A Two Party System Within One Party
E. J. Dionne, in a recent Washington Post column, pointed out that the internal battling within the Democratic Party, now that they have elected Joe Biden to the presidency and gotten rid of Donald Trump, has resumed. It appears to be between progressives on the left and centrists, the former espousing a liberal agenda and the latter looking for avenues of compromise to travel along with the Republicans. But things are seldom what they seem.
With the seizure of the Republican Party by its extreme right, their conservative ideas dealing with regulation, taxation and the role of government in our society, including a dose of conspiracy theory, will not go away. Seventy million voters wanted them to continue for four more years. Dionne referred to the G.O.P as a “closed circle.” But it did serve to drive more realistic Republican voters away from the GOP. They voted for Biden but did not go so far as to give him a Democratic Senate (yet) nor an increase in his House majority.
To quote Dionne, “the 2020 election perfectly captured the distinction between Democratic diversity and Republican homogeneity. Biden’s coalition was a little bit of everybody – self-described liberals (they constituted 42% of his voters), moderates (48%) and conservatives (10%), according to the network exit poll conducted by Edison Research. In other words, contrary to Trump’s claim that Biden is a tool for raging leftists, a majority of his electorate was non-liberal.”
This places the former Democratic-Republican rivalry within, or at least in the shade of, the Democrat’s “big tent.” This rivalry is between the more progressive Democrats and the centrist Democrats, who would be powerless without their appeal to Republicans who cannot stomach the right wing “closed circle” which the Republican Party has become. In effect it is a rivalry among Democrats, with the remnants of the original Republican Party committed to the far right, and ultimately forming a third party.
Dionne continued, “Georgia’s impending Senate runoffs will provide the ultimate test of strength between the mobilizing power of the Democrats’ big tent and the solidarity of the Republicans’ closed circle. The politics of diversity and a whole lot of voter registration helped Democrats convert Georgia from a Republican bastion into a battleground. So did the Biden’s carefully calibrated appeal to all wings of the party’s coalition. Control of the Senate and Biden’s ability to enact his larger program depend on his party’s ability to hang together.”
The number of Republicans who will vote for Ossoff and Warnock, rather than the candidates of the G.O.P.’s “closed circle,” may make the difference.
Someone pointed out to me in an email that a number of Joe Biden’s cabinet level appointees were Jewish to some extent. I replied to the person who had forwarded the article with this information to me as follows: “This is good ... and not so good in that it gives fuel to the Anti-Semites in this country with which to quietly attack Biden. I note among their academic credentials a fair sprinkling of Catholic colleges (Georgetown, Loyola). Biden deserves credit for making these excellent appointments. They are far, far, above the Meadows, Mnuchins, Pompeos and Trump's other political loyalist appointees whom they will replace.”
And in another column last week, David Brooks of the New York Times wrote about “The rotting of the Republican mind.” It bothered me that it sent me to the dictionary to find out what “epistemology” and “precarity” meant, a necessity (at least for me) which might reduce the number of people who actually finish reading the column. Using words like that reduces the influence of what he writes. But the “elites” do not care about that and possibly, that is why we had to suffer through four years of Trump. Like they say, *KISS.
|David Brooks dreams a lot|
Anyhow, here is an excerpt from the column. Brooks’ analysis …
“begins with a remarkable essay that Jonathan Rauch wrote for National Affairs in 2018 called “The Constitution of Knowledge.” Rauch pointed out that every society has an epistemic (hope you didn’t put your dictionary away … or kept the URL for it handy) regime, a marketplace of ideas where people collectively hammer out what’s real. In democratic, non-theocratic societies, this regime is a decentralized ecosystem of academics, clergy members, teachers, journalists and others who disagree about a lot but agree on a shared system of rules for weighing evidence and building knowledge. This ecosystem, Rauch said, operates as a funnel. It allows a wide volume of ideas to get floated, but only a narrow group of ideas survive scrutiny. “We let alt-truth talk,” Rauch said, “but we don’t let it write textbooks, receive tenure, bypass peer review, give expert testimony or dictate the flow of public dollars.”
Well, that’s all well and good if you feel “academics, clergy members, teachers, and journalists” as Rauch puts it should be the arbiters of what the nature of truth is (epistemology?) coming out of that “epistemic regime.” Some would prefer that this decision be made by people who get their hands dirty and those whose aim in life is to acquire wealth. Rauch tacks on “and others” to his list of those he feels should be the determiners of what “is real” and I suppose those with dirty hands or those who are greedy would fit in there.
The point Brooks was trying to make was that people who believe in false realities (like what Trumpublicans preach) do so because of their distrust of and anxiety over the hand life has dealt them. To reduce this distrust and anxiety, he writes that “contact” should be attempted by attempting to reduce ‘the social chasm between the members of the epistemic regime and those who feel so alienated from it” as well as government “policy making life more secure for those without a college degree.”
Read this kind of stuff with caution. Remember that for centuries, the ideas that the Earth revolved around the Sun and that a ship disappearing over the horizon did not fall off into space were considered alt-truths, not part of reality, by those who purported to set the rules (a Middle Ages group not unlike the ‘ecosystem’ Rauch proposes for today) for defining truth and reality.
Brooks and Rauch live in warm houses and know where their next meal, and all future ones for that matter, are coming from. They have pensions. They can preach this sermon to the choir but not to those on the outside, across what Brooks calls a ‘social chasm’ where it will not be well received, nor even understood. People on the other side of the chasm do not want “elites” making the rules for them. Instead, they turn to autocrats like Donald Trump who peddle a different reality, one which makes them comfortable.
Brooks (and Rauch) want to take that comfort away. I doubt that either Brooks or Rauch ever spoke to one of those without a college degree about making their life more secure. If that requires their getting a government handout, they would spit in their faces calling it ‘socialism.’ They do have some pride. (Read the book “Hillbilly Elegy” or see the forthcoming movie.) What Brooks and Rauch suggest ain’t gonna happen.*Keep It Simple, Stupid