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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The GOP's Wasted Effort

This weekend, the right had what can only be described as a big (but not nearly as big as they claim) whine-fest on the national mall. The idea was supposedly to recapture the non-partisan unity that followed 9/11. although I don't remember that unity being expressed as a belief that President Bush was an Indonesian Muslim terrorist who was instituting death panels and FEMA work camps to spread communism, like Hitler. The fact was that the 9/12 rally wasn't actually about anything in particular, other than a wish that someone else had won in November. Healthcare reform, creeping socialism, taxes, take your pick -- the protests were about everything and nothing, as focused as bare light bulb, it's light spreading out in every direction.

Writing about this new wingnut rage in general, Henrik Hertzberg writes in The New Yorker:

This sort of lunatic paranoia -- touched with populism, nativism, racism, and anti-intellectualism -- has long been a feature of the fringe, especially during times of economic bewilderment. What is different now is the evolution of a new political organism, with paranoia as its animating principle. The town-meeting shouters may be the organism’s hands and feet, but its heart—also, Heaven help us, its brain -- is a "conservative" media alliance built around talk radio and cable television, especially FOX News. The protesters do not look to politicians for leadership. They look to niche media figures like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, and their scores of clones behind local and national microphones. Because these figures have no responsibilities, they cannot disappoint. Their sneers may be false and hateful -- they all routinely liken the President and the "Democrat Party" to murderous totalitarians -- but they are employed by large, nominally respectable corporations and supported by national advertisers, lending them a considerable measure of institutional prestige. The dominant wing of the Republican Party is increasingly an appendage of the organism -- the tail, you might say, though it seems to wag more often from fear than from happiness. Many Republican officeholders, even some reputed moderates like Senator Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, have obediently echoed the foul nonsense.


Yeah, that's about it. The tail, wagging from fear, is wagging the dog. The Republican Party is leading by following and those they're following are marching in circles with signs advocating contructive ideas like making Barack Obama the president of Kenya (signs, by the way, that use skeptical quotes suggesting that they don't even believe this "Kenya" place really exists).





So how's this brilliant strategy of letting the lunatics steer the party working? About as well as you'd expect. During August, the president was largely absent, following his own foolish strategy of letting Democrats in congress take the lead on healthcare reform. This quickly devolved into namecalling and conspiracy theorizing -- none of which the White House made much of an effort to answer. President Obama's polling numbers fell, but there was no corresponding rise in Republican numbers. The GOP and the wingnuts were hurting Obama, but they weren't helping themselves. Some people decided they didn't like Obama much, but no one decided that Republicans were any better. GOP polling numbers remained flatlined.

"If they look like the only thing they want to do is oppose the president’s plan just to hurt his administration politically, there is significant political risk for Republicans," says right-leaning pollster Scott Rasmussen. "While people aren’t wildly enthusiastic about the particulars [of Democratic healthcare proposals], people do believe our system does need reform."

So, do people see Republicans as being interested solely in trying to hurt Obama's administration politically? Yeah. That's exactly what they see. Buried in a CNN story about polling showing Obama's numbers back on the rise, we find this nugget: "As for the Republicans, six in 10 say they have been obstructing Obama for political reasons. Only a third believe that the GOP has generally offered constructive criticism."

While you could argue that a big part of Obama's '08 message was "Bush sucks!" it wasn't really going out on a limb. You didn't have to look very far to find polling that showed most people believed that was true. Obama's numbers, on the other hand, fell to roughly the same breakdown as his election numbers; i.e., despite the gloom and doom headlines about the drop in approval, we were really just back to November -- when Barack Obama won easily.

I'm not really a fan of mix and match polling, but when most polls are showing the same things, there's really not much danger. A new Washington Post poll shows that Democrats are preferred over Republicans on major issues by 20 points, that 53% believe that healthcare needs reform and want government action, and that 62% don't think Republicans are serious about reform.

In other words, marching around in circles with signs that read "YOU SUCK!" isn't striking people as a very persuasive argument. In fact, it's striking most people as not very helpful. And all these polls show Obama's numbers rising again. In fact, a new Bloomberg poll shows the president at 56% and includes this bit of fun:

Respondents also say by 40 percent to 32 percent that they would vote for a Democratic candidate for Congress in 2010. A slight plurality, 48 percent to 44 percent, has a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party. The Republican Party, by 52 percent to 38 percent, gets an unfavorable rating.


That ought to work out great for them -- the only real majority opinion in that paragraph is that Republicans suck. All the shrieking and whining and lying dinged Obama, but that's buffing out. And it didn't do anything for Republicans.

"This isn’t to minimize the political headwind Obama and Dems face right now," writes Greg Sargent. "But what if a fair amount of the opposition reflects short term anxieties and fear of the legislative unknown? What if a reform bill gets through with virtually no Republican support, and the public decides they like it? How will the GOP’s efforts to block the current proposals look to the public in retrospect?"

