Since When Did Conservatives Care About The Masses?

If you read Matt Yglesias today, you have to wonder if he is paying attention to American politics at all. Some basic points-

  • Liberals/progressives/Democrats/center-left folk’s end goal is a world more equal for everyone.
  • Conservatives/libertarians/Republicans/humble Burkeans’ end goal is a world more unequal for everyone.

Why is this? Conservatives believe the natural order of the world is one where one group is on top-rich over poor, men over women, white over minorities. Therefore, there is no problem in government rewarding this. If this means taking money out of the poor and middle classes’ hands, even better. The producers certainly deserve it.

One thing so many liberals need to stop doing is pretending conservatives are something that they’re not. They don’t care about the “value proposition of government services.” They care that those they deem worthy live well off and the rest suffer for their sin of not being worthy. At least one former conservatives knows this. Why doesn’t Matt comprehend this?

 

David Brooks and Power

David Brooks has a new column out involving his “grand bargain” ideas with President Obama.  I won’t go into the details because there is only one important point-

David Brooks cannot deliver a single Republican vote in the House or the Senate.

Nothing else matters.  Even if he had the best ideas on planet Earth, Brooks can’t deliver the votes.  This is true of every other Republican “reformer.” Michael Tomasky wrote on this Saturday-

And the following people will write nothing about [Republican fanaticism]: David Brooks; Ross Douthat; the aforementioned [Peter] Wehner and [Michael] Gerson; Reihan Salam; Yuval Levin; Ramesh Ponnuru. Now I know most of these gentlemen, and I like them. But they’ve been participants to varying degrees in these recent conversations I’m talking about, and frankly, they are wasting their own and their readers’ time.

The Republican caucus cares nothing about detailed policy proposals.  Ted Cruz is a rising star in the Senate thanks to accusing a Republican Vietnam War vet of being in bed with terrorists. John Cornyn and Lindsey Graham are so worried about their employment prospects next year they’ve jumped on-board various far-right ideas. There is no way we will see a new moderate Republican party rally around an expansion of the EITC instead of raising the minimum wage or means-testing Medicare and using the savings to pay down student loans.

What we do see from the David Brooks column is he does care about what one group of people think about him-liberals. In response to Ezra Klein’s take down of him on Friday, he said “Humiliation is a good teacher.” Now you can have a low opinion of him as I do and see him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing but you have to admit he made the fatal mistake when it comes to the right-don’t care about what liberals say about you.  If you get tossed by them in a debate, you complain lefties were lying or ambushed you or didn’t play fair.  You never concede-after all, WOLVERINES!

The problem with “reasonable” Republicans is they have no cred. If they could deliver 20 GOP votes in the House and/or 10 votes in the Senate, they probably would be the most influential force in Washington. The Democratic leadership would bow to their every need. However, all they want to do is to go to the cool parties in DC or NYC or LA and sell tote-bags for NPR. In a way, they’re worse than evil-

They’re Useless…

You Claim To Be A Player: Rubio Is A Symptom

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I have a challenge.  Name me one Republican economic proposal that doesn’t involve cutting taxes, deregulating business or busting unions.

Name one.

Can’t?  Don’t feel bad.  Neither can I.  Honestly, I doubt even the Republicans can.

A lot has been made about Senator Marco Rubio’s water break in the middle of his State of the Union response.  To be fair, I mocked him on Twitter for that.  There is comparisons between that speech and the one Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gave in 2009.  One speech people are forgetting is when Paul Ryan gave the response in 2011.  As then Congressman Anthony Weiner stated he needed a drink after that speech it was so depressing.

There are many reasons to complain about President Obama.  I do.  However, what ever you may say about his proposals, you must admit he is a public servant trying to implement what he feels are the best public policies to solve real problems.  The same cannot be said of any policy maker in the Republican Party.

Rubio, like Ryan and Jindal, is a rising star in the party.  While everyone conceded giving the response to the State of the Union is hard, people were genuinely hyping up Rubio.  The greatest was when former McCain adviser said Rubio was modern because “he knows who Tupac is.”  Tupac died 17 years ago.  I doubt Wallace wanted to talk about how Rubio defaulted on his mortgage during his Senate campaign or how he tells Catholics, Evangelicals and Mormons he belongs to their church depending on the audience.

The reality is you can’t find any good candidates in the rigid doctrine that is conservatism.  In order to be a conservative, you have to believe the world is falling apart.  You have to think everyone outside the US is depressed because their big intrusive government is destroying your dreams.  You have to believe in Obama’s America, jack-booted government thugs are coming to take your money and your guns and are destroying your vary way of life.  It requires you to ignore the last 30 years when your ideas were implemented and failed disastrously.

