Saturday, March 25, 2023

Mere Uniparty Factions?

I have tended to tune out political observers who talk about the "uniparty" in DC. It's not that I don't think they have a point, or even a few points, but that it is almost always part of an argument how they don't like a particular conservative and don't think he's pure enough, and that in turn is likely to be an oversimplified appraisal of that candidate. Or, it is one of those overcynical shorthands that wants to display its wisdom without having to do any hard thinking. Ahh, they're all the same down there. So it could have been a good argument, but too often reveals itself as a cover for a bad one.

But that argument could fold back on me, couldn't it? I'm dismissing an argument that has some force behind it because it's easier to to just find bad motives behind it. And I am relying on an overcynical shorthand myself to get there, telling myself that they are overlooking real differences between the parties, real differences in thinking that are not caused by cowardice or corruption (not even the subtler versions of those faults that we all find ourselves subject to, reacting with dismay when we find we have been acting in accord with one), and real differences in character. With that one thought, seldom expanded upon, I dismiss the others. Well, that's what efficient shorthand thinking does.  We don't reinvent our beliefs new every morning.

We picture the founding fathers as politicians able to reach compromises despite their retaining principles, because they were reasonable, practical men. We like that. But we see making deals as the shoddier version of that practiced by the current men and women, and their many advisors and consultants, who run the government. Or rather, don't run the government but just oversee the real government of a million civil servants and lobbyists. Steering that elephant whose headquarters is the Imperial City is the function of the elected officials. We are voting for a committee of elephant drivers.

Dominic Cummings's contention that I reported in It Takes A Village You Didn't Build a month ago, that politicians are not trying to get the best answer, nor even the fallback that they are at least answering to the public because they are trying to get elected (because once elected, they can get a fine job there forever anyway), but are only positioning themselves for the competitions within their own party, has stuck with me. When I apply it to what I see, it has snapped into place as a fit over and over already within a month. Though I admit, I have used this to reflect back on events and it is not just a month's worth of current political behavior that have provided the many positive examples.

And I might just like the idea because it's my new toy.  There's always that.

Once one has started viewing their behavior in such a light it is not a great leap to view the whole enterprise as mostly uniparty, and the two major political parties as factions within it. It removes the argument that "there aren't any really differences," because we already see from intraparty struggles that there can be real differences between various brands of Democrat or Republican. The differences are real. But the system buy-in of the sort of person who orients themselves around DC may be more real. So I'm granting the general concept more explanatory power now.

Her is a last hurdle, which I fear those who resort to "Bah! Uniparty" arguments will have trouble getting over. Donald Trump is not in any way an exception to this. The escape he provides is merely emotionally satisfying, not practical.  Cummings again "Trump didn't drain the swamp, he merely annoyed it" looks unfortunately true. Trump leads a faction that would exist without him.  That is why he was able to rise so quickly, in a single election, in the first place. He excites emotion among the disaffected, and was even able to take over a significant piece from another faction previously owned by the Democrats, for three main reasons: their trust in anyone else at present is zero; the attacks against him have been more intense, and more unfair than usual even for DC; and he is quite skillful at annoying his opponents, bringing delight to those who have felt they were powerless and unheard. All three are emotionally powerful, and tend to convince people that they like him more than they actually do when they aren't in the heat of a discussion. Donnie from Queens may have have faults that they will admit among each other, but he's their guy and they will defend him in public. 

Well, that's what the leaders of factions are, and what factions do. Trump is nothing outside the system in that way.


Grim said...

I view the Uniparty as real and dominant in both parties' establishment factions; but also see that there are factions outside of it in both parties, too. The cooperation is uneasy between the establishment and the outlier factions, but warm and easy between establishment members across the party line. There the opposition is pretense, and their real intention is to go along and get along with each other, getting rich and lording it over the small, the weak, the ordinary people whose domination serves to feed their own sense of pride.

Another concept that you will encounter chiefly in the writings of frothing partisans that nevertheless proves to bear a lot of real explanatory power is "failure theater." This is one of the chief modes by which the illusion of cross-party opposition is maintained. Both sides has assigned fights they are supposed to stage with the appearance of complete conviction, but which they are not under any circumstances to actually win. They exist to drive fundraising from the rubes, and to keep them focuses on the fantasy of being part of the club and involved in a common struggle, rather than noticing the real corruption and wickedness going on.

An excellent example was the 'fight' against Obamacare staged by the Republican establishment. They voted to repeal it dozens of times, always declaring in their fundraising letters that if only you would send money and vote they'd finally gain both houses of Congress and the Presidency and then they'd kill it. Yet when they did finally have all that, John McCain suddenly "changed his mind" and gave the Democrats the one vote they needed to avoid victory. There are endless examples on both sides of this.

Right now, Democrats in the Senate are passing bills that have no hope in the House and vice versa for Republicans. There's all sorts of talk about gun control even though there's no chance of passing any new legislation. If you focus hard enough on guns and abortion, you'll fail to notice that the administration was only going to forgive $10,000 of those student loans you voted to have forgiven -- yet they guaranteed every penny of their friends' deposits in SVB and elsewhere. You'll focus on putting those Republicans (or Democrats) in their place, and send another ten bucks to the Party Fund, while they ship your jobs to Burma and your tax money to Ukraine; you'll lose your house to the economy or your ability to feed your family to inflation while they bail out only their favored banks, concentrating wealth and power and putting the smaller ones out of business.

Always I wish we could figure out how to get the outlying factions on both sides to talk to each other, and see how their real enemies are the ones inside the inner ring.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

If the growth of bureaucracy is largely automatic and unavoidable, then your closing wish will prove impossible and there is little to do but save those we can and modify pieces during the intermittent collapsing. The Fall of Rome was not a single thing. It was not the same in various places, classes, and industries. We thought the Soviet Union fell, but now see that it hasn't quite. Apocalypse is unlikely. That leaves opportunity to change sectors, even while the whole looks untouched.

Zachriel said...

Of course there are differences.

Christopher B said...

One expects things of similar kind to be alike in fundamental ways even if one can find things of other kinds which might share superficial attributes with them. Cars and houses both have roofs and doors but that doesn't make any two cars or any two houses as fundamentally different as a car and a house, regardless of how different they may look.

Zachriel said...

Humans share far more than than they differ. Hath they not the same hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer?

However, what is important to people in the moment are often the differences. And small differences can have huge impacts on what is important to people in the moment.