Sargent points to a 1993 memo from Bill Kristol about Clinton's reform efforts. In it, Kristol argued "that the realization of reform could banish the GOP to the minority for a generation, by cementing the Dems as the party that's resurrected the notion that government can improve the lives of the middle class." It doesn't seem like much has changed since then. And it's also become clear that Republicans don't believe their messaging -- fear that Democrats might get people to trust government again is an admission that government can help people. The Reaganite "government is a disaster" line turns out to be just that -- a line. It's not true, as we've seen over and over. Government is only a disaster when people who think government doesn't work try to run it. God help Republicans if people ever figure out that correlation. They don't need some Democratic showoff making it obvious.

-Wisco


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11 comments:

SMG said...

The Obama and the talking heads on the left should worry less about the hardliners on the right and start worrying about all the moderates that are losing faith in the administration. Centrists were the difference in the election, POTUS is going to need them again if he wants another four years.

M said...

What's a moderate?

What's a centrist?

The Goldilocks philosophy...?

Brilliant.

Sounds pre-determined for half-assedness and perpetual dis-satisfaction.

SMG said...

M~

A moderate or centrist is someone that chooses to think about the issues and does not give two shits about party affiliation. It is people like me that are not registered as Democrat or Republican because both sides, at the end of the day, only care about expanding their power base. A moderate is a person that thinks the $35,000 a year they pay in various taxes is far more than their fair share. A moderate thinks it is nobody’s damn business who I marry, what I do with my own body, invading Iraq was a very bad idea and doesn’t really care where BO was born. In short it is most of the F’ing population dipshit!

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a moderate/centist, I'd have a hard time voting for a GOP candidate next time simply because the Republicans are embracing these far right loons. As was mentioned, even supposed moderates like Grassley of Iowa are giving tacit approval of this. I'd like to see Obama change a few things (like being out in front of issues instead of deferring to Congress), but if the alternative is the type of extremism were seeing now, it's no contest.

M said...

My ass.

You don't "give two shits about party affiliation?" What a rebel. You can think for yourself. What does that mean?

You "choose to think about the issues?" In what way? Common sense and minimal response?

a-har...

What's a "power base?" is it like a constituency? Free speech? Campaign finance? netroots movement contributions? a corporate entrenchment? the revolving door? What?

It's a worldwide marketplace of ideas and this presidency represents some of the best of them. New information is beaming in daily and you have to stay informed and adapt to the circumstances of a changing economy and environment acknowledging changing technology and discoveries and their place in good governance.

A moderate or centrist is a democrat that doesn't like paying more than their weight in taxes...?

You're right. Who needs those useless public roads and bridges, transportation and sanitation, drinking water and health services, fire departments, teachers, scientists....?

All this and 95% of tax paying Americans are due for an Obama Budget tax cut next year.

Everyone wants a balanced budget? How do republicans fool people into believing that their economic polices aren't primarily responsible for taking us from the world's foremost creditor nation to the world's foremost debtor nation with little to show for it and tons to clean up in the matter of the past 30 years starting with Reagan?

You have to spend money to save money by investing in updated policies that actually work to remedy problems with banking, healthcare, the environment, education, infrastructure, foreign interests, trade, corporate tax rates...

A centrist or moderate approaches these things like everyone else does. With their accumulated knowledge, life experiences, and instincts.

Being a centrist or moderate is actually tilt to the right.

The country is far more liberal or progressive issue by issue than you know.

When I think of centrist or moderate, I think Republican-light.

Kind of like Joe Scarborough.

SMG said...

“You don't "give two shits about party affiliation?" What a rebel. You can think for yourself. What does that mean?”

Where in the above statement did I claim to be a rebel? I am as mainstream as they come. I choose to remain non-partisan because I believe that the two party system is crippling this country. In my voting life I have voted for candidates a diverse as Jerry Brown and Ronald Regan. I voted for Obama because I believed him to be a far better candidate. Have you ever voted for a Republican or a Libertarian? Are you so far left that you can’t imagine a qualified conservative candidate?

“You "choose to think about the issues?" In what way? Common sense and minimal response?”

Talk about “what does that mean”. To your way of thinking my response may be minimal, I vote and contribute to the campaigns I support. Should I quit my job and spend all my time protesting. Are you going to cover my share of the tax burden? Didn’t think so.

"What's a "power base?" is it like a constituency? Free speech? Campaign finance? netroots movement contributions? a corporate entrenchment? the revolving door? What?"

A “Power Base” is the mass of mindless idiots that vote the party line because they are Republicans or Democrats. It is the bible thumpers who vote for “Family Values” politicians that are cheating on their spouses. It is feminists that vote for a misogynist because he is a Democrat. Do you really think these assholes care about illegal immigrants? They are pandering to the Hispanic vote to expand their base. I know you think the Republicans are just pandering but you might want to check out the Democrats because they are just as guilty.

“It's a worldwide marketplace of ideas and this presidency represents some of the best of them.”

