Assessing the Party Fringes

AOC v. MTG: one of these things is not like the other.

Jonathan Chait (GOP Congresswoman Blamed Wildfires on Secret Jewish Space Laser) makes a snarky, but accurate, comparison between the wings of the two parties:

Anyway, it is true that Marjorie Taylor Greene and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez play equivalent roles within their respective parties. MTG holds down her party’s right flank, and AOC holds down her party’s left flank. You can somewhat deduce the corresponding beliefs of the two parties’ mainstream contingents by moving somewhat to the center of each. Most Democrats are skeptical of defunding the police and question the feasibility of transitioning to a state-run health-care system. Most Republicans are probably quite skeptical that the California wildfires were intentionally set by a Jewish space laser.

Again, this is snarky, but it does identify a legitimate truth: that under a different set of electoral rules (i.e., even modest proportional representation) the odds are that both MTG and AOC would be in their own parties. Further, the nature of those two parties would be radically different (and I don’t mean in term of ideological placement). Rather, one party would be a serious one and the other would not (in terms of grounding in reality). He is also correct that the nature of what constitutes “fringe” in both parties is a commentary on the mainstream of each party.

One may, or may not, find AOC’s policy proposals to be “crazy” (scare quotes very much intended). That is, one may think that the Green New Deal is utterly ridiculous, but that assessment is at least based on public policy differences that can be discussed within the confines of establishes realities. In other words, one may think that the approaches to energy usage and consumption that undergird the proposal are wrong, but they are in a different universe than suggesting that space lasers caused the California wildfires or that mass shootings are all staged “false flag” events.

AOC’s positions, along with those of Bernie Sanders in the Senate, and the Democratic Socialist wing of the Democratic Party are all based on specific theories and philosophies about governance. And a good number of them (such as free college or Medicare for all) are based on policies that exist in other countries and that have often been in place for decades. The arguments for and against these policies are about things like disagreements over resource allocation and efficacy. None of these are based on fanciful notions with no connection to empirical reality.

I recognize that there are philosophical disagreements embedded in these conversations about how the world works and of human nature. But I would note that these are time-worn discussions based on legitimate, long-term debates about politics.

Compare such items to this list from Chait’s piece about MTG’s growing track record:

The QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds that Donald Trump is secretly fighting a worldwide child-sex-slavery ring that was supposed to culminate in the mass arrest of his political opposition, is “worth listening to.”

Muslims don’t belong in government.

9/11 was an inside job.

Shootings at Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas were staged.

Zionist supremacists” are secretly masterminding Muslim immigration to Europe in a scheme to outbreed white people.

Leading Democratic officials should be executed.

And, of course, the story of the last day or so,

The most recent Greene view to be unearthed comes via Eric Hananoki. Just over two years ago, Greene suggested in a Facebook post that wildfires in California were not natural. Forests don’t just catch fire, you know. Rather, the blazes had been started by PG&E, in conjunction with the Rothschilds, using a space laser, in order to clear room for a high-speed rail project.

MTG’s FB post on this subject can be read at the link.

These are not rational, philosophy-based policy positions. They aren’t “crazy,” but just plain crazy. They are a combination of prejudice and conspiracy theories. They are detached from reality.

Chait’s point juxtaposing AOC and MTG is a good one. A multi-party system in the US would likely produce a Democratic Socialist Party for folks like AOC. One might or might not like such a party from an ideological POV, but such a party would have serious policy positions.

The MTG’s of the world would form a QAnon Party (or whatever it might be called) and would bring to the table not serious attempts at governance, but rather conspiracy theories and nonsense.

This speaks to where both parties are at the moment. Consider that Nancy Pelosi has a very different challenge in placating her “fringe” versus the degree to which Kevin McCarthy has to embrace his (as we saw with his trip to Mar-a-Lago this week and his general need to downplay the Capitol Insurrection).

To put all of this another way: one may think that AOC is misguided or wrong, but such are political debates. But MTG is not wrong as much as she is irrational and fantastical in her views. She is not putting forth, in the main, simply different policy positions, but full-out conspiracy theories that are, quite frankly, delusional.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Qanon Party = Republican Party. Rational conservatives need a party of their own, perhaps called the Conservative Party.

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  2. CSK says:

    Somewhat OT, but it occurred to me that Greene’s goal might be to run with Trump as his vice-president in 2024.

    I don’t know what Trump’s plans are, but the Trumpkins adore Greene.

