Monday, April 20, 2015

Pick Your Party, Then Pick Your Candidate, and the Policy Will Fall in Line

White, (mostly) male, Republican, and super into oil. Who would have guessed?
I wonder if they want to end Obamacare, cut food stamps, increase defense spending.

Ryan Cooper of The Week wrote a simple but astute article today, pointing out that our political parties are so polarized now that we don't need to examine individuals much anymore to assess their policy positions:
They explain this [polarization] as partly a function of "negative partisanship," or sheer mutual hatred between America's political tribes. That reality is increasingly undeniable, no matter what the president would have you believe.
For the voting public, this is actually something of a blessing. There is no longer much need to litigate political histories to discern which way an individual candidate will lean. Instead, simply judge the party as a whole, and pick the one which most closely represents your own beliefs and preferences. Hillary Clinton, as a Democrat, would almost certainly do mainstream Democratic Party stuff as president: moderate tax increases on the rich, education reform, patching up ObamaCare, and so on.
That is not to say that personality makes no difference whatsoever, just that the parties are exerting an increasingly strong gravitational effect on their candidates. As Greg Sargent reports, we already see this happening to Clinton on gay marriage and immigration.
I've been making this point off and on lately. What this comes down to is how determinative this is on policy. Do you like an expanded safety net? Vote for Hillary Clinton. Do you hate unions? Vote for Scott Walker. Would you like to get Big Money out of politics? Vote for Hillary. Do you want to rob pension funds -- because you hate unions -- in order to fill a budget hole after you cut taxes too much? Vote for Chris Christie. (Though it amazes me that politicians act like Christie and people say they don't like what he does, but then they vote for him anyway, because "he's an asshole, but he's my asshole." Makes perverted sense, I admit.)

I could go on and on. There used to be a bunch of Blue Dog Democrats that could be counted on to vote yes on the Keystone XL pipeline, but they've mostly been picked off by tea-party Republicans, and there used to be moderate Republicans, but they've been picked off by, er, tea-party Republicans. No wonder we're so polarized: Going your own way on issues is punished harshly.

Fun foto: Are these Republican leaders? Yes! From the PA Senate.
Are you for opening up Obamacare to a public option? Are you praying that the Supreme Court doesn't lose its collective mind and gut Obamacare with another ruling against the law? Are you in favor of expanding Medicaid in your state using federal dollars made available for free to do so? Are you hoping that we shore up Social Security and even expand its scope and guarantee it'll be available for years to come? Do you like the Medicare system and hope that it will be expanded to include many more Americans, like those for 55 to 64, for example? Do you wish the minimum wage would go to $15, or that unions would make a comeback? Then vote for Democratic candidates, including Hillary.

You can bet the opposite is true. Do you oppose gay marriage? Jeb Bush is your guy (so are the rest of the GOP pack). Do you want to trash Obamacare and maybe not even start over? Do you want to drill, baby, drill because you don't think human-caused climate change is real? Would you like to cut taxes and pay for it by trimming entitlements, food stamps, unemployment insurance, welfare and so on? Do you think the poor are just lazy and should just act responsible and everything would be all right? Vote for your favorite GOP candidate. They'll be right with you there, pal.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us to watch the news and take in all the political horse-race factoids, and talk endlessly about personalities, and on and on. But let's not kid ourselves: We already know what the parties believe and have pretty much sorted ourselves out. There are the for-Hillaries and the not-for-Hillaries. If you're not-for-Hillary, choose your Republican poison.

Fun fact: Apparently, the Koch Brothers already have, and it's Scott Walker. Run, Scott, run! This will do more to discourage dark money and encourage campaign-finance reform than any other single action. The Kochs may self-deport themselves from campaign spending after blowing a billion on Scott Walker's loss to Hillary. It'll be so disheartening. I can't wait.

I wonder if this is the Republican or Democratic Caucus in the Wisconsin Assembly?

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