Monday, March 9, 2009

No outrage zone

I'm more than a little burned out on outrage and feeling betrayed right now. I'm just not interested. So when Republicans point out how liberal Obama is, I just kind of shrug my shoulders and think "the Republicans should have governed better":

The stock market has been tanking steadily since his election, but public approval for President Barack Obama remains high. And this despite the fact that his carefully composed centrist stance during the campaign has been replaced by an economic policy that is at least as strongly liberal as FDR’s New Deal or LBJ’s Great Society, if not more so.
Why don’t Americans feel more betrayed, or at least more wary?

How can you expect me to be outraged at the Democrats when this is how Republicans governed when they recently controlled Congress and the White House:

George W. Bush rode into Washington almost eight years ago astride the horse of smaller government. He will leave it this winter having overseen the biggest federal budget expansion since Franklin Delano Roosevelt seven decades ago.
Not since World War II, when the nation mobilized to fight a global war against fascism and recover from the Great Depression, has government spending played as large a role in the economy as it does today.
...
Mr. Bush already is the first president in history to implement budgets that crossed the $2 trillion a year and $3 trillion a year marks.
...
Federal spending grew from $1.9 trillion in 2000 to what will be at least $3.4 trillion in 2009.
Economists say the best way to measure the size of the federal government is to look at spending as a percentage of the total economy, or gross domestic product. And by that measure, Mr. Bush has increased spending more dramatically than any president since FDR, whose spending on the New Deal and World War II will likely never be matched. During his 12 years, government ballooned from 8 percent of the economy to 41.9 percent.
...
By that measure, federal budget numbers show spending under the Bush administration rose from 18.4 percent of GDP to 22.5 percent - a 4.1-point increase - and could end up even higher.
The only presidents to approach that level of growth were President Carter, who grew spending as a percentage of GDP by 1.5 points, and President Ford, who grew it by 1 point. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton all decreased spending relative to the overall economy.

Given this track record it is hard to take Republican criticism of Obama seriously. Not that there aren't legitimate criticisms to be made, but Republicans have no credibility to make them. As a result...


Large swaths of the electorate have stopped paying attention to Republicans, he [Sen. McConnell] said.

Wash. Post

And rightfully so. Republicans need to rebuild their credibility with the public if they want the public to take them seriously. If we have learned anything over the past 15 years or so it's that it is a very bad idea for either party to control both Congress and the White House. And so I would like to see the Republicans win Congress in 10. But the Republicans are in an awkward situation. The Republicans need to persuade people that they will govern better than the Democrats, but the memory of how they governed last time around is fresh and is not going to be flushed down the memory hole. If Republicans try to say that they learned their lesson and they are getting back to their true principles, this will rightfully be dismissed as the cynical maneuver of a party that is willing to say anything to get back into power.

Whatever opposition strategy they come up with this is probably not the way to go. If you want credit for the successes then you have to also accept responsibility for the failures:

Conservatives and Republicans aren't synonymous, he [David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union] said. Conservatism didn't lose the election; Republicans lost it, he said: "If this were a gathering of Republicans, they would be down and have every right to be down. They were repudiated."

Wash. Post

I've seen variations on this theme since November. Conservatives and Republicans aren't the same thing; it was Republicans who governed badly not Conservatives therefore Conservatives bear no responsibility. If this is true (and there is some truth to this) then what conclusion can we draw? What this means is that Conservatives aren't in charge of the Republican Party. So, if after 50 years Conservatives can't achieve hegemony within the Republican Party, why would anyone believe that they can achieve hegemony within society as a whole? Apparently, the Conservative Movement, rather than being the dominant ideological force, is nothing more than an ideological faction within the Republican Party that has no power to control how that party governs. The Conservative achievements have proven to be superficial and easily overturned. The politics of the next few elections cycles will be interesting to watch. The Conservative moment is over but the Republican party should be able to harness the energy of opposition and ride it to electoral success. What we are seeing from the Democrats though is the last gasp of 20th century industrial age managerial liberalism. When I look at the Democrats I see "New Deal re-enactors". Over time we'll see that approach proven to be inadequate to our circumstances. This is a really good time for the development of ideas. Don't try to salvage the old ideas in their age of decline. Rather develop the new ideas that will govern the next 50 years. And don't dissipate your energy being outraged and feeling betrayed, rather channel your energy into something creative. I don't want to spend the next 4 years in a state of perpetual outrage.

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