Status Quo – The Line Holds, For Now

Such relief to see the map turn blue. We’ve four more years with Obama as placeholder. Certainly more acceptable than the alternative.

How delightful to see our old good acquaintance Liz Warren triumph. She now sits in the body that refused to give her an up or down vote.

Last night the Movement’s despair and disbelief the finest wine. Watching Rove rage at Megyn Kelly so sweet. You probably have your own favorite story.

Obama Steps On A Bug, Barely

All acknowledge Obama’s technical mastery of the ground game. That advantage will be transient. Political techniques and technologies proliferate quickly.

It’s worth realizing that Democrats and the so-called ‘Left’ [sic] would have lost to Romney and Movement revanchism but for that transient advantage.

It’s worth recalling that Democrats and pundits sputtered about Romney’s shameless serial expediency. Neocons ran with it in 2002-2003. And in 2012 Democrats and non-Rightist media are still clueless. And call out ‘unfair’ to some non-existent referee.

It’s worth realizing that in November 2012 Democrats and the so-called ‘Left’ [sic] were stunned to see overt voter suppression. The Ohio Secretary of State or Rick Scott in Florida flaunted brazenly contempt for the Constitution. Sure, Democrats earlier launched scattered legal actions, but the outcomes left the Rightists free to suppress and Democrats unprepared narratively.

The Days Ahead

Obama’s victory offers some unalloyed bright spots. The Supreme Court won’t be radicalized and suborned. The Neocons are not running DoD, State and the NSC. Bibi will not write 100% of U.S. policy in the region.

For the Democrats, the question remains what have they learned from 2001-2012? They are still consumed with process. Movements evolve (by definition). Democrats have yet to demonstrate they can confront and defeat an opponent with purposeful ideological focus.

For Republicans, the Movement naturally circles the wagons. Scapegoats get attention. Today, we heard a lot about revenge on Chris Christie.

The notion of a new, ‘moderate’ Republican Party is implausible. First, realigning a Movement based on empirical data and rational analysis is antithetical to the very notion of the Movement. Movements expand or alter their shape and ideological content through new narratives, and enrolling people in that new line. If a Democrat doesn’t understand that by now, they should be fired for professional malpractice.

Who can start that narrative? Among the elected leadership there are no moderates. Those called ‘moderate’ by talking heads like Chris Christie are moderate only when compared to Paul Ryan. Perhaps one or two may seek to gain brand visibility by ‘going Maverick’. Changing a narrative, however, requires internal influence and control.

On the periphery, professional Republican operatives are furiously sending each other PPT slides and speadsheets and they may have narrative impact on the margin. Already they’re calling for a smarter, more agile Movement that retains its inherent nature but seeks to poach elements from Obama’s turnout on an issue by issue basis. Republican operatives, however, don’t determine primaries.

Any change in the Movement narrative requires infiltration into the thought generation centers and distribution channels. Fox is merely the most obvious. It’s a monumental undertaking, far more audacious and protracted than a 10 minute chuckle-fest with Mika and Joe. If any of our Righist friends embark on that journey we wish them well.

Four more years. They will go by quickly. May they treat each of you, Dear Readers, and everyone, well.


  1. says

    All this talk about “gifts” and “they want stuff” is revealing. Its literal content is that the people who voted for Obama did so because it served their interests to do so. You know, as in Civics class. But that’s evidently not its felt content. Voters acting in their own best interest is felt to be illegitimate. (You can argue about how well Obama serves their interest, but that he does is ex hypothesi.) You notice Rmoney, O’Reilly, Trump etc aren’t talking about what “stuff” might change their minds, or even what image might do so. Huge difference from another successful conservative political organisation not a million miles from No.10 Downing St.

    What this tells us about their expectations of the electorate is that they expect people to respond anti-rationally, to hang their interests and go with the emotional-aesthetic appeal of the Movement. Basically, the Doctor is right.

    And over time, they’ve become unable to see the electorate in any other way.
    Alex recently posted..The smart money and the dumb money in the US elections

  2. says

    Interesting thought. Movement strategy from 2008 to last week was all about fighting them on the beaches and the landing grounds, the fields and the streets. Go to 11, stay hypermobilised, promise to repeal everything, filibuster everything, Carter 2.0, always escalate, legitimate rape, yadda yadda.

