The consensus narrative of 2010 has thus far been: Americans of every political persuasion are unimpressed with the first two years of Obama's administration. Progressives feel that the President has failed to deliver on the promises of his campaign. Conservatives are convinced that the country is on the bullet-train to Soviet hell. Moderates have, by all appearances, vanished from the political landscape. The consequence of the left's disillusionment and the right's white-hot ire (and it is very white) is that the Republicans will reclaim control of the House and, perhaps, the Senate.
Of course, as history suggests, this familiar tune may have a surprise coda. The past couple of weeks have produced more "October Surprises" than a pumpkin patch laden with landmines. NPR arguably served conservatives their own Shirley Sherrod when they fired Juan Williams. Alaska Tea Partier Joe Miller is quickly slipping off the ballot, either due to his security detail's brownshirt-style bullying or his apparent inability to grow a proper beard. Meanwhile, Gawker's muckraking exposé on Christine O'Donnell's hypocritical pecadillos has both infuriated the right and disgusted the left, with little time allowed to gauge which way the fallout will gust.
The true terror is that the American left is caught between Scylla - a Republican Congress that will attempt to roll back over a century of social progress - and Charybdis - armed revolt by reactionaries who confuse an electoral setback with tyranny. Beyond any American election in the modern era, right-wing violence has move beyond the rhetorical to the literal, including voter intimidation and physical assaults upon journalists and private citizens. Several Republican candidates have even advocated armed insurrection against the federal government if the election does not tilt in their favour. This more than anything should motivate moderates and progressives alike to pursue their primary legal protection against subjugation: to vote.
Democracy is nothing if not imperfect, as it swaps more stratified forms of tyranny with that of the majority. The fundamental mistake the Democratic Party has made is to believe that they can control a two-party system by compromising with their opponents instead of winning their active support. Obviously, not everyone will be satisfied with a single party's platform, but the Republican's success stems from their talent at convincing people whose lives Republicans are actively destroying that the Grand Ol' Party represents their interests. So what is their secret?
Allow me to introduce you to Malcolm Tucker, Director of Communications in the BBC sitcom The Thick of It. As the Prime Minister's enforcer, Tucker is a parliamentary Svengali of such partisan drive and profane thuggery that he makes Rahm Emanuel look like Mr. Rogers. If there's anyone - fictional or otherwise - with the sang froid and killer instinct to produce a desired political effect, it's Tucker. So heed what he said during the British electoral campaign earlier this year:
Frankly, I think you're getting the wrong advice on the debates... Most people are not going to see these Bestivals of bore. After all, with the 478 debate rules in place they're going to have all the drama of three middle-aged guys fencing with limp dicks. The only ones watching are going to be the pointless bastards who already know what they think.Now, substitute a few proper nouns in the above paragraph - swap "the Thameslink" for "Pennsylvania Turnpike", "Thatcher" for "Nixon", and "the NHS" for "Social Security" - and the same is absolutely, unequivocally true for America. Electoral success stands on the shoulders of envious, ill-informed, bored morons who've scarcely been outside their own zip-code, who can't find the next county on a map, who can't distinguish between opinion and fact, and who prefer scapegoats to solutions.
We need to get to the people who only hear the rumours. Bottom feeders who get their views via the quotes from the models in the Daily Star. Van drivers who guard their vast ignorance with concealed Stanley knives. Businessmen who like to expose their self-aggrandising cynicism to schoolgirls on the Thameslink. These dumb motherfuckers are the battlefield. Shitheels. Dunderheads. People who when you talk to them it's like shouting through six pieces of double glazing. Potheads, cider drinkers, kids who don't know who Thatcher was and think the NHS grew on a big fucking NHS tree. Wankers. People who count to 11 using their 10 fingers and their head and still get it wrong. This is who we have to get to via the debates. So we are going to have to shout extremely fucking loud.
Stupid people aren't a political hazard to be mitigated. These dumb motherfuckers are the battlefield.
The brilliant sleight-of-hand that the Republicans have performed is that they've courted a fearful middle class & a devastated working class with snappy slogans, straw-man whipping boys, and provincial snobbery. It's not that the Democrats are short on examples of how Republicans fuck over every American making under a quarter-million per year, but that the Democrats refuse the political potential of angry voters. Ironically, it's the Democrats - not Republicans - who have ignored the real political effects of class resentment, and thus have ceded the power of America's underclass to the worst colporteurs of xenophobia, superstition, paranoia, and hysteria.
The Democratic Party failed to understand that it's better to have knee-jerking mobs shouting with you rather than against you, and they are shouting extremely fucking loud. If the Democrats lose this coming Tuesday, they'll only have themselves to blame for it.