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Friday, September 24, 2004

Those who live by the sword . . .  

This Washington Monthly article "Perverse Polarity" by Paul Glastris lays the blame for increased partisanship in Washington at the door of the radical republican right.
Glastris concludes "The point is that [Republicans] have clearly taken the lead in dismantling bipartisanship by uniting around a radically conservative agenda and consciously--even gleefully--defying the old unwritten rules of politics that once kept partisanship and ideology in check. The same simply does not hold true on the other side of the political spectrum. You can say a lot of things about the Democrats. You can say the party's grassroots loathes Bush just as intensely as Republicans loathed Clinton. You can say Democratic members of Congress have, belatedly, become less naive about making deals with the Bush administration. But you can't say Democrats have moved farther to the left. They have recognized a radical presidency for what it is--but that does not make them radical as well."
Now, I am not a political scientist nor an expert on history, but in my observation, radicalism always leads, ultimately. to marginalization.
A radical agenda is, by definition, an ideological agenda. Radical ideology does not work in a democracy for the long term because it is not responsive. When ideas matter more than people, the ideology does not, because it cannot, respond to people's needs. In the end, provided that the elections are held fairly, of course, ideology is ALWAYS voted out eventually.
Even a cursory look at the politics of democracies in the 20th century proves this case -- in England, conservatives hold sway for a decade or two, then labour comes back with a rush when people finally get fed up. In Saskatchewan, the NDP get defeated when they simply will not listen to people's complaints. In Quebec, the Parti Quebecois loses when people get tired of the rhetoric. And, of course, if the next government also proves to be too ideological, then ultimately it gets turfed as well.
What drives Conservatives in Canada mad is that people simply will not vote the Liberals out of power -- the federal liberals refuse ideology as a basis for most of their political decisions, preferring polls and focus groups -- you might say their ideology is simply that they govern based on what people want. Ideologues on both sides call this cynical and pandering -- but actually, it works out quite well. Basically, if enough people want a non-ideological government to do something, then such a government will do it. That's OK with me.
Getting back to the situation in the US, the more ideological the republicans get, the more certain it is that ultimately they will lose. And it is the needless, ideological war in Iraq that will be their undoing. Just as Vietnam and the Iran hostage crisis were blamed on the democrats, which allowed the republicans to elect Nixon and Reagan, so America will blame the republican ideologues for Iraq -- and rightfully so.
Bush and Cheney cling to their justification of Iraq as payback for 9/11, as a crucial battleground in the War on Terror. But as the situation deteriorates there day by day, as it becomes more apparent that the US is losing Iraq, then even that linkage turns around and bites them in the ass -- if Iraq were, actually, a crucial battleground, then losing in Iraq means the US is losing the War on Terror, does it? And whose fault is that? Not only that, but they're also losing in Afghanistan, as the debacle-to-come in the Afghan elections in two weeks will make clear. They can writhe and snap at Kerry, and try to blame the UN, and the French, and everyone else, but basically they are twisting in the wind.

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