A Team Of Rivals Will Not Work

20 November, 2008

Since the election, there has been a constant drumbeat coming from right-wing blogs and the mainstream media.  This drumbeat tells President-elect Barrack Obama that he must govern from the center, that he must work closely with the radical Republicans, that he must work with the Republicans and avoid, under all circumstances, giving the American people that for which they voted.  Some liberal and progressive blogs are striking a similar tone.  Even the President-elect himself, during the campaign and after the election, has seemed to agree.  Supposedly, by trying to work with the right, he will be able to avoid the partisanship, contention and fury of thwarted conservatives.

It feels odd to disagree with a majority of politicians, analysts and bloggers (me being pretty much of a neophyte in this whole public policy thing).  I do disagree.  Not only do I disagree, but I disagree strongly, vehemently, violently.

The modern Republican Party is not about to compromise.  They will not work with the new President.  They will not under any foreseeable circumstance.  Take a gander at this quote from one of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches in which he discusses the possibility of satisfying, or even compromising with, the radical Southern slave owners:

The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly – done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated – we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas’ new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

The modern neo-conservative brand of Republicanism sees anyone who disagrees with their position as an enemy to be destroyed, a traitor, a politician attempting to destroy America.  They will not negotiate with an enemy, they will not compromise, they will not even fight fairly.  Were progressives to attempt compromise with the radical Republican Party of the early 21st century, we would, in order to convince the Republicans that we are not oppressing them, that liberals are not trying to destroy the ideas and practitioners of conservatism, be forced to become radical Republican conservatives.  Cut programs for the poor, dispossess the middle class, scrap any idea of health care reform, continue the failed policies in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, and gut environmental, safety and business regulations, and the Republicans — with the main-stream-media mouthpieces — would continue to fear progressives and see liberals as the enemy.  And we, as liberals and progressives, cannot convince them that we are not their enemy.  Ever.

I stated above that Republicans will not negotiate, will not compromise, and will not fight fair with those they view as an irredeemable enemy.  Negotiation for a conservative means “I will tell you what I will accept, and you will do it.”  Compromise means “Do it my way or it won’t happen.” 

And for the last 30 years, these new conservatives have used the same set of tactics in order to manipulate the media, their followers, and, often, a majority of voters.  PZ Myers (over at Pharyngula) has a good writeup about a small Catholic group which has taken Donahue’s Catholic League to task for their unfair, dishonest and disingenuous tactics.  I’m going to steal some parts of Myer’s synopsis to expand from the Catholic League to the entire conservative movement.

  • The neoconservatives have had a schizophrenic attitude: they simultaneously argue for the right of conservatives to impose their values in the public sphere, while arguing against the right of others in the public sphere to offer legitimate criticism of either the tactics or content.
  • The neoconservatives i) manufacture controversy; ii) create and then try to intimidate the “enemy”; iii) bully the opposition; iv) complain early and often; v) attack popular culture; and vi) silence and deny the loyal opposition.
  • The neoconservatives actively embarrass, intimidate, bully and distort reality and science to suppress critics of the Republican Party, the favoured businesses of the party, the individual politicians within the party and the coopted  media outlets.
  • The neoconservatives seize upon phrases, twist them into an unrecognizable form by creating new definitions for words, and then attack from pulpit, legislative floor, and media with a specific goal of defeating a useful or beneficial program.


As the drumbeat of inclusiveness continues, and gets louder, I hope that Barack Obama will ignore it.  Were the Republican Party honorable, it might work.  Were they willing to compromise or negotiate, it might work.  Under the current political conditions, and for the foreseeable future, there is no chance.

As the Republican Party becomes more and more a party of the old south and the rural west, they become more conservative.  This new conservatism is not the steel-rimmed glasses Main Street conservatism of old.  It is radical religious right and radical anti-government with a healthy dose of racism tossed into the mix.  It is a faith-based political theology which brooks no dissent, no compromise, no negotiation, no prisoners.  The modern Republicans are eerily similar to the slave-owning oligarchy of the old south — unwilling to allow even discussion, much less compromise. They have put themselves in a political corner from which there is no easy way out. 

For the next fifteen to twenty years, as the Republican Party becomes more and more a modern incarnation of the Dixiecrats, they will fight tooth and nail, using all of the tactics I describe above, to stop change.  They will engage in the politics of destruction, feeding their narrowing base. 

When confronting a political group who will commit political suicide rather than compromise with the ‘enemy,’ which denies even the possibility of good faith on the part of their ‘enemy,’ which denies the patriotism of opposing politicians, which denies even the validity of the election itself, which denies the reality of a loyal opposition, inviting one into the President’s inner circle is a recipe for chaos.  President-elect Barack Obama, I know you will never read this, but please, ignore the calls for team of rivals.  A cabinet of tension will only work with an honorable opposition. It did not work for Lincoln, it won’t work today.  The honorable part of the Republican Party died eight years ago.  It no longer exists.



