Michael Cohen, still objecting to plans to target 3 Democratic representatives who spearheaded the ridiculous “compromise” FISA bill (now perhaps 30 hours away from becoming law), points out that Democrats are much better than Republicans. Thanks for that, Mike. Meanwhile, Kos has a first cut at a list of Democratic reps who will face well-funded primary challengers in 2010.
Here’s how one approaches a game: you identify A) the Rules of the Game, you determine B) your Desired Outcome, and you devise C) a Strategy to navigate through A to arrive at B. Anybody can learn A, everybody’s got their own preferred B; figuring out an effective C is the tricky bit. When trying to learn Strategy, it makes more sense to listen to people who have played the game successfully than to people who have a record of failure. In chess, for example, you could probably learn more by studying the games of Bobby Fischer than, say, studying me. This is not to say one wants to be exactly like Bobby Fischer; just than one wants to learn those things which made him a winner. In modern American politics, then, one might wish to emulate Grover Norquist:
Norquist and other hard-line conservatives exhibit a surprising lack of tolerance for moderate Republicans, almost as if they’re worse than Democrats. Why is that?
[…] Conservative activists, Norquist included, criticize moderate Republicans, such as John McCain and Lindsay Graham, because they think the moderates are holding back the conservative agenda. The battle in the Senate over the historic filibuster provided a classic example of that. When McCain and Graham reached an agreement with a group of Democrats to retain the filibuster, the media hailed them as statesmen. But the conservatives were furious. I went to meetings with Norquist where people were shouting and screaming about “betrayal.”
And it’s not just shoutings – it’s money, it’s ad campaigns, and it’s very effective. Because Norquist understands that an effective movement needs more than a bunch of people – it also requires discipline. As David Sirota said:
I am in no way venerating Norquist’s ideology, nor his penchant for going way to far in terms of sidling up to some very shady characters. But tactically, he is clearly onto something. He fundamentally understands that division makes not an effective fighting formula. And he understands that the movement politics that comes from pressuring turncoats is far more powerful than partisan politics. Create an movement based on principles and ideology, and you have created something much sturdier than loyalty to a party label – and besides, a real movement will benefit the party anyway.
GOP leaders inherently understand this. Unlike many “big tent” Democrats, they value Norquist’s work in pressuring the capitulators within their ranks. They understand that Norquist’s pressure on their turncoats helps the GOP keep their turncoats in line.
Instead of whining and crying with cries of “let’s just all get along” for “get along’s” sake, Democrats should take some tactical lessons from their enemies who have so thoroughly drubbed them and place some value in a progressive infrastructure that demands accountability within the Democratic Party. Norquist proves that such an infrastructure – not permissive capitulation as the Democratic Party allows now – is integral to helping parties achieve majority status.
Now, Grover Norquist is a horrible, crazy douchebag. But the SEIU knows this strategy works. If you are going to line up behind a politician, you have to demand accountability. The SEIU has their list; civil liberties/anti-immunity advocates can have theirs. These lists won’t match up, and in some cases – Rep. John Barrow, for example – different constituencies within a party will be at cross purposes. That’s party politics. Constituencies within the party, if they want their voices heard and respected, have speak clearly, and have their words carry weight. You have to pick your fights carefully, and with a cold calculation of how it will advance your cause. But you do have to fight.