"The Political Battlefield". Tamerlane at True Liberal Nexus gave Cyn at Double Jointed Fingers, Little Isis at Liberal Rapture, John W. Smart, and me questions about the current campaigns and future of US politics. I copy the discussion below. This roundtable follows #1 on "The Future of Blogging.") (Editorial Note: moderator Tamerlane refuses to capitalize our President's surname as an unearned honorific. TL offers a great analogy of the solar system to political orbits! Image: Filip Spagnoli.)
I. The Political Landscape
1: Is the traditional concept of a left – right political “spectrum” still valid?
Cyn: It appears to be so in concept. Liberals and conservatives could not be farther apart in ideology. However, the actual parties seem to beholden to the same corporate interests, making it harder and harder to distinguish between them.
Fionnchú: Desmond Fennell, an Irish malcontent scholar, opined that we’re still stuck quibbling over the seating arrangements of the French Assembly of 1791. I agree.
John W. Smart: Currently, the Left/Right paradigm is useful to gin up voters and not much else. I continue to use Left/Right because there is no other, better, well known shorthand. It still works to a degree with social issues, where the divide remains clear. But the fact is in the U.S. the spectrum is from Right to Far Right . The Left, such as it is, does not really matter, except when it attends rallies in the service of the not quite so far Right, which makes them feel as if they matter. Real Leftists, like Chomsky, are marginalia in this country and have been for quite some time.
littleisis: It’s becoming less and less valid as time goes on. Independents form a majority of the electorate these days, especially since people are catching on to the fact that there isn’t much difference between the two parties.
tamerlane: It’s more like a political solar system. The extreme leftists — Greens, etc., are Mercury — too intense. The Progs are Venus — good idea, but got too hot and failed. True liberals are Earth — just right. Republicans range from moderates (Mars — cold & inhospitable, just barely able to support life), to right wing (the gas giants.) Christian conservatives are Pluto — small and dim. The Tea Party is a big meteor on an erratic orbit, that may or may not crash into Earth and cause great damage. Libertarians are far out, lost somewhere beyond the Oort Cloud.
2: Can viable third parties exist under our system?
CYN: If they ever could, now would seem to be the time. However, without term limits, campaign finance laws, and prohibiting corporate interests from determining the outcome of elections, they don t have a snowballs chance in hell.
F: No, as they lack funds. The bipartisan system is monolithic.
JWS: No. Not at this moment. It is entirely possible that a third force will emerge soon that resists being subsumed by one party or the other. The GOP is rising again. Should they fail again in the eyes of the public SOMETHING will give. I do not know that it will be a “party” though. The strains of America just past its peak will produce something like a third party. But will it attempt to gain power in a traditional way? The last 3 elections give it little reason to try.
LI: I don’t think so. Third parties are usually co-opted by one of the two major parties, and it’s been the same way in the past. We’re seeing that right now with the GOP and the Tea Partiers, and earlier we saw it with PUMA. Joseph Cannon used to talk at length about this, but he’s gone now. *sad face*
TAM: No. In attempting to avoid political parties entirely, our Founding Fathers ensured that we’re stuck with but two — overbearing — ones. Parties come and go, but there can only be two at a time for any extended period.
3: Giving a percentage, how different are the GOP and Dems?
CYN: Actually, they are rather close. I would say within 15 to 20%.
JWS: They are 30% different now. This difference will rise soon, but not by much and not for long. The GOP is going right, and after a brief interlude for show, the Democrats will go Right with it.
LI: Two percent, maybe.
TAM: platforms, 70%; practice, 40%
4: obama has been called a socialist by some. How would you label him?
CYN: He is certainly NOT a socialist. I would label him too inexperienced and afraid to commit to any political party, which is why he is so afraid to stand up for what he believes in, if anything. He tries to please all of the people all of the time, which is impossible. He is a party of one.
F: Capitalist tool. Any state control Obama and his cronies want differs little in substance if more in rhetoric from their GOP enemies: both parties are indentured and intermarried with those who run Wall Street and every financial, media, and capitalist enterprise where true power lies. Obama’s a very willing errand boy for the masters of us all.
JWS: A statist if he cared deeply about policy. But he doesn’t, so he is merely a narcissist. Though, when all is said and done he may be seen as a Chicago Machinist. His Admin and Chicago Alderman have much in common.
