Monday, February 23, 2009
Playing nice is not a strategy (at least not a winning strategy)
R. S. McCain has a great post up analyzing the GOP's woes and knocks down the latest "solution" offered up by a brain-dead nano-pundit.
Two quick points about Moran's "please be nice" whining.
One: By decrying the use of "wedge issues", Moran implicitly endorses the disenfranchisement of American citizens. These issues became political issues because activists and the courts sought to overturn established laws on abortion, marriage, education, etc. Moran condemns the majority who refuses to accept this judicial tyranny.
Bottom line-- an anti-democratic ethos is no way to build a successful political party.
Two: Moran's bogus history lessons are part and parcel of the "permanent campaign" mode that now defines our politics. That mode goes beyond starting the next election cycle as soon as the last vote is cast. It also has a retrospective component as partisans try to re-write the history of past campaigns to gain useful talking points or to neuter issues that hurt their party.
Thus, Willie Horton becomes evidence of Republican racism instead of the liberalism of Michael Dukakis. The Swift Boat Veterans become partisan liars even when they present unchallenged facts about John Kerry. John McCain lost because of Sarah Palin.
"Rovian wedge issues" are just another example. As R. S. McCain points out, basing one's arguments on the dishonest talking points of the other side is no way to find the truth or to win political support.
That said, I'm not as confident as McCain whn it comes to beating Obama with a free market platform.
There is no doubt that a sizable minority of the population is opposed to bigger government. This minority is large enough to boost the ratings of talk radio. It drives readership for rightwing blogs and raises money for some candidates. But is it it enough to win election?
40% is an enormous share in radio ratings. It is also the bad end of a landslide election.
The usual mantra of "No socialism, Free Enterprise!" just seems inadequate in the face of the current economic realities.
Key fact number one. As Obama moves toward "socialism", he does so at the behest of the "capitalists". It is not as if he is sending paramilitary gangs to take over successful, profitable businesses. Obama, like Bush before him, is compelled to act because the capitalists screwed the pooch, crapped the bed, and then muttered "maybe my bad" when their recklessness sent the financial system off a cliff.
The broad public knows this, and that makes it hard to win them over with cheap slogans about socialist bogeymen.
Any sustained revivial of free market politics requires three things. First, we need solid, empirical analyses of what went wrong. Second, we have to admit that "our side" made mistakes. (Bush, after all, missed plenty of opportunities to rein in the madness.) Finally we need reform proposals that respect free market principles but also mitigate against a repeat of this crisis.
Unless the right can do these things, the conservative coalition faces a long stretch in the wilderness or even disintegration.