Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 8, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

KICKING IT OLD SCHOOL....Here's a miscellaneous thought: The last two years should be dubbed "Revenge of the Old School Political Scientists." Example #1: In Off Center, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson argued that American politics had gotten permanently skewed away from the political center. The Republican Party, contrary to conventional political science predictions, had gotten more and more extreme over the past three decades but was continuing to win at the polls anyway — and the political environment had changed in ways that made their ascendency seem permanent. This became a popular theory in liberal circles, but a few months later Republicans were trounced in the 2006 midterms. The pendulum had swung and the median voters had reasserted themselves.

Example #2: Six years ago Karl Rove made it an article of faith that the way to win modern presidential elections was to appeal to your base. After the 2004 election, in which an army of motivated evangelicals provided George Bush's margin of victory, this became conventional wisdom on both sides of aisle and throughout the blogosphere. But after today's primary it seems likely that the frontrunners in both parties will be men who are deliberately appealing to independents. In other words, the old wisdom is holding: a vote from your base is just one vote, but a vote from the center is two votes — the one you get and the one you deny your opponent.

Example #3: Actually, I don't have a third example. But you're always supposed to for these kinds of things. It's not a trend unless you produce three examples. Anybody got one?

Kevin Drum 12:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (56)

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How about "Don't peak early"? I'm thinking of Dean and Hillary. It seems being the consensus nominee a year out is NOT the way to go about actually winning the nomination. There are many other examples in past races but I'm a bit busy at the moment to list them. Others?

Posted by: steve duncan on January 8, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Kevin, another "old school" observation - somewhat contrary to your previous two but equally valid - is that American politics have always been pretty divisive and that the current divisiveness is more of a return to the norm than a deviation.

Posted by: DCBob on January 8, 2008 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Social Security *is* the 3rd rail of American politics.

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on January 8, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Six years ago Karl Rove made it an article of faith that the way to win modern presidential elections was to appeal to your base. After the 2004 election, in which an army of motivated evangelicals provided George Bush's margin of victory, this became conventional wisdom on both sides of aisle and throughout the blogosphere.

and yet the Dem leadership would rather eat broken glass than do anything but nod patronizingly at the Dem "base".

Posted by: cleek on January 8, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Social Security is still the third rail in politics.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on January 8, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Example #3: "Hi, Opal!"

Don't worry if that makes no sense to you.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 8, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

But after today's primary it seems likely that the frontrunners in both parties will be men who are deliberately appealing to independents.

Good point Kevin. One of the things many people find appealing about Obama is he is inclusive not exclusive. He is bipartisan not unipartisan. He is unifying not polarizing. Hillary's none of these things because she's ruthless and cold-hearted. There's a reason why for the last fifteen years people have continually hated the Clintons and they have low approval ratings. Now that the Democratic primaries are opening up to moderates and indepedents, they are making their voice heard loud and clear. Both supporters of Barack Obama and myself agree the Clinton Presidency in the 90's was horrible for America and brought nothing but grief to our great nation. We do not want to bring back the horrible days of the past before George W Bush became President. We want a bright and optimistic future. Obama carries that promise of a better future and that's why so many people support him.

Posted by: Al on January 8, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

You haven't really debunked anything in your example #1. The Republican party is still far to the right of most voters - they didn't win in 2006 only because of Iraq. Sorry "Off Center" still stands.

Posted by: David on January 8, 2008 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "The last two years should be dubbed 'Revenge of the Old School Political Scientists' ... Example #3: Actually, I don't have a third example."

Going back a bit further than two years, the most important development in "political science" of my lifetime has been the Republican theft of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, in Florida and Ohio respectively.

When elections can be blatantly stolen through disenfranchisement and vote-counting fraud, with a Supreme Court majority of corrupt, partisan Republicans ready to violate their oaths of office to shut down any challenge, and the corporate-owned media is complicit by remaining silent, then it matters a lot less what the voters want.

The lesson for this year's Democratic nominee is: you had better win by a super majority landslide, because if it's a close election, the Republicans will steal it.

That's why I expect the next President of the United States to be John McCain.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 8, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

...a vote from your base is just one vote, but a vote from the center is two votes — the one you get and the one you deny your opponent.

This would be true if everyone was compelled to vote, and if there were only two choices. As it is, elections are not about winning votes but about motivating voters. Centrists aren't necessarily voters willing to swing either way; they're voters willing to stay home unless someone inspires them to cast a ballot.

Which is where Karl Rove's other strategy comes in: depress turnout for your opponent.

