Politics of Spite
Paul Krugman continues to demonstrate that brilliance in one field doesn’t necessarily translate into sound insights into others. He’s upset that some Republicans took pleasure in President Obama’s embarrassment in not landing the Olympics for his adopted Chicago and their cynicism in positioning themselves as the defenders of Medicare in order to fight his health care reform proposals. His explanation for both: “the G.O.P. opposes anything that might be good for Mr. Obama.”
But that’s rather silly. The Olympics matter was one of schadenfreude. I know plenty of people who voted for and continue to support Obama who nonetheless question his hubris and the cult of personality that surrounds him. And the Medicare issue is one of tactics, choosing a politically expedient means to an end.
Moreover, Krugman continues this to Friedmanesque extremes.
How did one of our great political parties become so ruthless, so willing to embrace scorched-earth tactics even if so doing undermines the ability of any future administration to govern?The key point is that ever since the Reagan years, the Republican Party has been dominated by radicals — ideologues and/or apparatchiks who, at a fundamental level, do not accept anyone else’s right to govern. Anyone surprised by the venomous, over-the-top opposition to Mr. Obama must have forgotten the Clinton years. Remember when Rush Limbaugh suggested that Hillary Clinton was a party to murder? When Newt Gingrich shut down the federal government in an attempt to bully Bill Clinton into accepting those Medicare cuts? And let’s not even talk about the impeachment saga.
Reagan won landslide victories and was still opposed by Democrats at every turn, often in vitriolic terms. Who can forget the late Teddy Kennedy’s vicious harangue against “Robert Bork’s America”? And goodness knows, George W. Bush wasn’t exactly treated with kid gloves. Our politics have taken a nasty turn this generation — hardly unprecedented in our history but magnified by a changed media climate — and now it’s Obama’s turn to feel the heat.
The only difference now is that the G.O.P. is in a weaker position, having lost control not just of Congress but, to a large extent, of the terms of debate. The public no longer buys conservative ideology the way it used to; the old attacks on Big Government and paeans to the magic of the marketplace have lost their resonance.
Only because the Democrats have long since embraced the same rhetoric, forcing the Republicans to either adopt extreme positions or be “Me Too.” They’ve done some of both.
Yet conservatives retain their belief that they, and only they, should govern.The result has been a cynical, ends-justify-the-means approach. Hastening the day when the rightful governing party returns to power is all that matters, so the G.O.P. will seize any club at hand with which to beat the current administration.It’s an ugly picture. But it’s the truth. And it’s a truth anyone trying to find solutions to America’s real problems has to understand.
Again, this has been equally true of Democrats when they cycle out of power. It requires blindness or sheer partisan hackery to think what Obama’s facing now is any more ruthless or impolite than what Bush did during his eight years.