There is something that has occurred to me repeatedly during these last months. This huge, messy, and frequently awful debate points out the vitality of the Democratic party and not its weakness.
Of course, there is a maddening lack of party discipline. However, that lack of discipline points to the fact that there are real differences of opinion between people like Senator Franken and Representative Stupak. Furthermore, there is room enough for those differences to be trotted out and debated. At the end of the day, luckily, there is just enough cohesion to pass a meaningful piece of legislation (a beginning not really an end).
This is not happening in the Republican Party, as David Frum has eloquently pointed out in this article http://www.frumforum.com/waterloo
One thing really stuck out when reading that article. It is so easy to fall into thinking that Sarah Palin, for example, is nothing more than a talk-radio phenomenon. It is actually really easy to forget that this woman was the Republican nominee to be the Vice President of the United States. That means that Republicans at the highest level considered Sarah Palin fit to be our President.
What that shows is that the Republican party appears both remarkably cohesive and amazingly cynical. Why on Earth would she be there other than the fact that she appeals to a demographic and that demographic represents the power base of the party?
For a while the Republicans have been so cynical that it doesn't matter if you're Barry Goldwater or even Alan Simpson. Views that differ from party doctrine are simply not welcome.
Here is a quote from Time Magazine circa 1990 - "Look at the GOP as a 'big tent," said party chairman Lee Atwater. "Forget politics. Do and support what you truly, truly believe. We are an umbrella party."
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,969301,00.html#ixzz0iuhq9MIO
Wow, how far is that from the Republican party that we saw yesterday? Those fine folks down on the lawn shouting NIGGER and FAGGOT, did they come from the "big tent" that Lee Atwater was describing? That was a scene that would have made George Wallace blush.
Ah but, you can be certain that the spectacle we saw this weekend didn't give Sarah Palin and her compatriots a nano-second's pause for reflection. They love it, and they actually thrive on the chaos and discord.
The mainstream Republican party is, apparently, well able to achieve impressive discipline when it comes to saying no. Who would dare say yes?
However, the appearance that mainstream Republicans are calm, cool, collected, and in control is utterly deceiving. With the left hand they vote no and with the right hand they've opened Pandora's Box.
The Democrats are divided, bickering, venal, often disingenuous, and sometimes criminal. That said, voting is a privilege and a choice. If that choice is between (for example) Senator Reid, Senator Grassley, and Sarah Palin the choice hardly seems difficult. I will choose the Democrat every time.