Posted by: Grumpy on January 8, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Well, America's Fascist contingent is now fully "out of the closet", it seems:

Chamber of Commerce Vows to Punish Anti-Business Candidates
By Tom Hamburger [The Los Angeles Times]

Alarmed at the increasingly populist tone of the 2008 political campaign, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is set to issue a fiery promise to spend millions of dollars to defeat candidates deemed to be anti-business.

"We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed," chamber President Tom Donohue said. ...

"I'm concerned about anti-corporate and populist rhetoric from candidates for the presidency, members of Congress and the media," he said. "It suggests to us that we have to demonstrate who it is in this society that creates jobs, wealth and benefits - and who it is that eats them." ...
.

Posted by: Poilu on January 8, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who looked at demographic changes in the U.S. knew that the Republican party was anything but a permanent majority. What the Repubicans have done is destroy any credibility they had as being conservatives and thus gave the middle a great reason to support the Democrats. The Democratic Party in most parts of the country also gave up on such issues as gun control or forced busing.

However, in the long run the Democratic Party cannot help but be the one dominate party. As the demographics of the U.S. become more like California, politics will become more like California.

Posted by: superdestroyer on January 8, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

There's Michael Tomasky's point that the current Republican party is a coalition of single-issue factions rather than the usual amalgamation of different factions.

Posted by: MattF on January 8, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Hillary's none of these things because she's ruthless and cold-hearted."
Posted by: Al on January 8, 2008 at 12:45 PM
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Before Karla Faye Tucker was executed, there were pleas for clemency from Waly Bacre Ndiaye, the United Nations commissioner on summary and arbitrary executions, the World Council of Churches, Pope John Paul II, and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, among other world figures. Unusual pleas came from conservative American political figures such as Newt Gingrich and Pat Robertson, interceding on her behalf. Tucker did not ask for a pardon, only commutation of her death sentence to life in prison. Huntsville Prison's warden testified that she was a model prisoner and that, after 14 years on death row, she likely had been reformed. Despite these pleas, Bush signed her death warrant. In 1999, during the 2000 Republican Presidential primary race, conservative commentator Tucker Carlson interviewed Bush for Talk Magazine (September 1999, p. 106). Excerpt from this interview is quoted below:

In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, a number of protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Karla Faye Tucker. "Did you meet with any of them?" I ask. Bush whips around and stares at me. "No, I didn't meet with any of them", he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. "I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with Tucker, though. He asked her real difficult questions like, 'What would you say to Governor Bush?'" "What was her answer?" I wonder. "'Please,'" Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "'don't kill me.'" I must look shocked — ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel — because he immediately stops smirking.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Yeah, that Hillary is a real mean bitch. I wonder how much Bush paid in tuition to her?

Posted by: steve duncan on January 8, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Another old saw that may come back is that it's possible to win the presidency even when the "solid south" is in opposition. In this case though, Obama may even pick up two or three border states.

Posted by: Bob G on January 8, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

There's a reason why for the last fifteen years people have continually hated the Clintons and they have low approval ratings.

No, they don't. Bill Clinton left office with an approval rating almost DOUBLE that of George W. Bush.

Posted by: Joshua on January 8, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

To steve duncan: I'd express it a different way. The "inevitability" strategy (used by Hillary this time around, and used by Dean as he approached Iowa and New Hampshire) is very risky, because if you lose any race, all the air goes out of your balloon and your poll numbers will immediately drop like a rock.

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 8, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Rove proved in 2000 and particularly in 2004 that it's possible to win a "base" election, where you aim to boost your turnout, depress the other party's turnout, and aim for 50.1% rather than finding the center and reaching for that. 2006 didn't change that, but it did show that there is a price to pay for conducting a campaign that way, namely that there is little room for error.

Posted by: Answer Guy on January 8, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

How about:
3) Build your winning coalition from the center and appeal towards the base or wing of the party.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 8, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Duncan: That was such a brilliant reply I had to go back and read the original comment. Thanks.

Posted by: KathyF on January 8, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Going back a bit further than two years, the most important development in "political science" of my lifetime has been the Republican theft of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, in Florida and Ohio respectively.

Secular Animist: Amen! And for as long as the Fascist elite are allowed to continue manipulating our election results, the rest is bullshit -- mere window dressing.

"It not the people who cast the votes that matter; it's the people who count the votes!"
-- Josef Stalin

Welcome to 21st Century Amerika, Mister Drum.

