Getting A Handel: Why The U.S. Political Parties Are Tearing Themselves Apart
Once again, Democrats chose the tuna with good taste over the tuna that tastes good. Chic filmmaker Jon Ossoff, buttressed by $25 million in mostly out-of-state money, went down in flames in Georgia against a modest Republican named Karen Handel on Tuesday. With revenge oozing from every pore after last November’s Clinton debacle, Dems burned through their stack of cash to no avail.
In fact, the GOP has now won four consecutive special elections since their November triumph. Handel becomes the first Republican woman elected from Georgia, but don’t expect any congratulatory messages from scolds like Chelsea Handler, Madonna or (oh God) Lena Dunham.
The present-day Dems never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. That’s why they’re lost in a Neverland of their own construction. While the Dems are dim, you can get yourself into a pretty animated conversation asking which of the two American political parties is in greater danger of collapse.
Some will tell you that the ruling Republican tent is strained to breaking from the demands made on it by its warring factions: The Washington-based GOP elite and the far-flung Tea Party faction outside the capital are tearing themselves apart trying to come up with an Obamacare replacement the satisfies the base but also can be sold to the liberal media.
Certainly the Republicans can content themselves— for now— with the spoils of power. And with the residual glow of having stuck a harpoon into the great Democratic whale in Washington. Tuesday’s win was sweet for a party that’s been in Trump-induced turmoil.
The problem for Republicans lies in the very nature of conservatism’s individual mandate. Every member is a duchy unto themself in the conservative world— with his or her own point of view— and a subsequent demand that that POV be respected. Hence the herding-cats scenario now underway in forging healthcare and tax legislation that everyone can salute.
Five months into the new Congress, neither a besieged Trump nor the GOP leadership can find the sweet spot to make everyone happy. If they fail to keep promises there will be—Tuesday notwithstanding— a blood bath in the 2018 midterm and the 2020 presidential elections.
Meanwhile, the post-Hillary Democrats look even less united. Having sold their soul to the Bernie Sanders/ Elizabeth Warren ‘60s nostalgia trip, they’re a mirthless combination of Chuck Schumer boilerplate and the radical demands of Black Lives Matter/ Occupy/ La Raza.
The Democrats (and their media allies) in Washington have been ragging the puck on procedure and state craft— subjects Trump cannot seem to avoid fouling up. While this chaos might provide emotional satisfaction after the trashing last November, it’s hardly a recipe for winning back hearts and minds who left the party and Clinton in the 2016 wipeout.
If there is a cogent strategy that placates Sanders/ Warren and the geriatric Democratic leadership, it has escaped public attention. Too busy leaking Trump foibles to the press, this party seems to believe it has a noblesse oblige to roll back into power without an coherent ideas. But with no issue beyond deposing Trump, it’s hard to rally anyone not wearing a balaclava.
You could hear in Ossoff’s “The Fight Goes On” concession speech that Dems continue to be fascinated by an elusive new coalition of blacks, latinos, angry feminists, celebrity bozos and climate groupies. That’s the same fun bunch that can win the popular vote but can’t work the math of the electoral college.
Perhaps what we’re really seeing is the U.S. finally moving away from the two-party domination of its politics. With the enervated central party organizations hopelessly linked to the status quo, you could see the activist elements of both parties cutting ties with their party cousins to pursue policy goals. It might even produce a three- or four-party equation strung along the political continuum— something you see in Canada.
Of the two, it’s more likely that the Dems might split. The media has no rooting interest in the GOP squabbles, but it’s smitten with the progressive wing of the Democrats. Pushed by fawning coverage of its activist agenda on climate, gender and health care— and funded by Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Martha’s Vineyard— the Progressives could well leave the Schumers and Nancy Pelosis in their dust to seek their own destiny.
It’s a bracing idea in a nation that has been almost exclusively for 250 years a two-party game. But in the new, no-surrender spirit in Washington, it just might find the proper conditions to permanently split the voter base.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. He’s also a regular contributor three-times-a-week to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. His website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com)