Thursday, November 09, 2006

Return of the 'Dixie-crat'?

Sidney Blumenthal is one amongst a number of commentators heralding the Republican rout in the Congressional Mid-terms as a 'revolution' in American politics.

Given the electoral dominance of the Republicans for the last twenty years or so, it is understandable that he should be getting a little moist at the possibility that the Republican 'big tent' has collapsed, leaving them as a hollowed-out 'regional-rump' party dominating only in the South.

While he's obviously premature in his judgment, he may well prove to be right about this. However, he doesn't as yet consider what the implications of this might be. But one early inference that one might draw from these results is that they represent the return of the 'Dixie-crat' - not in the narrow regional sense but rather in that the Democrats now hold power in Congress on the back of conservatives who are Republicans except in name.

An interesting feature of this new intake is that it seems to reverse what seemed to be becoming the natural order in political parties on both sides of the Atlantic; with the leaders representing a more centrist position than much of the Congressmen, MPs and the rank and file in general. Kinnock, Smith and Blair were more centrist (or rightwing, if you prefer) than most of the Labour party. John Major to the left of European obsessed ideologues on the backbenches. The unsuccessful Bob Dole more moderate than the bulk of the Republicans, not least the crew that came to dominate Congress under Clinton. And so on. Not so this time, it seems:
"When Congress returns in January, both the House and Senate will see something of an ideological shift, with an influx of freshmen Democrats who, while unified in their opposition to the war, are well to the right of the party's current caucus on cultural issues."
The Times piece goes on to profile the positions of these 'Blue-dog' Democrats on issues like gun-control ad abortion. A number of these are only Democrats out of their opposition to the Iraq war. Old cons instead of neocons, in other words.

Potentially positive if it meant the Democrats out of necessity dispensed with the partisanship that so disfigures American party politics but hazardous too should the leadership press ahead with a sectarian agenda. And a more melancholy obervation is that consensus would require a cementing of the cultural shift to the right and that the very need for such a consensus might suggest that the 'culture wars' will remain a feature of the American political landscape for the forseeable future.

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