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Video Game Politics

I don't want to make too much of a casual comment by some random right-winger I don't know anything about, but this post on redstate.org seemed to capture the mood of the disgruntled right:

The White House line [Mark Kilmer]

We might have seen what the new White House line [on Miers] will be from Senator Lindsey Graham on FOX News Sunday. Graham insisted that "the keepers of the conservative flame" might be angry now, but that they'll come around as they learn more about Miers as the nominating process plays out.

This indicates that the WH does not understand how badly some want the final showdown with the Dems.

Ah, that's it, "The Final Showdown." "At last we meet, Mr. Bond." Have some people perhaps been watching a little too much Star Wars? A few too many late nights trying to reach the "boss level" of Final Fantasy 10?

Unfortunately, Mr. Kilmer is right. That video-game attitude very much captures the dynamic behind the Right's reaction to the Miers nomination. Through all the twists and turns of the Bush era, they were promised one big thing: a Supreme Court nomination, and not for just any seat but for this one, O'Connor's. Through all the disappointments with the abandonment of conservatism in fiscal policy, irresponsibility in foreign policy, the Medicare drug bill and all the rest, both the social conservatives and the libertarians consoled themselves with the thought that the big win would come with a Supreme Court nomination. It would not just be a judge who would vote to overturn Roe or bring back the exiled constitution, but one who, unlike Roberts, would provoke the last grand battle in the culture war, a showdown with the Democrats over the most basic questions of our destination as a country, and that their side would not just win, but win profoundly and forever, leaving Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden writhing in pain. It would be profound revenge for such setbacks as the fizzling of the Clinton impeachment, the last attempt at the final showdown.

Compared to this, Karl Rove's stated vision of 30 years of Republican dominance was modest. But they are of a piece, and the vision of 30 years or the final showdown explains very much of what's happened in the last few years, especially the mystifying tendency to continually up the ante of partisanship, to put more at risk in the service of some vision of total, existential domination that exists only in video games and Tim LaHaye novels.

But there is a reason that political parties of the past have never taken the Karl Rove/Tom DeLay approach, and the reason is that it's dangerous and ultimately self-destructive. There are no "final showdowns" in democratic politics, but the moment you acknowledge that -- as with the Miers nomination -- the whole approach falls apart. Politics is always a matter of continual struggle and negotiation and refinement -- as Al Gore used to say, "it's a day to day struggle for the American people." The genius of democracy is that it is never final, and it's not even always a battle.

I'm pretty partisan (more so now than in the past) and I hope I don't put my hard-fought credentials as a "fighting Dem" at risk by saying this, but I don't look for a "final showdown" with Republicans or conservatives. Neither, I would guess, do most Democratic politicians. As to this crowd and their peculiar attitude, yes, I want them gone and their poisonous influence cleansed from our politics. But once that's done, I want to move back to a kind of politics where a healthy, passionate and wised-up conservativism, a healthy and intellectually invigorated liberalism, and various fresh alternatives in between and on the edges rejoin a serious, ongoing, messy engagement in the business of democratic politics. That may sound fanciful, but it's a hell of a lot more realistic than video game fantasies.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on October 10, 2005 | Permalink


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I'm repeating myself from another blog commentsecction--but part of the point of the Armageddon mentality is that it really doesn't matter whether you win or lose, so long as the guns blaze and the flags fly.

The Gore quote is fine, but better is Max Weber: Politics is the slow boring of hard boards.

Posted by: Buce | Oct 10, 2005 7:22:05 PM

Yes! Exactly.

Interesting observation of the "final showdown" language. It echoes so heavily of the biblical final battle of good v evil.

It also, quite frighteningly to me, echoes the language of the "final solution." Not that I'm comparing the two, but I do think there's a "push the hippie liberals into the ocean" kindof thinking in some of the more rabid dens of the right.

And my great fantasy is that that far right edge will separate from the more mainstream republicans through a far right presidential candidate who runs in the repub primary as the bible thumpin' immigrant hatin' candidate.

There are substantial divides within the republicans, on immigration for instance, where the pro-business big money republicans want the cheap labor while the closet racist republican bible rabble wants to build that giant wall.

