Saturday, April 22, 2017

Unity In Opposition

     There have been many expressions of opinion, both from the Punditocrats of the Legacy Media and from prominent figures in the Internet Commentariat, to the effect that Republicans are more comfortable with being an opposition minority than with being the governing majority. To be sure, ample evidence would seem to support this assessment. However, the evidence militates toward another conclusion even more strongly.

     Everyone is more comfortable in opposition than in ascendancy. A look at the suddenly unified Democrat opposition confirms that.

     Consider the advantages that accrue to the opposition party:

  • It gets the “underdog’s” share of popular sympathy;
  • It’s not expected to originate legislation or policy initiatives;
  • It can represent itself as not responsible for what the governing party does;
  • It can oppose any proposition from the governing party with generalities, never going beyond them.

     The governing party, in contrast, is expected to govern. It’s also expected to redress government’s failures and is held responsible for any delays, difficulties, or side effects in the process, even if they’re the consequences of the other party’s time in power. And of course, the governing party’s proposals require support by reason and evidence. The opposition can treat the majority and its initiatives with slander and contempt, especially if the media are on the opposition’s side.

     If there’s anything at all nebulous about this, it’s the GOP’s longstanding reluctance to fully exploit the opposition’s advantages when in the minority. The Democrats, plainly, feel no such reluctance. But the dynamic that currently prevails in American politics should be quite clear.

     Before November 8, 2016, the Democrats were a party at odds with itself. The Clinton Machine’s dominance of its operations was more apparent than real. The unwillingness of the Obamunists to give the party’s “anointed” presidential candidate uncompromising support was made manifest by Obama’s unwillingness, during the primary period, to endorse Hillary Clinton over her surprisingly potent rival, nominal Independent Bernie Sanders. Add to that the disdain felt for Clinton by the Kennedy / Kerry loyalists, and the fragmentation of the party, which weakened its volunteer-recruitment and voter-turnout efforts, becomes plain.

     Clinton’s strategic choices didn’t help much. She, aware that her pose of “pragmatism” after the fashion of her husband didn’t sit well with the increasingly agitated and demanding left wing of the party, refrained from addressing substantive matters of policy in preference for windy generalities and attacks upon her opponents, virtually from the inauguration of her candidacy to November 8. When our talking heads criticize her campaign as “without a message,” they’re fingering the results.

     It is vital to remember that the elections of 2016 were ones the Democrats fully expected to win, especially after Donald Trump emerged victorious from the Republican primaries. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been as much competition for the nomination or contention over the party platform. Neither would there be so much finger-pointing inside the Democrat Party today over its failures, including its failure to elect the first female president after having elected the first non-white president.

     Once the Democrats had recovered somewhat from the shock of the Republican victories, its several factions could unite on a single overriding purpose: Stop Trump and the GOP. Note that a Democrat doesn’t need to articulate a specific reason to oppose the Trump Administration or the GOP’s initiatives in Congress. They’re the adversary; that is sufficient. The behavior of the increasingly erratic Charles Schumer, than whom no Senate Minority Leader has been more destructive to his party’s long-term interests, testifies to the intensity of the commitment.

     When a Capitol Hill Democrat is asked for a reason for his anti-Republican, anti-Trump vitriol – and given the biases of the Legacy Media, that’s an infrequent occurrence – he can invoke any of the emotional shibboleths of his party: “compassion,” “fairness,” “discrimination,” “racism,” “inequality,” and so forth. He’s unlikely to be pressed for details; the “Democrat operatives with bylines” that cover them know better than to demand detailed, well-analyzed arguments, as they usually can’t stand up under scrutiny.

     Concerning the sluggish, barely chugging economy the years of Democrat hegemony have bequeathed to the GOP, no Democrat will shoulder the least sliver of the responsibility, even though the Democrat-dominated Congress of 2007-08 made a slump inevitable and the economic lunacies of the Obama Interregnum transformed the slump from a temporary setback to a decade-long depression. Neither will any Democrat accept any of the odium for the resurgence of racial and ethnic tensions the Obama regime precipitated with its blatantly racist approach to law enforcement. Nor will they hear any criticism over the damage to America’s international standing and the soundness of its alliances during those years. The Republicans have been in power for ninety-two days; why haven’t they fixed all this stuff yet?

     The Republicans are not blameless in all this. They acquiesced far too willingly to Democrat control of Washington, even after they’d achieved state-level dominance and regained majorities in both houses of Congress. Even today, with the White House in their hands once again, they’re prone to the Go-Along Republicanism of the years from FDR through Carter: “We can do it cheaper.” But in a period characterized by hostility toward the political Establishment and widespread demands to “turn the country around,” this is not a formula for popular support or acclaim.

     Governing is not easy for those who lack the courage to withstand the barbs of the opposition. It gets harder when the demands peak for the reversal of previous policies and the adoption of new directions, and harder still when the satellite powers – the media; the lobbyists; the corporate clients; the big donors – are maneuvering for a continuation of What Has Been Done Before, even if it must be draped in sheep’s clothing.

     But that’s the bargain. It would be easy enough for the GOP to return to an opposition minority, expected to deliver nothing but criticism of the Democrats. Over the next four years, the behavior of their caucuses and party strategists will tell us if that’s the role they really want.

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