    4
  3. ptfe says:

    “She is not putting forth, in the main, simply different policy positions, but full-out conspiracy theories that are, quite frankly, delusional.”

    I find it most striking that the conspiracy theory side rarely, if ever, puts out actionable policy proposals in spite of these grand globalist cabals, because those theories are largely resistant to it.

    In most cases, there’s no Constitutionally valid or even socially valid proposal that can be made of it. You can’t simply ban Muslims from office. You can’t come right out and say that Blacks should be marked legally inferior, or that those irresponsible poor people deserve it and should just be thrown in a pit, or that fires should be investigated by the Jewish Space Laser Arson Investigations Committee. You look like a f’in nutball, and/or SCOTUS – even Clarence Thomas – laughs at you.

    Outside of fluoridated water and vaccine requirements, there’s very little that a conspiracy theorist seeks to do about the Hidden Agenda that’s even governance-adjacent. Just throw it all into a pot, mix aggressively, and John Jr exposes the 9/11 Pentagon lie by executing a secret order to arrest Joe Biden for helping also-definitely-not-dead Jeffrey Epstein and Hugo Chavez sell kids on Wayfair. It’s a distraction big enough to make everything the government does look like flak designed to take your eye off the Truth ™, but it doesn’t get anybody anywhere. But oh, they will still complain about government inaction or incompetence.

    The last proposal-driving idea the Right had was the Laffer Curve, and we saw from about 1975-2005 just how depressingly inaccurate that picture was (medium: Sharpie on napkin). Hell, the GOP couldn’t even come up with the “replace” half of “repeal and replace” – so they were stuck with “repeal” which didn’t sit well with anyone.

    Not surprisingly, believing in conspiracies isn’t the same as being able to cogently govern.

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  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yes, reality is a problem for Republicans because 1) Core conservative beliefs are nonsense so, 2) They were easily superseded by absolute lunacy. Create a vacuum and it will be filled.

    Democrats don’t grow these loons because our ideas are practical, realistic, rational, and don’t clear a path for madness.

    Democrats are skeptics, Republicans are believers. Atheists – overwhelmingly Democratic – are like the boron rods in a nuclear reactor, we stop meltdowns. White evangelicals in this nuclear power analogy are the big hole that lets all the coolant leak out.

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  5. Gromitt Gunn says:

    For sure. One may believe, for whatever reason, that Democratic Socialism is not the correct governing formula for the United States, but one can not deny (without engaging in the denial of reality) that there are successful, stable Western-style democratic states that are run by Democratic Socialists.

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  6. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    Especially since US “Democratic Socialists” aren’t really socialists anyways. AOC and Bernie aren’t calling for nationalization of the steel industry, for example.

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  7. gVOR08 says:

    I have to link to Adam Silverman’s piece at Balloon Juice on MTG’s space laser theory. Partly I share his taste for the classics. It’s good to see her blame the Rothschilds instead of Soros, Soros, Soros, all the time Soros. But mostly because he takes the opportunity to link to Mel Brook’s Jews in Space.

    4
  8. Michael Cain says:

    Forests don’t just catch fire, you know. Rather, the blazes had been started by PG&E, in conjunction with the Rothschilds, using a space laser, in order to clear room for a high-speed rail project.

    Since I’m feeling petty today, I’ll leave it at “This Representative gets as much say in how the national forests in the West are managed as a Representative from <insert any western state where the citizens spent months breathing smoke last summer here>.”

  9. Moosebreath says:

    “But MTG is not wrong as much as she is irrational and fantastical in her views. She is not putting forth, in the main, simply different policy positions, but full-out conspiracy theories that are, quite frankly, delusional.”

    While your entire premise is correct, this is nothing new from the fringe of the Republican Party. Remember the hysterics over Jade Helm? Bringing a snowball into Congress to refute global warming? The attempt to prove Vince Foster’s wasn’t a suicide by shooting at a watermelon?

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  10. DrDaveT says:

    The arguments for and against these policies are about things like disagreements over resource allocation and efficacy.

    That would be nice, wouldn’t it? And yet, it has literally been decades since any elected GOP official at the national level — forget the fringe — argued in good faith on “resource allocation and efficacy grounds” regarding healthcare, or taxation, or housing, or racist policing, or…

    I’m not all in on @Michael Reynolds‘ characterization of the situation, but he’s exactly right that the GOP abdication from good-faith policy arguments created the vacuum that sucked the crazies into the room.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    @ptfe:

    I find it most striking that the conspiracy theory side rarely, if ever, puts out actionable policy proposals in spite of these grand globalist cabals, because those theories are largely resistant to it.

