Exactly What We Don’t Need

Much has been said in the wake of the announcement of Karl Rove’s retirement come the end of this month.  Indeed, Rove has left a massive impression on American politics, something that is somewhat astounding when you stop to consider that for the most part he is only widely known within politically informed circles.  Outside of we political junkies, the mention of the name Karl Rove is more apt to net you blank stares or faint glimmers of recognition than anything else.

But in the political trenches of America, the man dubbed “Turdblossom” by his boss, and “Bush’s Brain” by his detractors is already elevated to mythical proportions.  He is the man Democrats and liberals love to hate, and the man Goppers wish they could have in their corner.  But what really threw me for the loop was this idea that what Democrats really need now is our own version of the “Architect”.

At one point in time, I suppose I would have agreed with the idea; just get someone in there that knows how to win, and pull out all the stops and once we get into office, then we show the American people the value of our leadership.

In fact, back on my first blog, Left of Center, I remember writing up an article that expressed that same sentiment, “Just Win, Baby!”  If the division and dirty tricks were good enough for the Republicans, they were good enough for us.  Win the elections and let the policies sort everything out.

But a couple years later, after reading Brent Budowsky’s op-ed that calls for a “Democratic Karl Rove”, I find myself no longer capable of agreeing with the idea.

Democrats need a Karl Rove, someone who can outline a grand vision and pursue it with the toughness, tenacity, courage, fearlessness and will to win that Rove possesses.

Democrats need what Americans want: a conviction politics that is principled, fearless and tenacious and projects
confidence and strength to voters hungry for change.

The vision is clear: a realigning election in 2008 with a Democratic president and Democratic Congress to establish one of those great eras of American optimism and reform.

I imagine that Budowsky is blinded now by the very same concept that blinded me back when I made nearly the same call; the prospect of winning in the now.  To be sure, winning in the now was something Rove was particularly good at, but the flaws in his standard operating procedure were vast and catastrophic.

I’m not sure if Brent fails to understand this, or simply forgot, but one thing must be made clear, finding a Democratic Karl Rove is exactly what we don’t need.  Not as a party, nor as a country.

In a recent conversation over at the Gun Toting Liberal, the GTL made a pretty interesting point:

You know, Kyle, I believe you’ve got one helluva point there. I think this country is definitely taking a bit more of a left turn as a unit. Once Hillary (God forbid!) takes the helm and the Dems have COMPLETE control of the Gub’mint bidness, we’ll eventually be taking a sharp turn to the right as a nation once the People see that complete domination by any group of “fringe” individuals is a bad thing…

The bigger picture here being that the one thing that Rove stood for above all else was division, playing a calculated game of US vs. THEM on the political stage.  The policy of polarization honed down to a science by Rove was particularly effective as it was self feeding; that’s to say that he empowered specific focal point leaders to mobilize relatively small blocs but who in turn were a highly effective ground force in garnering support.

By tapping into the specific single issue worries of motivated groups, the effect was not unlike a wind up toy that you spend a little effort to start, and then let it go off on its own to do as it does.  Talk about gays not being allowed to marry, and you will have Focus on the Family and the CBN on your side spreading the word that Bush is for the Bible, and Kerry is trying to ban it.  Pander to the elite neoconservative intelligencia, and soon you will have every warhawk from the grassroots to the punditry carrying your standard.

And so long as you understand exactly how the battle lines are drawn, and where the boundaries of public influence are laid out, you will find that support for your candidate will energize itself, particularly when everyone not part of that particular movement are demonized and made to feel like the enemy.

What proves problematic in this philosophy, however, can be seen in the long term as well as in the health of the union.

Despite Rove’s hopes of establishing a Republican led governement for decades to come, that vision has already been marred when Democrats wrested from the GOP both houses in Congress, and it looks as though this vision is even further at danger as Democrats seem more likely to win the White House in 2008 than Republicans.

Why do things fall apart?  Specifically because of the division.  Rove’s master strategy did not, believe it or not, include the eradication of the opponent.  In fact, it required heavily upon the existence of a weaker and easily beaten opponent, one that hangs around enough to provide a symbolic embodiment of the enemy that can be used to energize those bases that drive the mechanism at the polls.

As Democrats weakened under Rovian design in the political sphere, what happened was Republicans, particularly Bush, had to actually govern, and we continue to watch the abomination that that governance is.

But even assuming that Bush’s policies weren’t, one after another, disastrous, it is reasonable to assume that there would still be considerable rancor expressed towards his administration and his political allies.  This is directly due to the division.

The concept of Democracy and the Republic is that this is a government by all of us.  That we all get a say.  Some people may be right about somethings and wrong about others, but everyone gets a say.  Not so under Rove’s rule.  Dissent is shouted down, their mics are cut, they are called unpatriotic or slanderers or any other number of epithets designed not to encourage the healthy type of debate that strengthens a democracy, but only serves to weaken it.

