Sunday, February 14, 2010

Getting Away With It Watch

Frank Rich is a charter member of the Getting Away With It crowd:
This G.O.P. populism is all bunk, of course. Republicans in office now, as well as Palin during her furtive public service in Alaska, have feasted on federal pork, catered to special interests, and pursued policies indifferent to recession-battered Americans. And yet they’re getting away with their populist masquerade — not just with a considerable swath of voters but even with certain elements in the “liberal media.” The Dean of the Beltway press corps, the columnist David Broder, cited Palin’s “pitch-perfect populism” in hailing her as “a public figure at the top of her game” in Thursday’s Washington Post (emphasis added).
No,  Republicans are not "getting away with" very much, least of all the Sage of Wasilla.  The "considerable swath of voters" are the same quarter of the nation that stuck by George W. Bush at his lowest points, and of course Republicans can get away with doing pretty much anything and keeping the support of that fraction of the nation. 

Beyond that, however, Republicans continue to be unpopular, while Barack Obama's approval ratings continue their long run of staying basically flat, right around 50%, since mid-August.  Now, Democrats are apt to lose seats in November, but that's a consequence of (1) the large number of seats Democrats currently hold, thanks to voters punishing Republicans in the last two cycles, and (2) the economy.  The longer unemployment stays at historic postwar highs, the more likely voters will choose to punish the in-party in November.  But that's not about the out-party "getting away with" anything; it's how these sorts of things always work, regardless of spin or messaging. 

One more time: that Republicans continue to say things does not, by itself, prove that they're "getting away with" saying those things.  That would only be the case if they say things and benefit from doing so.  Since that doesn't seem to be happening -- since to the extent that the Republicans are doing well at all, it's almost certainly a consequence of being the out party during hard economic times -- liberals should, in my view, stop complaining that Republicans are getting away with anything.  By all means, if a Republican says something that liberals think is wrong, then liberal pundits should call them on it and make the case why its wrong.  But don't expect that to prevent Republicans from repeating it; liberals have the power to make their own case, but not the power to prevent the other side from using whatever rhetoric it wants.  And that's as it should be.

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