January 21, 2010
The Democrats Start to FractureBy J. Robert Smith
In the coming weeks and months, the best political spectator sport around might not be Democrats versus Republicans or conservatives versus liberals, but Democrats of all stripes turning on one another.
Other than demagoguery, what Democrats are most accomplished at is fratricide (think back to the '60s and '70s). In the wake of Scott Brown's hosing of Martha Coakley, the Democrats are about to have a good old-fashioned civil war. Pity for them; bully for America.
The Democrats are dividing roughly along these lines: left ideologues against pols, the latter being those congressional Democrats who like their jobs and don't intend to wrap themselves in the European Union flag and jump off a craggy cliff into the Potomac.
It's Pelosi and Frank and their ilk versus Heath Shuler and his ilk. But given Tuesday night's win for Scott Brown in deep blue Massachusetts, it may be more than self-styled Democratic moderates who choose to defect. A few liberals may join in, too.
President Obama is showing every sign of being a cliff-jumper. Word out of the White House is that he plans to go on a populist offensive. In other words, he aims to demagogue anyone and anything in an attempt to divert voters' attention from his utterly woeful, ideologically blind performance to date. And did I mention that under the cover of a hate, resentment, and envy campaign, Mr. Obama and his chief congressional lieutenants, the envenomed Nancy Pelosi and the passive-aggressive Harry Reid, will still scheme to foist statism on America?
While the President's bravado may warm the hearts of Huffington Post and Daily Kos denizens, and while he may win plaudits from the Davids (Broder, Gergen, and Brooks) and the New York Times (among other liberal mouthpieces) for his supposed shrewdness, plenty of work-a-day congressional Democrats aren't going to enlist in a lemmings' march into the sea.
Self-preservation is a powerful instinct. The Coakley upending is the fork in the road for Democrats who are more enamored of themselves than stinky left-wing orthodoxy. The marker at the road's fork points right, toward the middle ground. It's where these Democrats know they must go if they are to stand a prayer of retaining their seats in November.
With every passing day, expect a few, and then lots of sobered Democrats to take the road right, regardless of the sharp disapproval of Pelosi and Reid or the threats of the White House Capone crew.
Congressional members peeling away from their party's failing president is nothing new in Washington annals. LBJ and Richard Nixon could have given you earfuls.
But left-wing activists and fundraisers and money-givers aren't going to take defections lightly. While keeping guns trained on Mr. Obama to ensure his fealty, expect left-wingers to turn other guns on congressional Democrats cheeky enough to scuttle ideology in favor of survival.
Nowadays, the left isn't so much a movement as it is a death pact. If you've taken its money or accepted its campaign ground troops or benefited from its uncoordinated expenditures -- and most Democrats have -- then you're on the hook. It's like the mafia: Once you're made, you can't be unmade. Woe to the good fella or gal who wishes to part company.
Don't expect defecting Democrats to go gentle into the night. When the left opens fire on them, expect them to fire back. It's to their advantage. Positioning will be critical at this point on to the defectors. They'll need to demonstrate to voters that they've separated themselves from the dead weight that are Obama's health care legislation and his cap-and-tax and immigration reform aims (only liberals can turn "reform" into a dirty word).
This Democratic civil war means that the president's health care reform legislation is as dead as the Articles of Confederation. Cap-and-tax proposals based on specious climate change arguments and economy-killing provisions are already floundering, and they will go the way of the dinosaur if the president, Pelosi, and Reid push them harder. Immigration reform is a sticky-wicket. Attempting to liberalize immigration laws at a time when the economy is hurting and unemployment hovers around ten percent isn't the swiftest move.
Watch to see what higher-profile Democratic senators like Evan Bayh and Blanche Lincoln do. Throw Jim Webb in the mix as well. Unlike the wretched Ben Nelson or the oily Mary Landrieu, who have so conspicuously sold their souls to Mr. Obama and the left, the aforementioned senators have a limited opportunity to act to rehabilitate themselves by jumping off the Obama train to nowhere. If these senators are as self-serving as I suspect them to be, that's three votes that Mr. Obama and Majority Leader Reid can't count on. And more names can be added to the list.
If the Democrats' civil war plays out as expected, the result will be legislative torpor, magnificent wheels-squealing, and grinding-to-a-halt gridlock for 2010. Much to the relief of taxpayers and Main Street Americans, the 111th Congress will do no more damage...because it can't.
Civil wars typically don't have pretty endings. This one won't, either. A bad economy made worse by a "waste no crisis" president and his henchmen and a War on Terror that's devolving into an ACLU parody combined with a fracturing and fighting Democratic Party is the stuff of electoral bloodbaths, perhaps eclipsing the Democrats' 1994 carnage.
But that's for another day. Right now, let's just thank conservatives, tea party patriots, and independents (and some rank-and-file Democrats) for Scott Brown's victory. Bay Staters, along with their brethren earlier in Virginia and New Jersey, have a made a stout first line of defense against Mr. Obama's and the left's encroachment on our liberties.