Triangulators like Bill Clinton and his protégé Rahm Emanuel adopt a position above and beyond traditional political lines. They explain that the liberals and the conservatives both hate it, so it much be a good idea. Conventional thinkers, like the op-ed writers for the WaPo, are impressed, they write good things. If the liberals and the conservatives hate it, it must be centrist or bi-partisan or whatever their chosen praise word might be. Activists feel cheated, but they don’t count.
This strategy will work as long as the two ends of the political spectrum stay in their places. In Clinton’s case, the liberals wouldn’t leave the party because they had nowhere else to go. The other side, the conservatives, is pleased that the triangulators have moved in their direction, so they can claim a win.
Now take a look at the drawing at right.
This is how you beat a triangulator. It’s a drawing of a military maneuver called a pincer movement. The right side and the left side leave their trenches and move to either side of the triangulator forces. They out flank them, and both the right and left sides are able to fire on the common enemy. Wikipedia has a thorough description of the application of this strategy by Hannibal at the Battle of Cannae.
The applicability of this strategy to politics is obvious: Grover Norquist and Jane Hamsher, anyone? Of course, it’s a lot easier in war, because the general controls both sides. Hannibal was able to deploy his troops in formations and locations where the strategy had a chance.
Health care reform, like most economic issues, isn’t an inherently partisan issue. Is there anyone on the right who wanted to defend the disgusting tactics of health insurance companies to avoid paying claims? Did they think their insurance company would pay their claims without someone to make them? Unfortunately, before that battle was joined, the deals were cut, and the demonization of our side was complete. The right wing wouldn’t leave its entrenched positions, even though many on that side would have benefited.
The next battle is financial reform. The parallels are obvious. Once again, there isn’t anything inherently partisan in regulating commercial banks and investment banks. Sure, we differ in degree, but there isn’t anyone who thinks the status quo is adequate. No one seriously argues that every financial instrument (the real name for the pieces of paper banksters call products) should run wild, subject only to policing by the “market”. People saw the damage done by the banksters to their pension plans, their 401(k)s, their savings accounts, their state and local governments, their charities and the endowments of their colleges as the “market” policed itself and the money disappeared.
Everybody, regardless of their politics, loathes banks. Everyone blames them for the Great Recession. Everyone despises the bank bailout, which was supported by both parties. It infuriates the entire country that no one has been punished civilly, let alone criminally, for the losses they inflicted on every American. People hate banksters worse than health insurance companies.
The Hamsher/Norquist letter is the first shot in the pincers movement on financial reform. We have a chance to join forces with all of the people angry at banksters and really make a difference. Progressives can’t hope to do this by themselves. We can’t even count on our own to stand with us. Conservatives know that the Republicans won’t lift a finger find out how the banksters caused the Great Recession or punish those responsible, and they certainly aren’t going to do anything to prevent another financial disaster.
It may be too late. The Obama administration may have already cut disgusting deals with their buddies on Wall Street. One obvious sign is that top bankers have done nothing to increase lending or deal with the foreclosure crisis, and all the President does is talk tough to top management who couldn’t care less. Congress doesn’t even bother jawboning.
Lots of progressives hate dealing with Norquist, and lots of conservatives hate it that Norquist joined forces with Hamsher. The question is not what you think about the incongruity of dealing with the other side. It isn’t whether you want a win. Of course you hate it, and you want and need a win. The real question is, are you ready to do what it takes to win, including forming a coalition with conservatives? Or would you rather have the banksters win again?