American systemic political dysfunction now meanders into its second decade. Its proximate causes are many. One of them? The dissolution of political parties as functional aggregators and articulators of meaningful political programs.
Broken political process may mean paralytic governance. Still, elections happen. So how do parties respond?
For the Movement, the auto da fé continues. A process begun in full force stretching back to Baker and Duberstein long before the so-called Tea Party. As we’ve discussed, because a Movement survives only by internal narrative control, not institutional belonging, elections are only a secondary consideration. Of course, the Movement wants to win, but elections are just episodically part of the narrative. Elections bestow legitimacy only on Movement victories.
The Democrats, by contrast, still cling to elections as the political Ur Moment: valid and above all, determinative, political exercises. 2008 and the end of history. They sort of have to. Democrats forgot any coherent animating ideology and functioned as a special interest clearing house arguably 30 years ago. Their political relevance bestowed by inertia and luck. All they have is institutional control. 2006-2012 makes abundantly clear this entity’s inability to cope with, let alone surmount, apolitical animus. Obama’s not the only one to blame.
If elections happen, and someone has to win, what can House Democrats do? Apparently a few think a new label is the answer – a new ersatz faction, the self-proclaimed “New Democrat Coalition” (NDC) . Not to be confused with the long existent DLC splinter group, the New Democratic Network, NDC proponents believe that Democrats must move to the center (‘center’ defined by the current AgitProp environment). Their avowed political sweet spot? Social liberals who agree with or are at least amenable to Rightist economics.
It’s quixotic, of course. First, as you know, most House districts aren’t in play because of gerrymandering. Districts are deliberately designed to punish NDC-kind of fence straddling. The Blue Dogs (or Chris Shays, Tom Davis, etc.) could tell them that. Second, on an objective basis, Democrats are already there. Obama’s objectively governed center right. Hard to see an inside baseball label making much difference in any district where Obama underperforms.
If the NDC improbably catches on and becomes a quasi ‘thing’, how will they survive? We’ve previously sat through untold numbers of Blue Dog breakfasts, receptions and soirees representing big companies. Mostly to be polite.
The Blue Dogs’d ask for cheques, “Support us, we’re pro-business unlike San Francisco Democrats and we can get your legislation through”. Except, of course, they couldn’t really, marginalized within their caucus. And for what they offered, Republicans already covered. In short, they made no political difference. Our companies always walked away (although sometimes the food and drinks were ok), reluctantly giving to others in actual power. (Contrary to popular belief, most companies find the constant shakedown annoying at best, even for their issue champions).
The NDC? Perhaps they’ll have a killer logo.