Monday, November 1

I Didn't Say Tea. I Said Me.

Jacob Weisberg, "Faking Right: How the Republican Congress will abandon Tea Party ideas and legislate toward the center." October 30

SHORTER Ross Douthat, at least The Part I Could See From Clicking the Link, Since After I Began Reading I Refused To Scroll Down:

The history of domestic politics in the US begins precisely at the point where I became aware of it.

Why I refused to scroll down:

• Douthat defines Liberalism, as in "America became more liberal from the 1990s to 2008" as "supporting government spending and extending sympathy to the poor", with a minor in gay marriage, climate change, and universal health care.

• He seems somehow to've missed what his own people were up to during the Clinton Blowjob administration.

• He suggests that liberalism grew during this period because brown people, white harlots, and Satanists outbred decent White Americans. Actually, I'd've read the whole thing if it promised to expound on this idea. I'll buy a goddam book on the subject, if only he'll write it. Hell, it's the book the man was born to write, unless he suffers an attack of debilitating honesty in middle age. Alas, under the circumstances, it was obviously not to be. Much like that future honesty.

• He uses "unchurched". This one is in part personal: during the 70s and 80s the Indianapolis Racist Beacon employed a series of psychotic fundamentalists as Staff Religion Writer; the last one eventually became a regular columnist who used "unchurched" the way another woman might use Kleenex. Now, a man my age, raised a Midwestern Protestant, with a black humorist's taste for doctrinal debate and a long history of watching Crack-of-Sunday-Dawn religious teevee programs while the drugs wore off--back when religious teevee programming was not a 24-hour-a-day phenomenon--understands three things about the term: 1) it's a theological argument, and not a good one, disguised as a sociological term, and not well-disguised, either, and it's used only by people who miss both points; 2) it's actually less about theology and more about the size of the Collection; and 3) in context it means "heathen"; on the Op-Ed pages it means "I'm too cowardly to admit my dogmatic condemnation of 98% of the world's population, but too metaphysically self-assured to hide it for long."

It's a measure of how much the clueless urbanites of the Times pander to their notion of Jesus-besotted Middle America that the term isn't prohibited by the style book.

ANYWAY, the casual observer has noted how, in recent days, Tea Bagging Triumphalism has begun to be tempered with the preventative castor oil dose of Hey, We Didn't Really Mean It. This is primarily the call of the professionally moderate Republican, who's been subjected to such G forces since 2000 that we should probably forgive him everything but his Republicanism and supposed moderation. [Anthropology note: fans of the seemingly interminable attempt to categorize how Man differs from The Animals--interminable because the perfectly reasonable "He's so much worse" is deemed insufficient--might want to consider that our clueless marginal males keep up their hopeful territorial whistling through late autumn, not early spring.] The Weisberg piece is a suitable example:
While [the "new" Republican leadership]'ll never discuss this problem honestly, indications point in the latter direction. That is, the GOP's congressional leadership will feint right while legislating closer to the center.

The center of what, exactly? (And I don't mean this as an argument about the Overton Window, though, the God of the Unchurched knows, it'd be nice to see one of these punditasters--not Douthat; we're disinclined to believe in miracles--acknowledge which way it's been traveling these past few decades, though that would be like expecting them to admit the iPhone does not exist because of their own intellectual superiority.) Instead, let's try looking at this problem (To Teabag or Not to Teabag) without the accompaniment of the Pep Band of Desperation.

As 2009 dawned, Republicans found themselves in danger of losing control of the actual mechanism of government for the first time since Nixon's Silent Majority speech. Of course, they needn't have worried, since, as Oscar noted, their choice of enemy was superb. With a real historical Congress, genuine leadership from the White House and some cooperation in the Senate, the real source of partisan madness and the gridlock of idiots could have been put behind us. I suppose it's fair to note that their are wide swatches of the country, including the one where I sit, where "Democrat" doesn't mean what it does to the headline writers and Slate byliners, but still: it's been that way for forty years; the tone-deafness of the Democratic leadership on this, and the whole "post-partisan" shit, was inexcusable. Inexplicable, in fact.

So the Republicans did their dilatory best, and Democrats, as usual, didn't make them pay. Then their bumper-sticker mojo started working again, and Bailouts--both the program and the result of the Bush administration--got blamed on the Democrats, and a President still convinced in middle age, somehow, that reason and reasonableness are trumps. In about as long as it took him to try to explain away Candidate Obama's professed admiration for the Great Communicator, he was being tarred with the most extreme reckonings of the cost of national health care, and by the same people who signed blank check after blank check for Iraq. And national Republicans were all, suddenly, Teabagging libertarians, instead of Taxcut-and-Spenders.

