Stuff that I’ve been typing down over & over again the past few years is suddenly emerging as the new conventional wisdom.
reasonable compromise to avert the fiscal cliff is impossible. Republicans, as a whole, don’t even seem capable of linear thinking about the budget. Theydon’t know what they actually want on spending. They don’t understand why Obama wants more revenue or what role this would play in the broader fiscal picture. They don’t even seem capable of politically organizing in a way that maximizes their fanatic principles. The House Republican caucus is simply a teeming pit of revanchist anger.
There is no possible definition by which the Republicans can be considered an actual political party any more. They can be defined as a loose universe of inchoate hatreds, or a sprawling confederation of collected resentments, or an unwieldy conglomeration of self-negating orthodoxies, or an atonal choir of rabid complaint, or a cargo cult of quasi-religious politics and quasi-political religion, or simply the deafening abandoned YAWP of our bitter national Id. But they are not a political party because they have rendered themselves incapable of politics.
And there’s a broader lesson here. This is no time for a Grand Bargain, because the Republican Party, as now constituted, is just not an entity with which the president can make a serious deal. If we’re going to get a grip on our nation’s problems — of which the budget deficit is a minor part — the power of the G.O.P.’s extremists, and their willingness to hold the economy hostage if they don’t get their way, needs to be broken. And somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen in the next few days.
For almost any given Republican, the best possible outcome of the Plan B negotiations would have been for Plan B to pass – but for that particular Republican to vote nay. The trouble was, that there were too many Republicans who wished to avail themselves of that outcome. They all rushed the exits together, and there was not enough room to accommodate the stampede. It’s a classic “prisoner’s dilemma” problem from political science, and the dilemma achieved its usual grim result.
The more haunting question is: why was this dilemma allowed to exist?
The prisoner’s dilemma arises, remember, because the prisoners have no way to make binding agreements. But the whole point of a political party is to overcome that dilemma, to create structures that reward cooperation and punish defection.
The deepest moral of the Plan B debacle is that those structures have broken down inside the GOP. And that’s a very scary moral indeed.
Or more concisely:
Conservatism truly is broken.
— davidfrum (@davidfrum) December 21, 2012
I hardly even know which post of mine to quote, ’cause this is pretty much the underlying theory of everything I write.
As we’ve seen in the past decade, Republicans don’t have any policy views. They loved and supported Pres. Bush right up to the end, buying an endless supply of fawning biographies and tchotchkes that the conservative “intelligentsia” pumped out. This despite running up a mammoth debt, invading and occupying a country for no reason, expanding executive authority to unheard of levels in Padilla and with warrantless wiretapping, and taking a strong stance on federal authority in Raich and with NCLB.
(All of today’s GOP leaders, like Boehner, Ryan, McConnell, and Cantor, were on board with all of this debt-exploding and executive-authority-enhancing. They have evinced zero capacity for reflection or learning from experience).
Today, of course, the GOP claims to care most passionately about… federalism and the debt. But we remember that history didn’t begin yesterday, so we know that’s not what’s animating them.
The right-leaning FrumForum site has floated the theories that, Charlie-Sheen style, they just like “winning,” or that Republicans like being jerks. We need not wade too far into that psychological thicket; we do know that they don’t care about policy.
In today’s purely tribal GOP, anyone who strays from the right wing’s political correctness du jour can instantly be dismissed as an unreliable element, as Not One Of Us. And it’s pretty unpredictable what mainstream conservative idea– such as the individual mandate– could suddenly be decried as socialism. (Bruce Bartlett was ejected in 2006 for stressing the importance of the deficit; David Frum was fired in 2010 for opposing the Affordable Care Act without apocalyptic rhetoric).
So John Boehner (and Eric Cantor under him, and Kevin McCarthy under him) has every incentive to attack moderate proposals from the president (or their own leadership) as not merely unwise but tyrannical. That’s why Mitt Romney barely even bothered to propose any policies. It was be a zero-upside electoral strategy for him to come up with any policy that meaningfully addresses anything happening in real life. And the man is nothing if not an empiricist!
There are no GOP actors with the political sway, or perhaps even the inclination, to return to rational discourse on public policy.
The reason for the receptivity to antigovernment rhetoric, in my view, is the orchestrated Republican flipout, not the act itself. …
[A]t the very least at the federal level, a vote for a Republican is a vote for nihilism.
If there weren’t a Republican flipout about a four-year-old, industry-favored, bipartisan bill about light bulbs, there would be a flipout about airline regulations, or tax forms, or shipping wine across state borders, or importation procedures, or the Third Amendment, or the absence of airline regulations, or whatever else could be mined for deceptive, inflammatory demagoguery.
The point of the resentment is the resentment. As Pat Buchanan wrote in his 1971 memo to Richard Nixon, working to heighten whites’ resentment about “the elitism and quasi-anti-Americanism of the National Democratic Party” would “cut the Democratic Party and country in half; my view is that we would have far the larger half.”
In 1971, that was a tactical gambit. Today, it’s the alpha and the omega of Republican rhetoric, policy proposals, and legislative effort. That’s why the Republican Party’s critique of Pres. Obama’s record on the economy consists entirely of lies, and that’s why GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney’s campaign is premised on telling inflammatory lies about America and the president.