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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

If you like, you can send Magpie an email!



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Saturday, August 5, 2006

There's nothing in the middle of the road except a yellow line and dead armadillos.

This magpie has always found a whole lot of truth in that quip from Texas populist Jim Hightower. While Paul Krugman's language isn't as folksy as Hightower's, Krugman's latest column from (the full text of which is available here) is mainly an autopsy of all those dead armadillos.

According to Krugman, there's a big reason why the Republicans are so successful at winning elections — even when most of the public and most of the GOP's constituencies disagree with the party's policies — and why the Democrats usually can't capitalize on the fact that most Americans agree with the party's positions on most issues. That reason for the difference between how the two parties do electorally, says Krugman, is that right-wing groups know they'll do better if the GOP wins election. And, because of this, they support candidates just because they're Republicans. Democrats and progressives, on the other hand, look at how individual candidates deliver on particular issues rather than at their party affiliation. This, says Krugman, is a big problem:

Now compare [the right-wing behavior] with the behavior of advocacy groups like the Sierra Club, the environmental organization, and Naral, the abortion-rights group, both of which have endorsed Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, for re-election. The Sierra Club's executive director defended the Chafee endorsement by saying, "We choose people, not parties." And it's true that Mr. Chafee has usually voted with environmental groups.

But while this principle might once have made sense, it's just naïve today. Given both the radicalism of the majority party's leadership and the ruthlessness with which it exercises its control of the Senate, Mr. Chafee's personal environmentalism is nearly irrelevant when it comes to actual policy outcomes; the only thing that really matters for the issues the Sierra Club cares about is the "R" after his name.

Put it this way: If the Democrats gain only five rather than six Senate seats this November, Senator James Inhofe, who says that global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," will remain in his current position as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. And if that happens, the Sierra Club may well bear some of the responsibility.

The point is that those who cling to the belief that politics can be conducted in terms of people rather than parties — a group that also includes would-be centrist Democrats like Joe Lieberman and many members of the punditocracy — are kidding themselves.

The fact is that in 1994, the year when radical Republicans took control both of Congress and of their own party, things fell apart, and the center did not hold. Now we're living in an age of one-letter politics, in which a politician's partisan affiliation is almost always far more important than his or her personal beliefs. And those who refuse to recognize this reality end up being useful idiots for those, like President Bush, who have been consistently ruthless in their partisanship.

In a few paragraphs, Krugman nails the reason why I've been so pissed off when the Human Rights Campaign endorses a Republican candidate simply on the basis of whether that candidate has supported lesbian and gay rights. As Krugman points out, that support doesn't mean a damn when electing one more Republican to the House or Senate means the difference to whether Congress is run by right-wing, fundamentalist homophobes or by people who believe that lesbians and gay men are actually human beings.

Via Tennessee Guerilla Women.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:21 PM | Get permalink




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