The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Saturday, August 13, 2005

NARAL and Street Fighting (Wo)Man

Digby has some good thoughts on the NARAL Roberts ad controversy. Long post short, pulling the ad isn't a real loss: the goal is to get the issue out there and stir some shit up. The fact that fellow "progressives" felt the need to jump on the anti-NARAL bandwagon is pathetic, but beside the point (for some Dems, it provides genuinely useful cover - but there's no excuse for blue staters and true lefties to pile on).

As so often, I think Digby has a good handle on the rough-n-tumble tactics we need to employ. What is so frustrating and baffling is that we seem to be such naifs about the whole thing - as if Atwood or Rove invented tough politics (I think they've obliterated some previously blurry boundaries, but that's different). Here's my theory:

Back in the day, Dems were a bad ass Machine. From Tweed to LBJ, we knew what it took to get elected, and to get legislation. As time went on, this was in the service of ever-more progressive causes. Which (together with the Southern Strategy) led progressives to join the Dem coalition. But of course the Progressive Movement was all about opposing Machine politics. So we had this huge disconnect between the past and future of the party, which probably led directly to some of the failures of the Dems between '66 and '80. But what's happened since then is worse: the Machine is dead. Labor is moribund. And what we have left is a party led by a bunch of wusses who have no idea what it takes to win. When they had power, it was handed down from the Machine they despised, but they never recognized the debt. Now that they've lost all power, they have no clue what it was that had once put Dems in power. It wasn't positioning, it wasn't going down to Alabama to ask voters about gay rights. It was playing hard, getting (a little) dirty, and making smart promises and compromises to get in a position to win.

I don't know if any of the current Dem leadership has a clue about this - even Mean Dr. Dean I think may confuse fiery conviction with actual badassery. But I think that the angry grassroots, frustrated at powerlessness, is getting ready to embrace the brass knuckles again. I only wonder who will wield them.


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