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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Mr. Smith Meets Mr. Bonaparte

Unity ’08 started life as very much a “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” movement. The idea, hatched by two well-known if long-toothed political operatives, one Democratic, one Republican (Gerald Rafshoon and Doug Bailey, respectively), was to create a grass-roots, internet-based campaign that would mobilize the gazillions of Americans disgusted with partisan polarization, recruit volunteers, raise money, gain ballot access, and then draft a platform and a bipartisan ticket and sweep to victory in November of 2008 over the dead carcasses of the donkey and the elephant, with high-minded folk everywhere applauding madly.
So how’s that worked out for them? Well, yesterday brought the unsurprising news that Rafshoon and Bailey have left Unity ’08 to work for a draft-Bloomberg outfit, while Unity ’08 itself sheepishly admits failure and “scales back” its operations from little to none.
Seems that Unity ’08 has only signed up 124,000 “volunteers”–measured very loosely–and has $1.4 million in the bank. That’s sofa-cushion change for Mike Bloomberg, who is said to be willing to spend somewhere between a half-billion and a billion smackers if he decides to run for president–an increasingly likely prospect despite all his public disavowals of candidacy. Aside from the Unity ’08 crowd, Bloomberg can also count on support from the Village Elders crowd of former elected officials that assembled in Norman, Oklahoma the other day to call for some sort of bipartisan Government of National Salvation.
These developments are depressingly predictable and familiar. History is replete with examples of extra-partisan, extra-ideological “populist” movements that take a turn towards the authoritarian desire for a Big Man who can squash the petty, squabbling parliamentarians and govern in the “true” national interest. Mr. Smith often yields to Mr. Bonaparte.
I am not–repeat not–suggesting that Mike Bloomberg is some sort of proto-authoritation, or that in the unlikely event he won the presidency, he’d suspend the constitution or arrest Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell. My simple point is that the exasperation with political parties and “gridlock” expressed by Unity ’08 and the Draft Bloomberg crowd reflects an attitude of despair towards democracy itself that isn’t very healthy, and that has a long, unsavory history in world politics.
It’s telling that the Unity ’08 founders, and the Village Elders as well, claim to represent tens of millions of Americans who are eager to abandon the two major parties–yet their “movement” now depends entirely on Mike Bloomberg’s polling, and his willingness or unwillingness to throw enough money into a campaign to buy crediblity. You’d think the irony would give them pause. We’ll soon see.

3 comments on “Mr. Smith Meets Mr. Bonaparte

  1. ducdebrabant on

    “I am not–repeat not–suggesting that Mike Bloomberg is some sort of proto-authoritation”
    Than allow me. I’m not saying he’s as much of a dictator as Rudy Giuliani, but he is the Mayor who presided over the fantastic police handling of the protests at the time of the Republican convention in NYC — promiscuous sweep-ups of people, including simple passers-by, and their long debilitating dentention and slow-motion arraignment. There was clearly a carefully planned program of preventing peaceful expressions of dissent.

  2. limbaughs pilonidal cyst on

    I am not–repeat not–suggesting that Mike Bloomberg is some sort of proto-authoritation, or that in the unlikely event he won the presidency, he’d suspend the constitution or arrest Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell.
    Well, could he still arrest Mitch McConnell?
    In all fairness, the vast bulk of the “partisanship”, especially over the past 7 years, has been on the republican side of things, and in the pursuit of their radical agenda they’ve done many things that are against the best interests of this country, its people, and humanity as a whole. Would that the Democrats had been equally partisan in upholding their agenda that in the past has been largely to the benefit of all of the above-mentioned. We don’t need an end to partisanship, we need a continuation, even an intensification of it over the next 8 years with a Democratic administration and Congress that will act in the best interests of all (well, generally, anyway)to repair the significant damage done to our country during the cheney/bush junta.
    Just a thought regarding domestic policy: Guaranteed, single payer insurance for every child in the country, i.e., Medicare for all below 18 years of age, possibly funded (don’t flame me, not a public policy type, just a thought!) by a payroll deduction supplemented by a match by the employers, a la Medicare/Social Security. Four years or so later, when the population has seen the benefit of this, start work on guaranteed coverage for all, using the children’s program as a template. The republicans will yell and scream, as always, and be totally wrong, as always, and the Democrats should ignore them and let them marginalize themselves. Even conservative voters have children, and their children get sick. And so on….
    At this time Democrats are on the right side of virtually every issue important to the American people. Aggressive (and highly partisan) leadership in addressing those issues is what’s needed, not some watered-down “bipartisanship” (or “date rape”, if you’re Grover Norquist) that would just be exploited by a radical, unprincipled minority to obstruct needed change. We’re getting a preview of this in the present Congress, where the republicans do everything they can to block every Democratic intitiative, helped by junior’s ever-present veto threat. Can we afford any more of this?

  3. masonmcd on

    It’s easy to be “post-partisan” when no one knows what your positions are. A Macy’s window mannequin could benefit.
    Obama is taking a wee-bit advantage of this strategy, as well, I think.
    Not that you can’t find his positions anywhere. He just doesn’t pepper his speeches with any detail that could rile up any opposition.


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