Since I voted for the man I hope that is the case, so far I have seen a lot smoke and mirrors. I have not seen the Whitehouse put that many ideas into play. “We need change” is a great sentiment, and a very vague idea.

SMG said...

“New information is beaming in daily and you have to stay informed and adapt to the circumstances of a changing economy and environment acknowledging changing technology and discoveries and their place in good governance.”

I am not sure Twitter counts. A better understanding of the global economy would be a good start.

"A moderate or centrist is a democrat that doesn't like paying more than their weight in taxes...?"

I find it funny that the people who think we should pay more in taxes tend to make so little that they don’t pay taxes at all or make so much that it doesn’t matter to them. Bums and Bill Gates can both afford for taxes to go up. I need to pay my rent.

"You're right. Who needs those useless public roads and bridges, transportation and sanitation, drinking water and health services, fire departments, teachers, scientists....?"

Fuel taxes pay for the roads and bridges. Transportation should be funded by the people that use it but we have to subsidize it because transportation is a right. We have to fund healthcare because that is a right. The only thing that is not a right is keeping most of money that I work 70 hours a week for. Every dollar I pay in taxes is a dollar I don't spend in the market place.

"All this and 95% of tax paying Americans are due for an Obama Budget tax cut next year."

Look me up in a year so I can say “I told you so”

"Everyone wants a balanced budget? How do republicans fool people into believing that their economic polices aren't primarily responsible for taking us from the world's foremost creditor nation to the world's foremost debtor nation with little to show for it and tons to clean up in the matter of the past 30 years starting with Reagan?"

First of all it started way before Regan, but I know the true believer manual tells you to always point to him as the origin of all evil in our country. Secondly a balanced budget at this point is a pipe dream. Maybe we could just work on not expanding the debt for a start.

"You have to spend money to save money by investing in updated policies that actually work to remedy problems with banking, healthcare, the environment, education, infrastructure, foreign interests, trade, corporate tax rates..."

What is really sad is that you actually believe that statement. Congress is the last organization that we should have in charge of “saving” the peoples money.

"A centrist or moderate approaches these things like everyone else does. With their accumulated knowledge, life experiences, and instincts. Being a centrist or moderate is actually tilt to the right."

So in other words if I disagree with you, I will be labeled as a “Neocon” so you can then ignore everything I say.

"The country is far more liberal or progressive issue by issue than you know."

What makes you think you have any idea what I know? Again you demonstrate that if I disagree with you I must be a bible toting “teabagger” One of these days you are going to have to come to terms with the fact that there are a lot of smart people out there that don’t think like you do. You keep using your opinion as if it were a well known fact.

"When I think of centrist or moderate, I think Republican-light. Kind of like Joe Scarborough."

More like Bill Clinton.

M said...

"I believe that the two party system is crippling this country"

You mean the government is crippling the country? You're looking at it from the cliff it's been driven off of.

"Have you ever voted for a Republican or a Libertarian?"

Hell no. Why would I do that? A drunken dare?

"Are you so far left that you can’t imagine a qualified conservative candidate?"

Yes. The most qualified candidate is always the left of center democrat.

Whatever side Russ Feingold is on, that's what side I'm on. Jim Webb? Same. Henry Waxman? Ditto. I think Rachel Maddow is a treasure and Glenn Beck is a domestic terrorist. I'm on the president's side. He is the most qualified.

Whatever side harbors Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, James Inhoffe, Tom Delay, Michelle Bachman, Jim Demint, Chuck Grassley, Bobby Jindal, Eric Cantor.....the Bushes.....AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

"A “Power Base” is the mass of mindless idiots that vote the party line because they are Republicans or Democrats.

Did you just make that up?

"Congress is the last organization that we should have in charge of “saving” the peoples money."

That's part in parcel of the role of government, dude. The private sector fails to compensate for certain things that are too vital for a functioning society to leave for profiteers and capitalists.

We've already given and forgiven too much to globalists and exploitative industry as people who seek sustainability-- not only as civil law-abiding peace practitioners-- but as a healthy species.

"First of all it started way before Regan, but I know the true believer manual tells you to always point to him as the origin of all evil in our country."

The true believer manual that Reagan introduced was called the "11th Commandment" and it was a kooky oathe to party before country.(Never speak against another Republican!!!").

"More like Bill Clinton"

Obama is already a much better than Bill Clinton in several areas and has already accomplished much more as a world representative. As a matter of objective observation, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is superior to Bill as president. Hillary's like having an extra president on the executive team, too. She'd also make a better president than Reagan was.

Hillary's a giant and her presence and leadership within the administration gives America juice as a country that takes the role of leader of the free world seriously and intelligently.

Obama is the shit.

SMG said...

M,

Thank you for proving my point so perfectly.

Always beware of a group of people that claim to have cornered the market on truth. Before you know it they will pass a law forcing everyone to believe/act like they do because they know what is best for the world.

Anonymous said...

Well, right here we see the problem with being considered a moderate; too conservative for the liberals and too liberal for the conservatives.

Anonymous said...

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