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October 10, 2005

Yes, But Is It Working?

By Ezra

Over at The Washington Monthly's place, Jacob Hacker and and Paul Pierson are doing the guest-blogger thing, explaining and working through ideas from Off Center. Should be fun. But while they're around, I'd like to see them reexamine their premise a bit. While the continued electoral success of ideological extremists is a bit of a head scratcher, the furtherance of their agenda has not, so far as I can tell, been going according to plan:

In this first entry, however, we want to focus on what we consider the biggest and most important puzzle. If the GOP has moved so far off center, why hasn’t it provoked a backlash, or, at a minimum, found its agenda completely stalemated?

But haven't they? I mean, sure, they've passed some candy-and-ice-cream proposals like tax cuts, they've been bright about under-the-radar regulatory changes that can have far-reaching impacts, and they've engaged in some fairly impressive foreign policy adventurism, but their agenda, such as it goes, can't count much to its name. Slashing taxes without cutting spending -- and both Bush and Newt have tried and failed to cut entitlement spending, notable on Medicare and Medicaid -- is no great feat, it's just kicking the reckoning down the road. Social Security privatization failed, the expanded drug benefit passed; abolishing the Department of Education failed, expanding federal funding and regulatory control through No Child Left Behind passed; the federal marriage amendment failed, stem cells passed; and so on.

The question of how extremists get elected is a good one. At the national level, Bush ran as a moderate in 2000 (and lost the vote) and then campaigned as a warrior in 2004, so that may be part of it. So too does the traditional GOP lead on national security appear to be paying dividends now -- while Republicans may wave buh-bye to the center domestically, they tend to represent large swaths of it in their attitude abroad (though that may now be changing). But the fact remains that while the moderate middle hasn't kept the crazies out of office, neither Gingrich's Revolution nor DeLay's Parliament has been able entrench the conservative agenda. The easy sells, like tax cuts, are sunsetted and, without spending slashes, heading for certain reversal. The tough sells, like privatization, have failed outright. And the cost of continued power has been the institution of a raft of liberal-sounding policies, from an expanded Medicare program to NCLB.

October 10, 2005 in Electoral Politics | Permalink

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» Find your center from Common Sense
More talk about the party and whether we shouft go to the center or excite our liberal base. I think that questions was much more relevant a decade ago since it seems like our liberal base is in the center [Read More]

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Comments

So, we haven't installed a Reichs Chancellor - yet.

Yes, the Constitution and laws haven't been truly set aside, but the corporate control of government and corporate give-aways by Congress would make a thrice-convicted felon blush, and as you state, "they've been bright about under-the-radar regulatory changes that can have far-reaching impacts" (the wording here really understates the impact by a large margin).

Today's USA provokes a reaction that basically says: "I hardly recognize you" to those who recall the late decades of the 20th century (60-80s).

Someday I think we will understand that the Repubs have pulled off the greatest stealth revolution in politics of the modern era. They have wrought an information control apparatus that has made it virtually impossible to have an informed electorate, and this will be later marked as their greatest accomplishment and their lasting legacy to a substantially altered and lessened American democracy.

It is that information control mastery that makes one wonder if any electorally-driven return to the center can be accomplished by either party. A hallmark of this control is the continual belief that US media is 'liberal' - a belief that is as well established in facts as creationism or intelligent design.

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Oct 10, 2005 11:34:06 AM

Like lots of smart people, you are easily fooled by rhetorical magic tricks -- verbal sleight of hand.

You mistake ideology and ideological bumperstickers for goals and ideas, and you identify the ideology with the extremism.

Bush, and the typical Bush voter, does not have an elaborate ideology or philosophy, which he is pushing. That's just a cover story, a rhetorical fog to disarm opponents in theatrical debate. The whole of "conservative libertarianism" is just a collection smart-ass remarks, snark, and bad attitudes, covering an otherwise indefensible tory/corporatist authoritarianism. It is a pose. It is complaining about liberal bias; it is projecting disloyalty to America on opponents of war crimes; it is fabricating concern about WMD to disarm liberal critics of aggressive war.

They are not extreme in what they profess to be extreme about. They care not for freedom; they care about power. They do not want to limit government, per se; they want to eliminate personal rights to challenge government and corporate authority. They do not want to eliminate liberal bias or any other bias from news media; they want a right-wing propaganda machine to have a monopoly.

Their agenda is extreme, but it is not the agenda they say they have. And, every time, you accept these liars at their word, regarding their ideology, you become their slave.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder | Oct 10, 2005 1:06:07 PM

JimPortlandOR is right about the stealth revolution and media manipulation. Everyone assumed people voted, at least in part, out of their personal economic interests. Look at Bush voters in 2004 and convince me a majority of them have benefitted from the woeful economic policies the WH and Republican congressional leaders have put in place. As for the post, I'm not sure I'd worry about many people being fooled by the Medicare prescription program being tagged as "liberal." When the elderly are forced off the medicines their doctors prescribed because companies that wrote that law no longer want to supply them, I hope people will know who to blame. I don't know if I'd think of other Republican misdeeds as a "cost of continued power" as much as the absolutely corrupting nature of absolute power:

http://moreplease.blogspot.com/2005_10_01_moreplease_archive.html#112887072270432577

Posted by: Murph | Oct 10, 2005 1:09:40 PM

I am dazzled by the loss of an independant media as Jim points out. I spent last week in London where there are many newspapers unlike the two from which I get to select (okay, really one now that I've moved to OC, because there ain't no way that I could read the OC Register without popping a blood vessel or two).

In London I noticed that one of the ongoing debates was whether the UK could develop the sort of apartheid that we saw in New Orleans. Today I flipped on TV5 (you can get divergent opinion, you just have to pay through the nose for it) and the show that I hit was about the same problem in Paris. What do we see in the US about that problem? Zip. That discussion didn't take place outside the blogosphere other than a brief it-does/it-doesn't exist debate despite the fact that it is a huge, critical, and very obvious problem.

The media has abdicated its responsility to give us anything but infotainment. Without an informed electorate, next time the bad guys may win the social security debate. Without a working media there is no way to have an informed electorate.

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