The Headless Snake

There’s an old saying: “when you want to kill a snake, cut off its head.” It’s turning out that that doesn’t exactly hold true in politics.

I’m finding the current political struggles going on tremendously entertaining. The Democrats have managed to pretty much seize power at the federal level, and have shown very little clue on how to handle the role reversal. It’s been a very, very long time since they haven’t been the minority in at least one respect, and they’ve forgotten how to govern.

Their old model simply doesn’t work. The old way was to find the leadership of the opposition and focus their attacks on him or them, making them the embodiment of what they opposed, and then tearing that down by proxy.

That can’t work now, because there is a schism in their opponents — and there is no clearly defined leadership.

Oh, there’s no shortage of opposition to the current regime. But simply being against the Democratic leadership and their agenda does not automatically translate support for the Republicans. Indeed, some of the most vocal and charismatic forces are, in many cases, stupendously apathetic towards the GOP.

Speaking as a very, very, very small part of that opposition, my sense of loyalty to the Republicans is about as strong as my loyalty to a pair of underwear I bought about seven years ago. Likewise my sense of pride. But my opposition to much of Obama’s agenda? That I wear on my sleeve.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have been busily applying the old saw that “when your only tool is a hammer, all your problems start looking like nails.” They don’t know how to fight back against this kind of “insurgency,” this leaderless mass of opposition, but they’re trying the same tactics anyway.

Witness their attempts to cast people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck as “the face of the Republican party.” They’re talkers, not politicians. Neither has ever held — or even run for — any sort of public office. Neither has ever been active in party politics and governance.

Limbaugh, as is his wont, handled this brilliantly. (I don’t like the guy, but I gotta admit he’s a genius at shredding attacks.) After a few weeks of ignoring the liberals and their lickspittles talking about him as the “head of the Republican Party,” he acknowledged their efforts, accepted the position — then promptly “resigned” it.

The Democrats thought they saw a void, and figured that politics, like natures, abhors a vacuum. The Republicans lack a titular leader, so they thought that they would take the opportunity to put someone they chose in the leadership position. It didn’t even occur to them that the Republicans don’t have a real leader right now because they don’t really want or need one.

The mistake the Democrats made is in not recognizing the aforementioned schism in their opposition. The two biggest factions right now opposing them are the Republicans and the Conservatives. And while there is considerable overlap between the two, there is a fundamental, definitive difference.

The Republicans are loyal to their party. And the party is defined by the leadership. It has very clearly stated goals and principles and ideals.

The Conservatives, however, are defined by their adherence to their ideology. And the definition of “conservatism” is pretty much whatever the adherent wants it to be.

For years, the Left had the same situation. They had their Democrats, and they had their liberals/progressives/whatever.

But that only works well when you’re out of power. Once you’re in power, the party holds sway, and the ideology has to yield in most cases. It has to work within the system to achieve its goals, because it’s nominally a part of the system.

In most cases, in order for one side to gain power, they need a leader. They need someone who can both command the party and champion the ideology. That’s the path that most presidents follow. (We’ll politely ignore the 1988 election for the purposes of this discussion; that year, neither party put forth a “leader,” and most people voted for the less lesser of two lessers.)

Right now, the Left is stuck with their current leadership. Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, Jack Murtha, John Kerry, and the like. As wretched as they all are, they are the current leadership of the Democratic Party, and the liberals/progressives/moonbats have to “dance with them what brung them.” They have to defend them against attacks, because they’re all they have.

On the other hand, the Republicans have no equivalents. John McCain? Hardly anyone was passionately behind him. Sarah Palin? She’s a private citizen now. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh? They’re entertainers. Arnold Schwarzenegger? Lame duck. John Boehner? Mitch McConnell? Who?

The Republicans well need a leader if they want to retake the White House in 2012, but that race is still a couple of years away. There’s plenty of time for would-be candidates to rise, fall, rise, and fall again, just in time to be swept away by a dark horse that comes out of nowhere.

And they don’t need a leader to successfully oppose Obama. That’s been proven time and time again. Indeed, at this point one would probably be more of a hindrance than a benefit. The Obama administration has shown a remarkable affinity for Saul Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals,” and one of the most important rules was #12:

RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

How the hell do you do this when the opposition refuses to give you a leader to target in the first place? Pick your target, then watch as the opposition shrugs and ignores you — or, worse, laughs at you for getting so worked up about someone who holds no real power or authority. Because as Alinsky’s Rule #5 says, “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

Alinsky might have been a complete and utter scumbag, but his Rules are a tremendous insight into human nature and politics. And “radicals,” in this context, simply means “those out of power.” They can work equally well for those of us whom Alinsky would have found the most detestable.

World tension continues to ease
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