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Political Derangement Syndrome

Whenever I despair at the current state of the Republican Party–which is rather frequently these days–I remind myself that things aren’t much better across the aisle.

Digby, for one, is tired of hippie punching.

[W]hen anyone sets forth a truly liberal plan like Cohn proposes, they are not only met with shrieks of horror from conservatives, establishment liberals and Democratic third-way centrists stalk them like a pack of hyenas and marginalize them as outside the “mainstream” and assure everyone who will listen that they are not “serious.” You may have noticed that Paul Ryan’s lunacy is not similarly treated by his own. Indeed, it’s not even similarly treated that way by liberals. Just try to imagine a plan like the one Cohn describes being hailed as “courageous” (even though it surely would be.) Yeah, I know. Shrill.

The fact is that there is no liberal establishment willing to validate liberalism. Indeed, for reasons only they can tell us, they almost always go out of their way to exclude anyone who can readily be identified as a person of the left and rush before the cameras and into print to reassure America that they have no support. I have my theories about why that might be, but suffice to say it’s a fairly easily documented phenomenon. There is simply no space in the establishment political dialog for explicitly left policy or rhetoric.

I’m thinking that TNR is one place where the liberal wonks (Cohn excluded) might take a minute and ask themselves if their reflexive derision of the hippies for being unrealistic and lacking in pragmatism has served their own goals. When you wake up one morning and see a Democratic president praising the biggest spending cuts in history at a time of 8.8% unemployment, it might be time to take a look in the mirror.

BooMan sympathizes but points out:

The truth is that our government is set up to frustrate change. Our election laws and our media landscape create a lopsided political playing-field where those who already have huge amounts of money can pretty much guarantee that they continue to get more of it and everyone else gets less. We can make arguments. We can try to move the Overton Window, but what is actually achievable in Washington DC is extremely limited. There really isn’t much sense in making a lot of promises that we can’t keep. The only times the Democrats have been able to make breakthroughs have been brief interludes when we had enormous majorities. Right now, we have a small majority in the Senate and we don’t control the House. Basically, in this situation, almost nothing can be accomplished, and even less can be accomplished on our terms. This is the context within which the president must perform.

[...]

I stopped being very idealistic when I finally got around to making myself understand our system of government. I don’t get disappointed by a whole lot because my expectations are so low. I see a real threat out there. I see a threat to our way of life and to all humanity, and it stares me in the face every single day. That threat isn’t coming from Barack Obama or the Democratic Party. It’s coming from the other side of the aisle. And insofar as the Democrats are failing to meet the challenge (and they are failing) the real culprit is deep and structural and ingrained in our system and in our laws.

You may have noticed that the right is engaged in this fight on a structural level. They go after the people who register voters. They pass laws making it harder to vote. They attack the unions. They attack MoveOn.org. They go after anyone in the media, be it Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, Phil Donahue, or Dan Rather who expresses any skepticism about the right. They built their own cable news station and took over the radio spectrum. They make it so corporations can give unlimited money anonymously. They are coming after us with real aggression, trying to make it impossible for even middle-of-the-road Bill Clinton-style Democrats to get elected in this country. If we want to defend ourselves and ever see real progressive change in this country, we have to fight on this structural stuff. In the meantime, we’re playing defense. And we can’t do much more than that.

The idea that the other party is a well-oiled propaganda machine while one’s own is its own worst enemy because of internal strife ranks right up there with the notion that the other side is willing to be utterly ruthless while ours is hurt by being so principled. Both are emotionally satisfying and easily verifiable with examples from within the echo chamber. They’re both utterly ridiculous when one steps back and examines the situation.

Democrats controlled the White House and Congress for two years and managed to pass the biggest stimulus package in history, the largest advancement of the welfare state since the 1960s, and lift the ban on gays in the military. Prior to that, with a two year interlude in which we had divided government, Republicans controlled the policymaking institutions for six years. What comparable advances in the conservative agenda did they manage to pass? Their most lasting achievements, the Medicare drug benefit and No Child Left Behind, were in the direction of a bigger state, not a smaller one. The closest thing that comes to mind is the Bush tax cuts, which were wildly popular and rather minor in an ideological sense–a couple percentage points on the top marginal rate.

