Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 13, 2010

WHEN CONSERVATIVES BELIEVE THEIR OWN (MISGUIDED) HYPE.... Democrats tend to needle Republicans with a fairly important detail: the GOP doesn't have a policy agenda. It wants power largely to prevent Democrats from acting on their policy agenda, but when it comes to substance and crafting a coherent policy vision, the GOP comes up empty. As Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) recently conceded, he finds "plenty of slogans on the Republican side, but not very many ideas."

Jonah Goldberg thinks the "party of no" strategy has been a great success for Republicans, but suggests it's time for the GOP to "call Obama's bluff and offer a real choice."

My personal preference would be for the leadership to embrace Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's "road map," a sweeping, bold and humane assault on the welfare state and our debt crisis. Doing so might come at the cost of trimming the GOP's victory margins in November, but it would provide Republicans with a real mandate to be something more than "not-Obama."

Kevin Drum seems ready to leap through his computer monitor.

I swear, I would pay cash money if the Republican leadership would promise to actually do this. Goldberg thinks that liberals aren't popular? That's peanuts. If Republicans made a serious run at passing Ryan's road map the party would end up just slightly more popular than the Taliban. I think there would literally not be a single demographic or interest group in the entire country still supporting them. Even the tea partiers would start pretending to be Democrats. Hell, they'd probably take up the cause of repealing the 22nd amendment and allowing Obama to be elected president for life. [...]

So I dare them. I double dog dare them. Let's hear about how you're going to cut federal spending by a trillion dollars over the next five years and by a third over the next 50. Details, people. Let's hear 'em. Make my day.

It's hard to overstate how right Kevin is. Congressional Republicans refuse to put forward a substantive policy agenda, not because they're just too darn busy, but because they know it's very likely voters would absolutely hate it. In particular, Ryan's "road map" -- eliminate Medicare, privatize Social Security, huge tax cuts -- was so transparently ridiculous that the House GOP leadership went out of its way to not endorse it.

But this goes well beyond Ryan's plan. Note that would-be Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sat down with the Washington Post recently, and refused to give any details about how Republicans would govern. It's not a mystery why -- he lacks Goldberg's confidence in the popularity of right-wing proposals.

During the debate over health care reform, House Republicans swore for months that their alternative package was on the verge of being released. GOP leaders delayed it until the last possible moment, and prayed no one paid attention to it, because it was truly laughable. Or how about last year's Republican budget proposal -- which managed not to include any actual numbers?

Goldberg wants Republicans to "offer a real choice" to voters? That's a fine idea for a party with a) a coherent vision; and b) the courage of its convictions. There's no reason to think the Republican Party has either.

That said, Goldberg does raise one fair point: if Republicans run and win without presenting an alternative agenda, they'll have no mandate if they're successful at the ballot box. The vote in November will reflect disappointment with the status quo, but it won't be an endorsement of the GOP's ideas.

If Republicans want a mandate, they'll have to present a meaningful, detailed agenda to the public for scrutiny. If they do, I'll match whatever Kevin's willing to pay.

Steve Benen 1:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Comments

It's funny - R's think that D's have overreached, but that's not even remotely true. Meanwhile, the real overreachers are R's - and if they ever regain a branch again, they'll prove it.

Posted by: Rock Slade on July 13, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

But if they run and win with no plan, they'll claim a mandate even if it doesn't exist -- a mandate for them, period, and then diddle around some more waiting for Rove/Limbaugh/Beck, the Cerberus guardian of Hell itself, to tell them what to do

Posted by: SF on July 13, 2010 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Whence this quaint notion that Republicans need any basis for claiming a mandate? Were we fast asleep in early 2001?

Posted by: somethingblue on July 13, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Indeed, somethingblue.

I recall Chimpy McFlighsuit claimed a 'mandate' after the 2004 elections (the tally was 52-48). That is not a mandate.

No, conservatives don't listen to anybody but themselves. They'll run on a platform the day after they're elected, a platform that they made the night of the election. And then say that they were voted in office to fulfill the clear mandate to follow through on that platform.

Posted by: terraformer on July 13, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Goldberg can offer this rational advice only because he knows no one will follow it.

Posted by: qwerty on July 13, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Josh Marshall noted the other day that "no facts" may be a trend. Republicans seem to be running away from interviews -- ala Ms. Palin -- and debates. Still they could win, because their uninformed base is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore. Kinda scary when you think about it.

Posted by: pol on July 13, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

This is what makes Obama's reluctance to draw constant contrasts between the GOP and Democrats so infuriating. Voters hated the GOP with a passion and still do. The only reason Republicans have a chance is because of Obama's bizarre fixation with bipartisanship.

Reagan constantly derided Democratic policies as "the failed policies of the past" even though those policies produced more economic growth and more job creation than occurred during his administration. Obama can make the same claim and he has data on his side. The voters should be so angry that they are ready to hunt Republicans with dogs this election season. But they won't get angry unless someone reminds them of the mess the GOP made of this country.

