“The Republican base is driving the party toward a political agenda
that makes its candidates increasingly unelectable
for national and statewide offices.”
— Howard Dean, former Vermont Governor,
the preceding Chair of the Democratic National Committee,
and founder of Democracy in Action, speaking to Politico Magazine
We spent the entire year before the 2008 presidential election, we only realized later, in a state of distress as we contemplated the downfall of our country should it be taken over by right-wing extremists or nut jobs like PTSD-sufferer John McCain. On election night, with Obama victorious, the tears flowed and flowed. We felt like we had rescued triumph from the jaws of defeat, and then felt the same way when he was re-elected in 2012.
In spite of Obama’s shortfalls politically since he took office, the trend towards sanity, particularly with respect to equality rights, has been brighter than it has ever been, despite the racial hatred expressed by the opposition on a daily basis.
With the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2010 our joy over Obama has been tampered by the awareness of just how much harm and chaos can still be wrought by hate-filled right-wingnuts. Things were likely to get much worse before they could get better, especially with the rise of tea party madness. Make no mistake, these right-wingnuts, all of whom are white christianists with only a handful of exceptions, are just as misguided and murderous as any fundamentalist theocrat you can find in all the world’s trouble spots. And, just like them, right-wingnut politicians have fueled domestic terrorism.
Since that 2008 election eve, however, we also came to understand that each misstep the opposition makes is a gift because their’s are are always self-repudiating, always damaging to their cause, always distancing the speaker further and further from reality, always a sentiment with no legs therefore no future, always a simplistic hope that is destined to die by its own negativity. The more stupid they behave, the better for progressives, even if the results are not immediately apparent.
It used to be that right-wingnuts kept their racism and sexism under wraps, as much as was possible. For example, Nixon’s “southern strategy,” to enrage poor, low educated, white people to resist progressive ideas and candidates, was a direct result of and backlash against the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, just as much as Jim Crow laws were a reaction against the end of slavery. But since the 60s everything was done behind the scenes, as secretive as possible, civil on the outside but treacherous on the inside.
The inevitability of the population shift toward a non-white America, and in particular the election of a black president, has created another backlash, one so fearsome that right-wingnut’s deepening paranoia and hatred has been fully unmasked. For the last 6 years, they speak and act like we can’t see or hear them, a sure sign of mental disease, making their self-repudiation more rapid and complete, hastening their demise. This modern backlash is good for progressives because it brings our opponents into sharper relief, easier to criticize, and, most important, unseat.
When Mr. Brat, an economics professor of dubious merit, can ride Tea Party ideals to unseat a Republican establishment candidate like Cantor in a Virginia primary, that can only be a gift to the opposition if used well. Unfortunately, in this case, Brat’s Democratic opponent is also another economic professor of dubious merit, from the very same small-bore college in the woods of Virginia, so it’s impossible to say which one will be victorious, but the silver lining is nonetheless there for progressive to take note.
Howard Dean deftly defined this silver lining on Monday in Politico Magazine.
First, competing in every state and every district is still vital. You never know when an opportunity will arise to pull off an unexpected victory . . . Democrats can win everywhere only when we run everywhere. That requires committing to and developing grass-roots talent in the deepest-red and darkest-blue corners of the electoral map.
Second, Americans are so fed up with Congress that even the tea party wants to kick it out. . . House leaders have engaged in very little serious work that would benefit the American people, and voters are sick of it.
Third, organization and shoe leather can beat big money. . . In an upcoming election in which Republicans’ secret corporate money could dwarf Democrats’ progressive message on the airwaves, Cantor’s defeat should remind us that phone calls, door knocks and one-on-one conversations with neighbors can beat back a tidal wave of cash.
Fourth, base support wins elections — unless it drives you outside the mainstream. Cantor’s loss has largely been attributed to his failure to retain the support of a GOP grass-roots base that opposes everything from gun-violence prevention to comprehensive immigration reform. That was bad news for Cantor, but it is even worse news for the GOP nationally. The Republican base is driving the party toward a political agenda that makes its candidates increasingly unelectable for national and statewide offices.
This dynamic stands in stark contrast to the one between Democrats and their progressive grass-roots base, which pushes the party to embrace policy ideas that enjoy broad popular support.
Lastly, and perhaps most important, Democrats need to learn from Cantor’s loss that anything can happen in 2014. Even on the morning of the election, not a single major pundit or politician thought the majority leader would lose. Cantor was considered invincible, and Republicans were expected to win big in November. But voters have minds of their own and the tea party’s right-wing base helped it usher in a truly unexpected result.
The fact is, the Democratic base is much larger than the tea party, and polling shows that most Americans stand with us on issue after issue, from expanding Social Security to raising the minimum wage to getting big money out of politics. If Democrats mobilize our base, stand up for what’s right and force a fight on vote-inspiring issues connected to combating income inequality, we can rack up wins that will stun many in Washington’s pundit class — and elect Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in November.
(The full article, “The Lesson in Cantor’s unexpected defeat” can be found here.)
So progressives take note: Foolish Republicans are there for plucking. Find and support your local candidates who can articulate what we stand for. Let’s sweep both houses of Congress this November!