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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Challenging the GOP’s Juggernaut Coalition

Rob Stein, Founder of the Democracy Alliance, has a sobering, must-read for Democrats in his HuffPo article “The Grand New Alliance.” Stein skillfully dissects the component elements of the right wing coalition of his post’s title (‘GNA’ in shorthand), provides a thoughtful assessment of their cumulative power and makes a compelling argument that it promises serious trouble for Democrats and Progressives in 2012 — and beyond.

A profoundly significant new political alignment within the right flank of the Republican Party is becoming entrenched in American politics.
For the modern, somewhat more mainstream economic and neo-conservative Reagan-Bush-Bush-Cheney Republican Establishment, it is a threat far more dangerous to its control of the Conservative-Right than, in their time, were the rambunctious John Birch Society, the youthful Goldwater Rebellion, or the Lee Atwater upstarts who orchestrated the Reagan Revolution.
For Independents, moderate Republicans and Democrats this new alignment should be a wake-up call that the foundations of Democracy are always fragile and the promises of America must never be taken for granted…An harmonic convergence — a “grand new alliance” — is occurring among Libertarians, the Christian Right and the disparate legions of Tea Party activists that is transforming politics as we have known it.

Stein acknowledges significant “tensions and fissures” in this multi-tentacled right-wing coalition, “around the environment, the legitimacy of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, and gay marriage.” He adds, however, that,

Today, the Libertarian-Religious-Tea Party Alliance is a consciously strategic federation of separate, but inter-connected, wings of a potent right-wing political machine that is energized by the frightening uncertainties of the economic downturn, mobilized in rigid opposition to a President they cannot abide, emboldened by confrontation with some of their historic allies within the broader Republican conservative movement, and fueled by a new avalanche of post-Citizen’s United-inspired financial resources.
Its political power has risen rapidly and dramatically. In just the past twelve months, the GNAs’ successes have affected virtually every nook and cranny of American politics – sweeping victories in the 2010 Congressional and state elections, grid-locked legislative stand-off with Congressional Democrats and President Obama, scorched earth political wars in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey and other states with overwhelming Republican elected majorities, and a dramatic hijacking of the current Republican Presidential Primary process through the candidacies of Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

Stein goes on to describe the three key elements of the GNA — libertarians, the religious right, and the tea party — their numerical strength, what they believe, how they get funded, work together and resolve their differences. He notes that the dominant element, the tea party, successfully projects a “powerfully resonant right-wing populist economic (anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-government, anti-Obama) message that is drowning out reasoned debate, causing legislative gridlock, and strengthening reactionary forces.” Worse,

…Their narrative is delivered daily (through GNA’s various local, state and national institutions and media outlets) to an estimated 40 or 50 million activists who are deeply committed to electing Republicans in 2012 at every level in every state in the country.

Stein points out the weaknesses of the three groups as individual entities, but adds:

But acting in concert, the Libertarians, the Christian Right and the Tea Party have become a grand new alliance that has seized control of the Republican message, become the dominant political voice in the Republican Party, is driving the Republican Congressional agenda, is creating political havoc in selected states, and is orchestrating the theatrical drama of the Republican presidential primary process.
Clearly, the whole of this alliance is far more powerful than the mere sum of its parts. The grand new alliance is not just challenging the leadership prerogatives and institutional dominance of the grand old party, it is methodically positioning itself for a wholesale dismantling of 20th Century Republicanism.

Looking forward to 2012, Stein considers various who-gets-nominated scenarios facing Republicans, all of which include a powerful role for the GNA, particularly in terms of economic resources, citing,

…the sophistication and potency of the non-party, non-candidate, independent political machinery that the GNA has at its disposal and the vast financial resources it will raise next year. It will almost certainly out-raise and out-spend the Republican Party in 2012 – my estimate is that the GNA could raise $400-500 million or more for its independent 2012 electoral activities.
This money will be used to both demonize and denigrate President Obama and Democratic candidates at every level, as well as to mobilize tens of millions of Libertarian, Christian Right and Tea Party voters.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United case in 2009 opened the floodgates for individuals, corporations and unions to make unlimited and often unreported contributions to non-party, non-candidate, non-profit organizations like the ones built over the past several decades by the GNA. To maximize this financial opportunity, the GNA has built a prodigious fundraising machine that has identified and convinced a new generation of wealthy GNA donors — including, but not limited to, Texas energy barons, New York hedge fund managers, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs – to donate millions to the GNA political machinery.
An aligned, well-financed and strategically deployed GNA political machine will wreak havoc against Democrats is 2012…This same army of GNA mobilized voters could devastate Democrats in local, state and Congressional elections in many states in 2012.

If this sounds like a load of worst-case scenario, chicken little doom-saying for the next election, Stein is equally gloomy about Dem prospects beyond 2012:

But whether or not the Libertarian-Religious-Tea Party Alliance is successful in winning the presidency in 2012, or indeed, whether or not it is able to defeat Democrats at all levels within the states, there is little doubt that its power and influence will grow throughout 2012 and beyond.
With added strength, it will continue to bedevil the Republican establishment, continue to do all in its power to undermine the effectiveness of President Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders, continue to exercise control in state legislative chambers, and continue to frustrate the advancement of enlightened policies that are desperately needed to restore American confidence, economic prosperity and fairness.

Stein goes on in similar manner, describing a very disturbing picture of the future, if Dems don’t get their act together. He sees some hope in the growing OWS demonstrations and defines the choice facing progressives:

Either, we can align ourselves into our own new powerful coalition to promote our core values, counter the views and positions of the GNA, and leave the door open for responsible members of the GNA to join with us whenever possible.
Or, we can continue to focus on our differences with one another, squander our opportunities for cooperation, reject our own leadership responsibility to build a strong, secure and just America, and stand by while the GNA doggedly refuses to secure America’s economic competitiveness and methodically dismantles the pillars of our democracy.

The hope is that Stein has understated the divisive forces within the GNA, as well as Democrats’ capacity for confronting it. The prudent course, however, is to recognize that he is right that Dems face a choice between building unity and marinating in petty internicine squabbles. While there is not much in Stein’s piece to provoke optimism among Democrats, it should be a good motivator for Dems to face the stark reality of the GNA juggernaut, get organized and mobilize an unprecedented Democratic voter turnout in 2012.

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