The American two-party system is fracturing, as both sides are struggling with immense war debt, a crippled manufacturing base, and a Federal Reserve that is devaluating the currency in order to prop up financial institutions that gambled trillions and lost; their bets became our losses as they were "covered by the house". Progressives have been decrying the centrist wishy-washiness of so many Democrats for years, and there was an outspoken expectation that once the Democrats were in power, new, more liberal parties could emerge to challenge the old-guard Democrats to veer left or be shown the door. The surprise is that the right beat them to it (and here's why that's fine...)
The Republican Party is imploding: many laughed as term Gov. Sarah Palin walked away from her job in Alaska because she felt she could be more effective from outside government. Crazy? Foxy? Blithering idiot? None -- and all -- of the above; because La Palin has become the camera-ready face of the far right, and in the shallow world of contemporary media politics, that is about all it takes to grab attention (substance be damned).
Thus, the off-year special election in the 23rd congressional district of New York has given us a glimpse of the breakup of the Republican Party, as many of that party's stalwarts have defected -- following the Twittering Palin -- to the Conservative Party, which has abandoned its longstanding tradition of simply endorsing the Republican, instead pushing a fairly conventional Republican out of the race. These conservatives mean business, and although they narrowly lost this race, don't think for a minute that they won't continue to pursue and fine-tune this method, forcing an ever purer version of the right's hardcore ideology, previously reserved not for government, but for am talk radio.
Democrats should take no glee in the mess on the right, unless they play it right. It should be seen as a warning bell, because mainstream Democrats will be facing an enormous primary season push to the left in the coming month (with eleven months to go before the midterm elections). This week, MoveOn raised $2 million in pledges in one day to force the hand of the Democratic Party:
(from MoveOn solicitation letter 11/03/09)
"You tell us how much you'd give. Then, we make sure the media, Senate leadership, and conservative Democrats know just how many of us are willing to support a challenge against anyone who blocks reform. Hopefully, none of them actually do it, and health care gets an up-or-down vote.
But if the nightmare scenario happens, we'll encourage viable primary challengers to come forward, and if they do, make sure all of us who've pledged have a chance to support them. In other words, potential primary challengers will know there's a huge group of Americans who are ready to help. And conservative members of the Democratic Caucus will too."
This is an important move for the left, because there is an expressed intent to actively work within the Democratic Party, and that's the key here. The effect of this effort won't be the same in every district, and the Democratic Party could begin to rupture just as the Republicans have begun to do.
Where does it lead? Of course both sides would like to inject more ideological purity into their representation, but when there are four or six competing parties or factions, history has shown us that too often the worst hard-liners will win out.
Our currency is being devalued by a Federal Reserve using its power to prop up only the wealthiest investors (most of whom have moved their wealth out of this nation's currency into high risk international trades), while millions more are going bankrupt and being put out of their homes and their jobs by the very institutions that were saved by the government (homes lost to foreclosure, jobs by the seized flow of credit that is killing small and mid-size companies). Many of the homeless and jobless now marching to the beat of Palin and her media tea party brigade find comfort in hate and scapegoating, worshiping a message of racial, ideological or even sexual purity.
We must heed history's warnings. Millions of angry unemployed and displaced conservatives, given the direction of a charismatic leader (in today's environment, probably from the media world), well-armed and hungry for power, can start a civil war. The contemporary American version would take the form of civil unrest and massive, coordinated riots, straining the resources of government authority.
There is activism and there is anarchy. Activism is the only civil approach. Let the Republicans fracture into two parties, but it is critical that liberals fix -- and maintain -- the Democratic Party, and thus retain a majority that can advance a progressive agenda. We must not allow a party schism to occur in the Democratic Party.