    A lot of the QAnon theories boil down to antisemitism, and some 20th century European governments formed some pretty concrete and actionable plans that they believed would finally solve that problem, and then executed them.

    It’s best when the conspiracy theorists remain vague.

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  12. Scott F. says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:
    Republicans and the media label AOC (and Sanders and Warren) as “fringe” because it works. It serves to make “theories and philosophies about governance… based on policies that exist in other countries and that have often been in place for decades” beyond the pale in the US.

    If the framing were about governance in the context of ideological placement across all OECD countries, then the “fringe” on the Republican side wouldn’t be MTG or even Louie Gohmert. The “fringe” would be Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and Gary Palmer (the 3 of 4 GOP senior leaders who objected to certifying the 2020 election results). Gohmert, Gaetz, and Jordan would be “ultra-rightists”, while MTG and Boebert would be “pariahs.”

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  13. Teve says:

    Let me tell you about the fella named Jack Kemp. He’s got this cool idea that if we give the rich people all the money then they’ll give it to the rest of us…

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  14. Andy says:

    It is pretty telling that the right-wing fringe is making Democratic Socialism look positively mainstream by comparison.

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  15. Mikey says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Democrats don’t grow these loons because our ideas are practical, realistic, rational, and don’t clear a path for madness.

    Also because, as Steven mentions in his piece, many of our ideas have been implemented with considerable success over long time periods in other countries.

    “But we’re not (insert country here)!” Yeah, we’re not. But we’re not so different that the things they do for their citizenry would automatically fail here. What we have isn’t a failure of ability, it’s a failure of morality–too many Americans simply do not want “those people” to benefit.

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  16. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Attribution is important…first line…Jonathan Chait, not Chair.
    Sorry…

  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I would posit that the step from “tax cuts increase revenue” to “Jewish laser beams in space” is not really all that far.
    I would posit that the step from “life begins at conception” to “shootings at Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas were staged” is not really all that far.
    I would posit that the step from “Republicans are the party of fiscal restraint and small, limited government” to “Hillary is running a pedophile ring in a Pizzeria basement” is not really all that far.

    11
  18. Joe says:

    It wouldn’t bother me, Scott F. that

    Republicans and the media label AOC (and Sanders and Warren) as “fringe” because it works.

    What annoys the s–t out of me is that Republicans label Biden as “fringe.” That’s why we can’t talk about

    “theories and philosophies about governance… based on policies that exist in other countries and that have often been in place for decades” . . . .

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I knew that name looked familiar, but somehow strange!

    4
  19. @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Thanks. A true typo, as the
    “t” is right next to the “r.” 🙂

  20. @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I gotta be honest: I think all of those couplets have substantial space between them.

  21. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Well…none of them are true.
    I suppose you could look at the first part of the couplets as “gateway” myths.

    3
  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mikey:

    What we have isn’t a failure of ability, it’s a failure of morality–too many Americans simply do not want “those people” to benefit.

    Fascinating, isn’t it, that the moral failure belongs to those who most loudly proclaim their own morality while denouncing everyone else. That whole story about the publicly pious pharisees went right over their heads.

    9
  23. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Mikey:

    Also because, as Steven mentions in his piece, many of our ideas have been implemented with considerable success over long time periods in other countries.

    How do you define “implemented” and how do you define “success”?

    This is not snark, it’s a serious question. Let’s look at a couple of the most popular socialist proposals.

    Look up “free tuition” in Germany (the country usually held up as the standard) and check out how many people qualify to attend university (hint, it’s less than half of those in the US). Then look at the tax rates (up to 42% for middle class).

    Ask a Brit how they like the NHS. How long do they have to wait for an appointment? What’s the quality of care? I don’t think you’ll find any Brits bragging about how great the NHS is. The biggest red flag for me? The British left mocks the NHS.

    As for the Norse countries: They have the population of a small-to-middlin’ state. Norway has 5.3M people–that’s 13% the population of California and approximately the same area.

    It’s a lot easier to implement socialist policies with a small, heterogenous population.

    Show me a country that has a population of 200M+, with the diversity of the US, that has successful socialist policies, acceptable personal tax rates, and a high GDP.

