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June 30, 2014

Don't hate the party, become the party

It's been almost a week since the runoff race was held in Mississippi. Some are calling for sabotaging the general, others are trying to gather energy and resources for the next major "battle", while still others are staggering about, naked and high on shrooms, wondering what happened. Here are a few thoughts.

Lets say a political party proclaims it is firmly against X, Y, and Z. Sometimes they may be a bit squishy, but since their opposition is firmly in favor of X, Y, Z, supporters of said party continue to vote for them. There are highs and lows in this, resentments and triumphs, but, for a little while, all seems well.

Now, as time goes on, and as political parties are prone to do, the demographics and interests of said party begin to change, there will still be pressure on base supporters to vote for their party's candidates, even if they start to get waffly on X, Y, or Z. Perhaps the powers that be run their party into electoral quicksand, passing the power baton to their opposition in the process.

The party may grow so bad and listless that an "insurgency" forms within, one which runs it's own candidates, candidates who are quite firm in their opposition of X, Y, and Z. It's rusty, new, untested. Some "leaders" turn out to be charlatans, some "experts" hacks, and some with promise wind up as duds.

But as a whole, the primaries become closer. The screams become louder. The situation grows so precarious for some incumbents in said party that they must resort to begging members in the opposing party to support them and openly rescinding their opposition to X, Y, and Z in the process.

The question, post-battle, becomes what to do about these guys, and how to handle a setback. Does the insurgency give up and walk away? Or do they double-down with the next race? Do they study and learn what worked and what didn't, and learn to use the tools within the party against those whom they feel are betraying it? David Brat certainly provided a way forward for challengers: his data team ran circles around the House Majority Leader at a fraction of his opponent's budget.

Insurgencies are a good thing for political parties. In fact, they're a necessity for their long-term survival. Demographics change. Challenges change. Interests change. Interest groups change. And the intricate coalitions of voters change as well. We haven't seen a major shift in party allegiance in decades, but it very well could be underway.

A meaningful change in the direction of a political party depends on the willpower of those determined to push it. If losses leave them spinning and spitting in a rage, it will make for great headlines and fundraising-by-tweets, but it will do a very poor job of dictating the terms of change. Matches and gasoline make for a great visual, but a terrible long-term solution for successfully altering a party.

The way forward for conservatives angry enough to overthrow the establishment figures they feel have wronged them, their party, and their country is difficult to carry out, but quite simple to explain: push on. Lose a race? Go to the next one. And the next one. And the next. And the next. A relentless pursuit, a long march through the party's infrastructure and elections, until "the powers that be" become the powers that were. Until the new boss is most definitely not the same as the old boss. It will require quite a lot of will, and the ending is impossible to see as the political drama plays out. You never know whose head you'll get to mount on a stick, that's the uncertainty.

Here's what is certain: you won't mount any if you walk away.


(Oh, and apologies to Jello Biafra for bastardizing his quote, but the spirit is the same.)


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posted by CAC at 08:41 PM

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