Apparently, Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly got a lot of angry email regarding his column last week that categorized former SAFECO CEO and insurance industry lobbyist Mike!™ McGavick as a victim of partisan politics. To sum up my response at the time: boo-hoo.
So Joel is back again this week defending bipartisanship, with reasonable sounding advice like “American democracy is about debating issues and trying to change minds,” and “A polarized country shouldn’t stop us from judging people on their merits, not attaching horns to their heads.”
I can’t disagree.
Unfortunately, we’re not living in an age of reasoned politics — at least not at the national level — where reasonable advice such as Joel’s can be unilaterally followed without risking utter defeat.
This is the age of Karl Rove. This is the age of the K Street Project. This is an age where war heroes are swift-boated and morphed into cowards and traitors while those in the press who are not actively complicit tend to dismiss the rhetorical violence with a “kids will be kids” shrug.
In this context, to advise Democrats to refrain from negative campaigning would be like advising the Israelis to respond to Hezbollah rockets with heated letters to the editor.
No doubt one should be wary of a disproportionate response, and yes, Joel is right in warning that negative campaigning can generate a backlash. But more often than not, muddying your opponent is damn effective, which is why political consultants resort to it with such frequency.
And while it is certainly reasonable to judge candidates on their merits, if you fear for the welfare of our nation under exclusive Republican can control, it is absolutely necessary to vote for candidates based on the letter next their name. Whatever one may think of Mike!™ as a person and however you may want to believe his claims that he represents the center, if his election to the Senate assures Republican control it will also assure the unchallenged agenda of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, Tom DeLay and their corporatist and right-wing extremist sponsors.
Is unbridled partisanship like I am advocating a danger to our democracy? Under current circumstances I’d argue that it is democracy’s only defense.
Josef Stalin… he didn’t allow political partisanship to threaten his rule, and neither does Fidel Castro or the Chinese Communist Party. That is what the Republican leadership wants for our nation, a one-party state in which the Democratic Party becomes nothing more than an impotent, useful foil. As Norquist once famously quipped:
“Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans… Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant. But when they’ve been ‘fixed,’ then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful.”
If that’s bipartisanship, I want no part. I want a Democratic Party with the balls to be Democrats.