    The campaign was fought out like that, and it’s failed. Do they have any strategic depth? What is the equivalent to Ridgway’s march back from the Yalu, if you will? If you set out to not give an inch, and get rolled, you usually end up in a rout.
    Alex recently posted..The smart money and the dumb money in the US elections

  3. says

    Where’s Offenbach when you need him?

    I’ve been surprised that the bunker has had no comments on our latest political operetta, The General Affairs. It has such an exquisite mix of ridiculousness and banal conspiracy—a Tampa socialite!—staged in the grand theater of the national security apparatus. I really didn’t think Dr. Leo would pass on this. Layer upon layer of absurdity all serving, one presumes, to distract us from recognizing the barely concealed secret that that there is no secret. The lesson we should draw from this performance: “there is no secret” can and should be read in all possible ways. Also, it has the power to destroy us.

    • Anon says

      Dr. Leo is no big fan of Petraeus if I remember correctly. Neither am I. Still, is sad to see a man’s life and work being destroyed in public, for doing something my ex husband, Clinton and pretty much every married couple is likely to have done.
      Payback comes to mind… Is this the Movement getting payback for Petraeus not being as harsh on Obama as they would like ? Is this Dems and Obama getting back at Petraeus and the rebel faction of the Military showing that they can and will “reward” rebellion with character assassination ? Timing is also very interesting. A lot more there than meets the eye methinks.

  4. Brendan says

    What I take from this election is that while President Obama is the first post-modern president, 2012 was the first post-modern presidential election. The utter lack of substance from either candidate was stunning, a vacuum with the strength of a black hole. Surprisingly, Ezra Klein said it best:

    “Romney can tell you exactly what he wants to do, but barely a word about how he’ll do it. Obama can’t describe what he wants to achieve, but he can tell you everything about how he’ll get it done. It’s a campaign without real policies against a campaign lacking a clear vision.”

    I remember asking my Obama-voting friends a simple question: “What has Obama promised to do in his second term?” Needless to say, they universally struggled to answer.

    The result of this predicament is that elections, at least when a Democrat wins, no longer have any effect on policy outcomes. In this void, the establishment consensus of the ruling class prevails. The real world effect comes in the form of a reduction of living standards for the bottom 99%, as will be affected shortly.

    It is truly ironic that at a time in which the Movement is at least temporarily in ruins, and the american polity has moved decidedly leftward, government policy continues to be dominated by Movement priorities.

  5. says

    That said, a major force for Movement goals has been Democratic incompetence at being a political party (zero party discipline, for example). That they have developed a reliable advantage in the technology and organisation of campaigning means that they are more competent. With luck, people responsible for that will rise in the party.

    I mean, we have an example of ideological transformation catalysed by technological change in US party politics – it’s the postmodern Republicans. Direct mail made Richard Viguerie, Viguerie made the southern strategy work, and that eventually gave us the commander guy.

    Similarly, the Blairites swarmed the Labour Party in the early 90s and then the Commons, everyone else in politics was putting themselves amazed that they had these radio pager things for talking-points distribution. I remember pundits still babbling about “beepers” as late as 2001.

    I have to say the #ORCAFail may be my fave, by the way. Combining the libertarian love of whizzy gadgets with Rmoney’s Bain Capital managerialism…and falling flat on their face. Also, the grifter element played a big part in that.
    Alex recently posted..Closing the books on the week

  6. LS for Sam Lowry says

    Sam Lowry wrote this today but the site’s filter ate it inadvertently. Mea culpa, Sam.


    So many moments to savor from the election, short lived though they may be. The Rove meltdown on Fox probably the most sublime. Is it too much to hope for that he and other pundits (La Noonan, George Will, Dick Morris to name a few) will never be given more airtime? Also, it is nice to see the ‘conservative’ media complex exposed with their calls for a Romney/Ryan landslide- they definitely broke Tony Montana’s second lesson of business: Don’t get high on your own supply. Conor Friedersdorf sums it up nicely.

    Yes, Sully is oft maligned in the blogosphere, and hopefully quoting him here won’t jeopardize my member-in-good-standing status, but he put up a good piece today making points that have made in one way or another in the Bunker:

    But the person who fuses Manichean political warfare with theological certitude cannot, will not, abandon that stance for pragmatic purposes – because there is no greater evil than pragmatism for the fanatic. A political party can adapt and change; a fundamentalist religious party loses its entire authority if it admits error, because its message is based on religious texts that are held to be inerrant. The biggest obstacle in front of today’s GOP threfore remains theo-political fundamentalism, and how it can be overcome.

