There's really nothing new that Atkins is arguing for. The poutragers are jealous that the Republican Party has become a tool for their extremists and want the same kind of power in the Democratic Party. But what is different about this article is that Atkins actually tries to lay out the thinking behind why this would be such a good idea. Its because he doesn't think our current system forces extremists to pay a price.
Well, one way of looking at it is that the GOP has figured out that there is no consequence for extremism in American politics. America has a de facto two-party system. And as much as both parties dream of building the electoral coalition that will turn the other into a "permanent minority", the truth is that in a binary system with sophisticated political strategists and media machines on both sides, no party will hold office forever at a national level. Scandal, recession, and general malaise will ensure that the Party in power will be voted out by a disgruntled electorate, and that by default the beneficiaries of that event will be the Party currently out of power.
What Atkins fails to realize is that we don't have a parliamentary system in this country. I'm not sure what he means by "the Party in power." The truth is that Americans are notorious for voting in divided government.
So I'd suppose Atkins doesn't think we should worry so much about the fact that the 2010 elections were considered a political landslide for the Republicans. We should simply keep pushing our agenda even further to the left and assume that at some point the voters will swing back our way. Seriously, why bother with trying to compromise to get something passed that will actually help those without a job or health care or a roof over their head? If we just wait it out long enough - we'll get our chance to do something. Of course, that means waiting until we have a filibuster proof majority of progressives in the Senate along with control of the House and the Presidency. But surely...that will happen some day. Meanwhile, we can talk REALLY big about what we'd do when that happens.
In the meantime, what does Atkins suggest? He thinks we should obstruct as good as the Republicans.
The GOP has figured out that it is much more intelligent in American politics to consolidate an unassailable ideological voter and donor base, win what elections they can essentially by default, and push the Overton Window as far as humanly possible toward conservatism while in office. And when Democrats hold office, as they inevitably will? Then prevent them from governing as Democrats...
Far from being insane, this approach is actually eminently rational...
Insanity is what Democrats do: try to win every election and remain popular in the polls by compromising and appealing to the moderate voter while insulting their natural base, whether they're in office or out of office...The Democrats' job should be to push policy in as far a progressive direction as possible and build the base while in office, and then prevent Republicans from governing as Republicans when they naturally oscillate out of the majority.
I can see it all now...when Republicans are in the majority, Democrats obstruct. And when the Democrats are in the majority, Republicans obstruct. Now that sounds like a recipe for success, doesn't it? In other words, we take the one thing that is keeping our democratic republic from functioning, and apply it to both parties. The only thing I can think of to compare that to is what happens when children are left unattended and there is - literally - no adult in the room. Of course, the other analogy would be the "mutually assured destruction" of the Cold War era.
Of course, in Atkin's scheme, moderate voters are merely the fickle pawns who are easily manipulated by "sophisticated political strategists and media machines." So who cares what they think? We can easily dismiss them from our discourse in this new world where only extremists matter.
I have to say that this kind of strategy turns my stomach in just about every way possible, which shouldn't surprise anyone who has read what I've been writing over the last few years. So to clean out the synapses a bit, lets re-read that quote from President Obama that I use so often.
A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate...
Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will. This is more than just a matter of "framing," although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required. It's a matter of actually having faith in the American people's ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.