    2
  24. Kurtz says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    acceptable personal tax rates

    Trading a lower tax rate to pay a higher share of income to student loans and health insurance is somehow better because it’s not called a tax?

    Mu, please don’t take this the wrong way, but one of the things that really gets to me is when a self-described independent consistently repeats talking points from one side when challenged. Then they double down when pointed to evidence that those talking points are, at best, misleading, or, at worst fabrications. Know thyself.

    As a show of good faith: it’s my fault I let it get to me. I should be better about that. Now, take the first step and admit that you’re not an independent no more than James is suddenly a lefty because he rejected Trump.

    13
  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I gotta be honest, one of each of those couplets is pure fantasy, and… so is the other.

    2
  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Ask a Brit how they like the NHS. How long do they have to wait for an appointment? What’s the quality of care? I don’t think you’ll find any Brits bragging about how great the NHS is. The biggest red flag for me? The British left mocks the NHS.

    Ask a Brit if they would rather have US health care.

    “FUCK NO!!!!!!”

    This has been pointed out to you before. You ignore it every time.

    13
  27. Scott F. says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Show me a country that has a population of 200M+, with the diversity of the US, that has successful socialist policies, acceptable personal tax rates, and a high GDP.

    There are zero countries as populous and as diverse as the US. By the rules you’ve established, there is absolutely nothing the US can adopt from another sociopolitical system that would work here. Well, I guess we’re stuck with the status quo – sucks to be us.

    How do you define “implemented” and how do you define “success”?
    This is not snark, it’s a serious question.

    Serious answer… There are numerous indexes of quality of life (including measures for healthcare, cost of living, purchasing power, property price to income ratio, safety, pollution, etc.) and the US ranks near the top of exactly none of them. You may have decided it is pointless to try to improve America’s standing due to our size and demographics, but it seems to me a lousy excuse for sticking with an inferior outcome.

    The NHS polls better in the UK than the US healthcare “system” polls here. The Germans who don’t go to university get excellent training in the trades. The folks in Norway are very happy despite the fact it’s cold as hell and there are times of the year that the sun barely shows. These definitions of success are every bit as relevant as an argument for policy change as the anecdotes you’ve cherry picked to defend doing nothing.

    17
  28. drj says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    You’re so ignorant, it’s not even funny.

    check out how many people qualify to attend university

    This is a completely meaningless statistic as there are many other forms of post-secondary education in Germany that are considered to be below the university level. This ranges from vocational training at different levels to the universities of applied arts and sciences, i.e. the so-called Fachhochschulen which are not considered “true” universities because they can’t confer doctorates.

    Less than 50% of Americans have an associate’s degree or higher. In Germany, only 3% of adults attain a general upper secondary or post-secondary qualification as highest degree, i.e. 97% has a post-secondary degree of some kind.

    Then look at the tax rates (up to 42% for middle class).

    Well, yes, but that’s a) a marginal tax rate; b) it pays for stuff like (almost) free college and healthcare. A 42% tax rate on the last couple of thousand euros of your income is not much of a burden if you have zero student debt and don’t have to worry about health insurance.

    I don’t think you’ll find any Brits bragging about how great the NHS is. The biggest red flag for me? The British left mocks the NHS.

    You would find many Brits bragging about how great the NHS is. 87% of them is proud of the NHS. As to to the quality of care, it’s considerably better than no care at all.

    Show me a country that has a population of 200M+

    This is a joke, right? There are only 7 countries with 200m+ inhabitants in the entire world, only one of which (the US) is considered to be first world. Color me surprised that the likes of Nigeria and Pakistan dont meet your lofty criteria.

    19
  29. Jax says:

    I. Just. Want. The. Crazies. To. Go. Away. It’s been wonderful not having Trump on Twitter or Facebook, but it’s really upped the ante on the LEVEL of crazy from regular people I have to deal with in real life. They are more confrontational, more panicked, more certain that they are somehow being “silenced” because they can’t join any Donald Trump groups on Facebook.

    7
  30. Mikey says:

    @Mu Yixiao: What @drj said.

    Also I lived in Germany and my wife is German, and I learned there’s pretty much nothing they do that we couldn’t do here.

    3
  31. @Mu Yixiao: I can name one country of 300+ million that provides universal health care to a segment of the population: the USA and Medicare. I see no logical reason that it couldn’t for all age groups.

    Also, the 300+ million USA provides free, universal K-12. It is not impossible that it could do so for post-secondary.

