Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reclaiming the Turf

I'm growing increasingly weary of the kind of political analysis exemplified most recently by Dana Milbank. He takes a look at some recent polling that suggests more people are identifying themselves as liberal and prefers this explanation.
A third theory, which I find compelling, is that the rise in liberalism is a backlash against the over-the-top conservatism displayed by the tea party movement. The Pew Research Center and others have documented a dramatic increase in ideological polarization within political parties over two decades. The Republican Party has long been dominated by conservatives, and the recent rise in liberalism among Democrats may be a mirror image of that — the beginnings of a tea party of the left.
A "tea party of the left?" Oh puhleeze!

Let's spend just a moment recapping some history. First of all, with the routing that Ronald Reagan gave Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election, a lot of Democrats decided that it was time to moderate and play some ball on Republican turf. That gave us things like "the era of big government is over," signing on to the need to reform welfare, and a big push to "get tough on crime." The overall conversation felt - to many of us on the left - like it was being based on Republican terms.

And then came eight years of Bush/Cheney. As I wrote previously, by the end of their term it was clear that Republican policies had us mired in two wars in the Middle East, careening towards a second Great Depression, and a federal deficit that was ballooning out of control. At that point, smart pundits knew that the real 2008 presidential election was the one that happened in the Democratic primary. Whoever won that one was likely to be our next POTUS because - no matter how loudly the right wing screamed - the majority of Americans were done with Republican policies.

It was in that scenario that the tea party was born - stoked by the racist fears of this country having elected our first African American president. As just one example of how radical these folks are, let's remember that they are the ones who wanted to blow up the entire global economy rather than raise the U.S. debt ceiling. That their "establishment" accomplices were willing to take us to that brink on a couple of occasions tells us all we need to know about how radicalized the Republicans have become.

Now we have had six and a half years of a Democratic President who ended those two wars, has presided over the longest expansion of private sector job growth in our history and provided millions of Americans with access to health care. The candidate most likely to be his successor is running on such non-radical notions as raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation, investing in infrastructure, addressing climate change, immigration reform, criminal justice reform and expanded educational opportunities.

In other words, Democrats are reclaiming the turf. That means having the conversation on our own terms and running on issues that have traditionally been the staple of a Democratic agenda. That they also happens to align with the views of a majority of voters in this country means that it is the opposite of tea party extremism. The mirror Mr. Milbank sees is the one Democrats are holding up to reflect the views of the people they're running to represent.

That's what is making it cool to be a liberal again.


  1. To suggest that the Left could ever have anything like the Tea Party is to reveal he has no understanding of what it means to be liberal.

  2. Don't worry Tien Dana Milbank's an idiot.

  3. Left-wing populists like Elizabeth Warren or Alan Grayson may not be fully comparable to the nihilists in the Tea Party, but occasionally they arrive at that sort of disingenuous brinksmanship -- as the recent debate over the TransPacific Partnership has revealed.

    That the anti-trade crowd in Congress was willing to sell-out the workers they claim to champion by rejecting the TAA in order to achieve a symbolic victory against President Obama proves that while liberalism and even democratic socialism are not intellectually bankrupt, the personas most closely identified with those ideologies often are.

    While the Obama administration has undeniably shifted the political center to the left, left-talking opportunists take advantage of this not to continue down the path of change but score points for their own political ends.

    As progressives, we must be vigilant against any movement that appeals to fear and prejudice to undermine the President's project of national unity -- whatever the purported ideology of its proponents.

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  5. Unfortunately some of the loudest critics of the Obama Administration are on our side of the spectrum. But thankfully we have folks such as Nancy LeTourneau,Bob Cesca,Milt Shook and others on keeping it real when it comes to how politics really work.

    1. The Nancy Letourneau's of the left are just the mirror image of conservatives who backed every George W. Bush action because "he's our guy".

  6. The Tea Party IS the Republican Party. How can liberals have their own Republican Party?