In Which Eli Reverts To Incoherent Babbling
Pachacutec has a fascinating post up at Firedoglake about the three political parties competing for control of the United States. And no, it's not the Democrats, Republicans, and Greens. Instead, he breaks it down into the Grassroots Theocrats and Grassroots Progressives, which are in clear opposition to each other, and the DC/K Street Elite, which wants to co-opt both of the other parties to advance their corporate agenda.
I'm not positive that three is the true number of parties, but I think the basic dynamic is mostly correct. It's an excellent explanation of why the Democratic party establishment is so unwilling to oppose the Republican agenda, yet so willing to oppose the Democratic one, and so openly hostile to what most people would consider their base. They're not really Democrats at all, but well-paid corporate shills who might as well be lobbyists. It also explains why we progressives have such a visceral, instinctive dislike for them.
Where I disagree is on whether the Elite can truly be considered a party. I don't think they are in any meaningful sense of the word. They're behind-the-scenes interest and power brokers, more of a super-constituency that politicians ally themselves with or sell themselves to, rather than a party unto themselves that politicians are actually members of. For as complicit and as co-opted as the establishment Democrats may be, I believe they still think of themselves as belonging to a separate party from the Republicans, and (mostly) genuinely do want to beat them in elections. The problem is that the DLC arm of the Elite has seeded the consultant class with Grima Wormtongues who advise the Democrats that the only way to beat the Republicans is to be just like them. And because it worked for Bill Clinton (never mind that that was because he was a brilliant politician, or that it's never worked since), this ridiculous idea still has legitimacy.
But regardless of whether the Elite can be considered a true party or not, the important thing is that they have captured the Democratic party and steered it away from its traditional guiding principles. From the Elite's perspective, it's a win-win situation: By stacking the Democratic leadership with soulless, uninspiring corporatists who alienate their own voters, they essentially ensure that their true soulmates, the Republicans, stay in power. But at the same time, they also ensure that a majority of the Democrats will support the Elite's interests as well. So if the Republicans should, just hypothetically, fuck things up so monumentally that they get turned out of office in a landslide of epic proportions, well, the Elite-owned Democrats won't abuse their new-found power by doing anything rashly anti-corporate. (It will be interesting to see how Medicare reform and the minimum-wage increase fare in a Democratic Congress, and where their support and opposition comes from.)
Of course, from a Grassroots Progressive perspective, this is an unacceptable situation. Worse yet, even if the Democrats do retake both houses of Congress, it will only be seen as a repudiation of the Republicans and/or Grassroots Theocrats. It won't even occur to anyone that it's a rejection of the Elite, even if Grassroots Progressive candidates significantly outperform Elite ones, because the Elite simply isn't part of the election narrative (did I mention that the Elite own the media?). This is why I'm glad to hear that Firedoglake will be tracking and analyzing the election results from a Grassroots-vs.-Elite perspective, not just the usual Democrats-vs.-Republicans perspective. I'm hoping MyDD and DailyKos and maybe Atrios (although he's more about media critique than election analysis) will pick up on this as well, to counter the media and Democratic spin that this Stunning Democratic Victory is entirely due to the strategic, triangulatory genius of Elite toadies like Rahm Emanuel and Charles Schumer.
My longterm questions are:
1) What will it take for the Democratic leadership to realize that the Grassroots Progressives are a force to be reckoned with; or more accurately, a force that will not go away or sell out? At what point does it become true and obvious that Grassroots support is more essential to electoral success than Elite support?
2) What is the "critical mass" of Grassroots Progressives in the House and Senate where they would be able to take over the party leadership? Is it a simple majority? Plurality? Supermajority?
3) How long will it take to reach that critical mass? I suspect it will be easier in the House, simply because every seat is in play every year, and I think the bar for entry into the race is easier than for the Senate. I think it also lends itself better to retail campaigning, which I suspect Grassroots candidates are better at.