Posted by: Poilu on January 8, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

What Karl Rove understood -- actually, what most modern political consultants understand; Rove just acted on his understanding earlier and with more energy -- is that 80% of electoral success is about winning elections in which most people who can vote, don't.

This means party primaries and mid-term elections, in that order. In any electorate with 1000 voters, a group of 100 who always vote and always vote based on the same issues will be a factor in any election with 100% turnout. They will be an important factor in an election with 50% turnout. They will decide nearly every election with 35% turnout or less, because only very rarely will the rest of the voting electorate be united against them. It isn't a question of ideology so much as it is one of simple arithmetic.

Rove's tactic of mobilizing the GOP base has been least effective in elections with the highest turnout: the Presidential elections, in which George W. Bush split popular vote decisions in spite of the GOP's superior resources and greatly superior organization. Mobilizing the base hasn't worked very well either in constituencies where the GOP base is a smaller portion of the electorate, such as the Northeast. Finally, over the long term reliance on the party's base leaves a lot of valuable hostages to fortune. If the base splits over an emotional issue (like immigration, say); if you win successive elections and leave part of the base wondering what they got out of it; or if the guy you elect President becomes so unpopular that the electorate starts to identify him with all your party's candidates, you're cooked.

That is pretty much where the Republicans are now. In a sense -- and I don't mean this as a literal or complete comparison -- they are in the position the Democrats put themselves in for many years. In cycle after cycle the Democrats would pick a Presidential candidate based on his ability to win the support of all the organized interest groups in the party, leaving the appeal to weak Democrats and people outside the party to chance. The only way they could win a Presidential election is if the GOP candidate made himself badly unpopular (as the elder Bush had by 1992). The Republicans are at the point now where the only way their candidate -- whoever he is -- can win this fall is if the Democrats nominate someone most Americans can't stand. The odds against that, always great, look much greater now.

Posted by: Zathras on January 8, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

The huge flaw in Hacker and Pierson's book was that they utterly ignored the effect of the gigantic bull elephant in the living room, i.e. the fact that the Republicans have been able to get away with lying their asses off ever since Ronald Reagan started claiming that tax cuts for the rich pay for themselves.

They focused on lots of gee-whiz little political sciencey gimmicks instead. Those are all mildly interesting and have a marginal effect, but they are unnecessary and insufficient to explain what happened.

The bottom line is you can't lose if you are both willing and able to lie your ass off and not be called on it.

What changed in 2006 is that the Republicans were revealed indisputably as liars when Hussein turned out to have no WMD whatsoever after all the hype.

Its the LIES, stupid!

Posted by: The Fool on January 8, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Unlike Kevin, I think the Republican Party has gotten less extreme. Thirty years ago, Republicans wanted to shrink the size of government, or at least paid lip service to the idea. Today most Republicans accept increases in the size of government, but want to do so more slowly than the Dems do.

Many Republican leaders favor significant expansion in the size of government. E.g., among George Bush's signature achievements are No Child Left Behind, the addition of limited prescription drug coverage to Medicare, and the enormous growth in spending to fight African AIDS. Mitt Romney was the first Governor to implement a universal health care system in his state. The Republicans in Congress have done little to curtail earmarks.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 8, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'm just surprised we've gotten this far without anyone quoting, "never get involved in a land war in Asia".

Posted by: MA on January 8, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Example #3: "Hi, Opal!"

Don't worry if that makes no sense to you."

Makes perfect sense to me ;)

Posted by: eponymous on January 8, 2008 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

The center? There may be something we can call the median voter out there, but there are no median or moderate political policies in the US. The people who call themselves political centrists are just mild, somewhat less savage, conservatives. They are, generally speaking, secular conservatives in line with the values of traditional conservative European parties. They are not anti-imperialists just liberal imperialists who believe in the benevolence of invasion and occupation to bring the benighted peoples of the world civilization, democracy etc. This allows them to go along with the bold nationalism of illiberal imperialists. The "centrists" embrace neoliberalism as the only rational economic model. They are just less ideologically pure than the right-wing utopians. With this comes a whole conceptual world of “solutions” including individual incentives, thinner safety nets, private health insurance, lower taxation, privatization etc.

The median voter doesn’t get any of this, so the “center” does not represent “the center”.

Posted by: bellumregio on January 8, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

1928.

The last time there was no vice-president or incumbent president running.

That's what is different about 2008.

