Saturday, November 14, 2009

All Together Now

There's been a lot of going back and forth about the Stupak Amendment, which will basically prevent any insurer that receives federal funds under the lumbering health-care reform legislation from covering abortion services. Incidentally, this represents a pretty substantial victory for the Right. And also demonstrates why the Democrats, who generally can't manage to agree on what to put on a pizza, let alone how to govern the nation, will never be the hyper-liberal juggernaut that Republicans like to scare their constituents with.

As a practical matter, the way American politics is structured, a cohesive minority, as long as they're properly distributed (but not too dispersed) throughout the population can do pretty much whatever it pleases. The brilliant part of Republican politics is that despite the fact that they commonly have that properly distributed cohesive minority, they hammer away at the minority aspect of it, to keep their constituents unified in the face of the imaginary hobgoblin of Liberal policies designed to marginalize and victimize them.

I suspect that it's difficult to be a student of American politics and not notice this interesting tendancy. In Democratic politics, dissenters tend to find themselves in positions of strength - able to wrest often very distasteful concessions from colleagues with relatively little fear of repercussions. On the other hand, in Republican politics, dissenters are often in a position of weakness, and likely to be the first targets of the Republican political machine come the next election. I expect that this is due to differences in overall party strategies. While Democrats tend to run on the strength of their personalities, personal stories and/or the ability to enrich their districts (by borrowing money from overseas, and saddling the nation as a whole with the bill), Republican politics has evolved into a very rigid litmus test based on their particular "Evangelopatriotic" orthodoxy. (You could make the point that fiscal conservatism is also a part of it, but I find that Republicans are commonly only concerned with reigning in spending in the sense and to the extent that it hobbles Democratic efforts to buy greater support among the electorate with new entitlements, while Republicans themselves have learned to have no qualms about doing the same, or otherwise writing massive checks to fund their own priorities, and the Devil take the man who counsels fiscal prudence.) While Karl Rove's idea of a "permanent Republican majority" was laughably premature, there is a large enough core of Conservative True Believers that a fractured Left will never really be able to ignore them in the foreseeable future, and there will always be a united group of lawmakers, with the ability to leverage that unity into effectiveness. And as long as they remain effective, they'll retain a certain level of appeal that will cement their relevance.

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