  1. All neocons are Republicans. Not all Republicans are neocons.

  2. What bothers me is how far to the right some people can be (and woe to you if you dare infringe upon their rights or disagree with their ideals), yet set one foot to the left of the center line and they decry you as a liberal radical who’s ideas and efforts should be stomped out.

  3. Philly: To your first: Liebermann? To your second: agreed with a caveat — those few moderate Republicans (Spectre, Snow) have, since the Gingrich idiocy, been full supporting partners of whatever the neoconservatives press. A moderate Republican would, in 1970, have been so far to the right as to be off the charts (wel, not off the charts, but would have given Goldwater a run for the money).

    Kate: And their definition of the ‘center line’ is the middle position of the Republican Party. They consider Cheney to be barely right of center.

  4. philly –

    That doesn’t matter. The Republicans supported the Neocon/Bush government right down the line, and they went along with the disgusting crap spewed by McCain and Palin. And since they refuse to discriminate between a Democrat and a Stalinist Communist, fuck ’em. They all get tarred with the Neocon brush.

    () –

    If the Reps continue down the path of Bush/Cheney/Palin, there will be civil war here. The world cannot afford to have Republicans in charge of anything, not now, not with what the world is facing. We’re not too far from the day when people like Sen. Inhofe should be locked up or shot because their idiocies and corruption will kill millions of people.

  5. If you start throwing around the big THEY, you’re no better. Not all of the Republicans have been fully onboard. Hell, the fucking Dems in Congress have been fully onboard the Bush crazy train the last two years, so wtf are you talking about saying “they went along with the disgusting crap”? Whose your “they”? What are you basing it on, the animal on their lapel or their actions?

    Until proven otherwise, I’m going to accept the idea that Obama is looking for the most qualified/most effective people, period. Cuomo today made a great statement against bipartisanism by saying it’s crap because it means you’re embracing two prejudices instead of just one. He’s calling for “benign pragmatism”, and I hope that’s what’s motivating Obama and not some lame “look I have Republicans in my Cabinet”.

  6. I like the phrase ‘benign pragmatism.’ Beats hell out of malignent incompetence.

  7. pc –

    Not saying I’m better. Just getting down in their gutter with them. They don’t like having their crap thrown back at them. Nor do I have much use for the Dems who went along or whined that they didn’t have the votes so they couldn’t take a stand. But for the Reps you’d be hard put to find more than a handful at best who stood against Bush at all on anything. They brag about the ‘discipline’ in their party – well now it’s time to pay the lady with the whip.

  8. How big will Obama’s Cabinet be? A handful should be more than enough, no?

    To be a bit Machiavellian, it could perhaps further disrupt the Republican party by having prominent Republicans in the Cabinet. For one, it’ll kill most arguments for change in the next election. For another, it could be fun sitting back and watching the various splinter groups call each other “RINO”s. Hell, it could potentially force the neocons and/or religious nutters out, either willingly now or forcibly later if they control again and put up some lame candidate like Palin or Huckabee in 2012 and get soundly trounced.

    And you thought I was just being all kumbaya. 😉

  9. One thought I had: peg Arlen Spectre for a post in Justice (or some other legal-eagle job) and then let the Democratic governor of PA, Ed Rendell, appoint a replacement. Never happen, but would be a good tactic to avoid dealing with the neocon Lieberman, eh?

  10. pc –

    I’d never accuse you of being all kumbaya! 🙂

    I do think we’re going to have some fun watching the Reps contort themselves for the next couple of years trying to figure out what they actually stand for. Conservative philosophies haven’t and don’t work in the real world. Neocon stuff is worse in that it comes back and bites you in the ass harder than normal con stuff.

    And given the meltdown and the desperation of the pols to throw money at the rich guys who got us here instead of working the problem and coming up with real solutions, I don’t think the public will be willing to put up with the usual Republican ‘I got mine and you ain’t getting any’ bullshit. AKA the ‘Lookit the prole rats drown. Ha ha. More for us,’ philosophy.

  11. http://clapso.wordpress.com/ has been pushing the Nader platform – almost a shame that he’s so dedicated as I think his activism isn’t shallow. Nader wrote a hummer of an open letter to Obama that he’s featured.
    Anyway, he’s not the only one looking at Obama and figuring his popularity was part of a design to appease voters : the money was certainly there. Make Them Accountable has almost been embarrassingly shrill : I’ll let the feminists tell it themselves.
    Me ? Turning towards the underground

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