    Look, I have no strong opinion about free college, to be honest. But I know enough about how universities are funded to say that is wholly possible for the feds to fund it through a number of possible routes (funds to states, direct grants to students, etc).

    I know it is a long time argument that the US is just “too big” but just as big means complexity, it also means more resources.

    We have models (the interstate highway system, SNAP, etc) as to how central funding and local distribution can work.

    And yes, it would mean higher taxes. We can argue about whether it is worth it or not, but I see no plausible argument that these policies can’t be implemented in the US.

    13
  32. Teve says:

    @brianschatz

    A member of congress thinks there is a Jewish Laser beam to clear space or something for high speed rail and on Sunday TV pundits will ask democrats why they can’t find middle ground on Covid relief. All of these otherwise smart people will pretend not to know the answer.

    8
  33. @OzarkHillbilly:

    I gotta be honest, one of each of those couplets is pure fantasy, and… so is the other.

    I don’t want particularly want to be in the position of defending any of the positions in question, but I think it is really, really important to differentiate between wrong/philosophically debatable and, well, insane.

    I would posit that the step from “tax cuts increase revenue” to “Jewish laser beams in space” is not really all that far.

    This is an incorrect policy notion (and, indeed, at some high level of taxation there probably is a disincentive to productivity) and pure fantasy.

    I would posit that the step from “life begins at conception” to “shootings at Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas were staged” is not really all that far.

    There is a debate to be had as to when in pregnancy the line crossed and it is somewhere between fertilization and birth. That is a real, legitimate debate. That those shooting were staged is our fantasy.

    Look, if we are going to equate “things that are wrong/that we have disagreements about” with nutjob craziness, then discourses going to be impossible and there will be not an avenue for a return to some semblance of sanity.

    3
  34. gVOR08 says:

    I just happened on the database USA Today has started on suspects and charges for Jan 6. In the background Maddow is talking about some of the more notorious individuals. The guy with his feet on Pelosi’s desk was carrying a “stun gun” collapsible walking stick. (The genius got rid of it before the cops showed up. But the logo is visible in the famous photo of him and they found the packaging and receipt.) There are other mentions of knives. At least one guy had a gun in his car in DC. Many of them seem to have had guns at home.

    How much worse would this have been if DC didn’t have strict gun laws?

  35. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think it is really, really important to differentiate between wrong/philosophically debatable and, well, insane.

    It’s not that “tax cuts increase revenue” and “life begins at conception” are necessarily and knowably wrong, it’s that in their actual, real-life application these propositions are deeply unserious.

    I think that is what they have in common with Jewish space lasers.

    Most people who believe in that nonsense have the capacity to know better. But they just don’t want to. Emotional self-gratification trumps adherence to/interest in reality.

    In that sense, at least, Pizzagate (or whatever conspiracy) is not so different from “tax cuts increase revenue.”

    1
  36. @drj: If it all the same, then all you end up doing is normalizing the truly crazy.

  37. @Steven L. Taylor: On that point, why shouldn’t the GOP embrace MTG, then? If she is really no different than the pro-life tax-cutter, why not just build your coalition on the anti-Jewish Space Laser lobby?

    2
  38. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If she is really no different than the pro-life tax-cutter,

    Being equally unserious doesn’t mean equally harmful.

    The pro-life tax cutter wants to control women and more money for the wealthy (and less for everyone else) – which is pretty bad, but still not as bad as the physical eradication of your political enemies.

    Ergo, it’s not all the same.

    why not just build your coalition on the anti-Jewish Space Laser lobby?

    The GOP appears to be well on its way.

    3
  39. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Did we maybe normalize the “really crazy” by accepting the “normal” crazy? After all, to accept that cutting tax rates increases revenue (given actual circumstances under consideration) requires ignoring economic theory, and history, and arithmetic. Rothschild lasers starting wild fires at least doesn’t violate arithmetic.

    2
  40. Teve says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: When I was in college I worked with a young French man, a postdoc named Olivier. One day he came to the office steaming mad. And he described how his daughter had gotten sick the previous night and they went to the emergency room and had to fill out forms and wait for three hours before anybody would see her. He was furious at how poorly his daughter had been treated and a little while later declined to seek a position in the US and moved back to France.

    5
  41. DrDaveT says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    This is not snark, it’s a serious question.

    Coulda fooled me. Seriously.

    Let’s look at a couple of the most popular socialist proposals.

    Public schools are now socialism? OK by me — that will make the conversation easier in the future.

