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.

 





Wipeout, pt. II

3 11 2010

I am an ideologue.

No, not particularly happy to write that, and as quickly as I might state that that’s not all that I am, I also have to admit that it is also that I am.

I bring this up to consider the interpretations of elections. After the Republicans suffered reverses in 2006 and 2008, a fair number of activists blamed those reversals on the lack of conservative steadfastness. Had the GOPers only stuck to their guns, these folks said, we’d a-won.

Yeah, right, I thought.

But that same thought skittered around my mind in the lead-up to this election. If only the Dems hadn’t been so pusillanimous, election night would have been a bleed rather than a hemorrhage.

In my defense, I was thinking more about tactics, whereas the conservatives were thinking more about policy. I’m not a moderate, but I think welcoming moderates (and even conservatives) into the Democratic party isn’t a bad thing: I am most decidedly not a purist on political matters.

But that interpretation rather too conveniently lets me off the hook. I want the Dems to push hard, to ignore squeals about the supposed unfairness of maneuvering to enact their agenda, and I want that agenda to reflect my leftist views.

When you win, goddammit, you act as if you’ve won.

And when you lose, you obstruct and resist and dissent and do what you can to limit the damage likely to flow from the other side’s win.

That’s how it is, for Dems and GOPers, liberals and conservatives. Shut up about the process—really, SHUT UP. It’s terrific when you win and terrible when you lose and all your whining about fairness or rudeness or partisanship is just so much rote rot. If you truly think it’s unfair, then change the process; otherwise, shut up.

So that’s how I know I’m an ideologue: However annoyed I may be when political adversaries obstruct what I want done, I don’t think they’re wrong to obstruct. In fact, if they think they can best achieve their aims through obstruction, then they’re fools if they don’t obstruct.

That’s not cynicism; that’s smart politics.

And finally, I know I’m an ideologue because however fatigued or Machiavellian I may be, I do believe ideas matter, so much so that I find it easier to deal with those who actually want to do something—even if I hate that something—than those who want to win just to win.

Even I’m not that cynical.