Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Political Parties as Football Teams

It's been suggested that the capitulation of the Democrats in the surveillance bill I've been railing about is to keep the issue off the table for this election cycle. This prevents Republicans from being able to point at the Democrats "enabling the terrorists".

But either the political parties actually represent different principles and approaches to government, or they're effectively two different football teams. Taking issues "off the table" means refusing to assert principle, on the presumption that your football team is more popular as long as there are no meaningful differences between the teams.

One could argue that the Democrats (and the Republicans too, though they're going to be less important) are split into principled ideologues and ambitious pragmatists. (Obviously there's a spectrum, but I theorize a real schism is developing.)

_If_ Obama is generating excitement and support from an ideological base, then cynical moves like this one risk alienating those supporters. In a sense, the Dems might end up with too much electoral success -- if the GOP doesn't provide enough opposition to rally against, the ideologues will become frustrated with the pragmatists effectively becoming GOP proxies.

This is true whether Obama didn't stand up in a meaningful way against this bad law because he is more pragmatic and less principled than I thought, or if he's firmly ideological, but was compelled by the reality of working with the pragmatists in his party.

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