More importantly, it requires you not to care about anyone else.  One of the least talked about incidences in the State of the Union was Speaker John Boehner’s response to Desiline Victor.  Victor was the 102 year old African American woman who waited 6 hours in line to vote last year.  Having lived in a time when women and blacks were not allowed to vote, it is quite shocking she had to wait that long.  She received the standing ovation she deserved from the Democrats in the chamber.  What did she get from the highest-ranking Republican?  Nothing-he just sat there, not giving a damn.  She wasn’t going to vote Republican, why should he care?

As much as we may dismiss critiques of style in speeches, style comes from substance.  Even after electoral defeats, Republicans refuse to believe people have rejected their world view.  Instead, they crawl deeper into their bunker, living in a world where everything is falling apart.  If I lived in that world, I’d need a drink too…

Clown Car Pileup

There is a piece by Howard Fineman about Karl Rove’s fall from grace. The focus is on Rove promoting “moderate” candidates over more conservative ones throughout most of his career. While the Fineman makes it look like Rove played the base, he fails to point out one fact-conservatives have tolerated apostates.

People like to point out Reagan raised taxes. Also health care was expanded under Newt Gingrich via SCHIP and George W pushed through the biggest expansion of Medicare with his prescription drug program. Yet, conservative voters didn’t punish these Republicans for their unorthodoxy. The base has and will continue to vote for whoever the GOP nominates.

What ultimately did Rove in was one simple fact-he lost. 2012 was suppose to be a banner year for Republicans. They had a Democratic incumbent who was presiding over the worst economy since the 1930s and almost unlimited spending power. However, not only did Obama win reelection but the Democrats gained seats in the Senate and Republicans only held onto the House thanks to redistricting. In Karl they trusted and they lost.

The lesson Rove took away from defeat was optics-if only Republicans had nominated people who didn’t say stupid things-like Akin and Mourdock’s comments regarding rape-Republicans would have done great. So, with his vast resources, Rove decided to keep a lid on the crazies like Steve King of Iowa. However, to the base, Rove lecturing the Iowa GOP on winnability was like Tim Tebow giving quarterback advice. So, Rove has backed down and people are already dancing on his grave.

What always amazes me about these Establishment Republicans is how little they understand the monster they’ve created. Rove, and his buddy Lee Atwater, made the basis of Republican philosophy simple-put people against other people. Whether it was white against black, men against women, employer against employee, the strategy was divide and conquer. The key to their success was to properly stereotype their opponent. Welfare queens, lazy unions, educated snobs, effeminate gays-they all were the enemy. I remember their message on abortion very well-a partying slut gets knocked up and, 7 months into the pregnancy, she decides to lazily opt-out. With caricatures like that, how could you not be a conservative?

Yet, times change. People want to see women in control of their bodies. People have friends and family who are black or brown or gay. More and more young people are tired of the culture war and the drug war. Religion matters less and less. More and more, people are concerned about rising inequality and how people my age will have less than our parents did. The conservative solution to any economic problem is cut taxes, deregulate business and bust unions. Only we’ve tried that for the last 30 years and growth has been slower yet more concentrated at the top.

Guys like Rove have told conservatives they could have live in their make-believe world (remember, it was most likely Rove who popularized the term “reality-based community”) and still win elections. All they had to do was put a guy who could fake caring about broader issues and throw a bone to non-conservatives once in awhile and they’d be alright. However, the groups of people conservatives managed to piss off grew bigger and bigger and now make up the majority of the electorate. All the GOP has is structural flaws they can exploit (like gerrymandering) and the backing of major donors. However, in time, even these advantages will fade.

Karl Rove is a grifter, a huckster, and a charlatan. However, in politics, he is hardly the first and will hardly be the last. What Rove’s real sin was creating a major political party based on fear, hatred, and anger towards “the other.” Something tells me he is not going to be punished for that and this rage isn’t going to go away any time soon…

On Immigration: Don’t Be A Jerk!

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There is a moment from the 2010 California Governor’s race I remember.  During the candidate’s only Spanish language debate, both candidates were asked by a star college student who’s immigration status was precarious what the candidates would do for her.  Democrat Jerry Brown’s response was to talk about the responsibility we all have to students to ensure they succeed, what ever their immigration status is.  Republican Meg Whitman, however, was condescending.  Beginning with “I’m glad you were able to get a good, free education in California’s K-12 public schools,” she talked about how the state didn’t have the resources to help her or any other student who was undocumented.

Jerry Brown won the election 54% to 41%, despite being outspent 4-1.