Anyone who thinks there’s no internal debate within the Republican Party hasn’t been paying attention. Anyone who dares criticize Rush Limbaugh or to suggest that compromise is necessary is dismissed as a Republican in Name Only. And there’s a bitter fight taking place between the Tea Party movement and the more traditional Republican establishment in terms of messaging, style, and candidate selection. Republicans who anyone would have considered staunch Reagan conservatives a couple years ago are now in danger of being primaried by more radical candidates.

And, I’m sorry, MoveOn.org, Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, and Phil Donahue are simply in no way mainstream voices–even within Democratic circles. The notion that Republicans going after them proves that the conservative movement is somehow ruthless and doctrinaire is absurd. They’re easy targets because they constantly say outrageous things. (Or, in the case of Donahue, said. He’s been off the radar screen for years.) They’re the left’s analogues of the Family Research Council, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly.

The bottom line is that both of America’s political parties, by the very nature of our system and society, have to cobble together huge and very diverse coalitions that are always at war with one another. The most ideological members of each party are always intensely frustrated by their leadership, seeing them as insufficiently committed to the Movement’s principles, while seeing the leadership of the opposition party as much more wildly dogmatic than they are.

While Progressive bloggers are sardonically calling themselves “shrill” for daring to push the Democratic leadership to fight harder for their principles, Tea Party Republicans actually are being shrill in insisting the president isn’t legitimate and demanding their leaders–who only control one half of the legislative branch–somehow force through an agenda they couldn’t pass when they were in charge of the whole shebang.

Eight years ago, Megan McArdle coined “Jane’s Law: The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.” She explained,

I used to think it was just the Republicans — well, some Republicans — who were insane. I mean, I am the only person I’ve ever met who actually thinks we got about the right result in the impeachment. We impeached the guy, to say “No, you can’t just commit perjury”, but we didn’t remove him from office over a minor civil suit. (Although Democrats who are planning on deluging me with elegant arguments about how he shouldn’t have had to answer those questions — I agree with you, except for one little thing, which is that he signed, with great fanfare, the law that made it so he had to answer those questions. As far as I’m concerned, therefore, he’s the only guy in America who should have had to answer such questions under oath.)

But I could see how you wanted him impeached, and I could also see the argument for not impeaching him. It was a judgement call.

Except that a substantial portion of the Republican Party seemed, long before, to have lost all judgement. They were insane on the subject of Clinton. It wasn’t enough that they disagreed with him politically; nothing would do but that he be the AntiChrist. They flooded the airwaves and newsprint with vituperative rants about the veriest trivialities of his administration. They raged impotently at the people in America — THE FOOLS! — who couldn’t see that Clinton was the AntiChrist, even though it was as plain as the nose on your face. Every tiny shred of news about Clinton, no matter how innocuous, was waved about as evidence of his perfidy. I recall listening to some radio commenter go on and on about some Rose Garden ceremony for some law that was, as laws go, blandly heartwarming though ultimately useless, rather than, say, totally antithetical to basic concepts of liberty. The radio host used this law, which was so boring that I can’t remember its topic except that it had something to do with kids and learning, as proof of Clinton’s inherent evilness. How dare he cavort with children in the Rose Garden when, as we have already seen, he’s EEEEVVVVVIIIIILLLL.

Republicans, I thought, seem to be insane. (This opinion was quickly vindicated when they nominated the charming, yet thoroughly unelectable, Bob Dole.) I wonder what makes them that way?

Now I know. The loss of the presidency clearly unhinges people’s minds.

