This is my first diary here, but I'm a longtime reader/lurker. Like many of you, I am disappointed in the degeneration of the level of discourse in the recent months, though I think this site is one of the less serious offenders. In any event, I want to have a serious dialogue on one of the central thematic differences between the two Dems: Obama's stated desire for broad political "unity" vs. Clinton's more confrontational stance and aggressive posture with the Right.
Unity certainly sounds desirable on its face. The end of partisan divisinevess, the demonizing of the other side, the dreaded "gridlock" that Mr. Perot so clearly derided back in '92. Obama has explicitly said that he believes he appeals to more Republicans and Independents because he is more willing to listen to their ideas in the spirit of compromise and national inclusivity. He wants to "leave behind" the zero-sum death feuds of the '90s and enter a post-partisan era. I have read that some believe that this Unity Strategy could lead to a broad coalition (65% even) that effectively ends serious opposition in favor of consensus politics.
My serious question is this: What evidence exists that The Right is ready to compromise and cede their dreams of institutional domination of our government and our culture? Sure, the Republicans are in a rare sort of disarray at the moment. The radical "conservatives" (the Cheneyites, the Neocons, their talk radio mouthpieces) are reeling because of the across-the-board abject failure of Bushism and the obvious damage it has brought to 98% of Americans and all of the rest of the world. To be sure, they usually do not publicly feud like this, especially in election year. Is the argument that their unusual lack of lockstep uniformity and rigid party discipline will allow a President Obama to pick off various discrete disaffected groups from the Right? Is this the strategy behind the recent red meat he has thrown to the NRA/2nd Amendment/Heston wing of the Right? Who else does he believe he can lure to his Consensus Coalition? What red meat must be thrown to lure them?
I think the logic behind this strategy may be stronger in a year where the GOP had nominated a far right candidate who pandered more to the proven failures of the Cheney faction--Romney, for instance. However, their nomination of the comparative "maverick" moderate McCain seems to me to work against the logic of Unity. Whether deserved or not, McCain's image in the media is that of a centrist, a break from the far right ruling fringe. Doesn't McCain occupy much of that crucial space from which Obama would hope to lure disaffected Republicans and Independents? I did see where Lincoln Chafee announced his support for Obama this week. While interesting, Chafee is not even a Senator anymore. Are there more Chafees out there? Who are they? I want names or groups.
Beyond the practicality of a National Unity Coalition under a President Obama, is such consensus in fact desirable? It seems that Clinton would respond in the negative, and resoundingly so. The core logic of her candidacy seems to rest on the fact that the Right has proven that it can never be trusted, and that she provides the best chance to strike them a knockout blow in their rare moment of weakness. She and Bill weathered the Gingrich Congress's radical attempt at a legal coup d'etat in the 90s, so her logics seems to go, so she is the best (and possible only) person to drive the stake into their hopes for permanent control.
Does Obama's rejection of confrontationism in the form of Unity politics amount to a necessary watering-down of progressive values (letting go of the hope for truly universal health care; a slow and piece-meal dismantling of what remains of the New Deal/Great Society social covenants; further expansion of the free trade regime in the style of Milton Friedman and the Chicago economists; conciliation with the law & order right on the need for harshness in the realm of criminal punishment; an overall lesser concern with widening gaps in income disparity--just to name a few)? If such watering-down does not occur, then how do we get enough of The Right to agree to climb on board the Unity Train? Broad unity necessarily requires broad compromise. Which of our ideals must we sacrifice in order to induce the other side to agree? When does a Unity Consensus become a Conciliation Coalition? Clinton says there are some things worth fighting for. Is she right? Are there some ideals which must remain off the table? What is non-negotiable in this aspirational Unity front? Which of our core values are subject to compromise? Really, I want to know.
I guess this diary is asking for legitimate responses to three questions I find to be of rather profound importance in this depressingly substance-free campaign:
1. What exactly is this hopeful Third Way/Unity option that Obama is asking us to move toward? What would it look like? What would be its core values?
2. Is such political consensus realistically attainable given the historical combativeness and political trench warfare tactics the Right has typically employed since Goldwater?
3. And is such a government of Unity actually desirable? When does broad national consensus on all or most issues tread perilously close to a one party state?
Let's think this through. Obama and Clinton supporters please both respond with non-flame, thoughtful ideas. Let's try to lift the discourse out of the gutter a bit. If this simple request among Democrats is too much to ask, then what chance is there that we can find common ground with the Right?