Monday, September 30, 2013

Catch of the Day

An excellent one from Philip Klein, who argues that conservatives are now overcompensating for being too easy on Bush-era Republicans by being unrealistically harsh towards Obama-era Republicans:
Republicans can prevent the passage of gun control, as they have. But when it comes to the current debate, many conservatives have been arguing that if Republicans cannot get Obama to wipe out or seriously undermine the signature legislative accomplishment of his presidency, the only reason is that Republicans lack sufficient courage. And that's a completely absurd expectation.
Read, as they say, the whole thing. Note, of course, that what we're seeing here is exactly parallel to the magical thinking about the presidency that many liberals have fallen for throughout Obama's presidency. That's not to say (and Klein certainly doesn't say) that all the criticisms of either Republican Congressional leaders or the president are wrong; it's just that pretty much all of the criticisms based on the premise that if only they (he) had the guts and the dedication...if only they they really wanted whatever it is...then they could get it.*

What Klein doesn't add, but could, is that this belief in magic makes conservatives easy marks for demagogues who promise that Republicans could have everything if they just fight hard enough. Thus Ted Cruz, who really (as Ross Douthat has been pointing out lately) had nothing substantive to offer conservatives, winds up the conservative hero while those who have been working on real policy proposals lose the spotlight, at least for now.

Nice catch!

*Which is interesting: it suggests that the problem isn't so much about the presidency per se as it is about a general reluctance to accept, and perhaps a failure to understand, Madisonian democracy.


  1. The problem seems to be 'opposite party: REJECT LIKE THE WIND' 'same party: SUPPORT TO THE GRAVE NO MATTER WHAT' and there's no compromise or willingness to make amends or move in a different direction unless the current direction has them hanging off a cliff.

  2. What Klein overlooks is that, assuming for the sake of argument that W won Florida, Bush didn't run on a promise to shred the safety net and get the "takers" off the government teat; indeed, he specifically promised prescription drug coverage for seniors. Could he have won Fla, hanging chads and butterfly ballots and all, if he'd said "Seniors need to recognize that Uncle Sucker isn't going to help them pay for drugs. They need to look to charity or the good offices of their children if they're experiencing hardship."? He didn't get Hispanic votes by promising to let them self-deport, but by promising immigration reform. Surely the promise of education reform got him more votes than a promise to shutter the Dept. of Ed would have.

    I know Klein can't admit it and still get published in TWS, but, while the constituency for "spending is out of control" is huge, the constituency for the Paul Ryan budget is much smaller (maybe even smaller than the Repub House caucus). The Ryan budget is a pale imitation of the sorts of ideas conservatives ran on when they were "The Party of Ideas"* (*that would be great, as long as liberals don't co-opt them, in which case we have to drop them like a hot potato), partly because the conservatives with ideas knew they had to deal with voters' real concerns, and partly because the idea people actually believed they were good ideas and an improvement over the status quo.

  3. "Note, of course, that what we're seeing here is exactly parallel to the magical thinking about the presidency that many liberals have fallen for throughout Obama's presidency."

    Exactly parallel except for the fact that there are 0 liberals who are shutting down the government or risking debt default if Obama doesn't get cap-and-trade, card check, or single payer enacted. Or in other words not parallel at all.

    1. C'mon. The thinking by critics is parallel. The actions by the various politicians and party actors are not, but that doesn't change the first point.

  4. I think a big part of the problem is that criticism is a lot easier than the work to put together a proposal. Especially if that proposal is a compromise that takes into account a lot of different interests that are otherwise conflicting.

    There was a great article recently on the Heritage Foundation's glory days back in the 1980's; I think you linked to it. Not only is HF lost its courageous ideas, but groups like ALEC that stepped in to provide conservative proposals put out ideas that literally kill people (Stand Your Ground, anyone?)

    The failure to consider, acknowledge, or accomodate the concerns of others is destroying the conservative movement.


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