Democratic websites now offer the same vast well of spleen, the same conviction that every single news item with the word “Bush” in it somehow vindicates their thesis that Bush is not merely a center-right president with tax policies they dislike, but a proto-Fascist intent on establishing a dictatorship and herding his political opponents into camps. I’m not saying that all Democrats believe this, any more than all Republicans were crazy Clinton bashers. But just as the Republicans did, they tolerate an astonishing array of nutty opinion. And a very large percentage of the commentariat, from the blogerati upwards, are totally obsessed with proving that Bush is, like, the worst president ever.

The Democrats, of course, took back the White House two years ago. It took approximately 5 minutes for the process to reverse itself, with angry mobs descending on town hall meetings to shout down Members of Congress, a large movement to develop around the idea that a man born in Hawaii to an American mother–a fact announced in a Hawaiian newspaper contemporaneously–was actually a secret Muslim born in Kenya, and rallies around the country using the language and symbols of violent revolution.

Clinton Derangement Syndrome was followed by Bush Derangement Syndrome, which gave way to Obama Derangement Syndrome. It’s a combination of a rapidly changing social and economic system with the rise of 24/7/365 instant communications and a permanent campaign. And there’s no relief in sight.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Axel Edgren says:

    Saying both sides have bad qualities is easy and lazy. Come back when you’ve done the hard work necessary for a quantitative analysis – both sides have flaws, but which side has the most serious flaws in greater measure?

    There are two parties. One party is, with all probability if not certainty, going to be stupider, more unreasonable and bad at governing, statistically. This can be measured to a degree.

    But apparently sitting down with McMegan (a legendary idiot and generally helpless little girl of a person) and coming tot he conclusion that Boff Sieds R Baaad means that you’ve done your part to clear things up. LOL.

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  2. Franklin says:

    Good post. I’ll get the popcorn as our regular commenters point out how bad the other side is.

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  3. hey norm says:

    James…
    Not sure if you were aware of this.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20021281-503544.html
    “If we amplify everything we hear nothing.”

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  4. john personna says:

    And yet you make no reference to the rise of the independents. Surely that is not unrelated.

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  5. James Joyner says:

    @Axel Edgren:

    This is a blog post, not a refereed journal article. And quantitative analysis on the level of division within party coalitions–if such things are even measurable–would have no impact on the sense that one side is all alone.

    And I don’t know enough about your background to judge your comparative level of smarts and achievement against the business and economics editor of The Atlantic Monthly.

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  6. Stan says:

    George Bush did massive damage to the country. His income tax cuts at a time when we were fighting two wars helped to create a seemingly permanent budget deficit, his war in Iraq was arguably the worst decision in the history of American foreign policy, and his acceptance of torture as a legitimate method of interrogation sullied our name throughout the world. He’s right up there with Buchanan as a candidate for the worst president in American history, and I’m not alone in feeling this way. So don’t tell me I suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome. Maybe I do, but have you ever asked yourself why you and so many other sensible conservatives went along with Bush’s mistakes for so long? Beck and Palin at least have the excuse of stupidity. What’s your excuse?

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  7. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: As best I can tell, what we actually have is a rise in people who label themselves as independents, not a rise in actual independents.

    See John Sides‘ “Three Myths about Political Independents”

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  8. James Joyner says:

    @Stan: “why you and so many other sensible conservatives went along with Bush’s mistakes for so long?”

    The income tax cuts came during a recession and were widely supported. So much so that Obama couldn’t let them expire with majorities in both Houses of Congress.

    I opposed torture and related measures repeatedly. But they were widely popular on both sides of the aisle. And the excesses were quickly reversed by court action.

    And, of course, Obama has continued–even doubled down on–Afghanistan and gotten us into Libya while continuing the Bush tax cuts, keeping Gitmo open, and expanding the perquisites of executive control.

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  9. john personna says:

    I followed that link. I think it’s sophistry.

    You can ask people which way they “lean” and in response they’ll suspend their differences with that target group. Sides’ then says “well, once they suspend differences they are partisans again.”

    Ah no, they can identify from whence they came.