    Ask a Brit how they like the NHS.

    Are you seriously suggesting that the NHS is the best available implementation? The Swiss would like a word with you. The Dutch as well.

    It’s a lot easier to implement socialist policies with a small, heterogenous population.

    Even allowing that you meant “homogeneous”, Switzerland is not homogeneous. Neither is France, or Germany. And all of them have cheaper healthcare than the US, with better outcomes.

    If your argument is “Americans are too stupid to implement these proven systems”, go ahead and say so, and we can have a serious discussion. Otherwise… not so much.

    8
  42. Matt says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Look up “free tuition” in Germany (the country usually held up as the standard) and check out how many people qualify to attend university (hint, it’s less than half of those in the US). Then look at the tax rates (up to 42% for middle class).

    You chose Germany to highlight because you know that the “Duales Ausbildungssystem” vastly lowers the percentage of people in the university system. For those that don’t know Germany along with some other countries has a dual education system (apprenticeships/vocational education along with Universities). It’s a very practical way of ensuring an educated worker base as not everyone is university material.

    42% applies to taxable income above €57,051 ($69,245.59 as of this post). So income above that is indeed taxed at 42%.

    Ask a Brit how they like the NHS. How long do they have to wait for an appointment? What’s the quality of care? I don’t think you’ll find any Brits bragging about how great the NHS is. The biggest red flag for me? The British left mocks the NHS.

    In 2010 the conservatives took over England’s government. AT that point 70% of brits were “very/quite satisfied” with the NHS. If you watch the satisfaction results over time you can see that it’s taken a nose dive under the current administration. Still despite the nose dive it’s still over 55% “very/quite satisfied”. I’m obviously blaming the conservatives for this with their choice of austerity and the 2012 health and social care act. Despite your proclamations that the brits hate the NHS polls show otherwise. At most only 10% of brits think that the NHS should be privatized with 84% saying it should stay public. See people like to bitch and complain about things but if you want to know where they really stand then you need to look at how they react to the thought of it being taken away. Clearly the vast majority of brits like the NHS.

    5
  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: At which point, your Floridian neighbors will say. Good riddance! America *won* that skirmish.

    1
  44. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I would posit that the step from “tax cuts increase revenue” to “Jewish laser beams in space” is not really all that far.

    This is an incorrect policy notion (and, indeed, at some high level of taxation there probably is a disincentive to productivity) and pure fantasy.

    But Steven, “at some high level of taxation there probably is a disincentive to productivity” has a nuance that doesn’t exist at all in “tax cuts increase revenue”.

    I would posit that the step from “life begins at conception” to “shootings at Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas were staged” is not really all that far.

    There is a debate to be had as to when in pregnancy the line crossed and it is somewhere between fertilization and birth. That is a real, legitimate debate. That those shooting were staged is our fantasy.

    Well sure, and we had that debate and it was settled in Roe v Wade, but that is not a debate they want to have. In their minds, “life begins at conception” is a simple statement of fact, full stop. The only debate they want to have is what do we do with all the sluts having abortions: Life in prison or death?

    Look, if we are going to equate “things that are wrong/that we have disagreements about” with nutjob craziness, then discourses going to be impossible and there will be not an avenue for a return to some semblance of sanity.

    I would love to have a conversation with Republicans about these subjects with all the nuance you introduce that never makes it into the politics. In truth, I have had these kind of discussions with neighbors and more conservative than me friends. Everyday folks mostly recognize the fact that absolutes are not solutions. But it is not possible to have those kinds of conversations with Republican zealots because they do believe in absolutes. That listening to one’s political opponents is heresy. That compromise is what traitors to the cause do.

    Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz are every bit as crazy as Taylor-Greene, it’s just that their delusions are of a different stripe.

    5
  45. @drj:

    The pro-life tax cutter wants to control women and more money for the wealthy (and less for everyone else) – which is pretty bad, but still not as bad as the physical eradication of your political enemies.

    There are people who sincerely believe that life begins at conception, including a lot of women. It is a legitimate issue for public discourse, regardless of one’s position on the topic. It is categorically not “crazy” even if you, personally, think so. It is a topic that is debated globally.

    And the issue of the proper level of taxation/wealth distribution is a central cleavage in political worldwide and has been for centuries. The sanest conservative party is going to be for less redistribution and the ability of the wealthy to keep more of their wealth. It is foundational to conservative parties.

