Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why Winning the Midterms Might Not Help Conservatives

Fine, Mitch, you won. Now whaddya gonna do?

For a progressive like me, the midterm elections weren't very much fun. I'll have more to say later about why I think things happened as they did (I have a definite idea). But I was struck by the matching press conferences where Mitch McConnell said he could work with Barack Obama where "they share common ground." Ha, as in hahahahahahahaha. Obama echoed McConnell's remarks in his presser. Ha, as in hahahahahahahaha.

There is no common ground.

Beyond that fact lies the big problem victorious Republicans face: They don't have any clear, straight-forward policy agenda except "GOVERNMENT BAD" and "LET THE RICH PEOPLE KEEP THEIR MONEY, YOU IGNORANT LAZY SLOBS." I might be summarized crudely, but let's face it, that's about it.

More to the point, please tell me the program conservatives can sell to the people that 1) works, and 2) doesn't take away from the people conservatives purport to want to help.

Privatize Social Security? Doesn't help the people. That's why it was rejected back in 2005.

Privatize Medicare? That's Paul Ryan's voucher scheme. Problem? Doesn't help the people. If the tea partiers ever strap a brain on underneath their tri-corners, they'd pull their guns out and start shooting at the Republican caucus. That's why nothing has happened to reduce Medicare benefits. Because, as an idea, it sucks. Why? More people will die, and people won't like that.

Fire bad teachers? Fine, go ahead. Michelle Rhee did that in the hundreds in DC. Big whoop. That sure worked. She promised high pay for qualified teachers. Great. Where's the money? Oops, no money. Want good teachers? pay more, like, you know, what they do in the private sector. Otherwise, you get what you pay for.

Want to let everybody make up their mind which law they're going to follow based on their religious beliefs, regardless of whether their beliefs are sound? (Yes, Samuel Alito said in his Hobby Lobby decision that making sense is not a requirement of religious belief.) Great. Now how are you going to stuff that genie back in the bottle? Après Hobby Lobby, le déluge.

I could go on, but instead I'll point you to a conservative writer, Reihan Salam of Slate, who I usually don't prefer, him being a conservative whose notions I don't cotton to, but in the case of his take on "Now what are you victorious Republicans gonna do?", he ends up with a very strong case. (Hint, the GOP is not going to do much.) Why? Salam's on to something here:
The beauty of the way Democrats approach politics is that their willingness to accept half a loaf means that they can keep making incremental gains even when they appear to be “losing.” Lane Kenworthy, a sociologist at the University of California–San Diego and the author of Social Democratic America, puts it beautifully: “Small steps and the occasional big leap, coupled with limited backsliding, will have the cumulative effect of significantly increasing the breadth and generosity of government social programs.” That is, conservatives can try to nibble at the edges of new social programs, but they'll rarely succeed in rolling them back completely.
Another way of saying that is Democratic policies tend to give half a loaf, while Republican policies tend to take away half a loaf. (Except on Defense because who doesn't love war?)

Where am I wrong? Ever since Barack Obama became president, the GOP has been in a constant battle to take away the safety net from the people. The fact is they haven't succeeded because they wanted the WHOLE LOAF, full stop. Obama, much to his discredit in the eyes of the progressive left, was willing to give away half a loaf here and there, the so-called Grand Bargain.

Bargains made in the Congress require the half-a-loaf deal, so no Grand Bargain. Whew! We progressives really, really had to thank the GOPers for their whole-loaf demands.

Reading the comments to the Salam article, I found a couple that ring true. Here's one:
When they give credence and respectability to the likes of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich (admittedly, Gingrich was once a pol capable of setting aside ideology, however briefly, for legislative achievement; today however, Gingrich is pure distilled bats**t), Ron and Rand Paul, Louie Gohmert, Darrell Issa, and Ted Cruz, the GOP ceases to have any claim to an agenda of responsible governance.
Yeah, McConnell, what are you going to do -- legislatively -- given that on-going legacy? Are your new senators, Joni Ernst and Thom Tillis, going to help you craft half-a-loaf-Obama-will-sign legislation? Ha, as in hahahahahahahahaha.

Another Salam commenter:
Some of us see interconnections. For example, the profit a business makes comes, in part, from those who serve in the military to protect the business. The business owner may say, "I made this," but in fact he was just part of a team where one team member risked his life, and the other one stayed home to build a business. Both are worthy activities, but I think the soldier does not get his fair share in his paycheck. So we tax the business to provide both for the soldier and then Veteran benefits. It would be nice if the John Galts of the world acknowledged the contributions from those who support them, maybe even thanked them by not labeling the sharing as income redistribution.
That from a Thom H. It's dead-on and unleashes the whole "They didn't build that" conservative meme. A reply to Thom H. summed up the problem with the conservative "personal responsibility" narrative:
That would be nice, wouldn't it?  Every Republican I know has an extremely inflated sense of self, though.  They are where they are completely because of their own hard work.  It's an utterly ridiculous notion but they are so in love the "pull-yourself-up-by-your-boostraps" metaphor, they just can't see how dumb it looks from the outside.
Some people do succeed on their own terms through their own determination. That's great. But the idea that we succeed in isolation through our own independent means is hogwash, but it's at the heart of the libertarian dream. It is the John Galt mentality built on an extremely false premise.

It's that false premise -- that we deserve to keep everything because we "built that" -- that undermines conservative and/or libertarian thought. But, boy, does it ever appeal to the masses who want to blame someone else for what they didn't get in life. "If those bastards weren't living off the government teat, I'd have such a better life!"

It's hard to build a decent policy agenda by firing up your base with that one. The sad thing is that the Republicans just won a huge victory by firing up the base with that exact message. Everything else you heard this election cycle was just white noise.

Govern on that, Republicans. Good luck.

Love the quotes around "poor." How dare the poor have a safe place to keep
their food! Lazy ingrates. Just want a place to hide their food-stamp lobster.

And conservatives would buy this? It's not because they watch Fox News, is it?


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