One of my gags I like to use in the comments sections of “conservative” opinion sites is to point out that the Republican Party is the land of unwanted toys. About a third of elected Republicans are traditional, middle American conservatives. Another third are just time serving barnacles who are in the best job they can ever hope to get. The other third would rather be Democrats, but circumstances put them in the GOP.
Sensible Americans often make the mistake of taking what the Progressives say about the GOP at face value. Who has not been harangued by some madman hooting and bellowing about the extreme right wing extremist Republicans? Turn on MSNBC and that unbalanced lesbian is always carrying on like Ted Cruz is at the door, threatening to fill her uterus with Bibles and sew her legs shut.
Reading the campaign websites yesterday for my screed about Rubio and Clinton, I was reminded of this reality about the parties. If you are a normal, traditional American of any race or religion, the Democrats hate you. Yeah, they hate white men with a purple passion, but they had middle-class black guys and Korean shopkeepers too. Their appeal is exclusively to poor minorities, plutocrats, government employees and the upper reaches of the managerial class.
If you are a mailman, the Democrats are the good bet, even if you are a pale penis person. If you are running a UPS Store franchise, the Democrats are your enemy, even if you are a one-legged black lesbian Elvis impersonator. That’s the thing. Their appeal is really just a relentless assault on an ever widening array of enemies. It’s a party of old rich white people promising to smash up the while middle class and give the bits to those who vote Democrat.
The point here is that for the majority of Americans, there’s nothing on offer from the Democrats. For a sizable minority, maybe even a majority now, the Democrats are a threat to them personally, professionally and culturally. Strip away the old white people who grew up voting for FDR Democrats and the party probably represents just 25% of the population. Given that 20% of whites are Progressives, 30% is probably the ceiling for the Democrats.
What this means is that for those with anything on the ball, voting Democrat is suicide so they have to find an alternative. The Republicans have nothing much to offer, but at least they are not threatening to pull the roof down on society. GOP majorities in state legislatures, governorships and the Congress are entirely due to there being no third option. When the option is slitting your own throat or voting for the Republicans, most people have no trouble pulling the lever for the GOP.
The problem with being the Null Party is twofold. When the other party has anything to offer, they end up looking magisterial. Bill Clinton was a vulgar clown, but he had an issue and he had a purpose. That was enough to beat an old patrician with no reason to keep his job. The same was true of Obama. Compared to McCain and Romney, Obama looked like Churchill. Something, even something stupid, is more than nothing and in a democracy, that’s what wins.
The other problem the Null Party faces is that when they are in the majority, as they are today, they have nothing but idle time. Since they never had a reason to win the majority, they can’t come up with anything to do with it. Instead of a strategy to roll back the excesses of Obama, for example, they spent years squabbling over trivialities and then finally conceded everything in order to gain some peace during the presidential election.
Given that they have become the default option whenever the Democrats go bonkers, which is often, the Null Party keeps drawing the wrong lessons from each election cycle. There furtive attempts to confront Obama were blamed for their loss in the 2012 election. Curling back into a ball is credited with their stunning victory in 2014. That’s why they gave away the store in the last budget. Like a cargo cult, they just assumed more concessions meant another victory. Instead they have a revolt.
At the end of the last Great Progressive Awakening in the late sixties and early seventies, there was an intellectual counter culture forming that culminated with Reagan winning the White House. The spiritual energy may have been drained out of the Democrats as the New Left burned out, but there were still plenty of sensible people in the party to give it some reason to exist. This carried us into the Bush years when everything fell to pieces again.
Today, there’s is nothing to fill the void now that the latest Progressive wave is receding. The Null Party may fill the seats in Congress, but they have nothing to offer the voters other than platitudes, references to Reagan and technocratic programs that amount to busy work for the bureaucrats. Nature and politics abhors a vacuum, which why the leading candidates in both parties are from well outside the mainstream. Something, even something stupid, is more than nothing and in a democracy, that’s what wins.