There is an interesting clip from a Real News interview of Howard Zinn up on Al Giordano’s top-quality blog, The Field. Responding to questions about Nader, a third party, and how to break out of the two-party system in order to drive more radical change, Zinn points out that Nader’s transplantation into the electoral arena has been self-marginalizing. He asserts more generally that entering the electoral process without dominating impact tends to marginalize the progressive movement as a whole.
Rather than displacing the Democratic party, the idea is to surround it with a progressive movement so coherent and ineluctable that Obama’s administration must manifest his ideas in their most progressive form. Zinn’s historical analogy, as often with Obama, is to that Hudson Valley grandee Franklin Roosevelt, who in nothing but his expression of his ideas could in 1932 be understood as a progressive.
This encourages me to point out something I’ve been watching since Howard Dean took over the DNC, and especially since Obama started to get any traction in the primary race against Clinton.
But first, something now far more obvious but not then necessarily predictable seems more and more likely: a huge rout of the GOP in less than two weeks. When a black, racially-mixed ex-community organizer with Hussein as his middle name is 4 points up in Indiana, something is seriously going wrong with the Republican Stuka Squadrons.
One can attribute this turn of the tide to a lot of factors, but on the day, the reality of an Obama victory of the proportions I expect will be purely down to one thing: the ground game. There is simply nothing in recent US electoral history to compare to the unswerving strategic vision, superb management and organization, and massively effective field organization that David Plouffe and his team have put together for Obama. This is the organization that will turn today’s polling numbers into countable votes on Election Day, and in pluralities far too large to be bothered by any criminal tampering by the remaining Rovians in the losing party.
The catastrophe this represents for the Far Right wing that has utterly dominated the GOP since the 1994 election is difficult to understate. The Senate minority leader himself has his head on the block—a loss you would have to go back to 1932 to match. The Rockefeller Rump of the party has somehow come out from behind its protective wingnut screen and started to denounce it’s own party’s candidate, and to endorse a Democrat. And the less mentally balanced of the wingnuts are frantically launching themselves into rhetorical space and electorial oblivion.
But besides the barely visible protrusion of the witch legs from under the House that’s about to drop on the party of Rove, a few other institutions have been smashed to pieces. These are the less obvious casualties of the popular juggernaut that Obama has let loose and helped organize.
First, the previous and anaemic public campaign finance system is gone forever. Obama is the first national candidate to fully deploy the vast and decentralized set of interconnections known as the Internet for his campaign. Among other things, he has effectively built a new public campaign finance system, bypassing the federally administered one to which McCain’s mavericky ways obliged him, and reaching directly into millions of supporters’ pockets for their change. Eighty three bucks is not chicken feed for most people, but it is the average donation with which the Obama campaign built September’s 130 million dollar inflow of cash, and far less than the 2300 dollars that maxes out an individual contributor.
Second, and more important for our future, the Democratic party machine, most recently in the possession of the Clinton camorra, has been defenestrated. The immediate move of DNC headquarters to Chicago the day after the Democratic convention was just a particularly dramatic example of this. There is now a national organization, wired together via the Internet and cellphone technology (and texting), which will be rolling off the energy of a victorious Presidential campaign, and ready to go to work the day after Inauguration as the New Democratic Party. This party, in urban areas, is organized down to the block level. It understands how to raise funds in a way that is unstoppable from any centralized position. It is decentralized, heterogeneous, and has strong but not exclusively progressive tendencies. It will not be the party of Barak, but rather troops loyal to his administration to the extent they believe he is carrying out his promises. And, as we will see, it will be flexing its muscles before too long in the 2010 congressional races, blasting away any lingering wingnuts in reach.
As for the wingnuts, they have nothing to fear but our fear of nothing.