Many prominent Republicans have begun to support immigration reform.  They saw their defeat in 2012 as being due in no small part to lack of Latino support.  Given we have about 19 million people in the US who’s legal status needs to be resolved, I hope we can get a fair proposal through.  However, I don’t think Republicans really understand what their true problem is.

To quote my favorite blog post of all time

The funny thing about all of this is that no matter how bad all their ideas are, no matter how disastrous their governance has been, no matter how many horrible things they have done to the economy and this country, what really is killing the Republican party is that deep down, they are just complete assholes.

You see this in how Republicans treat not just Hispanic voters but all voters who don’t fall into their narrow group.  We came from an election where the top two candidates of the Republican ticket disagreed on whether 47% of Americans were moochers or merely 30%.  You saw Republicans insulting women who had been raped and calling the first black President a “food stamp president.”  On issues regarding Hispanics, we saw conservatives belittle the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court to accusing undocumented workers of being hardened criminals.  And let’s not get into how conservatives feel about gay couples…

As I said, it’s great immigration reform is being taken up by prominent conservatives.  However, it may not get them much Hispanic support.  In 2012, Hispanic voters put other issues ahead of immigration.  With migration from Mexico to the US largely flat, issues like health care (where 40% of Hispanics are uninsured) to unemployment (Hispanic unemployment is over 11%) are taking greater precedence to the Latino community.  On these issues, Republicans don’t appear to be changing at all.

Now, a lot can happen in 4 years.  There also appears to be a “come to Jesus” moment with prominent conservatives realizing they need to broaden their coalition or they will cease to exist, regardless of what ever power grabbing schemes the concoct.  However, on the central issue of treating other people with dignity and respect, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or size of bank account, there doesn’t appear to be any meaningful change…

Conservatives: Anti-Growth

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If there is one thing we always hear it’s conservatives are pro-growth.  It’s in the Club for Growth’s web page title.  It’s used by Rep. Paul Ryan and also used to describe his programs.  Rising star in the GOP Senator Ted Cruz recently spoke as to how pro-growth policies can bring Latinos into the party.  Pro-growth has become an accepted buzz word for conservatives.

The usual response for liberals is to point to their more successful growth record.  While Republicans long for the 1950s because of social issues, Democrats long for that same period for its high tax rates and union density.  What is often missed, however, is like so many Republican buzz words, “pro-growth conservative” is just another hallow slogan.

Many people have this fantasy about the New Deal coming about because Democrats took advantage of a crisis.  At the beginning of Obama’s first term, his then Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel said “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”  However, what is missing from this is the facts.  Most of the New Deal reforms we most remember (Social Security, the Wagner Act) came about in 1935-1936.  By that point, unemployment had begun to fall dramatically.  Many of the famous pushes for unionization came from firms like GM or US Steel, places that paid more than the average American worker received.  As times were getting better, people began to look beyond their immediate needs and ask about things like retirement and treatment at the workplace.

The Great Society represented the period of greatest liberal achievement in American history.  It also was occurring at a period of great economic growth.  By the end of the decade, workers received more than 50% of what they were receiving before.  With the pie getting bigger, people didn’t object to others demanding a bigger slice of it.  People could focus on issues like full citizenship for African Americans and eliminating poverty.  The more prosperous people, the merrier.

By the 1970s, however, the economy began to slow down and people began to fight for what was theirs.  This is when we saw the break between working class whites and the left.  The politics of division-black against white, educated vs unskilled, union against non-union-has been based on the idea you’re going to receive less not more and you have to fight to keep what’s yours.

Republicans have probably taken it too far with the “makers not takers” rhetoric.  Blaming 30-nearly 50% of the country is too large a group to not piss off enough voters to swing elections.  However, when you look at how Obamacare was portrayed-taking away health services from deserving Medicare recipients and people who work to those undeserving unemployed folks-to the stimulus-giving cushy payouts to deadbeat public sector employees at the expense of job creators-to plans to help underwater homeowners-remember, they shouldn’t have gotten a mortgage!-you see the common rhetoric-things are getting worse, so you have to hold to what’s yours.

The thing is, this isn’t anything new with conservative though.  At the beginning of the Great Depression, conservative economist Joseph Schumpeter stated:

“A depression is healthy! Like a good ice-cold douche!” If depressions did not exist, Schumpeter thought, we would have to invent them. They were “the respiration of the economic mechanism.”

If “pro-growth,” were just another empty, focus-group tested slogan, it might not matter.  However, as we continue to go from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis, we must remember it really is in the conservatives best interest to tank the economy.  They may not realize this-and some may not believe this-but if there is greater growth, people will begin to demand to have a greater part in it.  So long as people are fending for themselves in the present, they will not look toward a better future.