After the election of 2008, it didn’t take long for the Republicans to start trying to place the blame for their terrible showing. The round of mutual fingerpointing was entertaining to many of us. One theme that started to bubble to the surface was that the reason the Republicans had lost so badly was that they weren’t pure enough. In other words, it wasn’t that their principles and policies, when put into action, had proven to be a disaster. No, the reason was that they hadn’t been stringent enough with them! They’d made (gasp!) compromises. It didn’t take long after that for a new group to arise: The Tea Parties. They also became known as “teabaggers,” to much hilarity of various commentators. They were going to take America back! The resultant battles they set off within the party were enormous. They got behind a candidate in the NY-23 special election, which created the new verb “scozzafava’d”, and lost a district that hadn’t gone to a Democrat in over 150 years. Even more battles ensued within the movement, as groups split off accusing each other of nefarious deeds and a lack of purity. One thing they did accomplish was to push the Republicans in Congress to the right, earning them the moniker “The Party of NO.” No ideas, no votes, no compromise.
All of this should have been wonderful for the Democratic Party. The party controls both houses of Congress and the White House. Your opponents are busily ripping themselves apart, and locking themselves into a position that gives them no accomplishments to point to come election time. Perfect, right? It should have been. The problem was that the Democratic Party had it’s own version of teabaggers. The “firebaggers.” This term got used for the first time on Ballon-Juice, to describe a group of bloggers and “activists” from the Firedoglake blog. They shared many of the characteristics of the teabaggers. Strident. Demanding of ideological purity. Attacking members of the Democratic Party and others who were in their opinion straying from the “progressive ideal.” They appeared on many other sites as bloggers or as commenters.
Just as the teabaggers with their demands had captured media attention, so too did the firebaggers. The media, preferring to look for an easy story, particularly a colorful one, began to portray each of them as “representative” of each side’s thought. Teabaggers were able create the impression that there was a vast right-wing movement challenging for the soul of the Republican Party. The firebaggers were able to create the impression that the left thought the Administration was a failure, and that Congress was too moderate.
What both have really done is demonstrate that they have no clue of the political process. They don’t understand how government works, in the real world. They don’t want to. They want their ideological purity! In the process, they’re poisoning the very discourse that the nation wants. They’re hurting the parties they claim to want to save. The electoral fall-out of their actions will set things back. Fortunately, they’ll never get their “pure.” The real world has a habit of slapping those things upside the head when it comes to actually making them work. But it won’t matter to them. They’ll have their pure ideals intact, and they don’t care who they have to hurt to keep them pure.