Thursday, February 21, 2013

GOP: Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

E.J. Dionne sums up the Republican's problem.
On the merits, Obama has public opinion in his corner. His proposal to avoid the economic drag of the sequester with a reasonable amount of deficit reduction built on a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases through tax reform occupies the debate’s broad middle ground. If the GOP wanted, based on its past positions, it could take a deal of this sort and declare victory, given all the cuts that have already passed.

But that is not the victory the Republicans seek.
It reminds me of the question President Obama asked in a news conference during the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations..."Can Republicans say 'yes' to anything?"

But it was David Frum who nailed it two years ago when he suggested that the Republican approach to health care reform would be their Waterloo.
Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s...

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision:...we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles...

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big...

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
If the Supreme Court ruling and the 2012 elections weren't enough to demonstrate that defeat, Jonathan Chait points out that FL Gov. Scott - by agreeing to Medicaid expansion - has just delivered the death blow to Obamacare repeal.

It all brings to mind that colloquial definition of insanity...doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. The Republicans seem poised - once again - on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.


  1. One of the things I laugh about was what the President pointed out (repeatedly) in his State of the Union address: Many of his proposals were first promulgated by Republicans. Which other people have been pointing out all along.

    Rather than agree and claim "victory," they end up looking ridiculous when they have to be against what they were for. There's an old Marx Brothers song called "I'm Against It" which is their theme song these days.

    1. Yes, but when Groucho and Zeppo sang it, it was funny.

  2. I suppose there is a sense in what Dionne says, but I think he's operating on an assumption that's not true. The fact is that for its members, the Republican Party and/or movement "conservatism" do not exist in order to govern, or legislate, or have a meaningful effect on policy in any way. Rather, they exist for aesthetic and rhetorical reasons. They exist as a product that people purchase in order to, in a way I don't intuitively understand, feel better.

    The guy at the McCain "town hall" meeting (back in the day, real town halls existed in order to actually make decisions) is a case-in-point.

    One has to imagine that the guy sparring with McCain imagines that in doing so he "really let him have it" and, more importantly, that he "accomplished something." That kind of anal expulsivity, for that constituency, is the goal of politics. Those kinds of "principled stands" bring the kind of satisfaction that I felt when the ACA passed. Ultimately, as a group, they're pretty secure in material, measurable things, so the poltics plays itself out more as a psychological matter than one of policy.

    That's why these GOP "legislators" do what they do. Particularly in the House, they're not really that far removed, socially, from the guy at McCain's meeting.

    1. I think what you're saying lines up pretty well with what Steve Benen wrote this morning.

      I'm currently pondering that one and hope to write about it sometime.

    2. Benen's all right, for sure. What he says sits alongside with what I'm saying. The difference is that for me, it's important to understand what all this means functionally. Benen posits ideology as something separate from a concrete functionality. I don't. My point rather is that the ideas--ideology may not be the right word--themselves have a concrete, material function. They really do serve a purpose.

      The purpose, though, of the idea that people without papers are sapping our precious bodily fluids, is not to identify a problem in immigration policy so we can remedy it, but, both very effectively and totally dysfunctionally, rather to confirm these GOP voters' indentities vis-a-vis "others." The idea provides the voter with a sick kind of comfort, sort of like what a drunk feels when he (or she) sees sirens behind him signalling that, indeed, the bender is over and everything in life is s**t. There is a kind of comfort that brings, being able to say, you see? I'm right, after all. Everything sucks these days.

      Politically, big capital (e.g., Koch) uses that comfort of resentment to form electoral alliances. But that resentment has, in its way, a positive function for the person who harbors it. That's what Benen isn't looking at. He is of course more interested in political actors in Washington than I am. I really am interested in the larger groups of people who make this politics possible, because I think that's where the real answers to our problems lie.