    If you asked me I’d say I “leaned” Republican because that’s what I once was, and where my philosophical roots are. As my comments attest, that doesn’t really make me a “weak partisan” Republican.

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  10. john personna says:

    I should say “it’s sophistry [with graphs]”

    The worst kind.

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  11. Gerry W. says:

    I’m with you Stan. It was ideology and “stay the course” all the way, no matter what happened and what was ignored.

    Things that need to be on the agenda for these times.
    1. Cut spending and fix the programs
    2. Strive for energy independence
    3. Deal with globalization and the loss of middle class jobs
    4. Fix the infrastructure in which we are behind some 2 trillion dollars.
    5. Invest in your country
    6. Invest in your people
    7. Invest in the future
    8. Deal with urban sprawl.
    9. And most importantly preserve the middle class and ensure an upward movement for the middle class.

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  12. Gerry W. says:

    The problem with the Bush tax cuts is that they should have been used for about three years and then expire. You use them to get out of a recession. I would give Bush a little leeway with 9/11, but to use it as an ideology and then go on with more spending was a no no. Today, we cannot live without tax cuts so that we keep the economy going. The same with more and more cheap products, cheap labor, cheap dollar, cheap interest rates. Unfortunately, it will all come to an end.

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  13. James, perhaps it is useful to distinguish between the comments of elected political leaders, published ideologues, and anonymous commenters on blogs.

    There are loons everywhere and the media environment pushes them to an exaggerated size and importance. The gerrymandering that has gone on for years also insulates the perpetually elected in a way that allows them to be outrageous and is furthering the divide from the center.

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  14. Stan says:

    James Joyner, I dispute your remark about torture being popular on both sides of the aisle. The Republicans supported it, and the Democrats, cowardly as always, kept quiet. But in the blogosphere, the press, and academia the support for Bush’s interrogation policies came almost exclusively from conservatives. And it still does.

    With regard to the tax cuts, I’m nonplussed by your remark. You do realize, I hope, that the justification for running a budget deficit during a recession is pure Keynes? Are you suddenly a fan of Stiglitz and Krugman?

    And finally, the reason I continue to read this blog (and Daniel Larison’s) is that I think American foreign policy should be guided by realism in the sense of understanding the limitations of our power and the long range implications of our actions. In Iraq and Iran we had two countries, both deeply hostile to ourselves and to each other. Common sense dictated that we should have backed the weaker of these two countries. Instead, we attacked the weaker country, thus making Iran locally dominant, and we pursued an occupation policy in Iraq so idiotic that it defies reason. So I plead guilty to denouncing George Bush. I did it, and I’m glad.

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  15. Scott says:

    Undergoing a crisis of faith can be a difficult experience. We’re all here for you James.

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  16. Axel Edgren says:

    And I don’t know enough about your background to judge your comparative level of smarts and achievement against the business and economics editor of The Atlantic Monthly.

    Bush was president for eight years. There is no meritocracy.

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  17. Robert Bell says:

    James: “The truth is that our government is set up to frustrate change. Our election laws and our media landscape create a lopsided political playing-field where those who already have huge amounts of money can pretty much guarantee that they continue to get more of it and everyone else gets less. ”

    Maybe I’ve been reading too much Tyler Cowen, but in a dispassionate sense, I actually think this is pretty accurate. Well organized minorities who can generate substantial funds actually do seem to get what they want – look at the number of special cases in the tax laws, and the dazzling number of occupational licensing laws and zoning restrictions. I just don’t think things follow a simple partisan pattern.

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  18. Dodd says:

    The bottom line is that both of America’s political parties, by the very nature of our system and society, have to cobble together huge and very diverse coalitions that are always at war with one another. The most ideological members of each party are always intensely frustrated by their leadership, seeing them as insufficiently committed to the Movement’s principles, while seeing the leadership of the opposition party as much more wildly dogmatic than they are.

    RINO!!1!eleventy!

