Friday, February 15, 2013

Short: Why I'm writing more about the GOP

I struggle to write about the Democratic side of the political equation lately. Their positions and proposals are so stale that I just roll my eyes and shut down: sure, more spending on education! Too bad we haven't figured out how to reduce our $800 billion deficit a little bit more before we add on a few wishlist items.

The latest disappointment: Senator Tom Harkin, an unreformed tax-and-spend liberal, is repeating that the government doesn't have "a spending problem." Almost all Dems wisely stopped saying that in August 2011, but some are trotting it back out. With nearly $3T in spending each year, $17T in debt, and a bumper crop of retirees on the way, we absolutely have a spending problem that we better do something about. (By the way, this news item came to my attention via the conservative blogosphere. MSM FAIL, again.) I don't know when I'll hear something realistic from a Democrat again. Maybe when they finally propose a budget that can get 51 votes in the Senate, then they'll return to fiscal reality. Obviously I'm not holding my breath.

The GOP, at least some of them, are grappling with budgets and electoral fallout. They're the ones who acknowledge that the sequester will happen.

It's glaringly obvious that either of the political parties can lose sight of reality and start believing that their spin is truth. The Dems went from triple crown winner in 2008 to half-lame handicapped donkey in 2010. The GOP got punished in 2012. Won't someone learn from these last three years? If you go too far from  sensible, centrist policies, the American electorate is ready to slap you down. Please, dammit, learn this!



Anastasios said...

Chuckle. Would that it were so easy as that. But of course no one agrees on what is sensible, or what is Centrist, for that matter. Center on whose charts? Sensible by whose sense? Is the ACA centrist? Are background checks? Is the deficit really worth all the angst and roaring? Is inequality? Was Clinton a Centrist? Many did not think so. What about Romney? Oh, and let us not forget Scott Brown , a proclaimed centrist, or was he? Is Obama a Red? Or is he barely even a liberal? Does the public punish policy and ideology, or does it just feel in the back pocket and growl or smile accordingly? I am afraid you will find widespread agreement with your general statement, and almost no agreement at all when it comes to specific figures and policies. Everyone is a centrist, after all, because each person is in a world revolving totally around himself.

ModeratePoli said...

@Anastasios, well, you're right to a certain extent, but there are also some data points in my favor. For example, how many Dems were saying that "there's no spending problem" during the campaign? Why did that meme disappear for a while? Can you explain that without talking about a moderate center among the electorate?

Anastasios said...

The problem, I think, is that the center of the electorate probably does exist at any given time, but it is vague and extremely unstable (the party centers are more stable, but still certainly capable of movement). The center of the electorate is also very weak (once again somewhat in contrast to the centers of smaller, more defined groups). Most people don't care very much about politics or policy, and those that do care mostly have firm positions on the right or left. Voting for probably eight ninths of people is a tribal affair, and for two thirds of the remainder is based on vague feelings of economic and social well-being. That leaves about one twenty-seventh that are really paying attention. Thus it is notoriously easy to locate the center wherever you want it. As I say, I think it does probably exist on any given issue at any given time, but it is broad, shallow, and based on vague opinions of poorly-glimpsed circumstances. The center of the country, for instance, really does want budget cuts. The center also, I strongly suspect, really does want increased spending on education. Thus both Harkin and the GOP really are in the center. Now, press hard on specific policy options, and the center turns to mush. After all, it is not some elite conspiracy that created the budget deficit. The broad center of the country really does want low taxes, and the broad center really does want high spending. Even when the center does not turn to mush it usually turns out to be toothless. I suspect that universal background checks is one area where the center would hold if pressed. I also think that opponents of that policy really have nothing to fear. The center wants the policy, but what the center wants it usually wants weakly. The desire is genuine, but not deeply held enough for the electorate to react strongly and consistently to bring the policy about. The ACA is sort of a mirror. The center dislikes it, but weakly. Maybe it is better to say hat the center does not like the ACA, but did not like the status quo ante either, so really is not likely to really do anything to change the policy.

ModeratePoli said...