I dunno, just fantasizing for a moment.


Posted by: Mikevotes | Oct 10, 2005 7:28:19 PM

What's funny about this yearning for conflict is that in practical terms, the difference between the parties is not so great. I was fooled for a long time by the large differences in party platforms, but seeing the Democrats vote overwhelmingly for a corporatist, Republican vision of America over and over again, I lost my illusion.
In my opinion this country would be better served by having a corporatist and a populist party vie for power. This would give a correct representation of the competing forces in our society.

Posted by: marky | Oct 10, 2005 7:59:05 PM

Mikevotes, you might see that happen if Roy Moore wins the gubernatorial election in Alabama (or maybe sooner if he loses the primary, if such there be). I can see him running for President at some point, 10 Commandments rock in tow.

Posted by: Linkmeister | Oct 10, 2005 8:15:25 PM

I don't know that I've heard it put so well. I would note, however, that some of the "final showdown" crowd is actually not that big into democracy, when you get right down to it. If winning their final showdown requires a slide into fascism, they can deal with that.

Posted by: dj moonbat | Oct 10, 2005 11:55:13 PM

There may not be a final showdown in democracy, but there can be a final showdown WITH democracy. If the Roy Moores of the country become powerful enough, we can kiss democracy goodbye.

Posted by: rps | Oct 11, 2005 8:32:17 AM

Look, Bush was serious about exporting democracy to the rest of the world---because he doesn't care to have it here.

Posted by: marky | Oct 11, 2005 11:29:58 AM

Sign of the unbelievable immaturity of the far right. Mature people who actually care about the world don't ponder the question "do the ends justify the means," because they know that there IS no end.

That's the beauty of American-style democracy--it's a system that makes it very difficult to have a final word on any issue, and extremely easy to revisit issues over and over. There's a million ways to table and revisit an issue, which is a big part of why we've just had the one civil war over a particularly gruesome and intractable issue. Showdown-style government is what leads to multiple and bloody civil wars, because people have no options when they lose.

Posted by: theorajones | Oct 11, 2005 12:01:19 PM

Radical thinking -- left and right -- is the antithesis of Keats'"negative capability" -- to be "capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason." The vast majority -- say 80% or 90% -- of us have not that capability.

We are always seeking the "answer," "closure." That only a small part of that huge absolutist majority appears to be radical is explained by the fact that it lives and works in small communities of like-minded people and does not realize, emotionally, that its values are challenged by "others."

Let it suspect that its values are dismissed or mocked, and its anger will know no bounds. It will roar out against its humiliation, and Mark's politician will wring his hands and back out the door to join von Papen in the antechamber.

Posted by: Ellen1910 | Oct 12, 2005 12:06:14 AM

I think some of the Gore 2008 rapture is based on this same kind of thing. There's a thought that it'll repair the rift in space and time caused by Bush's illegitimate 2000 victory, undo all the evil that happened after, and heal the universe. Not that I don't like Al's recent speeches, but we have to remember what politics actually is about.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Oct 13, 2005 6:50:52 AM

1. That was not a casual comment.

2. I am not some "some random right-winger."

3. If you think that the Democrats' problem is that they have trouble lettiing people know that they are the centrist party, then you must admit that the Democrats must change the messanger and the message. Oh dear, I'm afraid, because that would require changing the entire party. From the foundation up. And if you try to alter a house of sand, it crumbles.

You folks have your work cut out for you.

Posted by: Mark Kilmer | Oct 13, 2005 4:01:34 PM

Now Mr. Kilmer, there's nothing wrong with being random. I'm some random left-winger, and you don't hear me complaining about it!

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Oct 14, 2005 9:06:23 AM

And yet, Mark Kilmer, you are just a random right-winger. Redstate.org, freerepublic.com, littlegreenfootballs. You name it, they're all chockablock with random right-wingers. Just as this site, TPM and DailyKos are chockablock with random left-wingers. So what? I can go to either site and find a clone of you (and me) any time I want. You're random; so's the rest of us.

And as for casual comments, you posted it on a blog. Is there anything more casual in the political world except, perhaps, a cocktail party? Posting on a blog is like pissing in the Amazon, it feels good but it has no impact.


