In any other age -- including the last administration -- this story would have been presented as a scandalous exposé. The genuinely creepy scenes of the "nominating process" alone would have been seen as horrific revelations. Imagine the revulsion at the sight of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld sifting through PowerPoint slides on "suspected terrorists" all over the world, and giving their Neronic thumbs up or down as each swarthy face pops up on a screen in front of them. Imagine the tidal wave of moral outrage from the "Netroots Nation" and other progressive champions directed at Bush not only for operating a death squad (which he did), but then trotting out Condi and Colin and Bob Gates to brag about it openly, and to paint Bush as some kind of moral avatar for the careful consideration and philosophical rigor he applied to blowing human beings to bits in sneak attacks on faraway villages.I think we all accept by now that America's parties aren't competing factions at all but rather complementary parts of a single machine, and it's oddly impressive to watch it operate at peak efficiency. If you've ever had the chance to see an industrial slaughterhouse in action, you'll know what I mean--the awesome speed and mechanized balleticism with which formerly living things are reduced to their constituent parts. MBA-land lingo would say something like: Republicans create the practice; Democrats develop the process.
But the NYT piece is billed as just another "process story" about an interesting aspect of Obama's presidency, part of an election-year series assessing his record.
The electoral ratchet permits movement only in the rightward direction. The Republican role is fairly clear; the Republicans apply the torque that rotates the thing rightward.
The Democrats' role is a little less obvious. The Democrats are the pawl. They don't resist the rightward movement -- they let it happen -- but whenever the rightward force slackens momentarily, for whatever reason, the Democrats click into place and keep the machine from rotating back to the left.
-Stop Me Before I Vote Again, zee livruh
As we head into another election season--is it right to call it a season when it only occurs every couple of years? isn't it more like, uh, el Nino? a climatological phenomenon of sorts?--this is worth bearing ever in mind. Voting for a president is like voting for the weather. If it happens to rain on the day you selected, you may believe that your choice has been affirmed; if not, well, there is always next time.