November 26, 2009

The Left Should Be Emulating Republican Infighting

republican_jesus2.jpgOne of the big political stories in the U.S. right now concerns the in-fighting taking place in the Republican Party. In a nutshell, the extreme-right wing of the already far-right party is attempting to dispel those they consider not socially conservative enough. In one of the more dramatic examples of this, they ran a Conservative Party candidate against the Republican candidate in a New York state race, which the Democratic opponent ended up winning. Those on the left are having a great time with this because they've managed to convince themselves that it marks the end of the Republican Party. I find much of their criticism to be shortsighted. While I do not agree with much of anything associated with far-right politics, I do think that their struggle to redefine what they stand for is something the left should be doing as well.

The conventional criticism of Republican infighting coming from the left is that they are promoting ideological purity at the expense of numbers. That is, by purging those deemed not socially conservative enough, they are guaranteeing that they will end up as a small, weak party that only has influence in the South. By alienating the "moderates," they are assuring that their candidates will never win general elections. Even some Republicans agree with this analysis.

I believe that this criticism glosses over some important facts:
  • The recent election of President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress had far more to do with Bush's colossal failures and multiple Republican scandals than it did with any disagreement with the Republican platform.
  • President Obama is no progressive and his election does not represent any sort of meaningful shift to the left. Most of the Democrats elected in the last election were to the right of center.
  • Progressives certainly helped to elect Obama, but their agenda has largely been ignored by this president.
What those on the left criticizing Republicans do not seem to realize is that there is a very real dissatisfaction with the present administration brewing among political progressives. As our agenda continues to be ignored, dissatisfaction turns to alienation. Just where is our motivation to turn out in great numbers to re-elect Democrats in 2010 and 2012?

As someone commenting from the left side of the spectrum, I envy what the Republicans are doing. I wish that we on the left were following suit, forming a progressive party far to the left of where the Democratic Party has drifted. What is the point of working to win elections when one's elected officials do not represent the base who worked so hard to elect them?

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