Maybe Cheyney should throw his hat in the ring!?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 8, 2008 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on January 8, 2008 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

I am skeptical of your observation that the “median” voter has reasserted himself. In response to your 2 examples:

1) Hacker and Pierson’s thesis was correct in most of its essentials, though they did overestimate the structural bias of the existing Congressional districting against the Dems. The Republicans under Bush did successfully pursue policies that were to the right of the median voter’s views on a wide range of issues. And it is questionable just how much, concretely, has changed as a result of the 2006 elections.
2) You think that the results in Iowa and prospectively in NH and elsewhere indicate the triumphs of votes from “the center.” But this mistakes naïve anti-partisanship for centrism. Obama is getting the vote of a lot of Republicans who happily voted for Bush—is Bush a centrist? Is Huckabee a centrist? Much of the US electorate views politics from a fairly low level of sophistication—they may be habitual Dem or Republican voters, but they don’t place themselves on a left-right continuum. (Cf. Converse and a host of “old-school” political scientists.) So there is not much “center” to be captured, but there are a lot of disaffected voters who are vaguely looking for “change.”


Posted by: Tony Greco on January 8, 2008 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Nicholson:
What about 1952? Wasn't that Eisenhower vs Adlai
Stevenson? Was Stevenson VP? I didn't know that.

Posted by: catclub on January 8, 2008 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Nicholson: I was confused about this myself, but it turns out that Truman initially intended to run for re-election, but dropped out after losing the NH primary to Kefauver. Apparently, Barkley (Truman's VP) also put his hat in the ring briefly (I'm not sure if he contested any primaries) but the administration was so unpopular that he didn't get any traction.

Posted by: Rich C on January 8, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Was Stevenson VP? I didn't know that."

No, but his grandfather was. Which still doesn't count for our purposes.

Posted by: Grumpy on January 8, 2008 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK
....I think the Republican Party has gotten less extreme....ex-lax at 1:22 PM
Perhaps, like Rip Van Winkle, you slept through their foaming-at-mouth behavior during the Clinton term, failed to notice the Terry Schiavo fiasco, or never listen to your talk radio fanatics, never heard of Grover Norquist or never read the Texas Republican Party platform . No, it's more likely that you are just another right wing loon yourself.
The "inevitability" strategy.... is very risky....Joe Buck at 1:03 PM
Rove/Bush used it in 2000. It worked fine until New Hampshire and Michigan were independents tilted the vote to McCain. The Bush campaign spent roughly 35 mil in South Carolina to smear McCain and end his candidacy. Posted by: Mike on January 8, 2008 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas Franks' pop-psych poli-sci "What's The Matter With Kansas?" is thoroughly debunked through rigorous statistical analysis.

See, e.g., "What's the Matter With 'What's The Matter With Kansas'?", and "Rich State, Poor State, Red State, Blue State: What's The Matter With Connecticut"

Posted by: EthanJ on January 8, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

The Chamber of Commerce guy should be focusing on business not politics.

Posted by: Ya Know... on January 8, 2008 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

What the Repubicans have done is destroy any credibility they had as being conservatives and thus gave the middle a great reason to support the Democrats.

How so? Conservatism has always, at base, been about enriching the wealthy at the expense of the poor, suppressing unpopular minorities, authoritarianism, and nationalism. Seems the Republican Party has maintained its credibility as conservatives just fine.

Posted by: Stefan on January 8, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Two trends that have been strongly impacting the past roughly quarter of a century.

(1) The decreasing fraction of voting participation, particularly amoung the young.

(2) The well funded think-tanks, whose raison-de-etre seems to be to relentlessly move the country further to the right.

Now it seems like we have a real opportunity (Obama) to begin to reverse factiod (1). I don't know what can be done about (2).

Of related importance have been a series of dry sounding changes to communication regulations (proposed as clever ploys by those think tanks), to allow the monied interests to largely takeover the media.

These trends had allowed the party with an apparently assured election success to move its center of gravity towards its more extreme elements.

Posted by: bigTom on January 8, 2008 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

What is the old school of political science on contrast with Hacker and Pierson's new school? Wasn't there more than one?

Posted by: Tom on January 8, 2008 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Stefen,

It is hard to say that the Democratic Party is for the poor when Manhattan votes over 80% for the Democratic Party (the same for DC and SF).

However, growth in entitlements, growing budget deficits, budget earmarks, top down government programs, and increasing bureaucracy cannot be seen as conservative.

