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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.


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Comments (13)

Explains why they're pickin... (Below threshold)

Explains why they're picking on Fox right now. No where else to go. And obviously, Nixon didn't teach them anything about picking on the news media.

Great post. <p... (Below threshold)

Great post.

As a conservative, I hope the Republicans stay leaderless until a strong conservative candidate is found.

Also explains why they are ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Also explains why they are so desperate to downplay and insult the Tea Party movement as a bunch of racists and extremists.

For the most part that tactic used to work, as the old MSM would dutifully latch onto the targeted person and smear them.

This time around the MSM doesn't have as much of a monopoly on the news, more importantly the Tea Party doesn't have well known 'leaders' to target.

Good take.In 2010 ... (Below threshold)
gary gulrud:

Good take.

In 2010 I'm reprising my strategy in the Coleman/Fool Senate race of 2008. Don't like a frontrunner? Vote Constitution party and don't look back.

Alinsky's rules when... (Below threshold)
recovering liberal democrat:

Alinsky's rules when broken down are rooted in fear and hate. Nothing he advocated helps improve American society or anyone's life.

Good observations Jay, but ... (Below threshold)

Good observations Jay, but "Pick the target" is actually the 13th Rule of Power Tactics. I have no idea how this rule became misnumbered, but it is really Rule 13.

FYI, Rule 12 states, "The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative." The Tea Party protests and recent town hall meetings neatly illustrate this concept, because they forced the Obama Administration to back away (or at least feign backing away) from some of its more radical tax increase and health care reform plans.

Alinsky's power tactics were designed to aid the have-nots (slum residents, etc.) who had no other way to fight existing power structures. But when the White House -- the epitome of political power -- uses these tactics, they look like bullies. And when they respond to the successful polarizing efforts of conservatives with ad hominem attacks and conspiracy theories, they look like crybabies and whiners.

i don't know who originally... (Below threshold)
Andrew X:

i don't know who originally channeled George C. Scott as Patton, but it was brilliant --


Im happy to go thru life wi... (Below threshold)

Im happy to go thru life without being the "Won". Its ridiculous and pathetic that People look for a leader to run their lives for them. Its much simpler being Your own boss.

When an actual leader does ... (Below threshold)

When an actual leader does come forward for the Republicans the full fury of the barking moonbats, having been frustrated and pent up without a definite target, will be unleashed and focussed like never before, making BDS look like a lovefest.

The Patton quote just total... (Below threshold)

The Patton quote just totally made my day.

Actually I am more focused ... (Below threshold)

Actually I am more focused on conservatives taken over the congress in 2010 and more in 2012. Unlike the left, who seem to not grasp how the government works, the dem's have lead congress the past three years right into the financial mess. They have been a little successful blaming it on Bush but when I inform people who holds the oversight and purse strings, they reconsider. That is what I want now. Just like with Clinton. We need to either stop Obama's immature and way wrong agenda for our country or drag him kicking and screaming to the center. Either way, win, win. ww

It's been a very, ... (Below threshold)
Tina S:
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.

Wow, Jay Tea just implied that dems use to be good at governing. I do believe that to be the nicest thing I have ever heard you say.

Nope Tina, just they've for... (Below threshold)

Nope Tina, just they've forgotten how to govern at all. No implication of good there at all, except in your desperate two neurons connected by a spirochete.






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