Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My post-mortem on Republicans

As we all know, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus recently completed an "autospy" on his party's showing in the 2012 election. But since looking at the big picture isn't a strong suit for Republicans, of course he missed the point.

So in order to give Reince an assist, I thought I'd break it down for him. I had to look no further than a telling quote from Senator Lindsay Graham.
Anytime you challenge the president, Obama, it’s good politics.
We all know that since President Obama was elected, the Republicans in Congress have chosen a strategy of total obstruction. But what Graham added to all that is the fact that Republicans have chosen a strategy based on politics  - not policy.

This was recently highlighted in a story flagged by Jonathan Bernstein. It has to do with why Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) never got around to writing a bill about loan guarantees to clean energy companies...he got distracted.
“It was a priority, and it remains an issue of interest. But Mike’s efforts shifted when he chose to focus more on holding the administration accountable with regards to [Operation] Fast and Furious. And then when the Benghazi tragedy occurred, that took the cake,” said Kelly’s spokesman, Tom Qualtere.
Steve Benen - in commenting on this story - talks about the Republicans being "post-policy."
Mike Kelly couldn't even work on his own misguided-but-substantive idea because he and his party decided it didn't really matter -- they were more invested in pure politics, just positioning themselves vis-a-vis the president, and they weren't actually invested in any particular outcome for the country.
All of that sounded eerily familiar. And then I remembered why. Two years ago David Roberts wrote about the Republican's "post truth politics."
Republicans thus talk about "taxes" and "spending" and "regulation" in the abstract, since Americans oppose them in the abstract even as they support their specific manifestations. They talk about cutting the deficit even as they slash taxes on the rich and launch unfunded wars. They talk about free markets even as they subsidize fossil fuels. They talk about American exceptionalism even as they protect fossil-fuel incumbents and fight research and infrastructure investments.

In short, Republicans have mastered post-truth politics. They've realized that their rhetoric doesn't have to bear any connection to their policy agenda. They can go through different slogans, different rationales, different fights, depending on the political landscape of the moment. They need not feel bound by previous slogans, rationales, or fights. They've realized that policy is policy and politics is politics and they can push for the former while waging the latter battle on its own terms. The two have become entirely unmoored.
It's true. This is why Republicans can be fairly adept at being obstructionist in the minority and a total disaster as a governing majority (see: Bush/Cheney 2000-2008).

So my post-mortem is that Republicans have evolved from post-truth (hiding policy with politics) to post-policy (dumping policy altogether) in this era of total obstruction. The only remaining question is whether or not American voters are going to see the charade.

As Mark Schmitt explained years ago, that's where President Obama's conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy comes in.
One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that's not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists -- it's a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.
Since just yesterday Gallup pointed out that the number one criticism of Republicans is their unwillingness to compromise, I expect that the message is getting through.

9 comments:

  1. All very true. The Republicans are a minority party, and they act the part. The trouble is that they have a bigger megaphone than the reality-based factions.

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  2. But at some point they're going to have to deliver the goods, and they can't, 'cos they have spent all their time hating on Obama, the liberals, the sluts, and queers, and illegals, and browns, and greens etc. They have naught but hatred, incompetence, and debt to show for the last 13 years. Sad, but true, and beatable. '10 gave them the rope, we just have to fix the knot in '14.

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  3. One thing that the president's critics don't get is that the man's on his own fighting uphill. So he's had to repeatedly demonstrate the other guys are post truth. He masterfully killed Reaganomics in 2012. It looks as if he's doing the same to that stupid cut spending talk with the sequester. I have a hard time seeing someone talk about cutting the budget in the future.

    Vic78

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    1. Vic - why do you think he is on his own! No support from Democrats in Washington. As for Reagonomics, if you mean the impact of lowering taxes on economic growth, we didn't try that in 2012 so unclear how he "killed" it. And as for the sequester, he signed it into law, so hard to say he didn't support it.

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    2. He killed Reaganomics during his last campaign. He traveled the country mocking the republican tax cut mantra. As for the sequester, there's this idea among citizens that cutting spending is always good. Well, now people are going to see what that means a time passes. Hopefully, people who run for office will be tarred and feathered should they talk that cut spending stupidity.

      Vic78

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    3. How did he kill Reagonomics? Just by winning the election?

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    4. Bush Sr. called it vodoo economics. As such, it was post-truth politics and died a natural death in 2008. That Romney didn't recognize its demise is one of the many reasons he lost.

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    5. P.S. Now that I've gotten the conversation back on topic, any further attempts at distraction will be deleted.

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    6. How is asking questions about Vic's comments an attempt at distraction?

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