Image in late September 2001 if President Bush had said that the time for sacrifices for all was now and that cuts were needed in optional government programs to fund the hunt for Al Queda and increasing national security. That would have been the conservative thing to do instead of busting the budget and running up the debt. The Republicans would probably still be a majority in Congress with they would have resisted the impulse for personal benefit and actually led.

Posted by: superdestroyer on January 8, 2008 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

I should've url'd earlier, sparing folks needless
thread sputterring.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6621061

I still maintain that we have had an 80 year span where either a VP or a president was in the race for president, not necessarily the 2 final dudes (and sometimes dolls).

Without the whitehouse somewhere in the picture we can see how weird the race can get. Tell me it ain't weird as of 3:30pm 1/8/08!

So I want to really emphasize to folks how tired voters just might be with whitehouse follies.

But I don't rule out Cheyney somehow ruining the "virginity" of this race.... he might become president. It wasn't too long ago when he was searching for a VP for GWB and decided that, heck, why not appoint himself!

On a more positive note; I think what we are seeing is the American Public waking up to the fact that just maybe we can steer our country in a more meaningful direction. This year will reveal so much about what this country truly is about.

The world watches. Although I doubt it's holding it's breath!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 8, 2008 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

It is hard to say that the Democratic Party is for the poor when Manhattan votes over 80% for the Democratic Party (the same for DC and SF).

Huh? Are you seriously saying that the Democratic Party can't support policies that favor the less well-off because I, as a more well-off Wall Street lawyer, support that same party?

However, growth in entitlements, growing budget deficits, budget earmarks, top down government programs, and increasing bureaucracy cannot be seen as conservative.

Yes, they can. There's nothing about any of those things that make them inherently inconsistent with conservatism as a right-wing political philosophy. Some of them are indeed inconsistent with what conservatives have pretended to support in their quest for more power, but, for example, things such as top down government programs and increasing bureacracy suit the conservative quest to consolidate power among the wealthy and powerful business elite just fine so long as they're the ones in charge of those programs.

Posted by: Stefan on January 8, 2008 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

It's much simpler than that. It's Bush revulsion, but note:

http://buchanan.org/blog/?p=910

"One wonders if this wailing for change and praise for anyone who will promise it is much more than the cry of spoiled children who want what the family can no longer afford, and who cannot face the truth that, as Merle Haggard sang, the good times may be over for good."

Posted by: Luther on January 8, 2008 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Some people steal votes.
Some people buy votes.
Some people rent votes.
But, some people get them the old fashioned way,
they earn them.

Getting lots of one vote here and one vote there is tough to impossible. Finding blocks of votes (like the evangelicals or gun owners for Republicans) and convincing them is more effective.

Keeping coalitions together when their interests don't coincide is also tough. That's one reason the Republicans are falling apart right now. The member groups in their coalition are each fighting to have the party's candidate represent their particular group. But, you can't have 8 candidates for a party.

The Republican problem is they don't actually want a candidate who represents the evangelicals. Huckabee is a pariah to them. They would prefer the party's owners always get the candidate (in years when they can win, Bush41 v. Dukakis) and let the other hacks have it in years when they can't win (Dole v. Clinton and probably this year).

Posted by: MarkH on January 8, 2008 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

However, growth in entitlements, growing budget deficits, budget earmarks, top down government programs, and increasing bureaucracy cannot be seen as conservative.

Consider, for example, the European and South American fascist regimes of the last century, such as Franco's Spain, Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany. All extremely conservative, and all exhibiting, to various degrees or other, entitlement spending (for favored classes), top down government programs and intrusive bureacracies.

Posted by: Stefan on January 8, 2008 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

It is hard to say that the Democratic Party is for the poor when Manhattan votes over 80% for the Democratic Party (the same for DC and SF).

That is not a logical statement. Since I am sure it was not made in good faith, I won't waste my time to explain why.

Posted by: Xenos on January 8, 2008 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

It is hard to say that the Democratic Party is for the poor when Manhattan votes over 80% for the Democratic Party (the same for DC and SF).

Good grief. That is the weakest argument I've seen lately - and we have some real weak arguments thrown up on these threads.

By that logic, rural Missouri ought to be bright blue instead of blood red. Someone give this poster your dogeared rulebook, and he can come back when he understands how this game is played.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 8, 2008 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Example #3: Fat chicks try harder!

Posted by: Lil' PimP on January 8, 2008 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding the rightward drift of American politics, I would assert that Richard Nixon was more liberal than Bill Clinton!
- Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard.
- Nixon started the EPA
- Nixon normalized relations with Communist China.