    (One can acknowledge and understand these points even if one thinks one has the right answer and other folks are wrong).

    Part of why we are where we with the GOP is because a lot of them have simplistically tossed everything they don’t like into simplistic categories and labeled them “socialist” or whatever. I would think that OTB readers, who are interested in serious discourse on politics, would not engage in the same behavior.

    It is unproductive if anything from an intellectual POV.

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  46. @OzarkHillbilly: I wholeheartedly agree that politicians dumb-down politics. And, further, I think that right-wing media has really dumbed down politics.

    This is very bad. I totally agree.

    That still doesn’t make those couplets equivalent, nor are we helping matters if we pretend they do.

    Worse, I don’t think it is intellectually honest to pretend that they are equivalent. I think the impulse to want to say that they are equivalent is born from the fact that there is a lot of extremely understandable anger and frustration with the GOP and therefore, the impulse is to just go all-in on the negativity.

    I also think that because no one who hangs out here can make a cogent defense of anything the GOP does, or of conservatism writ large, when I say anything that even sounds positive people are ready to pounce for lack of any other sparing partners 😉

    1
  47. Tim D. says:

    Just bopping in here to say that the Green New Deal is (so far) the only realistic proposal to actually deal with the climate crisis *and* to manage the social and economic impacts that will come with the energy transition. Let’s not pretend GOP opposition is because they think they have a better plan to limit warming to 1.5C. They don’t. Hell, Rand Paul was on TV this week talking about the exciting wikipedia page he just read about Milankovitch cycles. It’s embarrassing!

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  48. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    There are people who sincerely believe that life begins at conception, including a lot of women.

    No, they don’t. I would agree that it’s a valid position to take, but they don’t actually believe it, they just pretend to believe it.

    Simple test: A man kills a child by dismembering him. Another man kills a child by dismembering him in utero. What percentage of pro-lifers would work alongside the first man? 0%. What percentage of pro-lifers would work alongside the second man? Far, far more than 0%.

    A stated belief you won’t actually live is posturing, hypocritical bullshit.

    1
  49. charon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Or you could just say anti-abortion is a tactic cultish religions and cultish political parties use to manipulate/energize their members.

    1
  50. @Michael Reynolds: If the standard for a real belief is that it has to be 100% logical, 100% consistent, and 0% hypocritical then no beliefs are real.

    2
  51. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If the standard for a real belief is that it has to be 100% logical, 100% consistent, and 0% hypocritical then no beliefs are real.

    On the other hand, if there is a significant gap between stated preferences and revealed preferences, you should probably put your money on the revealed preferences.

    1
  52. Beth says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    There are people who sincerely believe that life begins at conception, including a lot of women. It is a legitimate issue for public discourse, regardless of one’s position on the topic. It is categorically not “crazy” even if you, personally, think so. It is a topic that is debated globally.

    Except, as a political proposition, it’s demonstrably false. If, for political purposes, all human life begins at conception, then every miscarriage is a homicide. Every extopic pregnancy is a living human and absolutely must be cared for. You also have to accept that woman have no control over their own bodies (and, incidentally that no one else does either cause SkyDaddy).

    This is pure political fantasy and if you’re willing to believe that fantastical nonsense, it’s not a large jump to believe that Jews shoot space lasers at forests to build railroads.

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  53. To Everyone:

    Politics, identity, belief, and a host of other things are often subjective and not fully amenable to pure logic. Indeed, I hate to break to anyone reading this (including me as a write it): not all of our deeply held beliefs are 100% logical, rational, or consistent.

    We all make choices for a host of reasons and what is a self-evident and deeply slam-dunk argument to us may not be so slam-dunk to someone else.

    The fact that you or I think something is wrong or silly does not mean that a belief isn’t truly held by someone else. Or, more importantly for my profession, that their behavior isn’t influenced by their stated position.

    This is not to defend any particular conclusion that a person has on taxes, abortion, or any number of other things. It is to point out the reality of human behavior, which is a key subject of political science.

    Telling me why you think they are wrong won’t change their vote, nor their belief, nor the tools of social science to try and explain those behaviors.

    1
  54. @Beth:

    This is pure political fantasy and if you’re willing to believe that fantastical nonsense, it’s not a large jump to believe that Jews shoot space lasers at forests to build railroads.

    Not to take a position, because that’s not my point, let me note that the existence of Jewish space lasers, as well as of a conspiracy to use them are both empirical questions.

