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Many Hands make Long Blog Posts

The big question in Left Blogovia right now is whether it is Good or Bad for My Party (or the country, or the world) to have the Other Party nominating a bunch of loons, grebes and assorted waterfowl to the Senate. There are a bunch of different ways to look at it.

On the one hand, there is the point that nominees chosen for ideological purity will be less electable than nominees chosen for, well, electability. It appears to be true that in Delaware, for instance, the polls are showing good things for the Democratic nominee. This way of thinking says that, essentially, if it helps elect Our Team, then it’s a Good Thing. As you would expect (if you have been hanging out in this Tohu Bohu for a while), this is very much me.

On the other hand, there is the point that in reality the nominees in a statewide general election don’t matter very much. The important things are the economy, the popularity of the President, and the demographic makeup of the state. In Kentucky, for instance, things don’t look so good for the Democratic nominee. Given that, having the Republicans nominate a bunch of boobies, gulls and skimmers just means that the Senate will have more waterfowl in it, and that’s a Bad Thing, both for My Party (because it makes it harder to get anything done) and for the country and the world (because it’s more likely that something really bad will get passed). As you would expect, given my concerns with process and so on, this is very much me.

On the other other hand, there is the point that actually, there isn’t that much difference between having Tom Coburn or a great auk in the Senate, as that whole Party is going to vote the same way on just about everything anyway. And if they are trading an incumbent with some seniority and a bit of clout for some short-tailed shearwater with a loud squawk, so what? Are they going to push that Party’s agenda to the right? Is it going to have a more radical platform? Frankly, that doesn’t seem very likely to me, so here I am in this camp.

On the other other other hand, one of the things about the Senate particularly is that it is set up to maximize the individual clout of crazy Senators. As Jon Bernstein said on Election Day, “it will matter who the 60th most liberal and 60th most conservative Senators are, as well as who will be the 50th/51st most liberal and conservative Senators”. I would add that it matters who the most liberal and conservative Senators are, at least to the general discussion of policy options—I think Bernie Sanders and his insistence that single-payer be at least mentioned in the process made some slight difference in the outcome of the legislation, even if it didn’t, you know, actually persuade anybody that he was right. Maybe I’m wrong about this Overton Window stuff, but maybe I’m not, and if the Window includes a recently hatched set of chicks that are clucking about, well, whatever those people are clucking about, then, well, then this is very much me over here, too.

Has that cleared it up for everyone?

In conclusion, then, we can clearly see that it is either a Good Thing or a Bad Thing, or possibly neither, or conceivably both. So I have an idea, just to test this thing out. It’s too late for this cycle, though, so I think Our Party should just keep it in mind. All right? Here’s the idea. We nominate a bunch of crazy wild-eyed leftists. I don’t mean liberals like Barbara Mikulski. I mean people who make Dennis Kucinich and Maxine Waters look mainstream. People who couldn’t have been nominated to a House seat because they were too far left. Marxists, free-Mumia types, candidates who had been operating the puppets for the street theaters, the Pacifica guests, the up-against-the-wall-motherfuckers. You get it? Just for one cycle, we go absolutely apeshit and we nominate the turkeys and dodos and peckers and tits. As an experiment, right?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Perhaps the Goodness or Badness for the Democrats of the Republican Party's propensity to nominate people who are not only right-wing but unhinged will depend to a considerable extent on how the Democrats respond. If they try to respond in a "bipartisan" manner and treat their opponents as if they are rational, serious, citizens who accept the Bill of Rights, it will be Bad for the Democrats, because they will look like chumps who are just as incapable of facing reality as their opponents, but weaker and duller. If they straightforwardly and honestly call their unhinged right-wing opponents on their crazy, disastrous, and un-American ideas, it will be Good for Democrats, because they will look like reasonable and courageous leaders. If the majority of voters in a state are not only right-wing but unhinged, that's Bad for Democrats, but nothing can be done to make that better in the context of a single election cycle, b/c the only short-term solution is to pander to the unhinged right wing, and the Republican Party is now demonstrating the dangers of relying on that strategy for short-term political gain.

Of course, it is Bad for the country, and thus for Democrats, when people who are incapable of governing have a serious prospect of being elected to high offices of government, but, again, there's nothing that Democrats can do, in the short term, about the kind of characters their opponents nominate for office. Over the longer haul, a serious commitment to administering an electoral ass-whupping to any and all candidates of the Christie O'Donnell, Rand Paul, Sharon Angle, Sarah Palin ilk, so that their opponents will eventually give up trying to sneak such characters past a disengaged electorate might cause the Republicans to restore "being capable of governing" to the list of qualifications they care about in their candidates, but there's no prospect of that happening in the short term.

If the Democrats were to behave as a mirror image of the Republicans, it would make the campaign season a lot more fun for me . . . And it sure would be a nice test of the importance of shifting the Overton Window, too!

I'm with you! I'd suggest nominating Howard Zinn, Studs Terkel, or Archie Green, but they've all died, I think. Who's on base now?

Way belated thought about all this (kind of a side note, not a direct response to your entry):

Way back in 1988, I knew a bunch of people (if memory serves) who were thrilled that George H. W. Bush had been nominated as the Republican candidate for President, because it was obvious that he was totally unelectable. (I think some people I knew may even have contemplated campaigning for Bush in the Republican primary, because it was so clear that his being nominated would be a good thing for Democrats.)

After the outcome of that election, I started being awfully dubious of the whole idea that it's good for my side if the other side nominates an extremist.

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