Posted by: rk on July 13, 2010 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Off topic, I called the office of Richard Shelby, unfortunately my Senator until I move soon. The staffer swore up and down that Shelby and McConnell voted to extend UI benefits. I told her flat-out I didn't believe her. She then mentioned something about a stand-alone bill.

Was this a poison-pill strategy by the GOP to avoid extending benefits but pretend they were for the extension?

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 13, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Humane assault" -- a concept that lives only in the fevered imaginations of neocons. That's how they saw the Iraq War, no?

Posted by: jvwalt on July 13, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Humane assault?" (LOVE that phrase; who else but a regressive could combine the words "humane" and "assault"?)

Fact is, the only time the regressives use the word "humane" un-ironically is when they're espousing their "every humane for himself"* economic policies.

I have said it before and I will continue to say it- a party whose sole purpose is the destruction of governmental systems can have no agenda besides the destruction of governmental systems. The reason they have no fresh ideas- and will have no fresh ideas- on how to solve the madness they created is because the madness they created was the goal in the first place ("Line my pockets and the pockets of my friends enough so when the big shakeout comes down we'll be fine. Then we can start over!"). One cannot address the problems with corporate malfeasance, Medicare, financial fraud, Social Security, joblessness, or any other issue on our tables today if one believes that government can not only do nothing helpful but is, in fact, the root of all problems.**

*Note: "every humane for himself" covers friends of the right kind of "humane."

**Our Regressive Dictionary defines "problems" as "giving a sliver of my income to some other a-hole who is not like me."

Posted by: Perspecticus on July 13, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Ever since Obama was elected (and long before truth be told), Dems have avoided the culture war that has always existed and is IMMINENTLY WINNABLE.

Every time we avoid a confrontation, the GOP goes one step farther. It ain't going to stop until Dems start picking up the hammers the repubs have left strewn on the floor and start BEATING THE LIVING SNOT OUT OF THEM (rhetorically speaking, of course).

We've been playing prevent defense far too long. BRING IT ON.

Posted by: bdop4 on July 13, 2010 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Oh never mind, I recall now. It was that anti-stimulus measure. Like, as long as we allow the economy to crash and burn so the Democrats get blamed, we'll throw the unemployed a little bone.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 13, 2010 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans have been quite open about what they want to do: repeal Health Care, make permanent the Bush tax cuts for the upper brackets, cut domestic spending for the lower brackets, privatize Social Security and Medicare, eliminate Medicaid (as well as whatever else remains of the social safety net), criminalize most abortions, pass Constitutional amendments banning gay rights laws and requiring balanced federal budgets, pass an immigration reform statute mirroring Arizona's racist "driving while Hispanic" law and eliminating birthright citizenship, and embark upon a new wave of business deregulation. Given Obama's tanking numbers and the Democratic Party's political cluelessness, it looks like they'll have a shot at implementing their agenda.

Posted by: fradiavolo on July 13, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Why in the hell do the Donkeys believe they must wait until the Rethugs publicly embrace Ryan's road map to hammer them with it? You know damn well the whole party is whack enough they embrace this and worse. Run the ads now. Tell the public what the party of NO believes. They will deny, of course. But ignore and keep running the ads. Closer to the election when they have denied and denied, alter the ads to show clips of the Rethugs embracing exactly the BS they have claimed to deny. Pin this stupidity on them with rail road spikes damnit.

Posted by: Chopin on July 13, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

@rk

If you're right, I wonder why the republicans have made such a big issue about Obama blaming Bush for everything bad that happens.

Have you been sleeping a lot?

Posted by: cr on July 13, 2010 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Given Obama's tanking numbers and the Democratic Party's political cluelessness, it looks like they'll have a shot at implementing their agenda.

Politically, given that Democrats don't have a fucking clue how to govern, Republicans in power will be good for them.

It will be a disaster for the country, of course, but as long as they're popular at Washington dinner parties and have a job for life, why would Congressional Democrats care about the rest of the country?

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 13, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

fradiavolo"The Republicans have been quite open about what they want to do..."

Exactly right, well put. If they win, they will assert that they have a mandate to implement that plan. It's what mainstream America has always wanted!

And if the consequences are the opposite of what Americans hope for, if the consequences are more pain, stress for families, more poverty and inequality in the US, fewer jobs, a weaker infrastructure, more risk for individuals, less economic strength, more international threats and increased vulnerability to resource depletion...well, they will just remind us how much worse it would be if the Democrats were in charge!

Posted by: PTate in MN on July 13, 2010 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Yesterday both Digby at Hullabaloo and Dave Dayen at Firedoglake referred to an article in the Boston Globe about a series of studies done at the Univ. of Michigan about misinformed people (upon which the GOP/TP'ers greatly depend). To quote Dayen,"..political partisans reacted to facts that contradicted their worldview by clinging closer to their worldview."

