Monday, March 25, 2013

Radical Republicans and fumbling corporate Democrats

Krugman, after analyzing columnist Jonathan Chait for going brain-dead over Matt Yglesias' recent real estate purchase, writes, "The lesson here is never to take right-wing huffiness about the process of politics and political debate seriously. These guys don't actually believe in any rules at all; whatever rule they may lay down in one case, they’ll break in an instant if they think they see an advantage." (Attacking Success 03/23/2013)

"Never," of course is a big word. And, not so long ago, I would have probably qualified a statement like that by saying it applied to hardline, dogmatic rightwingers including a lot of prominent Republican figures like Newt Gingrich. But I would have added that it wasn't so much the case with moderate Republicans like [fill in your favorite example from bygone times].

But now, when "moderate Republican" has become as self-contradictory a term as "lightweight heaviness," I can't really say that any more.

And when I think about it a bit, "not so long ago" in this case basically means 10 years ago, the beginning of the Iraq War. The Republicans were so cynical and so self-righteous in the face they put on their cynicism, and so openly contemptuous of those who disagreed that I lost any real sense from the Republican side of goodwill or serious consideration of the common good in their positions. It was quite a contrast to what Linda Feldmann in 2006 referred to as "the serious, dignified tone of deliberation that preceded the Gulf war, in 1991." (The Iraq war debate reopens in Washington Christian Science Monitor 06/13/2006)

But you have only to look at the full sentence in which that phrase appears to see how much things have changed: "House majority leader John Boehner (R) of Ohio, who has long planned for this week's debate, hopes to match the serious, dignified tone of deliberation that preceded the Gulf war, in 1991." And if you think that there might have been some tiny amount of seriousness in Boehner's expressed intent, you have only to read the immediately following sentence, "Most of his GOP colleagues support the idea."

And it's gotten steadily worse since 2003. As Charlie Pierce chronicles weekly at the Esquire Politics Blog, not only are the Republicans in Congress as happily hardline as ever. But the Republicans in statehouses and state legislatures even after the resounding Democratic win nationwide in 2012 are going full speed ahead on trying to wreck unions, dismantle public education and establish new controls over what women do with their ladyparts.

And in Congress, they are conducting themselves more like a revolutionary party intent on discrediting the entire existing form of government than on anything resembling pragmatic solutions for major national problems. Our Pod Pundits, reciting their Washington Beltway Village lines, chatter about some struggle between moderate and conservative Republicans. But that debate is occurring in their Village imaginations. Yes, there is a Tea Party faction that raves about the insufficient conservatism of the "Republican establishment." But it usually means something like that the "establishment" candidate hates immigrants, but isn't vocal and nasty enough about his hatred. Or that the "establishment" candidate thinks you should only say "some girls rape easy" (Wisconsin State representative Roger Rivard) when there are no microphones around, while the Tea Party zealot thinks it should be obvious that if a woman gets raped, "the bitch was asking for it." OK, I haven't heard any prominent Tea Partier say the latter outright, but it's the obvious meaning of Rivard's comment, Richard Mourdoch's comment that pregnancy resulting from rape "it is something that God intended to happen" and Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" nonsense; see Erin Gloria Ryan, Team Rape Lost Big Last Night Jezebel 11/07/2012. Though all Republicans would take a different attitude if the rapist were black and the victim white.

As Henry Decker reports in 'GOP Autopsy’ Is Dead On Arrival National Memo 03/18/2013, the Republican Party sees no strong motive to change anything but its marketing. "With the exception of a qualified push for immigration reform, the [Republicans National Committee's] Growth and Opportunity Project centers around the idea that the Republican Party’s platform is sound, while the messaging is at fault. That comes as no surprise — it was RNC chairman Reince Priebus, after all, who recently declared "I don’t think our platform is the issue."

But Robert Reich comments on a major reason, maybe the major reason, why the Republican Party feels no obvious pressure to de-crazyfy itself in Selling the Store: Why Democrats Shouldn't Put Social Security and Medicare on the Table 03/21/2013:

Prominent Democrats — including the President and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — are openly suggesting that Medicare be means-tested and Social Security payments be reduced by applying a lower adjustment for inflation.

This is even before they've started budget negotiations with Republicans ...

It’s not the first time Democrats have led with a compromise, but these particular pre-concessions are especially unwise. ...

Social Security and Medicare are the most popular programs ever devised by the federal government, which is why Republicans hate them so much. If average Americans have trusted the Democratic Party to do one thing it has been to guard these programs from the depredations of the GOP.
Reich doesn't seem to have recognized, or maybe he doesn't quite believe them yet, the more recent projections that show a slowing in projected health care inflation. But he's dead right in pointing to the absurdity of the position Obama-Brüning and Pelosi are taking. For the Democrats, becoming the lead advocates for cuts in benefits to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is just lemming instinct. Although as I've said here before, that's unfair to lemmings, because they plunge over the cliff and drown because they are so determined to get to where they're headed. With the Dems it's become more, "Hey, let's drown ourselves so we'll look moderate!" But they might as well adopt this as the official Party anthem:

And Reich adds this killer question: "Paul Ryan's House Republican budget takes on Medicare, but leaves Social Security alone. Why should Democrats lead the charge on either?"

The good news is that Obama-Brüning and Pelosi are still having to advocate for the cuts because they haven't happened yet. For some reason, this comes to mind when I start thinking about how the Dems got here:

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