Wipeout, pt. III

4 11 2010

Do the Republicans care about ideas?

EmilyLHauser agrees that ideas are important but in a cri de coeur argues that Republicans don’t care about ideas, don’t care much about people, period:

If we, the Democrats, were fighting an ideology that was somehow bigger than “defeat the Democrats and support the rich,” I wouldn’t feel so ill. If today’s GOP were offering, you know, ideas, I wouldn’t feel so ill. If we were engaging on the merits of a case, the merits of a piece of legislation, the merits of this appointee or that bit of policy — I wouldn’t feel so ill.

But what the GOP is doing — what it has done since the Newt Gingrich House — is dragging us down to our lowest level of discourse, our basest fears, our most easily pushed buttons. They are playing us, and they are doing it magnificently. And the depth of the hypocrisy, not to mention the utter lack of concern for honest-to-God real human lives that are damaged or destroyed in the process is just mindboggling to me.

It is enough, she notes, to make me hang my head and weep.

I don’t disagree that the Repubs were nasty and mean, that they appealed to the lowest common denominator—even helped to lower that denominator—or that they impeded the progress of even noncontroversial legislation and executive appointments simply because they could, and because they thought it would hurt the President and the Democrats.

But I don’t know if that’s all they were. Yes, the notion bring-down-the-deficit-by-reducing-taxes is unsupported by the evidence and the show-solidarity-with-the-little-guy-by-helping-the-Big-Guy sensibility is incoherent at best, but that these themes are deployed to manipulate doesn’t mean they’re only manipulative.

There are people who honestly believe in supply-side economics, who think wealth actually does trickle down, so why wouldn’t they try to convince voters of the same? Why wouldn’t they try to bollix up any and all legislation or presidential maneuvers which counters their views?

In the past two years the Republicans have treated the entire executive, judicial, and legislative arenas as fields of action for Total War. Gentlemen’s agreements, practical accommodations for the sake of governance, across-the-aisle alliances for shared agendas—gone gone, gone daddy gone. Day-to-day tactics are now driven by partisan strategy and whether it is good or bad (I tend to think the latter), it is now the standard operating procedure.

The Democrats and President Obama (bless their hearts. . .) have been operating as if good-will still mattered, as if individual legislators would cross party lines in the name of a worthy cause, as if party didn’t override everything. And while they’ve been able to accomplish a great deal, much of what they have accomplished they won precisely because they, too, sought to beat back every bit of opposition to their preferences.

The key difference is that the Republicans have evolved to fight in every way, while the Dems have contented themselves to fighting bit-by-bit.

And here is the hard nut of my disagreement with Mizz Emily: The issue isn’t that the Republicans are devoid of ideology, but that they see all that they do in service to that which preserves that ideology. No, they’re not fighting idea-by-idea; they’ve gone global.

And if the Dems are going to advance their causes, they’re going either going to have to pull the GOPers back to the Dems preferred methods (unlikely, not least because it’s not clear that the Dems have a clear and effective notion of their preferred methods) or they’re  going to have to go global, too.

That doesn’t mean they have to deploy the same hatefulness as did some of the GOP campaigns, but it does mean that they will have to bring it to every.single.thing. they do. It may be ugly and awful, but it’s also necessary.

Ideas matter, but so does the strategy used to bring those ideas forth. Let’s hope the Dems figure that out before 2012.