This is the true benefit of the absence of Rove from the political sphere.  It is a symbolic opportunity to change the nature of our politics, and to once again adopt the style of self government designed by the founders, one of reasoned debate, not of division.

What Brent must understand is that any particularly zealous and impassioned movement of one group into the political sphere that results in creating a dominating effect will undoubtedly suffer the fate hinted at by the GTL, eventual failure resulting in a broad swing in the opposite direction.

Look, I like winning as much as the next guy, but what I think I would like better is for a government that listens to its constituents, and actually does some good in the world and in our own country.

What is needed is a new focus away from the divisive politics of Rove which has proven to be a cancer on democracy.  We need to put the focus back on debate, and remind America that  all people are welcome into the intellectual debate on how to steer our country.  We must engage in intellectual honesty and understand that sometimes we are going to be wrong, and sometimes we are going to be write, but most importantly, we must understand and find leaders who understand that the those who disagree with us, their ideas and words do not weaken our own, but strengthen them.

In a lengthy and broad debate with conservative blogger Gold Plated Witch on Wheels, I used a hypothetical situation with a hot button issue to illustrate this point:

Let’s take a biggie, for example. Abortion. The Religious Right, or whatever you want to call them, have taken abortion and boiled it down to one of two stances, for or against, with little or no consideration of the vast complexities of the issues nor those factors that surround and contribute to it.

The result is that people are moving against it without actually doing anything about it. Clinton, say what you will about him, through looking at the issues and putting programs in place at key areas such as sex education and poverty, managed to reduce abortions in this country every year of his presidency, and this occurred while he himself made no legislative move to actually make it illegal.

This is the concept behind the Safe, Legal, and Rare doctrine. Look, I don’t like abortion, I don’t sit there and celebrate every pregnancy that is terminated. But I also believe it’s not my choice to make, nor my place to make it illegal. On the other hand, I do think that if we stopped making this a write or wrong battle and instead took a debate stance toward the issue, and looked at those factors that result in increased abortions, and worked to mitigate those factors, I think what you will see is abortions in this country reducing continuously.

Conversely, with a right or wrong debate, nothing will get done because you’ll never make abortion illegal, and if you do, what will happen? How will you punish those who do engage in illegal abortions? Because something is illegal will abortions stop? And what will be the nature of those abortions? I’m too young to know, as I was born quite some time after they were protected by Roe v. Wade, but I do know of horror stories of coat hangers and back alley abortions and mothers dying in the process as well

What is key to this point is this, very few people I think see abortions as a really great thing that everyone should be doing.  Despite this, because of moral backgrounds and personal experience, however, people have taken different approaches to the issue, and have pitted themselves against each other.

More inroads could be made with more consensus if we stopped looking at it as a hot button issue, and started looking at it as something we could all get behind, think about, and come up with solutions and plans that don’t infringe upon people’s rights.

It is this approach to solving problems that the founding fathers envisioned when they framed this Democracy, and it is this approach that is treated with outright contempt by Rove and those politicians that he has influenced.

We are entering a new age of communication and information processing.  In the coming years, more Americans will have more access to the public forum and the public debate than ever before thanks largely to the internet.  It is now that we must decide how this new age will be formed.  Will it be formed by the Rovian perspective that everything is one side against another?  Or is it possible that we can take the frame given us by the founders and expand it beyond their wildest dreams, with a well informed citizenry hundreds of millions strong, each and every single one of them actively contributing to the public debate?

Call me crazy, I wanna try for the latter.

One Response to “Exactly What We Don’t Need”

  1. Somebody says:

    The following are laws that have been enacted during Bush’s presidency which relates to Abortion.

    “(It’s a) crime to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. I can see how this would offend muggers.

    “A law last year denied federal funds to state and local agencies that act against health care providers and insurers because they don’t provide or pay for abortions. The government is not in the business of funding abortion and it should be the right of any state, agency or Insurance company to have that same option.

    “In 2003, a procedure – generally carried out in the second or third trimester – (was outlawed) in which a fetus is partially delivered before being aborted. Parial birth abortion just upheld by the SCOTUS. I can see how this would offend those 3 doctors who performed this butcher method when there are many other methods that are legal and much safer.

    “In 2002, lawmakers amended the legal definitions for person, human being, child and individual to include any fetus that survives an abortion procedure. Heaven forbid that a fetus who survived and was born should be protected.

    “Separately, Senate abortion opponents last month defeated Democratic amendments to a bankruptcy bill that would have restricted the ability of abortion clinic protesters to file for bankruptcy when confronted with large court fines or damages.” This applies to 2 people a year.

    34 states have passed laws requiring the notification of parents by under age children prior to having an abortion. Notice it does not deny any rights. It just requires a “RECKONING” with a young childs stupidity. I don’t know bout you but I would prefer to know what my daughter is up too. Conversely this is a states rights issue.

    Thru all this I find it amazing how the left continually announces how the Religious right is passing all these bills to have abortion restricted and yet……as the above shows there has been very little activity as far as laws go. Another classic example of “Talking points” distorting the truth.


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