Thursday, May 25, 2006

Life to Death Cycles and Future Dems

The A-Team of progressive bloggers--Digby, Hamsher, Greenwald, and Soto--has weighed in recently on the impotence of Democratic leadership and the futility of expecting anything meaningful from them before or, more importantly, after the 2006 and 2008 election (Soto seems to think things will get better with victories, but he's wrong). What is missing from these realistic appraisals is recognition of the process at work here and why, if there is to be hope at all for the American Legacy of personal freedom and opportunity and responsible and democratic government, that hope will only be realized by either the disappearance of the Democratic Party itself or such a reconstituting of it that it bears virtually no resemblance to what is happening today.

As I've pointed out in my posts on the importance of anchors as the poles within which meaningful debate and change can take place, the current Dems rose to power in the 1930s on ideas and proposals seen as radical in the decades before. Once in power on those ideas and proposals, watered down by politics but still more creative and purposeful then what had been in place before, the Dems began the familiar life-death cycle common to all organized systems. They went through their pre-power formative stage (pre-'30s), birth and growth ('30s-'40s), maturity and stabilization ('50s-'70s), and have in decades since ('80s-present) been finishing their decay and death stages. In social organizations, as the growth and energy stage in the form of commitment and action fades, it becomes institutionalization, inertia and lethargy, and corruption and abuse.

That's what was clearly happening to the Dems by the mid-'70s. Too interested in maintaining their power through increasingly corrupted alliances, they forgot their commitment to the principles of the common good for common Americans that had brought them to power over the Republican decay/death stage ideology of privilege which marked the end of a similar 60-70 year cycle for the Repubs. Jimmy Carter gave them a chance to recover by lasering in on problems evident then but too easy to deny and ignore. A recommitment to marshalling "New Deal"-like forces to maintain and pass on the Legacy would have likely revitalized the party and the nation. Instead that "genius" Tip O'Neill told him to stop sending new policies to Congress because they didn't have time to handle everything.

Didn't have time.

O'Neill, that totally overrated drunken uncle we love at holidays, also gave his followers that idiotic slogan, "All Politics Is Local," which may be true but short-sighted in the short run but pulls apart any hope of building a party on common dreams and accomplishment. (Have you never wondered about O'Neill's "lion" status in the party when he's responsible for giving us Chris Matthews?) O'Neill was the one Reagan's "Revolution" rolled over, again and again, displaying the rot and corruption, the old guard inability to think in the new ways necessary to offset the birth and growth stage of the Repubs, who were taking previously "radical" anchors of ideas (supply-side economics) and individuals (Reagan) from pre-birth to current control.

The problem for the Dems now is that the final stage of their cycle has not played completely out, in large part because they and their remaining props in the DC Establishment have not yet realized that their day is done. They still hold to the "good old days," like all royalty just before the guillotine, and think a Restoration is still possible. It's not. These Dems only "win" when the Repubs manage to lose and then, as Greenwald is particularly good at describing, fail to use their occasional victories to clear the ground for new growth, letting the Repubs hang around unchastened to recover and roll the Dems again.

Yes, the Repubs are on the back side of their own life-death cycle right now, but they've got a generation or so to go before they hit where the Dems are now. The current Dem leadership can't make true headway against them because they still want what today's Repubs have; they can still remember when it was theirs, money in freezers and all. They are completely inadequate for the job that really needs to be done, that nurturing of "out there" anchors that seed the ground with the new possibilities and approaches that are absolutely vital if the American Legacy is to survive in tact the challenges facing us in the next decades.

There is no guarantee that those anchors will take root. Few "names" among the Dems have shown any ability to recognize they're finishing a long predictable cycle that ends badly for them. Wellstone might have been a guide. Feingold is seen by some, but he's going to have to do better than "censure" and walking out on Specter (although that was a nice first step). Edwards, with his "Two Americas" and campaigning for living wages, might get there if he can get past that face and not become his VP debate experience. Dean seemed to be getting a clue before the death-throe Dems and dilettante media hacked him down. His "50 State" strategy is a no-brainer except for those with no brains, but broadening the infrastructure, while providing the needed supports, just plows the field. The seeds for new growth, the necessary anchors and more acceptable derivations don't get planted.

Hillary? Warner? Kerry? Please. Biden? Bayh? Dodd? Not even worth a Please. Clark? He voted for Bushnev the first time, not really a sign of a clue. VP maybe, but he's shown no inkling of anchoring.

Which brings us back to the heavy-set, earth-tone clad, Internet-inventing elephant left in the middle of the room. Can Gore's defeat [sic] in 2000 have freed him from the calcified, degenerated last breaths of the old Dem guard? He's already known for his own anchors--global warming, Internet, Iraq, people media, as Soto notes--and he has nothing to lose by championing them and more. He might be better suited as an outsider setting the needed anchors and mentoring their banner carriers, but he could also step immediately into the lead.

Could he lose [sic] again? Sure. The media heathers are still there and, as the rigor mortis starts to set in, the Repubs can be expected to flail even more violently to deny it. Plus, it could be too late. That's hard to conceive or accept, but one great nations have always failed as they failed to renew themselves well or consistently enough to offset the inevitable life-death cycle. Maybe this is just our time.

What is undeniably true, as shown time after time after time on appointment votes, acceptance of unconstitutional actions and rationales, waffling to prove themselves "tough," etc., the current Dem leadership, the 21st Century equivalent of the final Roman elites, are not up to the task. No point in lamenting it or trying or trying to reverse it. The Repubs may give them one or two more "victories" that they end up losing, but the fork is in them, the thermometer has popped up. They're done. The questions are, with the Repubs not far behind, what comes next?, and is there anything we can still do about it?