ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

G-Spot of the American Body Politic - the Middle

At least, that is the poor choice of words by Jonathan Alter in this week's issue of Newsweek.

There is so much that is wrong with this column, but it does reflect the conventional wisdom and the frame of reference for many of those in the media bubble that I thought I'd comment on it.

Alter: The End of the Road for U.S. Conservatism
Bush must now admit that America is not Dittohead Nation.
By Jonathan Alter
Newsweek
Sure, the US isn't a dittohead nation... if by dittohead you're referring to the 20-40 million fans of Rush Limbaugh, since our country is made up of some 300 million people. However, there is a large group of people that consider themselves to be conservative in this country and many self-described independents who have little in common with the Bay Area or New York City Left.
Nov. 20, 2006 issue - The Category 4 political hurricane of 2006 was more than a referendum on an unpopular war and president: it signals the end of the conservative tide that began rising 40 years ago; it's the end of a pernicious six-year experiment in "governing for the base," and in many ways it's a blessing in disguise for George W. Bush, who now has the opportunity to salvage something of his presidency.
Conservatism is dead... a boy can dream, can't he? And pernicious is a choice word here... Very deadly to try and fulfill the promises you made to your base when running for office. God knows that after you win an election, you should adopt the policies of your opponents who lost and make their base happy. I remember the complete liberalization (in the classic sense, not the socialist connotation of today) of the Health Care system by Hillary Clinton in 1993...

Back to Alter:
Pat Buchanan and I rarely agree, but he rightly points out that the election marked the exhaustion of the movement that Barry Goldwater launched with his 1964 campaign. The intellectual vitality and coherence that once characterized modern conservatism have been shattered. Karl Rove is still arguing that the hot issues of this election—Iraq, corruption, sexual hypocrisy—are only "transitory." He's ignoring deep fissures in his party. Neocons have been discredited and theocons dispirited. Libertarians feel betrayed by big spenders, incompetent interventionists and moralizing busybodies. In the Schiavo case, in which 70 percent of voters thought Washington should have butted out, Republicans drove a wedge through their own ranks. Same with immigration, which pits the free-trade business wing against nativist Lou Dobbsians. Most important, the stitching that was meant to hold the GOP's big tent together contained none of the hope and optimism essential to success in American politics. Fear failed.
Buchanan's eagerness to claim that Goldwater's movement is dead may have something to do with the fact that in a room of conservatives, Buchanan thinks that he's the only one who is truly conservative - and he has a personal interest in taking up the mantle of conservatism, from magazine subscriptions, to bookings with the punditocracy, to another potential presidential bid.

Oh, and I don't consider Lou Dobbs to be a conservative. He's anti-business, pro-subsidy, and was against the Bush tax cuts. That Alter thinks Dobbs is in the conservative camp indicates his poor grasp of the conservative movement.

While there are protectionists in the GOP camp, many of them follow Buchanan - not Dobbs.
It failed among the young (18 to 29), who were evenly divided four years ago, but this time gave the Democrats a 20-point edge. It failed among Hispanics, who favored Democrats by 69 to 30 percent. And it even failed among white soccer moms and office-park dads, who turned the American suburbs an unrecognizable shade of blue. The 49-state GOP landslides of 1972 and 1984 are now distant memories, as onetime bellwether states like California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and even Ohio trend heavily toward the Democrats. Texas and the Old Confederacy are no competition.
Yes, there is a shift in the electorate. Economies in Ohio and the rust belt are falling for the leftist class warfare typically on offer from the Dems and are turning away from free trade which they see as a direct threat to their local economies. However, if you look at the top 10 states for population growth, the only "blue state" to appear is Washington. (Pennsylvania, for which Alter pines, is ranked #48.)
To recover, conservatives plan to return to what they call the "core principles" of small government and lower taxes. But there's a reason they abandoned budget balancing: it's a loser politically. There just aren't many votes in it, and that's why Republicans didn't cut spending. People want the government to deliver for them. Without earmarks—which will now flow to pork-hungry Democrats—and the protection-racket money they got from selling out to lobbyists, Republicans might have lost an additional 20 seats. More than two dozen GOP incumbents won by six points or less and are vulnerable next time.
Yes, the pork-barrel earmarks and shaking down lobbying efforts is what brought out the GOP voters and the right-leaning independents. I can't believe he actually wrote this paragraph, frankly.

People want the government to deliver for them? Deliver what? Bridges to Nowhere? That was a big success. Universal Healthcare? That went over big back in 1993... And voters are always raving about the experiences that they do have with their government, from the local Dept of Motor Vehicle licensing bureau to the IRS to the Social Security Administration to the education system. They all get 5 star ratings from the voters, is that it Jonnie-boy?
Their peril has its origins in Bush's highly divisive effort to intensify the conservative movement instead of governing from the center. After the razor-thin 2000 election, he listened to shortsighted advice from pollster Matthew Dowd that "swing" voters were extinct and success lay in turning out "the base." But more than one third of American voters identify themselves as independents, which is a higher percentage than claim a party ID. Smart politicians have always known that the G spot of the American body politic is in the middle.
Thanks for the imagery... This is another stupid comment by Alter. The problem with independents is that it's difficult to get them out to vote and they are not as reliable as your base. And, if the goal is to increase the size of your base (and thus the number of votes your party gets), there are two options available to you:
  1. Sell them on the ideas and principles of your party - ie, convince them that your positions are appropriate and right for the country and them as individuals
  2. Give up your principles and tailor to the independents who may still not turn out to vote for you come election day, while at the same time alienating the voters who would love to vote for you if you only lived up to your campaign promises.
Sounds like great strategery to pick the latter option!
So the Conservative Era is over, a cautionary tale for Democrats who might be tempted to impose a liberal one. Bush, who worked well with a Democratic legislature in Texas, must now admit that America is not Dittohead Nation. He is free of the one-party rule that kept him from being pragmatic—the not-so-secret ingredient in every successful presidency. Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill (taxes and Social Security), George H.W. Bush and George Mitchell (the budget) and Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich (welfare reform) all showed how presidential concessions in a divided government can burnish a president's legacy, and even lead to new wings in his library.
Yes... the successful Presidency of George H.W. Bush and the one item which is credited with making his presidency a success: The reversal of his key campaign promise - "Read my lips, no new taxes." That great piece of "presidential concessions" ushered H.W. out of the White House and Bill Clinton in - at a time when Bush had a 90% approval rating and the heavy hitters in the Dem party were unwilling to challenge him.

And Welfare Reform was such a big hit with the Democratic base and certainly endeared former GOP voters from 1994 to pull the lever for Bubba in 1996: a gain of 8 house seats for the Dems and a loss of 2 Senate seats. Way to energize your base, Bill!
For Bush, there are opportunities for consensus not just on Iraq but on immigration, Social Security reform, energy—and even on tax cuts, which he could shift from the wealthy to the middle class. The near wipeout of moderate Republicans makes it tougher. But the interest of the president in his legacy and the Democratic Congress in putting points on the board are aligned. After all the predictable vetoes and subpoenas and finger-pointing, this alignment has the potential to give Bush new political life—and his party a chance to avoid the grim fate of all extremists in American political history.
Yes, extremists like the idiots that spent like drunken Democrats. Get those bastards out of the Congress and the White House.

That Alter gets paid to provide such idiotic commentary is amazing. That Newsweek actually pays money on top of that to have such commentary printed and distributed is laughable.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler