Via Matt Taibbi, via David Sirota, I discover that David Brooks has identified the existential threat to our American democracy: Democratic Party Partisanship; more particularly, polarized, partisan Democratic voters, and the polarizingly partisan Democratic primaries that allow the polarized partisan Democratic voters to vote.
The Lamont-Lieberman election in Connecticut, Brooks says:
"...explained why polarized primary voters shouldn't be allowed to define the choices in American politics."
Phew. I'm glad Brooks has finally shined the light on what ails the American republic. Primaries. And voting. And partisanship. And Democrats being partisan.
I'm just a little perplexed that Brooksie has happened upon this crisis only recently. Because I think partisanship has been pretty potent for like the last 26 years, maybe even longer. And it's been especially important and vile to boot, since 1994. And 1998 wasn't a partisan sleeper by any means either. And what about that time the Republican U.S. Senator from Vermont, Jim Jeffords, ditched the GOP for Independent status after he was re-elected? Do you really want me to dig up the unveiled threats to Jeffords eminating from the Republican White House and Republican Congress when that happened?
And what those little things we call elections in 2002 and 2004? Well, those things were downright partisan, let me tell ya, Brooksie.
But now, that Bush's polls have cratered, his war in Iraq is a Fiasco, some of the DC pundit class are predicting a Democratic tidal wave in 2006, and perhaps most offensively, beltway favorite Joe Lieberman lost his primary re-election bid, Brooksie has finally discovered the source of American malaise in the 21st century. There are elections. And party primaries. Who knew?
Of course, I must concede that Brooksie concedes this disease of partisanship and primary voting has infected his own party. There is indeed a pox on both our houses;
"...look at how Representative Joe Schwarz, a moderate Republican, was defeated by a conservative rival in Michigan."
I hope no one reminds Brooksie that long time Republican Senator Arlen Spector was challenged by a very partisan Republican in 2004 and barely got to hang onto his Judiciary Chairmanship. What's more, another Republican Senator, from Rhode Island, also faces a primary challenger. These Republicans are pretty partisan, they are.
But while Brooksie is forced to acknowledge the polarizing partisanship his own party has indulged in, if not driven to great heights over the last three decades, his real problem it appears is with Democratic partisans. That Democrats would vote to turn out one of his few buddies in the Democratic party was more than he, and many other political elites in DC can take.
As Taibbi notes:
There is something perversely exhilarating about watching the American political establishment in action, especially now, when -- with the Middle East in flames, the front pages filled with news of jarring electoral surprises, and the poll numbers of its once-brightest stars falling through the floor -- it has begun behaving like a cornered animal, lashing out incoherently at anything that comes near.
Lieberman himself has been stumbling around like a deer that has just been hit and thrown 200 yards by an F-150, taking the utterly insane position that his candidacy -- his, Joe Lieberman's candidacy -- somehow represents a fight against the "same old" Washington politics. You have Dick Cheney and a whole host of conservative talking heads, all pretense of two-party politics gone now, openly parroting the talking points of the supposed other side, the Democratic Leadership Council. And then you have Times columnist David Brooks, acting like a man high on laughing gas, committing to print that positively amazing assertion that "polarized primary voters should not be allowed to define the choices in American politics."
(That one might be my all-time favorite; flailing around in search of a new group on the margins to demonize, this yutz accidentally argues that voters shouldn't be allowed to decide elections. I thought it was funny, but Brooks this time nearly gave Dave Sirota an aneurysm.)
The reason the Lamont election has all of Washington so badly freaked out and dug in is that it's revealed a crack in the long-dependable mechanism of mainstream American politics. For almost four decades now conservatives in both parties have been governing according to a very simple formula. You run against Jane Fonda and George McGovern in election season, then you spend the next four years playing golf, shooting flightless birds, and taking $25,000 speaking gigs in Aspen while you let your fundraisers run things around the office.
But their problem now is that they've fucked up Iraq and everything else so badly that they've practically made "McGovernism" mainstream. A whole generation of hacks has reached office running against George McGovern, and now Joe Lieberman is threatening to ruin things for everybody, just like Jimmy Carter wrecked the Barry Goldwater gravy train for the last generation by falling on his face against Ronald Reagan. If there is such a thing as a principle in Washington, avoiding such a catastrophe as that is it. That's why they won't let Joe die easy -- no matter how much he seems to deserve it.
But it's not just the case that professional punditry is offended by the uptick in primaries, voting, and partisanship; it's that this demonstration of small "d" democracy is occuring among Democratic Party voters, and slowly trickling up towards their elected representatives. Don Imus, Chris Matthews, and Fox News were more than happy to have partisanship when the Democrats were having their rear ends handed to them every election. Now that the mood has turned, and the masses are unsettled, the political elite is worried and by most indicators, becoming increasingly irrational.