Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Jonathan Chait's Big Think on the 2012 electionI've seen a number of Big Think articles lately seeking to frame the Presidential election of 2012 in grand historical terms without departing much from conventional Beltway Village assumptions. The safely conventional Jonathan Chait has produced one with 2012 or Never New York 02/26/2012.
He concludes with a carefully hedged prediction that Obama will win the Presidential race and that the Republican Party will see the wisdom of High Broderism and move back to the moderation that Beltway pundits celebrate endlessly, all the while ignoring how what passes for "moderation" in Washington has moved farther and farther and farther to the right over the last three decades:
On the other hand, if they [the Republicans] lose their bid to unseat Obama, they will have mortgaged their future for nothing at all. And over the last several months, it has appeared increasingly likely that the party's great all-or-nothing bet may land, ultimately, on nothing. In which case, the Republicans will have turned an unfavorable outlook into a truly bleak one in a fit of panic. The deepest effect of Obama’s election upon the Republicans' psyche has been to make them truly fear, for the first time since before Ronald Reagan, that the future is against them.When you cut through the word cloud, Chait thinks that the Republicans will soon see the wisdom of appealing to Latino voters by promoting immigration reform. Despite his invocation of historical arcs - he even gets the Habsburgs into the act! - and demographic trends, that's about the level of his analysis.
But two realities of American politics today are officially recognized in polite Beltway conversation yet. One is the devotion of the Democratic Party to one-percenter economics, compounded at the moment by Obama's particular fixation of creating a post-partisan era of cooperation.) The other is that the Republican Party is losing its collective mind, having evolved into a party with a Mormon fundamentalist faction, a Catholic fundamentalist faction, a Protestant fundamentalist faction, and a Pentecostal fundamentalist faction, all united in their devotion to the Great God Free Market. Chait writes:
Take the fight over health-care reform. Yes, Republicans played the politics about as well as possible. But it was their hard line on compromise allowed the bill to pass: The Democrats only managed to cobble together 60 votes to pass it in the Senate because conservatives drove Arlen Specter out of the GOP, forcing him to switch to the Democratic Party. Without him, Democrats never could have broken a filibuster. When Scott Brown surprisingly won the 2010 race to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, Democrats were utterly despondent, and many proposed abandoning comprehensive health-care reform to cut a deal for some meager expansion of children's health insurance. But Republicans refused to offer even an olive branch. Presented with a choice between passing the comprehensive bill they had spent a year cobbling together or collapsing in total ignominious defeat, the Democrats passed the bill.For Chait, the Republicans are running a failing strategy, because he sees only a series of votes on bills and doesn't look at the real effect of the Republicans' strategy of fundamental opposition to Obama's domestic program: they drive the debate more and more onto their turf of small governments (with a big military) and obsession with deficits and tax cuts for the wealthy.
Chait in that paragraph seems to find the following aspects of that particular situation unremarkable: the Democrats considered they needed 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate and were unwilling to even breach the possibility of just flushing the filibuster rule; some notable number of leading Democrats were ready to throw in the towel on health care reform in early 2010; the Dems were desperately looking for a compromise on their central domestic effort (health insurance) when they held solid majorities in both the House and Senate. That the Democrats should be timid in advancing the major programs on which they were elected and endlessly snivel to the Republicans just seems to natural order of things to the Villagers.
Tags: 2012 election, republican party
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No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
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