LI: An opportunist. I tend to agree with JS that he was sent by grocery clerks.
TAM: Common Street Thug.
II. The Parties
5: How long will the Tea Party last?
CYN: I live in a very economically depressed upstate area with a majority of Republican voters. I think so long as the Tea Party keeps playing the I am just like you and fed up with big gov't theme, they may last until the next time the Republicans gain power and then stick it to them once again.
F: Before the 2012 election, it will fade.
JWS: The thing called the “tea party” won’t last. The impulse that animates much of it will go on and on. The only reason the current incarnation of this strain of Americanism seem so odd to so many is that it has come so quickly on the heels of Obama’s victory. The Tea Party themes have deep roots in this country.
LI: I think it will eventually be absorbed into the GOP but for now it’s a formidable force and no one should make fun of it. As Bill Clinton says, they’re saying something everyone is thinking, which is that a majority of Americans aren’t doing so well right now.
TAM: Two election cycles, tops.
6: Can the Tea Party survive outside the GOP?
CYN: Gawd, I hope not.
F: No, as it has been cozily co-opted.
JWS: Yes. But so far there is no reason for it to try. What is less likely to survive in the short term is the current GOP establishment. The Tea Party will survive by invading the GOP. The economic ideas of the Tea Party have already taken over the GOP. They have won, regardless of which candidates win.
LI: Nope. See above about third parties getting co-opted. It’s possible that it was Astroturfed from the beginning, but I tend to think it wasn’t. The MSM treated it like a joke, despite its size, when it first appeared. It was only when it got backing from some big sugar daddies from the GOP that we started hearing more about the candidates they were running, and a lot of them were socially conservative despite the Tea Party’s populist roots.
TAM: Question is, can the GOP survive with the TP inside?
7: Who will be the biggest winners & biggest losers in the midterms?
CYN: I would guess the Republicans will be the biggest winners in that they will win more seats but not necessarily do anything constructive with them. I cannot see the Democrats gaining in any area.
F: Losers? Dem mainstream if enough districts survive the gerrymandering we’re stuck in. Tea Partiers who thought they could resist the GOP mainstream and get funding to win. Winners? Dem mainstream again if enough districts favor the gerrymandering we’re trapped in. Dems are turning the tide in many regions by scare tactics: negative campaign blitzes.
JWS: Biggest Winners: Mark Rubio (instant star, think Obama in 2004.), GOP House members itching to issue subpoenas, gleefully frothing Fox News anchors, Pat Toomey, Republican Governors nationwide.
Biggest Losers in order: The 2008 Democratic coalition, Pelosi (no matter who takes the House), Obama (regardless of final numbers), Blanche Lincoln. Charlie Crist. Anyone left who seriously thought Obama would be a transformative President.
LI: I think Obama administration will be the biggest loser, and any Dem who voted lock and step with him. The biggest winners will probably be the Tea Party people, but I have no idea.
TAM: Winners: the power lords; Losers: the common people.
8: Major Party most likely to dissolve or splinter in the next decade:
CYN: Democrats. They have no message and even if they did somehow find their voices, they wouldn t be able to get their message across.
F: GOP, not the Dems. There’s nowhere else for liberals to go. Those on the right bicker more on principle.
JWS: Democrats. The divide was papered over once. It won’t be again. Obama simply cannot hold together the traditional Democratic coalition. Clinton on the ticket in ’12 helps. But the tension between the liberals on either coast and the old line Dems in the mid west is too acute. The fissures are real and no body other than the Clintons have the ability to bridge the divide. There are no animating ideas in the liberal or moderate wings of the Democratic Party. Nor do any seem to be emerging.
The GOP is in tune with the Tea Party on most issues. They will be fine under the same roof. This is the GOP getting its groove back — an ejection of the ghosts of George W Bush and a resurrection of Reagan.
LI: I admit to having no idea. Both of them are unpopular with a majority of Americans.
TAM: GOP. They were on the verge of breaking apart before obama gave them a reprieve. The Dems fight in public, the Gops do it behind closed doors. The TP will not be willing to take a back seat.
III. Wild Cards
9: Odds that Sarah Palin will run as a third-party candidate in ’12?
