Clive Crook is making way too much sense:
A moderate and intelligent opposition to the Democrats’ policies is badly needed. Apparently, nobody in the Republican party aims to provide it. Republican leaders seem intent on presenting the party’s angriest, most stupid and least tolerant face. Some leading Republicans who are moderate by temperament and conviction – John McCain, for instance – are being pushed to the right in primary election contests with more conservative opponents. Others, such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, are disowning their previously expressed views or just keeping their heads down.
Republicans are right to say that the Obama administration has over-reached. Democrats failed to convince the country that their healthcare reform was the right solution to an obvious and pressing problem, yet passed their law anyway. Many voters are angry about this, and entitled to be. Also, despite the administration’s denials, the reform will most likely add to public borrowing, which was on a dangerously high trajectory to begin with. Again, they are right to be concerned.
Disenchantment with Mr Obama and the Democrats is especially pronounced in the political centre. (Conservatives, of course, were dismayed before the evidence was even in.) You might have thought this would commend a centrist platform to the Republican party approaching November’s mid-term elections. Swing voters decide who wins, and they were up for grabs. Why are Republicans steering to the right?
Why, indeed. The easy answer is that the entire conversation on the right is being driven by ideologues who profit personally or politically from fearmongering, exaggeration, deceptive analogy, pandering to stereotypes, and sometimes, outright lying about the opposition.
What’s worse, the ideologues actually believe the rot their pushing. If it were simply a matter of saying whatever it took to get elected, or talking wildly about the evils of the Obama Administration in order to sell mattresses on the radio, that would be understandable. Such demonstrations of human frailty would actually be a relief, considering where these sometimes bizarre critiques of the Democrats are leading the GOP.
The Democrats do the same thing, of course. Referring to conservatives as racists or Nazis is par for the course these days on the left. I would certainly call that an exaggeration, and using deceptive analogies between the tea partiers and southern resisters to civil rights is outrageous to anyone who knows anything about that movement. So too, the political lie that the GOP has no new ideas, or that it doesn’t offer alternatives to the Democratic agenda. This simply isn’t true and the fact that Democrats say this with a straight face while deliberately burying bills offered by Republicans that are serious efforts to address our problems is maddening. Both parties indulge in this childish name calling and fearmongering, which is Illustration No. I of what is wrong with political discourse today.
But aside from allusions to a “vast right wing conspiracy,” the Democrats keep their stupidity on a familiar level – that of the normal eye gouging and nut twisting that has been occurring in politics since our founding. Making the other fellow appear as Satan may not be uplifting to political dialogue but is SOP when trying to score points against your opponent.
What makes the attack rhetoric so moronic from the GOP is that much of it is tinged with wild eyed hints of dark conspiracies and the evil machinations of unseen forces. Obama is out to “destroy the country,” is a familiar theme. If you want to know how something so nonsensical could be close to mainstream thought on the right, just listen to talk radio. Rush Limbaugh’s pet theory is that Obama and the Democrats are intentionally trying to ruin our economy so that we all become dependent on government for our lives and thus, become Democratic voters overnight.
Think of it; 20 million people listen to this kind of crap from Limbaugh everyday:
The people that run our country now have a much closer proximity and they’re much closer to the world’s tyrants and dictators than they are closer to the people who founded the country. This is not accidental. They have chosen it. This is the ideology that they have chosen. This is what’s best for them. And you’re going to learn this if you stay focused and stay interested and keep learning as you grow older, you’re going to learn this. You’re gonna learn that they’re not innocent idiots. They are dangerous, devious central planners who have designs on everybody’s liberty and freedom. That’s what matters most to them because that’s where they derive their power.
There is no response possible to such idiocy. One can only marvel at the flight from reality that is necessary to say this and worse, believe it. It’s as if millions of conservatives don’t find life interesting enough and have to invent these extraordinarily dramatic reasons to oppose Obama when the simple fact that the president is a far left liberal Democrat should suffice for most reasonable conservatives.
Mr. Crook doesn’t see much reasonableness from the right:
The Democratic party, for all its faults, is a broad coalition. There is such a thing as a conservative Democrat. Ideologically, the Republican party is shrinking even as it gains popular support. The parties used to overlap in the middle. That is the part of the political spectrum where trade-offs can be admitted, where balances between what voters want and are willing to pay for can be struck, and where fiscal conservatives usually live.
Liberal Republicans were already a rare species. Healthcare reform, and the electorate’s reaction to the Democrats’ plan, seems to have extinguished the breed entirely. With that proposal now law, the acid test is tax reform. Is there a Republican out there willing to support a simplification of the tax system that, while lowering marginal rates, raises revenues significantly above their historic average? Even after every plausible economy on the spending side has been made, that is going to be necessary. So far as I am aware, not a single prominent Republican is willing to say so.
Why? Because reaching out to the center as a Republican is a zero sum game. For every centrist you pick up, you lose two conservatives who accuse you of being a “RINO” or “squishy.” Always looking for a sure thing, politicians would rather gather the votes from their base and hope that enough centrists come of their own volition rather than make an effort to actively seek them out.
And I’m not sure many Republicans would go for a “centrist agenda” anyway. Neither would many Democratic politicians opt for a middle of the road posture. This is the age of the ideologue in American politics and there simply isn’t room for reason, logic, and the desire to work together as a nation to solve our problems,
It was headline news this past weekend at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference when Ron Paul said Barack Obama is not a socialist, despite even Newt Gingrich using the “S” word to describe Obama at the same venue. That is the significance of having ideology govern a political party. Most Americans do not see the president that way and as I point out here, calling Obama a socialist flies in the face of the accepted definition of the word:
I detest conservatives throwing around the words “socialism” and “Marxism” when it comes to Obama as much as I get angry when idiot liberals toss around the word “fascist” when describing conservatives. I’m sorry but this is ignorant. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge of what socialism and communism represent as well as an ignorance of simple definitions. Obama will not set up a government agency to plan the economy. He will not as president, require businesses to meet targets for production. He will not outlaw profit. He will not put workers in charge of companies (unless it is negotiated between unions and management. It is not unheard of in this country and the practice may become more common in these perilous economic times.).
An Obama presidency will have more regulation, more “oversight,” more interference from government agencies, more paperwork for business, less business creation, fewer jobs, fewer opportunities. It will be friendlier to unions, more protectionist, and will require higher taxes from corporations (who then will simply pass the tax bill on to us, their customers). But government won’t run the economy. And calling Obama a “socialist” simply ignores all of the above and substitutes irrationalism (or ignorance) for the reality of what an Obama presidency actually represents; a lurch to the left that will be detrimental to the economy, bad for business, but basically allow market forces to continue to dominate our economy.
I wrote that before the election in 2008. I still believe it despite the fact that national health insurance reform puts us on the road to socialized medicine, the unforeseen consequences of which could lead to the kinds of government control most feared by conservatives. But we’re not there yet – not by a long, long shot. And the slippery slopes on such a road, if recognized, can be avoided if conservatives keep their heads and fight against them.
Unfortunately, conservatives are not keeping their heads. Hysterical shouting and hand wringing about evil Obama may work this time around, as Crook points out, because the vast middle of the country is in a mood to punish the Democrats. But come 2012, someone on the right is going to have to come up with a rational, reasoned critique of Obama’s policies that the moderate righties and libertarians won’t think is the mouthings of some crazed paranoid inhabiting an alternate universe.
Otherwise, the GOP may find itself marginalized and on the outs for a long time to come.