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Wagging the Dog

So. Michele Bachmann, who is as crazy a gadfly as needs to be in the Republican House Caucus, called a rally in DC for last week. Some thousands of people showed up, and—this is the key news—Their Party Leader in the House, the Whip, a former Leader and Whip, and a dozen or so other members of the House all came and spoke. As Joshua Micah Marshall points out, this was not a Republican Party event, organized by and under the Party leadership. This was a Michele Bachmann event, organized by and under Americans for Prosperity and Fox News.

In other words, the tail is wagging the dog.

This isn’t a new analysis. Nobody who follows Party politics in this country is surprised to discover that there is a division between the establishment Republicans and another powerful group of movers and shakers. The NY-23 Special Election for Congress that increased the Democratic majority is another part of that story, and it was right up at the top of the news. I think David S. Bernstein in the Boston Phoenix is on top of it with his election analysis: Doug Hoffman was a patsy for fund-raisers who didn’t care if he won or lost—and care even less about governance or legislation—but could and did use the media, direct mail, and talk radio to raise money for themselves in his name. The Party went along with it, knowing that their interests were being ditched, because they had no choice; as Mr. Bernstein points out, a question of credibility. The Party establishment doesn’t have any.

So when the tail wags, the dog has to wag, too.

Why do I care? I mean, it’s not my Party, let ’em cry if they want to.

Mostly, I care because (a) as a matter of principle, it’s a Bad Thing to have a Political Party controlled by profiteers who don’t care whether the Party is elected or passes any legislation, and (2) it’s a Bad Thing for my Party not to have an Opposition that is at least somewhat responsible, and (iii) these profiteers are willing to increase the amount of nationalism, racism, sexism, religious bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, fear, hatred and resentment in the country in order to increase their profits, and I am opposed to the increase of those things, which make the world worse.

And there’s another thing: while I do believe that Alan Keyes and Tim Phillips and Ralph Reed are cynically manipulating the rabble they despise in order to fill their pockets with pelf, I don’t know that I believe that Michele Bachmann is of their ilk. We have certainly seen the manipulated rabble, the ones who believe the bullshit, rise to positions of real power. Which is scary.

Your Humble Blogger wrote this note a few days ago, and in the interim, I have had pause to reflect, and the question I have paused on was this: am I a concern troll? After all concern trolling, at its most basic, is giving electoral advice to the Party you want to see lose. And it generally takes the form of advising the Party to abandon its core principles, its base constituency, and its policy positions. In my defense, I am not really giving advice, and I am rambling here in my own blog rather than on some site frequented by Republicans. Still, here’s the question: if Dennis Kucinich had called a rally in favor of Single-Payer and against the current Health Care Finance Bill (which I am happy to see passed the House while this note was resting), and if several thousand angry people showed up ranting against capitalism and the vicious, dangerous insurance companies, and if Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn felt they had to attend, wouldn’t I be ecstatic? How would I react to someone who talked about it showing that the Party was being held hostage to a group who were uninterested in winning elections or governing?

Two responses to myself come to mind. First, there is the simple fact that there does, really, exist a multi-million dollar industry on the other side, and there does not, really, exist a comparable one on mine. I could be wrong about that—I know about the industry largely through David S. Bernstein (at the Boston Phoenix, and in conversation, because (I have disclosed this before) we know each other socially, and have since Hector was a pup), and Mr. Bernstein is a liberal, which might conceivably have led him to overlook or conceal such an industry on ‘our’ side or to exaggerate the differences. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think the facts really are different, one side to the other.

And, of course, there is this: Rep. Kucinich did not get on MSNBC (or whatever), did not get thousands of people to rally, and the Party leaders did not feel they had to pay any public attention to him or to other gadflys of the left. If those things happened, while I might personally be ecstatic about it, I would hope there would be very serious discussion in the Party about the possibility that, you know there was a problem there, and also, you know, I would want to make sure I wasn’t standing under any of the flying pigs.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,