Saturday, December 22, 2007

This post dates to April 15, 2005.

We are winning.

That is a good thing.

We control the House, the Senate, the Presidency. The state level isn't much worse. I'm sure the Democrats will have a new idea other than Kill Tom DeLay some time before 2015, but that gives us a decade with which to squish them. We are blessed with dire opponents with the political savvy of whelk.

Politics, however, is readily comparable to an interminable street fight. One does not win a street fight by kicking one's opponent in the knee and yelling, Ha ha!. It is won by yanking out a spiked pipe and working over one's opponent while he lies cowering on the ground.

So to speak.

Which brings us to Kathy Castor, and indeed, those like her. It is incumbent on us to break these Democrat up and comers now. They are the Democrats' bench team, the faint glimmers of hope for a party on the downhill slope and careening for the bottom.

So we need to kneecap them now.

That long, slow slide to the bottom usually produces political cretins who at best get trounced and energize the activist wings of their parties, and all too often get trounced to no good effect. (Spare me the moralizing about Goldwater: No matter what else one may say of him and his effect -- deliberate or not -- on the Party, he was a political incompetent of the first order.)

Castor, by contrast (and metonymically), is not an incompetent. She has three things running in her favor: She is a capable candidate (a rarity for Democrats in this state); she stands out for honesty on a governing board astounding for its historic corruption; and because of her mother (who really should be ashamed for losing that race), has good statewide name ID. I give her better than even odds to make the House: Her primary competitors so far are incompetents, and her district is basically well-gerrymandered for Democrats (it went for Bush in 2004 but went overwhelmingly for Castor over Martinez, and Jim Davis never faced serious Republican opposition there). She's young -- under 40 -- and has already been bloodied in an election. She has great name recognition in district in no small part because she is recognized as the rare honest member of the Hillsborough County Commission. She will likely be able to tap some of the same fundraising sources her mother did.

She, and those like her, are the future of her Party. They are coming up in relatively safe or at most competitive districts. One decade of losing is not sufficient to break these talented folks of their attachment to the Democrat Party.

That job falls on us.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying we should fall prey to the sort of gibbering lunacy that drives some folks to pour perfectly good money into unwinnable races. Most House races, for example, aren't worth the time and effort, so well gerrymandered are they. What I am saying is that we need to strategically isolate races in which the Democrats' future is developing and crush them ruthlessly there. Think of it as poisoning your division rival's farm system.

There are, so far as I'm concerned, only three possible reasons not to adopt this approach:

If Castor (and others like her) are such capable politicians, why fight them tooth and nail? Isn't it a good thing to have good government, no matter the party label?

I call this silliness the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Fallacy. Moynihan had all the earmarks of good governance: A strong belief in right and wrong; a remarkable intellect; the ability to buttress arguments with logic and emotion; and bow ties. But for all the impassioned speeches he'd give, with citations to social science and statistic, when the vote came up, he'd vote party line, regardless of whether he'd just spent the last hour arguing against it.

It goes to the larger point: Political parties are simply too important to be spat upon often. Oh, sure, you can have self-aggrandizing, pompous, airheaded, cretins who'll buck the party when the cameras come a-calling, but even they usually fall in line in the end -- because they know that the Party controls and direct funds, chairmanships, committee appointments, fundraising opportunities, and to a greater and lesser extent, the apparatus a candidate or politician needs to survive. The also know that those who get out of line too much end up getting shut out of the caucus.

All of this is a long way of saying: You'll die of asphyxiation if you hold your breath waiting for these up and comers to substantively break ranks with their Party. And that, in turn, means that every one of them, no matter how well-intentioned, is another vote for Roe and Casey; another vote to organize the chamber along their Party line; another vote against letting nominees to the bench get an up or down vote; another vote, in other words, for most of their Party's plank.

If Republicans keep winning, maybe these capable young folks will switch sides -- it's happened before.

Yes, and maybe I'll put on thirty pounds of muscle and get drafted to play strong safety for the Miami Dolphins. Could happen, but not too likely.

Party attachment dies slow, especially when, as in Castor's case, you come from a long line of prominent Party members. While the odds are appreciably better than a whelk's chance in a supernova, they're significantly less than the odds of my selection to take Louis Oliver's old spot. And anyway, isn't this a fairly horrible thing to bank on? I'll hope my opponent's best and brightest eventually join me because they're tired of being funded and cared for by the minority Party -- specially funded and cared for, because they're the only glimmers of hope the Party has?

Nah. Not good enough.

If we neuter the Democrats too badly, the Greens might rise to take their place.

I call this "a gamble I'm willing to take." The Democrats are big boys and girls; if they can't take care of their own, they'll sink. Theirs is, however, the oldest political Party in the country; I rather suspect they'll hold on until they inevitably rise again (American politics being rather cyclical, really). Anyway, this is something of an absurd argument: Play to win, but not too hard, because your opponent might be too crushed to play tomorrow. Sure.

I understand that resources are finite (although that somehow doesn't stop us from wasting money on Ralph Nader's campaign for no good purpose); I understand that some of this will be money down the drain, as we cannot realistically hope to prevail in every one of these races; and I understand that failing in these races might be problematic in itself, because a bloodied but still standing politician is a more formidable candidate in the future.

The gamble, however, seems worth it. If we're playing this seriously, we can't play tiddlywinks and hope our opponents' future never comes to be. We need to yank out the knuckledusters and cut some throats now (metaphorically, of course), to hold on to the reins of power as long as realistically possible -- now, and twenty years in the future.

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