Monday, February 29, 2016

Quickies: Parties And Ideologies

     Today, Michael Barone notes a pattern that won’t surprise you:

     Many commentators have noted that the Democrat primary and caucus electorate in the three contests held so far is much more liberal than its counterpart when the Democrats last had a contest eight years ago. That's true: The percentage of liberals among Democratic electorates has increased from 54 percent to 68 percent in the Iowa caucuses, from 57 percent to 68 percent in the New Hampshire primary and from 45 percent to 70 percent in the Nevada caucuses.

     Barone, a cautious and circumspect writer, provides numbers to support his contention. Still, it strikes me as a “dog bites man” story: not newsworthy in the conventional sense of being something the reader wouldn’t otherwise have known. “Democrat == liberal?” Okay, but...isn’t liberalism the Democrat platform? Why would there be Democrats who aren’t liberals? Wouldn’t they belong somewhere else?

     Ordinary people expect a party to be something more than a vote-maximizing machine. The expectation might be incorrect – an institution’s highest priority must be to preserve itself and, after that, to grow – but it’s a natural consequence of political rather than market-style competition. A political position, such as is represented by a political party, is supposed to be ideologically based. That is, it’s supposed to be founded on a set of interlocking values, principles, and convictions, from which its more specific recommendations are derived.

     To me, the notion of a non-ideological political party is inherently contradictory. What would it offer to the electorate? The more photogenic crop of candidates? The richer set? Or perhaps the set with better hair stylists?

     Let us now turn from the Democrats to the Republicans. If the United States has a non-ideological major party, that’s where you’ll find it. “Big tent” nostrums have caused the GOP to embrace so many mutually contradictory positions and their proponents that it’s come to represent approximately nothing. Limited government? Low taxes? A hands-off attitude toward business and commerce? Respect for the right to life? Support for public decency? You’ll find prominent Republicans on every side of each of these, some who’ll espouse one stance in their speeches but when the roll is called will throw their support to the opposite...and a few supposed Republicans who take positions on all of them indistinguishable from the postures of the Democrats.

     It’s as if the GOP lacks a platform, or any common conviction around which its members are united. Perhaps we have an explanation for why the Republican Party can’t seem to produce candidates we can trust to do as they’ve said they would. It would also help to explain the accelerating estrangement of ordinary Americans from the political process.

2 comments:

  1. "To me, the notion of a non-ideological political party is inherently contradictory. What would it offer to the electorate?"

    The illusion of dichotomy.

    That is, if you mean one of the two public parties in an ostensible two-party political system.

    Unfortunately, we don't have a two-party political system.

    We DO have a two-party government, however. The Inner Party, and the Outer Party. Although, even there, it has become difficult to tell which is which.

    Happily (for party members, anyway) both the Inner and Outer Parties share the same ideology ... if you can call unalloyed self-interest an "ideology".



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  2. I had an interesting, brief exchange with someone somewhere on the web. He said Rs need to win the next election and then we can deal with the big issues. That's not an accurate representation of what he said but it's redolent of many such assertions about "the fire next time." "Hoo boy. Watch us roll after November, 'Chacos!!!! Are the Ds ever going to be sorry! Yes, they are"

    I had to laugh at Rep. Brat's comment that the Rs "lost [our] leverage" by there being one mega spending bill this time. Oh, what could we do? "Next time" the Rs would be sure to craft 12 separate spending bills and then, boy, would they ever show those Ds! I mean, this was from one of the new insurgent, would-be, R berserkers . . . and what was it but distilled feebleness? Is there an R majority in the House of Representatives or not? Lost our leverage, my foot.

    Waiting for the R white hats to kick ass or simply offer an "I say there, dear boy" is sure to involve a long, long wait. Point is, they will just never produce.

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