E.J. Dionne talks about Mike Castle’s loss in Delaware and the struggles of moderate Republicans. He mentions a smaller, purer Republican party that might not have room for somebody like Castle. Yet, even many conservative party voices wanted Castle, because they thought he could win the Senate seat. The problem for Castle was the Tea Party. Some people might say the Tea Party in itself is a problem, but everyone can agree that partisan politics and failures of the last decade ruined a lot of people’s faith in government to do anything. That’s the real problem, and it’s starting to claim casualties and make partisanship even worse.
For years, our national politics have swayed back and forth without real evolution, resolution or growth. One party comes into power by selling half a narrative of American greatness at a time when that half’s missing. Once in power, they over-read their mandate and focus too much on the party’s base of supporters and interest groups. A gathering majority of Americans become unsatisfied, and the other party wins with a message of outsiders and change. The country always longs for the missing half of the narrative, and, each election, gets only that. It’s the story of this young, sad century.
Our democratic process measures the will to change. But right now, it doesn’t illustrate the growing popular dissatisfaction with the cannibalization of our half-narrative parties. Congress is extremely unpopular. Voters tried every combination of consolidating, splitting and transferring power, and Congress is still unpopular. Washington is so distrusted you can speak its name in vain and get elected to run it over competent, reasonable, veteran public servant Mike Castle. That’s because Washington is governed by two parties the American people don’t really like. 2010 is the same choice made and regretted many times by liberals and conservatives alike.
There are only so many more times these parties are going to be able to run on fake change and ideas we’ve already rejected. There are only so many more times the Republicans will be able to hand the ball up the middle to Gingrich and Limbaugh. There are only so many more times that we, in the middle of a sharp recession, cheer on while Democrats bring back the old Clinton Team and try to tackle health care like it’s 1993. The 80s and 90s style of tax-cutting, hands-off economic philosophy was disgraced by the financial crisis of 2008. But, Republicans and the Tea Party say it’s just what we need – so much for the Tea Party being new, with its 1770s clichés and 1970s libertarianism. Now, the time has come for the progressive establishment to pay too for its own timeworn pattern of special interest sins, unpopular programs and irresponsible budgeting.
Democracy has always been partisan. But what is new, much newer than the stale ideas of today’s parties, is the politicization of wars, crises, disasters and individual competence. These parties have hurt our country, our security and our success. Our two-party system has become a vulnerable breeding ground for every unqualified, nutty, and bigoted alternative. That’s not Mike Castle’s fault, but, to an extent, it’s Boehner’s fault, and Bush’s and Reid’s and Rahm’s and Obama’s. The half-narrative cycle of our two parties is a turning screw that won’t keep its place much longer in an increasingly stripped electoral foundation.
The answer is not that both sides are wrong. Each side has a half narrative. That’s why these parties have never been permanently vanquished, and that’s especially why moderates like Castle haven’t been either. It’s how the moderates will come back