Republicans run, they get like 40% to 49% of the vote. The tipping point on many races is within reach.

As we are seeing though, they could actually have a platform and candidates. For the commonwealth, it is probably more significant that 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie "Don't Ask About the Big Dig" Baker has been shoveling contributions into his wheelbarrows. Cynics note how much comes from such toxic interests as health-care giants, but it's still the cash he wants for media buys and such.

A strong showing in November by Baker could be much more meaningful for the health of two-party politics here than the Senatorial race. For one, even if Brown sticks in office and doesn't stupidly run for Prez or VP in 2012 or 2016, it's likely to be a long time before Sen. John Kerry's seat is up for grabs. More important, big contributions to and votes for Baker and maybe some MA legislators might rouse the DINOs from their caves.

Shadow Republican Party

It seems pretty plain that closet Republicans and conservative Dems run as Democrats for practical reasons. They bet that GOP candidates will lose, that voters just don't have the stomach for smearing those ovals.

If and when it becomes politically safe to say, "Oh, I realized I have more in common with GOP positions. I'm changing registration," that could seriously change the rules, methods and of course numbers here.

Many wealthy suburbs and rural areas lean a bit right anyway. The election returns short of Presidential votes show that. They often have surprisingly reactionary pols, at least on social issues. We've seen quite a few who sponsor those anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-SSM and other I'm-agin-it legislation.

How much cleaner it would be if those legislators could put on their trunks and come trumpeting out of the political closet. Wowsers, would the complexion and discourse change if voters had more choice than GOP clowns on one side and self-interested Dems on the other.

That would also sharpen the games of both sides. Finally, Republicans would have to stop being the party of no and put some real ideas on the table. They like sniping at the Dems and have been terrified to present anyting meaningful. When their answer to all Dem initiatives is we like it the way it was, they bore us into defeating them.

Dems too would have to commit. If they really want to contrast themselves, they'd have to advance progressive and populist proposals. Amusingly, they have allowed the party of plutocrats to pretend to be populists, when their policies mean to suck the blood from the middle and working class and chew on their bones.

People should have a choice. Some will go with fantasies, like give up more of your liberties and we'll make you absolutely safe from terrorists or that perennial one that you can have guns and butter because our economy will grow in an endless spiral if you give your money to the wealthy.

If voters here had the incentive to affiliate with a party, we'd see those and other big changes. We'd see a lot more ownership. With that would come financial and other support for GOP candidates, particularly if those were former Dem legislators.

We have had a shadow Republican party here for far too long. It's much larger than the piddling 15% or so GOP registration. It's the lawmakers and voters who lean right enough if only they got the choices.

A more honest GOP/Dem enrollment would make it harder for the Democrats, but that's not bad. They'd have to be real Dems, real progressives, real politicians.

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