I receive e-mails fairly commonly these days pointing out some bad policy or another that Obama is advocating and asking why I favor an Obama/Biden victory in light of that. Even if you don’t see much difference between the two parties and dislike both presidential candidates, the need to rid ourselves of the people who do things like this — infecting our political discourse with abject idiocy and bottomless dishonesty, shaping their own realities to match their base desires — is reason enough to favor that outcome.
It pains me to disagree so strongly with both John and Glenn, but the idea that a crushing defeat will shame the fringe right into silence or even quiet them down a bit is simply crazy. My argument comes from four simple points.
1) Defending all three branches of government is a much less fun job than attacking it. Defenders own the real consequences of real policies whereas critics can take credit for any number of righteous things that didn’t happen because nobody listened to their advice.
2) Movements thrive as oppressed minorities; in power they infight and splinter. To illustrate the point, look at how Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi energized rightwing blogs. In what conceivable way are Reid and Pelosi remarkable in any way? Remember that Reid is pro-life. They bend over backward to give the GOP a fair shake, even more so when you compare them to the clusterfuck that came before. There’s nothing particularly exceptional about either of the two, but by putting a name and face on the Other/Enemy they give the Movement something to hate and fear. The flip side is also true: Republican power wrecked America but it gave the online left a common enemy and an organizing focus. I think that single point best explains why the rightwing internet went from its Clinton-era juggernaut to the sad shadow of the leftosphere that it is today.
3) In general conservatives dislike overpowered government. Bear with me here. There are subspecies like neocons and theocons who like it just fine and others who will compromise big gummint for perks like protection from soul-crushing fear, but at the very least watching their team make a massive grab for dictator powers divides the right. Think John Cole, John Dilulio and Pat Buchanan. You can make the same case for every other compromise and ideological betrayal that the President’s online allies have to either defend (Powerline) or condemn (as often as not, Malkin).
4) Even if some conservatives like some kinds of government power, the movement viscerally loathes any power that isn’t Theirs. Ref: Clinton. Black helicopters. Death list. Et cetera ad nauseum.
Taken together these points make a compelling argument that online wingnuttery is not at anything like a peak. It’s at a nadir. Wingnuttery, online, at home and in paranoid little gatherings, is about to get almost unimaginably worse. Bloggers know better than to say it in so many words, but as a community defending crap like Katrina, Rumsfeld, Harriet Miers and Alberto Gonzales has left the online right depressed, let down and exhausted.
It’s important for us lefties to remember that these points apply as much to ‘us’ as to ‘them.’ Laugh at me now, but at the same time that the online right is scraping bottom the online left is very likely somewhere near a peak in terms of influence, unity and enthusiasm. In a one-party state, it won’t take long before partisan leftwing blogs start chafing against principled activists like Greenwald and equal-opportunity muckrakers like Josh Marshall. It’s a serious mistake to think that unity in the leftwing blogosphere is more than an artifact of the political left’s profound powerlessness. Incoming counsel will be less coherent when we fully own the sausage factory of governing, while at the same time broad power will inevitable reduce the party’s need to listen to us.
I can grant that the online left should come out better than the online right for the simple reason that Democrats can govern. As long as the party does its damn job then at least we won’t have to play defense for disgraces like Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, the Schiavo bill and hurricane FEMA.
But overall the point stands. Jonah Goldberg et alia have not yet begun to wingnut. The stupid that will come after their party leaves town on a rail will make the last eight years look like a junior UN meeting. I hate to think that I’m right about this, but the natural consequence of what I’ve laid out that Dave Niewert’s knowledge of fringe hate groups will make him as useful for explaining the next decade as Paul Krugman (among other things Krugman is an expert in financial collapse) and Al Gore.