    The issue of when life precisely begins, especially if one believes in metaphysical constructs like the soul, is not an empirical question as much as it is a philosophical or theological one.

    By definition that makes these two very different types of issues.

    I am not aware, for example, of a definitive answer to “when does a fetus become a human being?” that would be commensurate to the question of “is there a space-based laser platform capable of starting forest fires?”

    1
  55. David S. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I recently watched a YouTube video (ContraPoints, on J.K. Rowling) where the point was made that bigotry isn’t bigotry because it’s mean at a personal level, but because it has political consequences. I’m not personally ready to agree with that, but I find it immensely difficult to disagree with it, the more so as I engage with it intellectually.

    In the video, the question was “what does it mean to be a woman, anyways?” (Because the JKR kerfuffle of 2020 was around trans rights.) But in this discussion of abortion, it’s “when does life actually begin, anyways?” It’s an interesting philosophical debate, absolutely. But engaging it philosophically is much, much different from engaging it politically. The statement of “life begins at conception” is useful politically only in the sense that it justifies anti-woman policy. And politically speaking, the central fact is that pro-life advocates are not promoting rights of the unborn, but specifically denouncing rights of women. They are pushing policies that target women unjustly. If it were a philosophical debate, then the political impact should be that these people would be supporting fresh taxes being funneled into research for discovering ways to preserve a fetus without damaging the mother.

    I’m not prepared to go as far as @drj has on what you call “normalizing the crazy” and linking the two as a small step. But I would very much like you to take a step back, as I have, and consider that philosophical positions aren’t necessarily, and indeed often aren’t, political positions. I’m becoming convinced that the important question isn’t what anyone believes but rather what policies they end up actually advocating.

    Many people pointed out that it was telling, between 2017 and 2019, that the Republicans were unable to actually put together a replacement for the ACA. They didn’t have an alternative ready to go, think tanks or no, because they didn’t have an alternative approach to governance from which to debate: they merely had an obstructionist strategy that suddenly vaulted them into responsibility. MTG’s beliefs are crazy, yes, but they’re not policy positions yet. (Besides, I suppose, filing articles of impeachment against Biden. If you want to call that a policy.) In this, she is not different from the rest of the party she has affiliated herself with.

    The philosophical distance is just… distressingly irrelevant.

    1
  56. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    You can believe life begins at conception, but that doesn’t make it true. It’s a lie, like any other lie.
    You can have rational discussions of tax policy, but tax cuts will not pay for themselves. It’s a lie, like any other lie.
    And while I understand your point, I would argue that conditioning people to accept those lies only fertilizes the field for bigger, more succulent lies.
    Years of lying about voter fraud was almost inevitably going to lead to charges of a stolen election and a bloody coup attempt.

  57. @Daryl and his brother Darryl: How about this: there is legitimate political disagreement to be had about tax policy and abortion.

    There is not a legitimate political disagreement to be had about Jewish space lasers.

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  58. Andy says:

    The metaphor I’ve come up with to explain the current state of the GoP is that it is a ghost ship. It can’t be sunk (decades of collusion between the two parties have ensured that no competitor can replace them) but it is adrift. The direction it heads is determined by political winds and currents as well as which faction manages to control the wheelhouse. Other factions may still be on the ship fighting for control of the wheelhouse or just using the ship as the base for their own ends. Or they’re on the ship because there’s no other place for them to go because Hic sunt dracones and the only other ship on the ocean (controlled by Democrats) is hostile to their interests.

    There are a lot of Republicans who aren’t happy with what Trump has done to the party. I personally know several who have vowed to vote straight-line Democrat out of spite. But how long can that actually last?

    At some point, the center-right, #nevertrump conservatives, and other moderate Republicans (and former Republicans) need to make a play to take the wheelhouse – or at least get a hand on the wheel. This will require them to show up for primaries.

    The Democratic coalition (which has no central leadership either) is not offering safe harbor or any political space in their coalition, so what other alternative do they have?

  59. Andy says:

    Oops, I meant that for the other thread, I’ll repost over there.

  60. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    About abortion and tax policy, yes.
    About when conception happens, or if tax cuts increase revenue, no.
    Discourse is impossible if we are not working from facts. And once you condition a group to accept fiction, then who is to say what the limits of that fiction is?
    Trump and Qanon are just the natural evolution of decades of lies. Lies beget lies. And the lies never get smaller.
    And the chances of space lasers starting the fires in CA are exactly the same as life beginning at conception.