Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Great Divides

Let’s see, Peter King criticizes the Tea Party House Republicans over the payroll tax cut deal on the Imus in the Morning show last month and none other than Bill Clinton is quoted as saying that MSNBC “has become our version of Fox News.”

Don’t look now but me thinks there’s a storm brewing over the horizon.  After enduring almost three years of the most toxic partisanship yet to cripple Washington, some of the leaders of their respective parties are starting to “express” their concerns in not so subtle ways.

They don’t come much more conservative than Peter King, but even he can tell when the train has jumped off the tracks for his party.  Last December’s stunt in the House got under his skin but good.  Just listen to the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee:

“This was initially a victory for the Republicans. President Obama gave in on the millionaire’s surtax. He gave in on the Keystone Pipeline. But we had people in our party who didn’t know when to accept victory and they really drove us to the edge. This was unnecessary wounds, self-inflicted wounds over the last four days.”

In case you missed it, that was code for, “You made your point now shut the f*ck up!”  King isn’t alone in his angst about the Tea Party faction that, as things stand now, is imperiling Republican prospects for 2012.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a calculated decision to let his counterpart John Boehner twist in the wind during the House meltdown while he remained above the fray.  Other more rational senators and representatives made their feelings all too clear on numerous occasions.  The split within the GOP is wide enough to sail a fleet of aircraft carriers through.    

And while the Right continues to act like the wayward fraternity on Animal House, the Left may have some “splainin’ to do” of its own.  In his entire political life, Bill Clinton never uttered a word that wasn’t carefully calculated nine ways to Sunday beforehand.  With the exception of Ronald Reagan and FDR, no other politician has mastered the English language so brilliantly and effectively.  So when the two-term president goes out of his way to compare MSNBC to Fox News it’s time to take note.  Either the old man has gone bonkers or he’s sounding a warning; a warning that Democrats would do well to heed.

Now, before you all hunt me down and hang me from the yardarms, let me just say I don’t for a moment think Clinton actually believes that MSNBC and Fox News are opposite sides of the same coin – for the record they’re not – anymore than I think Peter King really dislikes the Tea Party.  But both men are political warriors who have survived numerous battles and know a thing or two about their constituents.  Clinton, for his part, never met an issue or debate he couldn’t frame to his advantage.  Like E.F. Hutton, when he speaks, people listen.

What has become painfully obvious to all but the most imbedded ideologue is that this tit for tat war that both political extremes seem intent on waging is tearing apart what little remains of a functioning government and the party elders – at least some of them – are having none of it.

The irony here is that only a few months ago we were all speculating on whether the Left was going to form its own Tea Party of sorts and battle it out for the hearts and minds of the electorate in 2012, with the expectation that we were going to see an all-out food fight between both sides.  For a while we thought the Occupy Wall Street movement would provide the impetus behind the “revolution” to reclaim the nation.  Sadly, it has failed to galvanize much of anything.  Only an unusually warm winter has kept the movement from fading into oblivion altogether. 

Now, with the general election less than ten months away and the stakes as high as they could possibly be, the “establishment” is sitting up and taking the pulse of the country.  The mood out in independent land is growing downright ugly and both parties are understandably nervous.  Republicans see an opportunity to win both the Senate and White House, as well as add to their majority in the House; Democrats believe they can hold both the Senate and White House and pick up some seats in – perhaps even take control of – the House.  And neither side, it seems, is prepared to let any distractions get in its way. 

With that in mind, look for more and more Democrats to dial it down a notch and go middle of the road; conversely expect some Republicans to butt heads with their base as well.  Mitt Romney’s stance on the minimum wage is just the beginning.  Over the next few months the focus will be on winning that 30 to 40 percent of the country that watches neither Fox nor MSNBC, but prefers Dancing with the Stars and Two and a Half Men instead.  You can call them moderates, you can call them independents, but come this November you will call them the deciders.

Let the ass kissing begin.    

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