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  19. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: They’re actually quite a bit of hard research on this. People increasingly self-identify as independents but they continue to vote with their old level of consistency. I’m less of an ideological Republican than I was just a few years ago; but I still vote Republican almost exclusively.

    The percentage of people who are truly swing voters, voting something like 50-50 for each party, is vanishingly small. Mostly, because those people tend not to be motivated enough to actually show up and vote.

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  20. hey norm says:

    I buy your thesis in general. This country needs to find a way to govern itself with a more reasonable discourse.
    But for some reason I just can’t understand the anger shown by Republicans towards a President who managed to pass a Republican health care bill.

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  21. matt says:

    Unreasonable discourse is an American tradition with roots back to the pre-revolutionary war days. AT least now the candidates aren’t calling their opponents wife a whore and stuff (well directly)..

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  22. john personna says:

    @James, how can any such survey have meaning, given the slow moving tides of elections?

    Are you seriously telling me that the political allegiance of independents to their “lean” in 2000 was the same as in 2008?

    (I”m a lazy independent who left his registration as Republican, but have not voted that way since GHWB. Abstained GWB/Gore, didn’t really like either. Voted Kerry as protest. And then Obama for change.)

    Maybe people with excess attachment to the 2 party system are not the ones to ask.

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  23. Chad S says:

    McArdle regularly fails in basic math. She may be an editor at the Atlantic, but that probably only happened because Sullivan slobbers over her nonsense.

    As for the state of the parties, the Dems are a mess, the GOP is seriously considering running Donald Trump as their 2012 nominee. That about sums it up.

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  24. Derrick says:

    But for some reason I just can’t understand the anger shown by Republicans towards a President who managed to pass a Republican health care bill.

    This is where the “both sides bad” argument fails. The only quasi-liberal thing that Bush ever did was his Leave No Child Behind policy, so of course liberals have a reason to dislike Bush when he’s cutting taxes, raising military spending, starting wars and bailing out Big Business.

    Obama in just over 2 years has cut taxes twice, enacted a health care bill that Republicans came up with, bailed out Big Business, kept most of Bush’s war strategy and military strategy, refuses to go after corporate execs and they still think that he’s a crypto-MuslimSocialistMarxist. Republicans got a moderate Democrat who is willing to enact policies that they endorse and they still act bat-shit crazy about it.

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  25. john personna says:

    “The only quasi-liberal thing that Bush ever did was his Leave No Child Behind policy …”

    Marine Preserves, AIDS initiative, …. immigration policy ;-)

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  26. john personna says:

    Oh, and of course we could call the Medicare Drug Program “liberal”

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  27. mantis says:

    And I don’t know enough about your background to judge your comparative level of smarts and achievement against the business and economics editor of The Atlantic Monthly.

    You do realize she’s a huge joke who can’t even do basic math correctly, right? That’s a seriously low bar, James.

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  28. James Joyner says:

    @mantis: I’m aware that some number of people on the web have an irrational hatred of her, yes. She’s a demonstrably bright woman who from time-to-time makes mistakes in dashed off blog posts.

    Beyond that, I’m not sure what it has to do with anything. I’m not citing Megan’s post as expert testimony but to say that the argument has been around for a while and that the trend has been repeating itself.

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  29. matt says:

    No child left behind is rabidly hated by about any liberal teacher I know (all teachers are liberal right?? right). So I have no idea why you consider that flaming pile of corporate welfare a liberal program. It was called “No lobbyist left behind” for a reason and it wasn’t because the concept was sound and effective..

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  30. Wayne says:

    James
    Hopefully you are not falling into the liberal mentality of “it is the opposing groups fault and people who think like me have no responsibility for what we do.” Yes there are minuses for the attitude of the more conservative side of the GOP but there are also pluses as well. The same holds true for the so call “moderates”.

    IMO the “moderates” often are too quick to compromised and end up with much less than they could have otherwise. That could very well be the reason why the GOP didn’t get much when they were in charge. They were too willing to give in to the Dems demands out of the philosophy “we must compromised, we need to show we can govern, we need to do anything to get reelected, etc”.

