In 2008 the theme was, "We won. and the other party can sit in the back." But now it's 2011 and after a punishing election which the majority party lost badly, the new theme is, Bipartisanship. From proposals to have Democrats and Republicans sit together, as if congress were an elementary school assembly instead of the legislative body of the nation, to calls for civility and tamped down rhetoric, there's a sudden emphasis on everyone getting along and working together.
The Loughner killing spree gave the left a chance to use tragedy to club bipartisanship into Republican heads under the mask of civility. But all that shameless exploitation really proved is that the Democratic leadership hasn't changed. It doesn't want to work together, it wants to intimidate, smear and destroy its opponents with Stalinist glee. Over a week after the massacre, long after it's been made abundantly clear that Loughner was mentally ill, the media is still tossing in "Right-Wing" associations into the pile. On the 15th, a week after the massacre, the New York Times finally ran a semi-apologetic piece attributing its politicization of the attack to tight deadlines and blogger initiative, but on that same day it also ran an in-depth piece on Loughner which mentioned his rabid hatred for Bush, but still tossed in another reference to his supposed "Right-Wing" politics.
The media has always excelled at examining others, but fared quite poorly at examining itself. It spent days discussing whether Sarah Palin should have used the term, "Blood Libel", while spending no time at all discussing whether they should have conducted one. The same might be said of the Democratic party, which still has not come to terms with the results of the 2010 election. Rather than dealing with the criticisms, they have done their best to deal with the critics, labeling them as racist hatemongers or corporate pawns. But then the only conclusion is that the majority of voters are either racist hatemongering corporate pawns or in their thrall. And either one seems to foreclose the viability of democratic elections.
And that's the problem in a nutshell with a party that recognizes only the legitimacy of its victories, not its defeats. Had the Democratic party been at all in tune with reality, Scott Brown's victory in Maxwell Parish blue Massachusetts would have been a wake up call warning them that the public was not happy. But instead of dealing with the message, they tried shooting the messenger, ridiculing Scott Brown on entirely petty grounds. Now it's 2011 and there are a whole lot more Scott Browns reaped in the November harvest of the previous year. And ridiculing them all won't work.
The Obama Administration and its party allies have come to the sad conclusion that they will have to work with them, but only on their own terms. Hijacking a tragedy in which a Republican judge and a 9 year old girl were murdered would have been bad enough, but exploiting it as a tool of political leverage opens the door to a whole new breed of shamelessness. Obama finally got the OKC moment that Democratic strategists had been openly lusting for on news shows, but more importantly he got another club to beat the Republicans with. Civility. And civility is best expressed as a form of bipartisanship in which Republicans go along and do what they're told. In which Republicans are once again told to take their seats in the back, even after winning an election.
This was never about Loughner, or even about Congresswoman Giffords, but about power and leverage. And rather than trying to find a bipartisanship based on common ground, the losing party instead found a tragedy to grandstand on. The message is that anyone who rejects our newfound embrace of bipartisanship is a dangerous extremist who's responsible for the murder of little girls.
It will work of course. The Republican party, like most First World conservative parties, panics easily when accused of extremism or right wing sympathies. Boehner and FOX News quickly scaled back and backed down. But that's not too much of a victory. Like most bullies, the left confuses intimidation with power, but it's a very fleeting form of power based entirely on its media monopoly, on the gossip girls of the not-so-free press spreading rumors and lies about the opposition. It's a tactic that has traction when it comes to political opponents, but not to grass-roots uprisings like the Tea Party movement which consists of outraged individuals, not individual careerists.
It's the Tea Party that the left would really like to strike out at, because it's the Tea Party that obstructs their vision of bipartisanship, in which Republicans sign on the liberal dotted line and then line up for their obligatory slap in the face. The grass-roots energizes the political energies of a party by focusing on an agenda, rather than the turf battles in the halls of power which comprise so much of politics as we know it. Kill the grass roots and you kill the heart of the party. And pave the way for a smooth bipartisan cooperation.
The Tea Party is so often falsely depicted as violent, because the left needs it to be violent. Violence and racism are the only two things that can properly discredit an American populist movement, and the left needs to discredit the Tea Party because the alternative is a dreaded conservative resurgence. And that would swing the balance of power the other way leaving the Democratic party with the choice of either disowning its own radical base or taking on the role of the discordant but powerless opposition that the Republicans had occupied until recently.
The Democrats regularly rediscover bipartisanship when they are out of power, but they have forgotten the meaning of the word. Like a toddler, they can only see things their way. And to them bipartisanship means offering Republicans the opportunity to cooperate in passing the Democratic agenda. As Obama said back in October of last year, "We don’t mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.” The elections have shifted the balance, but the invitation is still open. The Republicans are still welcome, so long as they sit in the back. And don't insist on trying to pass their agenda or speak out about anything.
It's not civility that they're after, but consensus. A false consensus created by suppressing critical views. And when critical views are suppressed, the status quo triumphs. A status quo that just happens to lean well to the left, culturally and legislatively. It's one thing when such a consensus is created by the public, another when it's manufactured by a political party and its media supporters. The difference between a bottom up consensus and a top down consensus is the difference between democracy and tyranny. Having lost an election, the media tried to exploit a massacre to manufacture a top down consensus. A consensus that criticizing them is dangerous and leads to murder.
The Democrats have rediscovered bipartisanship, but not compromise. And that puts them and us down the same rabbit hole again. The 2010 elections were a referendum on both the party's actions and inaction. The 2012 election will be a referendum on the actions and inaction of both parties. It's tempting for the Republican party to crawl back in its shell and make a point of being the better man, but no one has ever won an election by being a good loser. Radio talk show hosts didn't create dissatisfaction with the Obama Administration, but they helped position Republicans as an alternative. In 2012, Republicans will still need to be an alternative, rather than the guys who kept the machine going with a few adjustments here and there.