Friday, August 27, 2010

What Booman said .....

This series of posts are all from Booman at The Booman Tribune.

Know Thy Enemy
Hey, Matt Taibbi seems to have finally wised up about the biggest threat facing our country, which isn't, by the way, that we've suddenly become ruled by a bunch of powerful corporate interests.

I'm beginning to wonder why effective boycotts against these hate-media channels, and particularly Fox, haven’t been organized yet. Why not just pick out one Fox advertiser at random and make an example out of it? How about Subaru and their unintentionally comic “Love” slogan? I actually like their cars, but what the fuck? How about Pep Boys and that annoying logo of theirs? Just to prove that it can be done, I’d like to see at least one firm get blown out of business as a consequence of financially supporting the network that is telling America that its black president wants to kill white babies. Isn't that at least the first move here? It's beginning to strike me that sitting by and doing nothing about this madness is not a terribly responsible way to behave.

Well, yes, it is all fine and dandy to be disappointed that our bought-and-sold Congress isn't particularly dedicated to jailing their financial benefactors, but it is kind of a misallocation of resources to focus exclusively on those shortcomings when a nativist, xenophobic, homophobic movement is poised to make tremendous political gains in our county. The biggest blind spot on the left isn't a failure to recognize foreign enemies, it's a failure to recognize domestic ones. When people on the left begin to understand the nature of the beast that Barack Obama defeated, hopefully, they will begin to marshall their energy towards keeping that beast down instead of arguing about why we haven't reached Scandinavian levels of progressivism in the last twenty months.

Obama's coalition is still the majority and the future of this country. And maintaining that coalition, including its centrist elements, is still our only bulwark against a new form of fascism based in racial, religious, and jingoistic values.

Understanding Conservatism
E.J. Dionne says that the Republicans are experiencing an 'insurrection.' At least metaphorically, maybe they are. Most people are understandably viewing this as a kind cyclical right-wing reaction to both a Democratic president (who happens to be black) and a severe economic downturn, but Dionne makes an important additional point.

The agitation among Republicans is not surprising, given the trauma of the final years of George W. Bush's presidency. After heavy losses in 2006 and 2008, it was natural that GOP loyalists would seek a new direction.

A party that suffers consecutive beatdowns at the polls needs to retool and reevaluate its assumptions and priorities. The party leadership isn't doing that, so the voters are doing it for them. But they're doing it in a very interesting way. Our eyes are colored by the years 1995-2009, when the Republicans were either ascendant in Congress, held the White House, or both. But this little historical window is misleading. Conservative ideology grew over time. It's incubative period began in 1933, when a second consecutive landslide election brought Franklin Roosevelt to power. From 1933 to 1995, the Republicans controlled the House for four years (1947-48 and 1953-54) and the Senate for ten (1947-48, 1953-54, and 1981-1987). In the entire post-war era, the Republicans only controlled both houses of Congress twice, and each time they were thrown out at the first opportunity. Forty years elapsed (1955-1995) without the Republicans once controlling the House of Representatives. This is an absolutely crucial fact to know if you want to understand the modern Republican Party. Their childhood and adolescence were completed with almost no experience in actual governing in Congress. They were an almost uninterrupted opposition.

This is why a conservative movement began to grow outside the Republican Party. Actual Republican elected officials still had to legislate and they often had a Republican president (Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan) to work with. But because the Republicans never had control of the legislative product, their base came to see Congress as an enemy and their legislation as somehow illegitimate. This feeling was extended to the Supreme Court during the Earl Warren era. As a result, conservative ideology cannot easily adapt to actually being in power and having to fund the various agencies and programs of the government. It isn't surprising that in their first term in power (1995-1996) they shut down the government rather than agree to a Democratic president's budget. And it won't be surprising if this happens the next time the Republicans gain control of one of the houses of Congress.

The Republican base is extremely hostile to the federal government and, particularly, to federal appropriations which are unrelated to national security. You can see this quite clearly by looking at the makeup of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Four of the Republican appropriators are retiring, two have been defeated in primaries, one is a former Democrat, and one recently lost badly in her gubernatorial bid. Additionally, Arlen Specter was forced out of the party. Ordinarily, landing a seat on the Appropriations Committee is considered a boon that allows you to funnel money back to your state and makes you too valuable to replace. But that didn't prove true for Arlen Specter, Bob Bennett, or Lisa Murkowski. These legislators were Republicans but they didn't subscribe to the conservative ideology that all federal activity is suspect, illegitimate, or even unconstitutional. So, they're gone.

From 2003 to 2007, the Republicans controlled everything in Washington but they didn't know what to do with the power. They funded the agencies of government much like a Democratic congress would have done (albeit, with much different priorities) and allowed budget deficits to rise to out of control levels. This wasn't what conservative ideology called for. It was, in essence, a betrayal. But conservative ideology is not reality-based; it's oppositionally-based. It has no governing philosophy, but, instead, a grouping of rationalizations for why federal governance is bad.

What's going on with the Tea Partiers is that they are trying to force the GOP to take conservative ideology seriously and to have them act based on the implications of that ideology. And because that ideology sees the federal government as basically illegitimate, you are seeing calls to repeal amendments from the 14th (establishing birthright citizenship), the 16th (creating an income tax), the 17th (providing for direct elections of senators), and the 19th (establishing female suffrage). It's also why you see opposition to Social Security and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which provided for desegregated public facilities. Some of this is simply based in racism, but the ideological component is arguably just as important.

Because of this anti-federal government ideology, the Republicans cannot govern the country without either violating their espoused principles or simply shutting the place down. You can't shut down the government for any substantial period of time, so the Republicans will consistently violate their own principles once empowered in Congress. Instead of abolishing the Department of Education, they give us No Child Left Behind. Instead of letting Medicare wither on the vine, they give us a massive subsidized prescription drug benefit. And when they try to follow through on their radical ideology (for example, by privatizing Social Security), they are quickly thrown out of office.

People keep asking the Republicans to offer a positive agenda and they keep promising to provide one, but they can't because modern conservatism does not know of any positive role for the federal government. The few Republicans who try to legislate are now being drummed out of the party.

So, call it an insurrection if you want, but it's not the GOP who is besieged. It's the entire federal government (and, therefore, the country) that is under assault. The post-war consensus was never agreed to by conservatives. And they're coming to try to uproot eighty years of legislating history. That they won't succeed doesn't mean that we want to witness them try.

Understanding Wingnuts
Steve Benen:

I've long looked for consistency -- intellectual, moral, ethical -- among opponents of stem-cell research, and I've never found any. If someone believes a fertilized egg that has grown to a few dozen cells is a full-fledged human being, deserving of the full protection of the law, then IVF would constitute nightmarish science. Conservatives would be compelled to protest at fertility clinics, and condemn families that try to have babies through the procedure. After all, the IVF process is designed to include discarded embryos.

But no one is making that argument. There's a high degree of comfort level with discarding embryos at fertility clinics, but intense conservative opposition to medical research involving embryos that offer the promise of life-saving science. I've never understood this.

Of course it doesn't make sense. These people are religious whackadoodles. When a religious argument is tremendously unpopular politically, what happens is that the politicians bend the religious principles. That's why, for wingnuts, it's murder to have an abortion unless the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. Logically, it would still be murder, but that's not politically viable. Likewise, if destroying an embryo is murder when you use it for research, it is also murder when you don't implant it in a womb and throw it in a hazardous waste bin. But no political party wants to ban fertility treatments, so you get this kind of nonsense. The religious conservatives hold absolutist views on complex moral issues that are rendered absurd when cast in a politically viable context.

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