    James
    You have been consistent at bashing and saying what conservative Republicans need to do and give up. However you don’t address the same when it comes to your portion of the GOP. If your portion of the GOP once again tries to torpedo conservative who when the primary this next election, there will be a big fight.

    Do the Democrats have similar problems? Yes but they can deal with their house and we can deal with ours.

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  31. mantis says:

    I’m aware that some number of people on the web have an irrational hatred of her, yes.

    That’s not what I asked. For the record, I don’t hate her at all. I just don’t trust the analysis of someone who so frequently makes huge mistakes and ignores when she is called out on those mistakes. Not trusting incompetent people isn’t irrational. It’s quite rational.

    She’s a demonstrably bright woman who from time-to-time makes mistakes in dashed off blog posts.

    Quite frequently, and she pretends they’re not mistakes when identified. She’s incompetent and dishonest. I realize this is desirable among Republicans, but not everyone thinks like you guys do.

    Beyond that, I’m not sure what it has to do with anything. I’m not citing Megan’s post as expert testimony but to say that the argument has been around for a while and that the trend has been repeating itself.

    I wasn’t responding to your quoting of her, but your attempt to compare her intellectual heft to a commenters. Her fancy title is not as impressive as you seem to think it is, at least to anyone who has read her writing.

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  32. Chad S says:

    James, for someone who claims to be an expert at econ, she makes far too many basic errors and she(as far as I’ve seen) has never admitted to them or corrected her math when they’re pointed out to her. She’s a dishonest pundits who puts her finger on the scale to get the conclusion she wanted to when she started out with her analysis. Nevermind that she’s batting about absolute zero with her political predictions.

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  33. ponce says:

    “have to cobble together huge and very diverse coalitions”

    It’s the Republicans that give the Democrats a huge majority of minority voters, the Democrats don’t have to do a thing.

    See the recent poll of Mississippi Republicans that shows a plurality of them are for making interracial marriage illegal, for example.

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  34. hey norm says:

    slightly OT…I see that Obama is going to embrace the Bowles-Simpson report, or an updated version of it. It should be interesting to see the reaction from both sides over what is essentially a bi-partisan structure. The strength of the Bowles-Simpson plan is that it achieves the goal of long-term deficit reduction without the ideologically driven abolishment of Medicare. In addition it doesn’t ignore raising revenues, or cutting defense. Can Republicans work from the fiscal center? Or will they cling to Ryan’s Tea Party Manifesto? Stay tuned.

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  35. john personna says:

    McArdle often stoops to sophistry herself, and in a strange way relies on her haters to provide cover. I think a lot of people give her a pass because she’s beset by a tough crowd. It’s a bad dynamic all around.

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  36. [...] it’s kind of like that. { 0 comments } var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true}; [...]

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  37. john personna says:

    I just went and read some recent Atlantic-McArdle. Much better. Maybe it’s the venue or the editors.

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  38. Chad S says:

    John, she botched the basic math for Paul Ryan’s plan recently by claiming that 22.3-18.3 equals 3. Probably because she wants to pimp for it.

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  39. G.A. Phillips says:

    Whenever I despair at the current state of the Republican Party–which is rather frequently these days–I remind myself that things aren’t much better across the aisle.

    Right where you lost me…

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  40. Raoul says:

    You seem to want to become the new Broder but I don’t think it will be a good career move to push centrism for centrism sake. The GOP’s presidential contenders is enough proof of where the party is. AS to issue position, instead of engaging in proclivities of nothing; go down the list of the top ten issues and position yourself and the party- need help? here is a start 1) abortion 2) tax increases 3) Medicare 4) SSA 5) Iraq and Afghanistan- 6) government shut down 7) Financial oversight-8) voting – see a pattern? which party takes extremes positions more often and which party tries to find a balance.

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  41. [...] Political Derangement Syndrome (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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  42. john personna says:

    I see that Obama is going to embrace the Bowles-Simpson report…

    That will be amusing, if nothing else for the crowd that won’t be able to process it. It will be birth certificates all over again.

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  43. Barry says:

    James: “Democrats controlled the White House and Congress for two years and managed to pass the biggest stimulus package in history, the largest advancement of the welfare state since the 1960s, and lift the ban on gays in the military. Prior to that, with a two year interlude in which we had divided government, Republicans controlled the policymaking institutions for six years. What comparable advances in the conservative agenda did they manage to pass? Their most lasting achievements, the Medicare drug benefit and No Child Left Behind, were in the direction of a bigger state, not a smaller one. The closest thing that comes to mind is the Bush tax cuts, which were wildly popular and rather minor in an ideological sense–a couple percentage points on the top marginal rate.”

    The Iraq War, botching the Afghanistan War – and don’t tell me that those aren’t ‘achievements’ for the right.. They also helped to create large deficits which the rest of us are going to get f*cked for.

    The Bush tax cuts, which altered the government’s fiscal balance by hundreds of billions per years, helping to create large deficits which the rest of us are going to get f*cked for.

    Medicare Part D., helping to create large deficits which the rest of us are going to get f*cked for.

    Croney capitalism spreading like Kudzu.

    Torture, secret prisons – Bush took dark, shameful deeds, and put them into the core of the GOP, mainstreaming them.

    Finishing off the financial system – he didn’t start that fire, but he did his d*mnedest to make sure it raged out of the control.

    And that’s just off the top of my head.

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  44. Barry says:

    James: “Their most lasting achievements, the Medicare drug benefit and No Child Left Behind, were in the direction of a bigger state, not a smaller one. ”

    James, I going to call you out on this one – it’s long been clear that the GOP and the right doesn’t want a smaller state, in and of itself. They want a state which is big enough to give them goodies and stomp on their enemies. They have not and never will plead poverty when it comes to tax cuts for the rich, or cash for crony capitalism.

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  45. James Joyner says:

    @Barry: “James, I going to call you out on this one – it’s long been clear that the GOP and the right doesn’t want a smaller state, in and of itself. ”

    I think that Republican politicians have, correctly, deduced that their electoral interests lie in talking about small government but delivering goddies. But both NCLB and Medicare drug benefits are in the direction of liberalism, not conservatism. Hell, Republicans STILL talk about abolishing the Dept of Education.

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  46. wr says:

    James — The Medicare drug benefit was designed to sound as if it was in the direction of liberalism, but it was actually a massive giveaway of tax dollars to gigantic corporations. (Remember, the government was not allowed to negotiate prices, unlike every other large purchaser of any good — they had to pay what the drug companies asked, even though the same companies sold for much less to, among others, Canada. And then they shut down reimportation.)

    It’s seriously insulting to this liberal to see conservatives claim that this was a liberal program. It simply wasn’t. It was a sham.

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  47. Dodd says:

    McArdle regularly fails in basic math.

    Whereas your fact-checking skills are impeccable,

    Speaking of which, you’ve been missed in the TRO thread.

    Glass houses… stones….

    for someone who claims to be an expert at econ, she makes far too many basic errors

    In fairness, she’s hardly the only person with bad math skills to vote for Obama. He did win, after all.

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  48. Raoul says:

    I have to say JJ’s paradigm does not extend to liberal ideas which makes him think the way he does.

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  49. sam says:

    @JJ

    “I think that Republican politicians have, correctly, deduced that their electoral interests lie in talking about small government but delivering goddies.”

    In a well-ordered universe, that should lose them the religious right.

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  50. Barry says:

    James: “But both NCLB and Medicare drug benefits are in the direction of liberalism, not conservatism.”

    Medicare drug benefit program has been dealt with, so on to NCLB – ask teachers and principals about it, and see what they have to say. From what I’ve gathered, it’s pretty well structured to make sure schools fail. Which, of course, helps the for-profit ed crowd.

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