Posted by: Everett Volk | Oct 14, 2005 12:33:00 PM

Mark, I wish you'd try to explain what you mean in real, political terms by "final showdown." What would it look like? Were you simply referring to the "nuclear option" in the Senate, or something more? What would happen to the Democrats after a "final showdown"?

Posted by: djw | Oct 15, 2005 1:22:52 PM

Mark, like most right-wingers nowadays, loves his eliminationist rhetoric.

Posted by: Phoenix Woman | Oct 18, 2005 9:22:41 AM

How long before the "final showdown" becomes the "final solution". I see nothing wrong with allowing them to die by the very rhetoric they always have and always will live by. The world will be better off without them. The sooner the better.

"Kill them all, God will recognize his own.

-Arnald-Amalric, 1208 (when asked by the Crusaders what to do with the citizens of Beziers who were a mixture of Catholics and Cathars)"

Posted by: To The Death | Oct 18, 2005 9:39:23 AM

A large number of the "final showdown" crowd are also believers of a quick arrival of the "End Times." It makes you wonder if they are projecting their desire for Jesus' return to judge us for our sins onto the Supreme Court nomination. If they are, I can understand their frustration. Harriet Miers is no Jesus and I wouldn't want her sitting in judgement of my sins.

Posted by: Eric | Oct 18, 2005 9:44:43 AM

Mark, we're all waiting for you to cry, "I am not a random number! I am a free man!"

Posted by: Constantine | Oct 18, 2005 9:47:44 AM

I agree with your view of democracy and its open debate to deal with the changing times. I must disagree with you on the issue of the Supreme court. Without a battle to keep the Supreme court open to new ideas, i.e. that is anti-Federalist point of view, democracy will suffer. Brownie Miers needs to be filibustered, becasue by the standards on John Roberts alone she is unqualified, so we can have this debate about what the Supreme court is. We can not allow it to be a body of inaction becasue it is clear to me we will soon find ourselves in a Civil War.

Posted by: Robert M | Oct 18, 2005 9:51:14 AM

That's some great, albeit unintended humor--to have the random right-winger show up and bluster in all his fantasized self-importance about not being a random right winger.
You made one interesting point and it was quoted somewhere. Woo hoo. Don't let it go to your head, rrw.

Posted by: wwjk | Oct 18, 2005 9:51:38 AM

Before anyone throws it out there:

There's eliminationists on the Left too. The difference is that none of them hold any power at all.

Posted by: Sandals | Oct 18, 2005 9:57:27 AM

"I am not some "some random right-winger."

He's right. He's some random fascist right-winger. And there's plenty more where he came from.

Posted by: Billmon | Oct 18, 2005 9:58:38 AM

He's not random, he's special.

They say they're patriotic
although they hate democracy
They act so idiotic
and they whine so sullenly
their leaders screw up mega global
but they blame ted kennedy
they make naked mole rats seem so noble
and they lie incessently

it's the very special wingers
the very special wingers
praying for their jackboots
and dreaming that they're winners

Posted by: citizen k | Oct 18, 2005 10:03:12 AM

"But there is a reason that political parties of the past have never taken the Karl Rove/Tom DeLay approach, and the reason is that it's dangerous and ultimately self-destructive."

this seems to have summed it all up... many have criticized Dems (including many Dems themselves) about us not "getting into the fight" with neocons... we need to fight, but not get down in the muck with them, for the reasons mentioned in that quote... neocons are now reaping what they've sown... years of power, leading to arrogance and hubris, have led to widespread corruption... think about it... the Executive and leaders of both parts of the Legislative branch are now under investigation and/or indictment... if Dems regain power in 2006-2008,is THAT where WE want to be in another 10 years?

work hard and stay out of the shit, that's what I say...

Posted by: Pete Bogs | Oct 18, 2005 10:22:47 AM

As I have been saying for over 15 years now, "The difference between me and Rush Limbaugh? There's room in my ideal world for Rush, but no room in Rush's ideal world for me."

Posted by: Kajey | Oct 18, 2005 10:26:37 AM