    For what it’s worth (not much?), the NYT quotes a guy named John Weaver, identified in this piece as a “Republican strategist”, making the point that the Republican Party is a white nationalist counter-Enlightenment organization: “We have a choice: we can become a shrinking regional party of middle-aged and older white men, or we can fight to become a national governing party…And to do the latter we have to fix our Hispanic problem as quickly as possible, we’ve got to accept science and start calling out these false equivalencies when they occur within our party about things that are just not true, and not tolerate the intolerant.” I have no idea who he is, but I’d guess he is one of those operatives on the periphery, with no real ability to influence or make an impact? Or maybe he’s just delusional (after all, he still thinks the Republican Party is an actual political party)?

    But I see it as a good sign that ideas that have been explored in the Bunker (and in other esoteric corners of the blogosphere) are making their way into mainstream discourse. Another small victory? I’ll invoke a Friedman unit and say the next 6 months will tell if Americans understand and internalize this idea (that the Republican Party is a religious/cultural movement, not a political party) and act to become more than passive spectators in their own society.

    Soooo…’s hard to get excited about Obama’s victory (and the Dem’s pick up of seats in the Senate) except to say that it was a stunning if momentary loss for the Rightists. That Americans, the Democrats, and Obama will likely fail to use it to any advantage….well….there is a reason the music of the 10,000 Maniacs is in heavy rotation on my MP3 player nowadays, particularly These Are Days. Cherishing the present is good advice for any era, but particularly for one in which we are going to be living through some major disruptions to the status quo.

  7. Aldershot says

    It was the Mormon thing that caused the white turnout to be lower than McCain’s, so I guess bigotry was on the other foot this time ’round. And so Mitt’s hawkish stance and Neocon advisors were wasted on people sick of war and not interested in their kids being shipped off to war.

    I daresay that next time, even without a significant infusion of people of color, the GOP will get back in without much problem. It’ll be their ‘turn,’ in the throw-the-bums-out see-saw of national politics. But I predict they will slowly get up to speed as they and those who are drawn to their philosophies merge in self-interest.

  8. says

    Here’s what the election demonstrated to me: Movement has money but no effective ideas. Or rather what passes for ideas are old and work only on those in the so-called bubble. Movement’s recruiting power now relies wholly on the allure of money, which is not nothing of course but is showing signs of ineffectiveness in the face of a culture of grift growing up around it. Question: what does capital make of their investment in Movement politics this time around? I can’t imagine capital is happy with Movement performance and has to be wondering whether it will continue to pay obviously ineffective (and increasingly ineffective) grifters. So a purge is likely, but who is likely to survive the wrath of the paymasters is not at all clear. Should be interesting.

    Showdown over the Bush tax cuts will tell us everything we need to know about Obama’s four years. Has his administration learned from its past errors and developed an effective political strategy? One thing I will say about Obama is that he learns from tactical missteps and rarely makes the same mistake on a tactical level (and, yes, I recognize that tactics is not strategy). We should therefore presume that his tactical negotiations will show marked improvement. Add to this that GOP elected political leadership is a very dull lot. Near term, Obama should be able to neutralize Movement advance.

    Counter strategy to Movement from center left has been to attempt to divide capital much as Movement’s strategy has been to divide labor. Only some in labor seem to understand this strategic aim, just as only some of the political technocrats of the center left understand that the division of capital can’t come at the expense of alienating labor. Both coalitions of right and left are nevertheless inherently unstable, and it is primarily the work of narrative to create the myth that will effectively manage that instability.

    The left is generally suspicious of these myths, placing its faith, without irony, in disenchantment. I think this is well understood by observers, even the very thoroughly disenchanted technocrats who forge the manifestly moderate and unappealing ideology of the center left but also envy the right its grand mythos. Less understood, I think, is the extent to which that mythos has maintained its power only by an ever increasing overwriting of reality by the conservative mediascape. Anyone who steps outside the circle of that mediascape, however, immediately recognizes the diminished power of the magic words. This is a mythology (but also a culture) in the process of disintegrating. Can Movement forge a new mythology and convince society to believe in it? In fact, will it have still have the expertise to forge a new mythology once it has purged and purified its membership?

    Should make for interesting times.

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