The Republicans don't need any agenda other than maligning the Democrats in any and every way possible, voting against anything the Dems propose and making sure to get something out in the news every day regardless of whether or not it's true or even coherent. They play to the worldview of their "base", to its fears and its prerogatives and its cynicism. As Hermann Goring said, "It's a simple matter".

Portion of interview from Gustave Gilbert's book, Nuremberg Diary:
Goring: But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.
Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

Posted by: VaLiberal on July 13, 2010 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

See the problem is he can talk all serious on how doing this would be good and people would flock to the GOP banner but only because it adopting this for talking points purpose is one thing. Getting it passed it another.

The GOP can make up the outcomes they see happening after attempting to pass this shit because it is all theory. And their theory - written by them - is all good.

Posted by: ET on July 13, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Humane assault" -- a concept that lives only in the fevered imaginations of neocons. That's how they saw the Iraq War, no?

----

Indeed. Much the same way our POTUS see the fighting in Afghanistan.

Posted by: Drone on July 13, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Mandate? Why would they want a mandate? If they can take the House, they can impeach Obama and subpeona every community organizer and pro bono attorney in the country and make sure that nothing at all happens for the next two years. Then when unemployment is up around 20% and the Democratic base has decided never to vote again in this lifetime they'll take the Senate and the presidency. That's the plan.

Posted by: Bloix on July 13, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

The MO of the GOP for almost my entire lifetime has been to hide what they really plan to do (and if possible, hide what they're actually doing) while pretending to believe that the majority of the country fully supports them.

I do remember a time when I was young, when Republicans actually talked about what they would cut when they claimed to favor "small government." The result was that they never got a majority. They only started winning once Reagan came along and they started routinely lying about their plans, and they've never forgotten that lesson, even if Jonah Goldberg is too dim to understand it.

Posted by: Redshift on July 13, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

You have a good developing case of this out here in California where Meg Whitman is blithely stating that there is $15 BILLION worth of waste in the state budget and she is just the gal to deal with it.

One slight problem: She has yet to detail where it is and what cuts she would make.

Second small problem: The media seems uninterested in pressing her on the point.

Given these twin dynamics, there is a good chance she will become governor of CA this fall and then as a Republican governor, dealing with a Democratic legislature, stymied in its ability to pass any kind of budget by a 2/3rds mandate for votes on any budget bill, she will surely be able to make those mysterious cuts strictly on the force of her winning personality.

She might want to sit down and spend a few minutes with Ahnold.....he's been down this road already and I don't see any signs he has made much progress.

The voters of CA are totally frustrated (although they have much of themselves to blame for the situation) but their huge and repeated mistake is believing that voting for a Republican who "promises" to fix the problems will actually result in that happening.

Posted by: dweb on July 13, 2010 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

" humane assault on the welfare state "

Reminds me of the Inquisition and the "justification" that those who wielded power knew, without doubt, that they were saving the souls of sinners.

Goldberg, Ryan and their ilk seem to be missing a part of their humaness. Is there a pill for that yet?

Posted by: Doug on July 13, 2010 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Goldberg, Ryan and their ilk seem to be missing a part of their humaness. Is there a pill for that yet?
---
Therapy is available at the health centers in Guantanamo and Bagram.

Posted by: Open for Business on July 13, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

@cr re If you're right, I wonder why the republicans have made such a big issue about Obama blaming Bush for everything bad that happens.

Because it is the standard GOP approach to engage in pre-emptive whining when they fear that they could be held to account. Google the words "blame game" and "Katrina," for example. They must convince their base that they are being unjustly maligned.

If a party does not defend itself, it will be deserted by its base. That is one of the lessons that the GOP learned from Watergate. The Dems have never learned it. They also never learned the value of repetition. Every week from now until the election (in 2012!) a prominent Democrat should illustrate an example of the failures of the Republican party between 2001 and 2009. There are more than enough examples to go around.

Posted by: rk on July 13, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Democratic ineptitude is infuriating and I've often thought of their acquiescence or willingness to concede unnecessarily to republican demands as some form of Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe it speaks to the core difference between left and right; rational thought vs. blind allegiance and aggressive impulse.

Posted by: citizen_pain on July 13, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

"So I dare them. I double dog dare them. Let's hear about how you're going to cut federal spending by a trillion dollars over the next five years and by a third over the next 50."

Well ending Obama's wars and closing overseas U.S. military bases would be good start.

Unfortunately thanks to neocons like Goldberg that won't happen. So they lose again.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on July 13, 2010 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

There's an old lawyer's maxim: 'If the law's on your side, pound the law. If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If neither one is on your side, pound the table.' I think this helps explain what we're seeing from the Republicans these days: they don't have sensible ideas, they don't have an enviable track record. All they can do is make a big noise and hope for the best.

Posted by: Robert Moskowitz on July 13, 2010 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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