Thursday, July 28, 2016

Two Parties

     Now that the Democrats have concluded their quadrennial horror show convention, a few words about the two parties within the Democrat Party might be of some value – at least, to those hoping to understand how the Dems can veer drunkenly back and forth as they have since 1980.

     For starters, let’s recall historian Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics:

  1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
  2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.
  3. The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

     Laws #2 and #3 refer to a process, not an instantaneous transition. The Democrats of the late Nineteenth Century were a conservative bunch: rather bluenosed about social matters, generally hands-off toward industry and commerce, and careful with the national treasury. Indeed, both parties would be described today as conservative in orientation; one of the ironies of political history is that their spokesmen both laid claim to being the proper party for the American liberal. It was the emergence of William Jennings Bryan in 1896 that started the Democrats’ leftward turn. The Wilson and FDR Administrations turned the wheel farther leftward.

     After World War II, politics was at first dominated by foreign policy considerations, owing to the rise of the Soviet Union and the division of Europe. The ascendancy of domestic social engineering, most notably under Lyndon Johnson, came as a surprise to many analysts at that time. There are several theories about the reasons for it, but there can be no doubt that, apart from the Vietnam War, nothing loomed larger in Sixties political discourse than “compassionate” government action nominally aimed at “helping the poor and disadvantaged.”

     The Nixon Administration saw national attention diverted from social engineering for a time, in part due to renewed international turmoil, particularly in the Middle East, and in part due to the heavily publicized efforts of glamor diplomat Henry Kissinger. Sadly, the Vietnam War, which Nixon promised to end (and did end, as he’d promised and with the best outcome that could be achieved at that time) and the Watergate scandal deflected attention from Nixon’s singular achievements at restoring a balanced federal budget and curtailing the growth of the federal bureaucracy. In consequence, the Democrats were able to make “peace” – something the century’s Democrat administrations were hardly known for – the prime public issue of the Carter years.

     Carter’s disastrous four years in power saw a huge increase in federal spending and an explosion of inflation. Those two things have always gone together. Taxation sufficient to fund massive social programs has never been politically feasible in the U.S. But what government cannot tax it can always print, and print the Carterites surely did. Currency expansion continued to the point that the prime rate rose to an unprecedented 13% at its peak, guaranteeing that the Democrats would lose the White House.

     The loss of the presidency to Ronald Reagan threw the Democrat Party into an internal frenzy. The contradictions were stunning: there were more than four registered Democrats for every three registered Republicans, and no pre-election poll had shown the candidates more than 3% apart, yet Reagan had buried Carter in a landslide, taking the Senate majority in the process. In the ensuing confusion, two major camps emerged. Though the labels are somewhat anachronistic, we may call them the Kennedy and Clinton camps.

     The Kennedy camp, ideologically social-fascist, pressed for a domestically oriented agenda. Its spokesmen, among whom Senator Edward Kennedy was most prominent, favored downplaying matters of foreign policy and military preparedness in preference for large expansions of virtually every domestic initiative of the Johnson and Carter years. Though the creation of special interests bound to the Democrat Party wasn’t an overt aspect of the Kennedyites’ strategy, it was a logical consequence.

     The Clinton camp, which would be identified with Bill Clinton from 1991 onward, was coldly pragmatic. The Clintonites were interested in power for power’s sake, with all the perquisites and opportunities for graft that accompany it. They spurned specifics of ideology in preference for flexibility of orientation. They emphasized gaining and keeping control of the federal government, from which largesse could be distributed to favored persons and groups. Though less socially divisive than the Kennedyites, the Clintonites were inherently more deceitful, and far more corrupt.

     Walter Mondale was the last of the original Kennedyites to get the Democrats’ presidential nod. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry were all from the Clintonite school. The seeming successes of the Clinton Administration first two years at cementing its grip on power had swayed the bulk of the Democrats into his camp. Clinton’s aura of success was so convincing that the party remained there even after the 1994 “Republican Revolution” and the disastrous candidacy of Gore. It took the 2004 election, the defeat of Kerry, and the meteoric rise of Barack Hussein Obama to get the Kennedyites back into the game.

     The Kennedyites succeeded in elevating Obama to the Oval Office, but found that having “used him up,” the bench is bare. There are no Kennedyites of suitable age and national profile who could plausibly succeed him. Add to that the “devil’s bargain” the Kennedyites had to make with the Clintonites to unify the party behind Obama, and the answer pops out of a slot: a Clintonite Interregnum while promising young leftists in Congress are groomed for higher things. Despite her age, her unattractiveness, and the many seamy incidents in her past, Hillary Clinton has been given the Democrat nod.

     Ironically, the Clintonites face the same problem as the Kennedyites: after Hillary, the bench is bare. Promising figures from years past have vanished into the political mists; if it were otherwise, the Clinton machine and Hillary’s vast appetite for power would not have been sufficient to sway the party to her side. This heralds a protracted period of internal disorder – made even more unruly by the unexpected size of the Sanders for President movement – that Democrat strategists will have a hard time controlling.

     This should not be taken to imply that there’s no disorder among Republicans. Indeed, the processes taking place within the GOP present a strong parallel to those within its adversary. However, it does suggest that should Hillary Clinton lose to Donald Trump in November as has seemed increasingly likely, the Democrats’ ranks will offer politics-watchers a lot of milling-around to study until a new standard-bearer with “all the right boxes checked” should emerge from the teeming Leftist horde.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately it appears the bench is not empty after HRC. Kaine was picked for a reason. Also, let us not for Fauxchaontas (aka Warren). I don't know much about Kaine but being from MA I can tell you Warren is a younger HRC. So while the dems play long game chess the repubs are playing tiddlywinks and have no clue what happens to useful idiots once power is cemented.

Francis W. Porretto said...

I'm not worried about Kaine; he's too nebbish to command a national following. As for Warren, she's either 66 or 67, so she'll have aged out after the next presidency and won't be seriously considered for HRC's successor.