Back in the late 70’s, when I first started to vote, the world was a very different place – and so was American Politics. The Republicans were the party of the working man. They were the ones wearing the crew cuts, with the pocket protectors and were the engineers, workers and manufacturers that made the American Economy run on time. The Left were the anarchists that wanted to burn the government to the ground, save the flowers and plant the trees. At that time, there were really only two parties and both could actually claim to be “big tent” parties. Each party ran the gambit from the ultra partisan to the moderates. Independents were something entirely different then than they are now.
Over the last 3 plus decades, I have watched the evolution of those parties into what they are now. The left is far more moderate than they were when I started voting and a typical middle of the road democrat today would have been considered either an independent or moderate Republican then. There are still members of the left that would be very happy to burn our governmental system to the ground and start over, but they are more the fringe, rather than the norm. The modern Democrats are interested in fiscal responcibility and they are far more friendly to business than they ever were. While they still cling to the idea of “Governmental solutions” to everything, they are often correct in making that distinction, given the failure of private sector to address issues. Much of this change is due to the “Rebranding” done to the Democratic Party by President Clinton after two decades of steady defeats at the hands of the Republicans.
On the other hand, I have watched the party of Ike, become the party of Corporatism, Cronyism and Evangelicals. I have seen the concept of “get yours, meathead” take such a hold on the Republican party, I have wonder if there is anyway back from that. Just the idea of “trickle down” economics is so blatantly ridiculous, you have to wonder how anyone ever bought into it in the first place. There are now at least seven “third” parties that I can think of off the top of my head, and even though they don’t do any better in elections than they did in the 70’s, they are far more vocal, active and influential than ever before.
The other thing about politics today, is that the idea of a “big tent” party politics is gone. Not just less obvious, not just weakened, but dead with a stake through it’s heart. Both parties claim to be “Big Tent” but their claims are beyond laughable. The Democrats have more of a claim to the idea of “Big Tent” but even they are becoming more Corporatists and less voter centric. They spend more time fighting the very people they should be embracing – their moderates – than they do the opposing party. The end result of all this is entire section of the American voting populous that is disenfranchised. I am sadly caught in that gray area between the parties. The result of this hyper partisanship is obvious to the most casual observer – the most “Do nothing Congress” in decades, the Government shutdown, the stalled recovery from the Great Recession… the list goes on. Worse, it is the average American that is paying for these avoidable situations.
The idea that the Republicans aren’t Big Tent anymore is painfully obvious and often pointed out by the national media. They have lost touch completely with minorities, they have embraced their evangelicals (kicking those of us that aren’t evangelical to the curb) and they have given in to the hard, rigid right exemplified by the Tea Party Patriots. Unlike many Montana blog writers, I do not for a second believe that all Republicans buy into the Tea party Bullshit, but I do believe that they fear a primary challenge so much from these people that they give in quietly to their demands. During the Government shutdown – engineered by the Tea party Republicans – many Republican Congressmen expressed their belief that what they were doing was wrong but they feared the consequences of bucking the Tea party or the Republican Leadership. Speaker Boner could have stopped the whole thing but he was afraid of losing his leadership position if he went against the wishes of the loud mouthed minority in his party. No one with two brain cells to rub together would ever consider the Republicans the “The Big Tent” party.
Sadly, though it goes unreported and unlamented, the Democrats have adopted a similar stance with their party. No Montana Democrat exemplified this more than Norma Duffy – failed candidate for the Montana House race in District 72. On Democratic blogs she viscously attacks any left leaning person who doesn’t immediately and fawningly concede to her obvious superiority. If anyone has the temerity to argue with her, she doesn’t argue the issue, she dives into Google to look her “harasser” up in an insane attempt to find any kind of dirt she can on the person. She has even gone so far as to call county officials in Jefferson County in an attempt to get one person in legal trouble after he made the mistake of arguing with her. This is face of the modern Democratic Party in Montana.
I would like to say that I am joking, but even the Montana Cowgirl Blog (at one time, the most viewed left leaning blog in Montana), has given into her insanity. After recent dustups on the Cowgirl site involving Norma and another “interesting” individual, Larry Kralj harassing numerous commenters to the point that the Cowgirl site was dubbed a “toxic waste dump”, Cowgirl instituted a policy that the comments would be moderated. Even as multiple people were heaving a sigh of relief, though, Cowgirl posted a fawning and directed appeal to Norma to come back to the site. Norma.. the one that claimed that Democrats should undergo a “purity test” to be considered Democrats and called my brother – a man that has publicly supported Montana Democrats for decades with his money, blood, sweat and tears – a “Republican Plant”. Any question of whether the Cowgirl site will remain a toxic waste dump have been answered.
Anyone that even hints that either party is the “Big Tent” party at this point is laughable. It should come as no surprise that Montana is headed back to being a solid “Red” state. Unless something radically changes between now and November, the Democrats will lose one of the two Senate seats to a Republican. It is also quite likely (in fact, a given if Rehberg enters the race) that the US House seat will stay Republican. The Montana Legislature is solidly hard right and the PSC seat being vacated is likely to go to one of the most radical, batshit crazy, hard right politicians in Montana. There is little movement to stop it because the Democrats are so busy purifying their brand that they can’t get it together to win an election.
The really sad thing about all this is that moderates like me (and likely the majority of the Montana voting population) are not represented by either of these extremes. We have to suffer through the insanity that these extreme politicians want to force on us. If the hard right wins, the working poor suffer (for example, the move to deny the Medicaid expansion leaving 70,000 working Montana families out in the cold when it comes to health insurance). If the hard left wins, we get to deal with things like assault weapon bans that do nothing to address real crime and bloated governmental initiatives that stifle business growth and put even more people out of work. There is no “win” in any of this and until one of the two parties actually wakes the hell up, we can expect more of the same…
Addendum – as an introduction into an upcoming post and a link to what I am talking about here, I would like to point out that – in my not so humble opinion – no Political party is more adept at turning a working, positive situation into a complete defeat. Eight years ago, under one of the most popular (and Democratic) Governor the State of Montana has had, the Democrats controlled every major State position in Government and Elected a moderate Democrat (Senator Tester) over the incumbent Republican (Conman Burns) to the second Montana Senate Seat. Even the State legislature (which granted was nominally Republican) seemed for the most part sane and effective. Now, 8 years later, our Legislature is a nutcase shambles that has made national news for it’s bat shit crazy antics, the Democrats barely carried most of the high State political positions and lost the Attorney General’s office to a Republican that is openly wingnut. This year, unless something radically changes, the PSC will go completely Republican, the Senate Seat held by Democrat Max Baucus will be taken by Corporatist Steve Daines and the House seat held by Daines will likely go Republican (definitely if Rehberg enters the race as he is rumored to be doing). The Democrats in Montana are going to piss away the gains they made under Schweitzer and when the dust settles, they will huddle around and wonder where it all went. Me, not so much. I will just have to deal with the consequences.