First, I have to say, as politely as possible for a blunt person like me, bullshit on the idea there's no center. The Dems sure recognize the center. That's where they move to when they're getting beaten up electorally. At least they known the kind of words they need to use. The GOP have proudly abandoned the center. So neither Harkin nor the GOP "really are in the center."

Second, no, I don't think the country wants increased spending on education right now. I think they want budget restraint, with the least damaging cuts made now.

Third, I'm dubious about the idea that 1 in 27 determine the tilt of the election. We've had swings that are considerably bigger than a 4% swing (1 in 25).

I do agree that the center can be mushy, with some people claiming it without being anywhere in the neighborhood. Some also drift uncertainly in a vague center space.

The worst problem for the center is the lack of national leadership. The parties have flung themselves away from a center, so there aren't the national spokesmen or pressure groups that there used to be when the Dems had the DLC.

The problem with the DLC is that it wasn't near the center of gravity for the Democratic party, particularly center for the activists and organizers. That was the instability, and why the DLC isn't active now. Unfortunately, the center in this country is split between the two political parties and also many among the unaffiliated. It is frustrating not to have a political party that represents these views (my views). Sigh.

Anastasios said...

Chuckle. You may be right, I suppose. I am certainly wrong often enough - after all I expected an overturn if the ACA and at one point a Romney Administration. But I would caution the center is a lot like God. If you think God tends to agree with you, you might be worshiping an illusion. If you think you are a representative of the center, you better triple check your survey equipment (I am using the generic you in all cases).

ModeratePoli said...


Your warning about the center being like God is apt. I do try to separate my personal views from what an amorphous 'center' might believe and carefully judge the difference. However, I won't generally have scientific evidence (polling) for what the center thinks.

Right now I think I'm a little grumpy with the Dems running away from the pragmatism in their campaign (the adults in the room) to a stand that's more protectionist to their interest groups. Oh well, that can and does happen. Besides, they'll be thwarted by House GOP anyway.

I'm also grumpy waiting for the next step in the fiscal/budget process. It's been a long wait for the sequester and for a new budget. It's as though all of 2011 and 2012 was one long act, but one where we end up right back at the August 2011 deal, except that the cuts are finally happening. We're finally going to flip that switch and see what sparks fly. It's been a long wait, but I'll finally get to see some what the actual effects are, not just partisan predictions. I'm both scared and excited.

Anastasios said...


I would caution drawing much in the way of conclusions with regard to where the Dems are going to end up, or the GOP for that matter, although the latter are more homogenous. No one in the leadership of either party is thinking about getting anything done on most issues (immigration and guns MAY be exceptions). The GOP thinks that they are well-entrenched in the House and time will eventually bring them back into power with a well-timed recession or a major Dem mistake. In this they may well be right. The Dems acknowledge the mid-term danger but believe the GOP is slowly being throttled to death by demographic and social change, and that by about 2030 the left will have grown strong enough that the dreams of conservatives will be forever dead. Certainly they have plentiful evidence for their beliefs as well. In any case, neither side is trying to get things done, but to set agendas for when their expected futures come about. Whatever happens with the sequester and the budget is merely a blip in the sweep of the longer-term strategies they are pursuing. I think on the Dem side the lack of leadership from Obama is quite indicative of this. He believes that the GOP is mortally wounded and bleeding to death, and that although the turmoil is unfortunate, anything bad that happens can be fixed by his succesor's succesor. He is, I fear, rather ruthless that way. Thus I rather fear that some bad things could easily happen. At this point I don't think either party finds it in their interest to minimize problems.

ModeratePoli said...


Wow. That is a huge plate of interesting ideas and observations in a single comment.

I have some questions to clarify my understanding of your ideas: what are the long term goals of the GOP? What are the long term goals of the Dems? Are there policy goals among these long term goals, or is it just getting an iron grip on power? What are these futures each side is trying to prepare for? I'm asking for your view, so speculation is fine.

I agree that Obama could well have a ruthless side. I also think there are lots of factors contributing to his lack of leadership, including the reluctance to grapple with problems that you cite.