Skeeter Sanders has had quite a bit of success posting on DailyKos and he's been publishing The 'Skeeter Bites Report since the end of '05. Central Vermonters also know him as the DJ of The Quiet Storm on 91.1 WGDR-FM. "The Quiet Storm" is Northern New England's only smooth jazz/R&B radio show, and we are thankful to Skeeter for bringing some music diversity to an often bleak radio landscape.
We taped this episode of VTblogosphereTV the day after Obama's health care address, so we both had Joe Wilson on the brain. This clip begins as Skeeter is finishing up enumerated other less publicized instances of Republican boorishness during the presentation to both Houses. Then the discussion broadens:
I found Skeeter's referencing of 1964 particularly fascinating, perhaps since I had just finished reading Rick Perlstein's Nixonland. The book traces both Nixon and the Republican Party's journey from the political graveyard in 1964 to Nixon's 1972 landslide. The undoing of the liberal consensus in the intervening years was in part stoked by larger events (Vietnam, urban riots) but Nixon had a large role in orchestrating a politics of division that remains today. Perlstein argues that the Southern Strategy, the appeals to emotional and cultural discontents, the politics of resentment all led to the blue state/red state divide that became a cultural shorthand in this decade.
A prerequisite for the flipping of a liberal consensus to decades of a Republican White House (with interludes for Southern Democratic centrists) was the ideologically purifying campaign of Goldwater in 1964. What at the time was political suicide-- a hard tack to the right during a liberal era-- ended up creating just the contrasts necessary to capitalize on the collapse of that era of liberalism.
So at the risk of forwarding tortured historical analogies, is the present Republican public hissy fit a kind of purifying ritual that will reap them rewards in the future? Or are we witnessing something quite different, a wholesale shrinkage of a party that will have no claim to vast swaths of the electorate save fundamentalist regional voters?
Further, ideological purification as a prescription for a party out of power does not seem to ever be followed by the Democrats. The Democratic Party has not embraced its left flank in my lifetime although many a progressive has insisted that the key to success is to rhetorically and legislatively practice class politics and win the great majority of Americans who are not members of the overclass. When Rove was delusionally declaring a permanent Republican majority in 2004, it was a moment like 1964, where it appeared that the party out of power had been reduced to irrelevancy. The Democrats did not take that moment as a signal to purify; rather they enlarged the electorate and placed their bets with a biracial conciliator, a man who frequently evoked the other President from Illinois tasked with reuniting and healing a nation.
But perhaps Perlstein's formulation is for an era that ended. He wrote Nixonland in 2008 and perhaps the election of Obama signalled that "there are no red states there are no blue states" anymore. Maybe the present ideological purification, this hard tack to the right we are witnessing as Republican madness, will result in further marginalization. Skeeter pointed out that when Bush lost his own party around immigration reform, it should have been an early warning sign of the extremism to follow. What we are seeing is an exorcism of Bush-- with the party base refashioning itself hypocritically as deficit hawk America firsters. Maybe what we are witnessing this time is not the ideological purification of 1964, but the complete inability to compute the reality of a black President, resulting in a mass psychological breakdown.
So have we left Nixonland yet?
Crossposted at Green Mountain Daily. VTblogosphereTV airs on public access TV in the Burlington area on VCAM and in central VT at ORCA. If your local blogosphere has not yet migrated to public access TV, I highly recommend it!