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.





4 responses

4 11 2010

i agree that the repubs are true believers i just don’t see the dems as acting in anyway but in terms of strategies, there just isn’t a strategy that will bring back the brief prosperity of post-WW2 industrial america and we will just have to live with european levels of unemployment for a while until we can begin to have a grown-up discussion about how to live within our now limited means, and in the meantime the electorate will wax nostalgic and throw the bums of the moment out in one vicious election cycle after another.

4 11 2010

It’s just that I haven’t heard an actual idea since about Gingrich, and at a certain point, ye shall know them by their fruits — their fruits in this case being fear, bigotry and lies. Should they care to SHOW ME THE IDEAS (to be read in the dulcet tones of Mr. Cuba Gooding), I will be only to happy to believe that the ideas exist! For the time being, however….

/shuffles off, mumbling to self.

6 11 2010

@dmf: Well, that’s it, isn’t: It’s not that the Dems have a lousy strategy, it’s that they have no strategy. That whole vision thing. . . .

@emh: Cuba? Really? Ugh, I thought that character was so annoying. And, again (twice in one week! ‘poo and GOP!) we disagree: I do think the Repubs have ideas. Bad ideas (drill baby drill), impractical ideas (cut taxes in order to cut the deficit), in service to a slogan (shrink the size of a government until you can strangle it in the bathtub) which thus far has had no impact on their spending and security proposals, but ideas, nonetheless.

It would be nice if, pace dmf, the Dems could come up with their own set of ideas—y’know, an actual narrative.

10 11 2010

Do ideas really matter any more? I want it to be true, but I sometimes wonder. After all, when people look at the parts of the healthcare bill (care for 30 million uninsured, guaranteed care for children, the elimination of having your policy revoked because you got sick, etc.), they like it. Yet, they’ve managed to be scared by the idea of the whole thing…

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