Saturday, July 18, 2009

How Not to Run an Opposition Party

You've got to pick your fights. And reflexively opposing everything your opponent does is a mindlessly stupid tactic which most assuredly will hurt you, because it completely removes your capability to use strategy and plan your attack. And without that, you might as well just pack up and go home, because it's just a matter of time before your luck runs out and you lose. Republicans believe they can win this as a war of attrition, with every attack building on top of the last. But instead, every attack waters down the strength of any future attack, so mindless attacks are not only ineffective, but also counter-productive.

And sure, Republicans did pretty well in the 90's with their knee-jerk attacks and reflexive hyper-partisanship. It really paid off for them, so much so that it actually appeared to be some sort of strategy. But it wasn't. All that happened is that a bunch of jerk blowhards happened to be in the right place at the right time for jerk blowhards to succeed. The conservative exodus away from the Democratic Party was in full-swing and it appeared these guys could do no wrong.

Yet all the same, they sucked. In fact, everything after 1995 really sucked for them and they really didn't achieve much of their agenda. Sure, they impeached a president, but the whole point of that was simply to help them pass their agenda. But that never really happened. Even after winning the Whitehouse and owning a rubber-stamp Congress, kind Supreme Court, and obedient media, they still couldn't enact most of their agenda. It always must be remembered that conservatives had once planned to make enormous changes, like eliminate the Department of Education, destroy Social Security, dismantle all welfare programs, and all sorts of fantasy ideas that will never happen.

And instead, the best they got was a stupid war that crippled them politically and which was forced upon them by the neo-cons in the first place. And even Bush's budget busting tax cuts had to be sold with smoke & mirrors, with promises that they wouldn't be as expensive as they were or benefit the rich as much as they really did. If they had real power, they would have made the big cuts immediate and permanent. But even the hubris-filled Bushies knew better than to try that. Even now, they are forced to lie about Bush's tax cuts to make them sound less expensive than they were.

Hapless Republicans

And now with them out of power, they're utterly hapless. Even in the 90's, Republicans were extremely predictable, as they only had one play that they know how to run. And now it's ten years later and they're still running the same damn play. It's just a knee-jerk reflex to oppose anything Democrats want, and it keeps hurting them in the long run. And this is even more noticeable with Obama as president, as he's actually using Republican predictability to his advantage.

And so it's funny to read about how Sotomayor is likely to cruise to an easy confirmation. Because this was it. Conservatives drew their lines in the sand and were cuckoo over Sotomayor from the moment they heard the announcement. And they huffed and puffed and nothing. Nada. Zip. They probably even held their breath until they turned blue, but nobody cared enough to notice. As Carpetbagger notes, if anything, we know less about Sotomayor than before the hearings began. For as much as the Conservative Movement was upset with Sotomayor, they couldn't do a damn thing to stop her. Which was entirely predictable going back before her name was even mentioned, and why conservatives never should have even bothered.

And that's why you can't accept every fight. You should only pick fights that you have a good chance of winning. Because if you win, you look powerful and make it more likely you'll win in the future. But if you lose, you just demonstrate your impotence. And the harder you try, the more impotent you appear if you lose. And so by accepting bad fights, you're making it more likely you'll get stuck in bad fights in the future. Politics is all about expectations management, and if you're not actively honing expectations, you'll lose many more battles than you win.

The Backfire Offensive

And worst of all, your attacks might be so foul that you end up hurting yourself. And that's exactly what they've done with Sotomayor. They reflexively looked for the hardest material against her they could find, then fired it at her with both barrels and ended up looking like complete douchebags. Elmer Fudd couldn't have done it better.

Every time they screamed "Latina Racist" it hit them hard in the face. They heaped great scorn against the "wise Latina," but most folks were unlikely to get the reference and so it appeared to be a racist joke against dumb Latinos. But of course, that's the way it appeared because that's the way it was. They really were insulting Latinos. They really were mocking the idea that a Latina could be wise. And for as much as they wrapped it all up in tortured rationalizations by insisting that Sotomayor was an undeserving affirmative action racist, that merely displayed the level of their delusion; by imagining that anyone was fooled by this.

But of course, it's not just the confirmation hearing. They've been doomed from this sort of thing all year. They've been reflexively opposing Obama at every turn, with dismal results. Sure, they've made things difficult for him and clearly have some power. But all the same, the harder they try, the worse off they look. And that's because they have absolutely no strategy whatsoever and now have no capability for developing one. They're just acting on reflex and those reflexes are betraying them.

Conservatives have firmly established the principle that every fight is the last fight, which is why they can't decline a challenge. And they'll continue to throw everything they've got at anything they can hit; oblivious to the damage it does to themselves. And they're becoming increasingly angry that the harder they try, the worse they do. And that just makes them more reflexively stupid, and more likely to do something stupid, which just makes things worse. And I see no easy out for them on this.


Mike Goldman said...

Their only out is to quit. Maybe Sarah Palin had the right idea. :)

ex DLB said...

Obama is likely going to have at least two more nominees to the Court and now the GOP is going to look like the boy who cried wolf because of the Sotomayor hearings. Nice work. He could almost put Bill Ayers up now.

Mumphrey said...

I think they're going to die as a major party in the next 10 years. I could be wrong about this, but the way they're going, I don't see any other end than that they become the party of crazy, bitter, angry, racist white assholes. I mean, that's what they are now, but there are still enough lonely not crazy, not angry, not racist people who aren't assholes that they can at least make a show that they're more than that.
But I think more and more, and faster and faster, the sane people are going to flee the party for the Democrats.

Mu said...

I lost the end of my post.
I also said that I hope that another party rises up to become the other major political party, the conservative political party, "conservative" in the historical meaning of the word, rather than the nutjob Republican meaning of the word.
Maybe the Whigs can make a dramatic comeback?

Mumphrey said...

I lost the end of my post.
I also said that I hope that another party rises up to become the other major political party, the conservative political party, "conservative" in the historical meaning of the word, rather than the nutjob Republican meaning of the word.
Maybe the Whigs can make a dramatic comeback?

Truthify said...

The republican's are snookered. The best way to look at them is through the insults they try to stick on others.

Sotomayor racist? No, not a chance if you look at the text of her speech and can actually read. Claiming she is will just fire up the white male base... and drive everyone with half a brain further away.

Keep it up repubs!