Thursday, November 27, 2008

On Hitting Back: Democrats vs. Republicans

Pretend a politician lets his neighbor borrow his car (if you want you can pretend the neighbor is Joe Lieberman). After two weeks, he asks for the car back, and the neighbor tells him he's decided to keep it. If the politician is a Democrat, he apologizes to his neighbor for ever bothering him, immediately signs the car over, and gives the guy 50 bucks for gas. If the politician is a Republican, he shoots his neighbor in the face, hangs his body from a telephone pole, and calls Fox News to come take pictures of the homosexual terrorist he just caught.

This is pretty much the stereotypical response to conflict that we've come to expect from the two parties. This model is exactly why Democrats always get the short end of the stick and end up being held to higher standard. If the Democrat in this example asserts himself and demands the car back from the neighbor, he will be perceived as a nasty partisan bully. If the Republican makes the slightest effort to acknowledge the other guy, like burying the body in the back yard instead of stringing it up, his actions will be perceived as "reaching across the aisle in a spirit of bipartisanship."

By appealing to the lowest common denominator, Republicans have put themselves in position where it's easy to look good. By allowing themselves to be victimized in the hopes that the big bad bully Republicans will stop if they capitulate enough, the Democrats have put themselves in a position where it is impossible to hit back. Another analogy: think of a little brat constantly antagonizing his sister. His behavior is considered par for the course and goes unnoticed, but when the sister gets so fed up she hits back, that's when the parents suddenly notice and she gets in trouble. The brother then gives his sister back her stolen Barbie and gets a cookie for doing the right thing.

Now consider how this applies to the manufactured outrage over the recent Board of Ed. appointment. The RTC endorses a relative of the mayor to fill the vacancy in a spirit of cronyism. The newspaper, of course, never mentions this connection and makes no effort to stress the fact that while the RTC is free to endorse a candidate, it is the Common Council's decision who should fill that post. The only requirement is that the appointee be from the same political party. The Council is under no obligation to listen to the RTC. And so the Council Democrats picked a candidate who wasn't a crony of the mayor and had experience on the BoE, which was perfectly within their rights as the majority party. No rules were broken. And yet look at what they've gotten for not totally capitulating. Oh, and then there's the natural result of such negative framing and misunderstanding of politics in general.

So, are we gonna hit back or what?

1 comment:

  1. It's a good point to make that Town Committee recommendations to fill vacancies are strictly advisory.

    The other point to make is that there has been no real tradition in New Britain's recent political history for mayors and city councils to seek recommendations from their political parties on filling vacancies.

    How many times did Stewart's predecessor, Lucian Pawlak, and the Council during that time ask for a Town Committee recommendation? Never. The same can be said for Pawlak's Republican predecessor and the Democratic Council.

    For the better part of 30 years Mayors and Councils have filled these vacancies without any formal political party input.

    Only in the last four years has the current leadership of the Common Council begun to ask for Town Committee recommendations of any kind.

    This makes the Republican vitriol about the Board of Education vacancy so much political noise.

    Time and again the Democratic Council has offered olive branches to the Stewart administration and the Republicans, only to have them dismissed out of hand accompanied by the same political grandstanding we are seeing now.