So leave us note, now, that one may see the choice facing the "New" Republican leadership as between fulfilling election promises and charting a "sensible" "centrist" choice (and vote for the latter). One may, I say; there's ample psychic stores of stupidity and cynicism to power it. I can't say I see anything else to recommend it. The House GOP has been a collection of Hotheads since the late 70s. Granted they, like their socialist counterparts, know who really pulls the strings, but assuming, for example, that they can avoid proposing Bigger than Bush Tax Cuts, the repeal of healthcare, or that they can pass a budget which is not balanced without attracting all sorts of attention is just wishy-washy wishful thinking. I am neither young, naive, nor brain-damaged enough to believe there's some massive, grassroots movement of non-aligned political scientists out there waiting to hold the Republicans to the same standards they hold the Socialists. But it's going to come up; that's the reason for the whole eleventh-hour retrenchment thing.
The choice is between a Ronald Reagan strategy and a Newt Gingrich strategy. Reagan, who first rode a new conservative movement to the presidency in 1980, was a master of the right fake. After one brief and disastrous attempt to reduce Social Security spending in 1981, Reagan never seriously challenged federal spending again. But Reagan sounded so convincing in his rhetorical flights that most conservatives and liberals walk around today thinking that he cut government.

Jesus Fuck, what Reagan Actually Did with the federal budget, and the deficit, in contradistinction to what he campaigned on for sixteen years, is the first goddam tenet of anti-"conservatism". Who do you talk to, Weisberg?

By the way, kiddo: the line at the time was "But he slowed down the rate of growth of government!" which, along with substituting "revenue enhancement" for "tax increase", was the thing I admired most about the Reagan presidency. The absurdist humor.
President George W. Bush followed this same model, humoring the base while letting government expand.

Once again, we hate to intrude with some reality, but this idea that George W. Bush broke the Federal bank via his compassion is not exactly what you call accurate. That, as we will note a moment from now about Newt, the program was Cut Taxes Now, Delay Program Cuts for Later, presumably when this Enlightened GOP Supermajority has been permanently installed. The idea that incontinent Defense spending somehow doesn't count as spending--it's the major portion of the national debt, and the interest on paying it off is the major drain on credit--might win elections, but it doesn't budge the reality an inch.
After Gingrich became speaker of the House in 1994, he was much more literal-minded. He and the Contract with America Republicans made the terrible mistake of taking their own anti-government rhetoric seriously and thinking they had a mandate to implement it. They proposed a budget that really would have slashed federal spending on Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment.

Well, again, it was Tax Cuts Now, Budget Cuts When It's Someone Else's Fault. That's rhetorical excess, not ideological purity.
A recent Wall Street Journal article suggested that the future leaders of a Republican House remember Gingrich's mistake and intend to avoid repeating it. The House candidates most likely to win are experienced politicians who understand they're being handed a gift, not a mandate. They don't think working with Democrats is evil. On the big picture tax and budget issues, they plan compromise with President Obama.

Well, if the Wall Street Journal says so…

Listen, let's just turn all the cards over, panel, shall we? It's all a Lie, Mr. Weisberg. That's not partisanship, it's cold hard facts. You can convince people of a Lie--it's clear that in this culture you can sell 'em the same old Lie so long as every couple of years you spruce up the wrapper--but you can't change facts. Tax cuts reduce government revenues. Defense spending + veterans benefits + the cost of retiring the debt for those two =60% of the Budget. You have to eliminate all other spending to balance the Budget and reduce taxes to the None Whatsoever that's the Teabag rallying point. Of course the Journal, of course sad-sack apologists like yourself assure us the "New" Republicans will be more Reagan than Gingrich. But the facts is, there wasn't a dime's worth of difference. The fact is not that Reagan "feinted" right, but that his rhetoric, like Gingrich's a half-decade later, collided with reality and lost. Assuming a different result this time is just fucking insanity, aka, the Republican platform.


Anonymous said...

In other news, the chocolate ration has just been RAISED to 20 grams! All hail Big Brother! Once again, sir, you have dissected the corpse of GOP press releases and showed the world its creamy center of bullshit. When is a Republican lying? When his lips are moving...

StringonaStick said...

I've grown increasingly suspicious of the constant fetishizing of the military; I no longer think it is just a backlash to the supposed spitting on of returning Vietnam vets (never proven by the way, but deeply believed). It's simply an integral part of the propaganda needed to keep the defense budget sacrosanct from the budget cutters' knife.

What better protection than to cover the military budget with a layer of troop bodies (living, dead, and horribly broken); obviously it's those worthless fucking old people and their Social Security/Medicare leaching ways that must accept the cuts needed to deal with the deficit, not the wars that actually caused it. And the rubes, who as a whole haven't got a retirement pot to piss in and are aging fast, are buying it. It is truly amazing how patriotic songs and appeals destroy all reason.