Bill Clinton, on the other hand:
- Ended "welfare as we know it".
- Got NAFTA approved.
- Sat by idly after the fall of the Soviet Union, thereby alienating a potential fledgling democracy.

Look at the talking heads on TV - Name me one commentator that is as far left as Bill Kristol or Charles Krauthammer is far right. Just one.

Why isn't Abby Hoffman or Jerry Rubin on the talk shows representing "the left" (other than the fact they are dead)???

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 8, 2008 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

#3 Profit!

Posted by: someBrad on January 8, 2008 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Conservative" just means someone who believes in the unfettered market as an ideal model for human society. They don't say it is part of a good society, along with a whole other set of virtues; they say it IS the natural state of human life. If they did agree there were other goals for human society it would raise the possibility that other values could come in conflict with wealth accumulation. It is a rather dim all-against-all view of human nature where the strong survive and the weak are irrelevant. Charity, so championed by the pre-Victorian Christians is wasted on the poor and the unemployed because they are naturally indolent and should not be encouraged. The poor are responsible for their own poverty and rich, being the most successful according to the rules of nature, are the natural leadership.

For these “conservatives” any form of government will do since government is only a police force to protect property rights. As long as a dictatorship didn't hinder wealth accumulation this would be fine too. In Germany the business class and the aristocratic landowners threw their support behind the Hitler movement because they approved of his routing of the communists and the socialists. He of course later went on to undermine the fascist socialists within his own party. The "conservatives", who envied the dictators prerogative power, learned too late that they had gotten into bed with a political movement that would destroy the state they so despised.

Hitler did not have a real economic plan although he was not hostile to the rich, unless you were Jewish. Mussolini suggested a corporatist definition for his brand of fascism. Most of these movements came to power fighting the communists- with whom they competed for working class votes. All of these groups oppose liberalism and democracy as the highest perversion of social life.

Posted by: bellumregio on January 8, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: The last two years should be dubbed "Revenge of the Old School Political Scientists." ... Actually, I don't have a third example. ... Anybody got one?

Something that most old school political scientists never believed in, but economists did:

Deregulation of the financial industry.

Posted by: Econobuzz on January 8, 2008 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Example #3. No matter who you vote for, the government will get in.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on January 8, 2008 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

eponymous - I figured somebody would pick up on it! Always good to run into fellow Dopers out here in blogland.
--RTFirefly, over there

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 8, 2008 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, your #2 example is mis-stated. You don't allow for rovian misdirection.

It wasn't about *appealing* to the base, it was about getting out that part of the base that historically hadn't been so active before, while at the same time making things so ugly that centrists and ordinary people of good will would get so disgusted they'd stay home. Not to mention keeping the political classes in a constant state of panic for several years (anthrax, anyone?).

All this allowed them to steal some of the key precincts in Florida and Ohio that they'd identified ahead of time and to come up with results the media would buy.

The amazing part of this story is that the Dem brains trust stupidly bought only the rovian cover story. They couldn't be bothered to figure out the bigger picture and come up with some kind of effective answer. Instead they've only focused on very narrow appeals to very narrow groups of potential voters-- trying to do what rove *told* them he was doing but wasn't what he was *actually* doing-- without thinking about who would actually vote and what would get them out or leave them sitting on their hands, or thinking about how to head off rigged vote-counting. He got them looking for head fakes instead of watching the whole court.

Doesn't anybody out there have any street smarts anymore? It's always been simple, and maybe this is #3: Republicans will always have the money; Dems *ought* to have the numbers.

Let the big thinkers concentrate on bringing the numbers out.

Posted by: Altoid on January 8, 2008 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

#3 is a big war like ww2. When Hitler and Tojo went for the total world domination it totally united the base and the middle for FDR not to mention huge parts of the conservatives. If I'm not mistaken FDR was still in the controversial building of his new deal that was starting to frey apart before world events took over and catapulted him into a better political position.Going to war turned out to be the ultimate work emploment project.(so much more could be said.)
If you don't have a real scary enemy like adolf hitler, you need to find a {friend} enemy in need like Ahmadinejad. He really needs a conflict to stay in power, and the recent provocation would seem to be a green light for the cheney administration.
Naturally the repubs (certainly Bush) would look at this as that opportunnity to combine both extreme repulicans and moderates with a unhealthy dose of world war, a gauranteed vote getter.
The old, old school would be much like machavelli, an expansionist asshole enemy is a friend indeed.

Posted by: gregg leinweber on January 9, 2008 at 5:28 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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