CYN: It's hard to say. She is very savvy when it comes to hitting the right notes with middle class working people who are disgusted with America. However, If she runs, I think it will be on the GOP ticket and that is what will motivate some Democratic voters to go to the polls.
F: Weak. 15%
JWS: 2,000-1 against. 50-50 that she’ll run as a Republican.
LI: Slim to none. She’ll run for the GOP nomination if at all.
TAM: Very low, unless the TP and trad GOP really squabble, in which case, a lock. She’s aiming for ’16.
10: Odds that obama will seek reelection:
CYN: His ego won’ t let him do otherwise. And, his Mirror, Mirror on the Wall (aka Axelrod) will tell him he can’t lose because he is still ”the one”.
F: Almost certain. 90%
JWS: 60-40 in favor.
LI: Looking pretty slim at the moment. His ego can’t handle a big loss.
TAM: t.b.d. BO’s certainly not inclined — all this rejection is a bummer for a narcissist, all this hard work a bummer for a stoner. But can his handlers force him?
11: What would it take for Hillary to run?
CYN: Obama not running and the Democrats begging her on bended knees, acknowledging how they shafted her in 08. Even then, she may not. I have the utmost respect for Senator Clinton and believe she is the only one who can get us out of the mess that two terms of Bush and one of obama handed us. That said, I really don't believe she will run.
F: The eulogy for Obama. The funeral Mass for Biden.
JWS: Obama quitting the race.
LI: What most people think it would take. Obama would have to step aside and not seek reelection. She has believed in working within the system since she was in college and would never primary a sitting President.
TAM: obama not running.
12: Impact of a Chrissie O’Donnell victory:
CYN: She is just another wacko politician and we’ve survived plenty of them already. If she wins, she will be a one term wonder with little impact.
F: More Comedy Central fodder. She would not survive a term and would be recalled; but I doubt if she’ll win in bank-coddled Delaware.
JWS: Nada. Not gonna happen unless Coon is caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy. But, if by some miracle she did win it would add have no impact, except to humiliate Delaware and the Bidens.
LI: We would have our first puritan congresswoman, but other than that, I don't think it would matter much. She wouldn’t be able to legislate her extremism, luckily we have political and constitutional barriers to prevent that kind of thing.
TAM: 1) The GOP Whip would box her in pretty quick and limit embarrassments; 2) other mentally ill persons would be inspired to run for office, too.
13: The one (legal) change to our political system you’d make:
CYN: No more electoral college, as it is ripe with corruption. The popular vote would determine the winner. And, how about paper ballots?
F: “None of the above” on ballots.
JWS: Mandatory public financing of all elections.
LI: Campaign finance reform.
TAM: Proportional allotment of senate seats by population.
14: Unconstitutional voting requirement you wish you could impose:
CYN: No caucusing. Primary voting only.
F: Mandated voting for all on penalty of whatever we smug voters decide. Sterilization might be nice, or at least a non-discriminatory literacy poll test. (I assume this is read as satire, you muckrakers.)
JWS: I’d ban all American Idol fans from voting.
LI: None, I have too much respect for the constitution, but I sometimes think it should be illegal for certain people to reproduce.
TAM: Pass a freshman college course in Logic.
15: Foreign political party you wish were in the US:
CYN: Democratic Socialist, maybe?
F: Are there any Icelandic ones advocating secular curricula and rampant paganism? One with symbols on the ballot for the illiterate as in the Third World countries. I’d want a cool logo with a fab cartoon owl.
JWS: Not sure. I’d like to see a real socialist party in the mix here, even if I might not support them. Or a labor party worthy of the name. Also a Green Party that had some real power.
TAM: Liberal Democrats, UK. (But Sinn Fein if things get worser faster.)
16: If you could form your own Party, what would you call it, and who would you run for President?
CYN: Women Rock and I would run Hillary, who recognizes that there is more to governing than wishing it were so.
F: The Loyal Opposition. Ralph Nader & Pat Buchanan. (I took a political quiz about 15 years ago: it pegged me as a cross between Ralph Nader & Pat Buchanan.)
JWS: The American Party. Elizabeth Warren.
LI: I like Lynne from Lakeland’s idea for a masturbation party, and I would have to run Tila Tequila as the standard bearer.
TAM: The “People, Stop the Insanity!” Party; Susan Powter.