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The Impotence of the Loyal Partisan Voter
Rachel Maddow last night issued a very harsh and eloquent denunciation of Obama's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a military commission at Guantanamo rather than a real court. At the end of her monologue, Maddow focused on the contrast between how the Republicans treat their base and how Democrats treat theirs, specifically emphasizing that the White House announced this decision on the same day it kicked off Obama's re-election bid. About that point, Rachel said this:
A Democratic President kicks his base in the teeth on something as fundamental as civil liberties -- he puts the nail in the coffin of a civil liberties promise he made on his first full day in office -- and he does it on the first day of his re-election effort. And Beltway reaction to that is. . . huh, good move. That's the difference between Republican politics and Democratic politics. The Republicans may not love their base, but they fear them and play to them. The Democratic Party institutional structures of D.C., and the Beltway press in particular, not only hate the Democratic base -- they think it's good politics for Democratic politicians to kick that base publicly whenever possible.
Only the base itself will ever change that.
How will that happen? How can the base itself possibly change this dynamic, whereby politicians of the Democratic Party are not only willing, but eager, to "kick them whenever possible," on the ground (among others) that doing so is good politics? I'd submit that this is not only one of the most important domestic political questions (if not the most important), but also the one that people are most eager to avoid engaging. And the reason is that there are no comforting answers.
One thing is for certain: right now, the Democratic Party is absolutely correct in its assessment that kicking its base is good politics. Why is that? Because they know that they have inculcated their base with sufficient levels of fear and hatred of the GOP, so that no matter how often the Party kicks its base, no matter how often Party leaders break their promises and betray their ostensible values, the base will loyally and dutifully support the Party and its leaders (at least in presidential elections; there is a good case that the Democrats got crushed in 2010 in large part because their base was so unenthusiastic).