Political Animal


August 24, 2012 12:15 PM Fantasies and Realities

By Ed Kilgore

It’s interesting that in the course of a column criticizing Paul Ryan (with whom he is angry for voting against the Bowles-Simpson commission report) for pursuing the “political fantasy” of his revolutionary budget, David Brooks projects his own fantasy that Republicans would not be able to enact Ryan’s budget “without such overwhelming Congressional majorities that they would be able to push through measures Democrats hate.”

Why is that, David? Have you heard of “reconciliation,” which makes budget-related legislation enactable by a simple majority in both Houses with no opportunity for a filibuster? Yes, there are some issues with using reconciliation to enact a package of measures that would actually increase rather than reduce budget deficits, but that certainly did not stop Republicans with a wisp of a majority from using reconciliation to enact the Bush tax cuts a decade ago. And yes, it’s possible someone like Scott Brown, who has disclaimed support for the Medicare provisions of the Ryan Budget, could gum up the works. But it’s equally possible the GOP will get to 50 Senate seats without Brown or anyone else who is willing to defy “the base,” every conservative commentator in the wide world of sports, and what will be described, if Republicans win this election, as a “popular mandate.”

Now Brooks may be right that in the long run such an audacious series of steps by Republicans in 2013 would produce a popular backlash that could eventually threaten to undo the Ryan “reforms” of domestic governance and the tax code. But I don’t think Ryan and most of his GOP colleagues are terribly interested in playing a “long game” at this point. They are already in long-term trouble thanks to deeply unfavorable demographic trends. Wrecking the New Deal and Great Society legacy (and perhaps consummating a constitutional counter-revolution via court appointments) would redeem the conservative movement’s fondest hopes and dreams dating all the way back to the “premature” Goldwater candidacy of 1964. So what if it’s risky? So what if progressives can eventually climb out of the rubble and try to rebuild a social safety net and a progressive tax code? Such concerns are not about to turn a single Republican vote in Congress against a headlong plunge into Happyland.

That’s the cold hard reality, best I can tell. Paul Ryan may not be “serious” about reducing long-range budget deficits or any of the other big visionary goals his fans right and center ascribe to him. But he’s deadly serious about unraveling what he considers to be the “liberal welfare state” and freeing Galtian “job creators” from taxes, and his plan for doing so is entirely realistic if Republicans gain united control of the federal government in November.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Josef K on August 24, 2012 12:25 PM:

    Thatís the cold hard reality, best I can tell.

    A reality that Brooks and the rest of our modern Versailles aren't going to experience until its too late.

    As I've often said, I only now understand why "May you live in interesting times" is a curse.

  • dalloway on August 24, 2012 12:33 PM:

    It's evidently difficult for voters to imagine the consequences of a Republican victory this year: massive budget deficits, no Medicare, no Social Security, war with Iran, an ultra-conservative Supreme Court, no access to health care for millions, no minimum wage, no unions, no family planning or abortion, even for rape and incest victims, mass deportation of the undocumented and gays and lesbians officially declared second-class citizens. This isn't my imagination -- it's what they've promised to do.

  • SecularAnimist on August 24, 2012 12:57 PM:

    Ed Kilgore wrote: "But I donít think Ryan and most of his GOP colleagues are terribly interested in playing a 'long game' at this point."

    The GOP's corporate owners are interested in playing a "long game", and the name of that game is "disaster capitalism".

    From their point of view, wrecking the country isn't a bug -- it's a feature.

  • JM917 on August 24, 2012 1:03 PM:

    Ryan and his Republicans ARE playing the long game. The immediate aim is to elect a compliant and beholden stooge as president who has the digits to sign anything a GOP-controlled Congress enacts--parts of
    which Dalloway spells out above--plus gaining/cementing control of as many state governments as possible.

    In the slightly longer run, the game is to gain a solid right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, which will fall into their hands as soon as the elderly and infirm Justice Ginzberg leaves the court.

    They should be able to get these things in the (first) four years of a Romney presidency.

    The final step will be to use control of enough state governments to carry out constitutional changes (both at the federal and the state level) that will effectively disfranchise enough poor, minority, and young (e.g., student) voters to ensure Republican victories in the 2014 and 2016 elections. That in turn will give the Riight time to complete the destruction of the Great Soceity, the New Deal, and much of the Progressive-Era legacies, returning the United States to the political, social, and economic order of ca. 1890 (with more than a few whiffs of the pre-Civil War and even the Articles-of-Confederation times).

    That done, the Right feels that it can safely ignore whatever demogtraphic changes continue to occur. The United States will be the Patriarchal White Christian Republic ("a republic, not a democracy") of which the Right has been dreaming ever since the days of Herbert Hoover and the Liberty League.

    And David Brooks will be in Seventh Heaven.

  • c u n d gulag on August 24, 2012 1:13 PM:

    The problem with playing "chicken" with this brand of Republicans about the Republic's future, is that, unlike past Republicans, who were smart and caring about their own, and the nation's future, these Manichean morons will gladely take the chance of a head-on collision.

    And this new inbred breed of Conservative Republicans doesn't give a sh*t if the country dies, or if they die, as long as the Liberals DIE!!!

    The new Conservatives and Republicans are no longer a political entity - but a FAITH entity.
    And, like the Taliban suicides, there can be no higher calling than to be a martyr to your Lord and the cause.

    This is, I think, a more dangerous threat to this nation than Communism.
    Religion is a faith.
    Communism is an economic/sociocological/political philosophy that promises no virgins and no Heaven if victorious, and no Hell if defeated.

    The success or punishment is here on Earth.

  • danimal on August 24, 2012 1:17 PM:

    It's a little curious and ironic that Brooks plays the "both sides do it" game again. The Dems have been so bloody pragmatic that NO ONE knows their maximum position on budgets and entitlements. Their arms are quivering from reaching across the aisle for so long. Brooks shows that he is unable to view budget reforms with a pragmatic eye, even though he claims to know the 'real world'.

    I hope for a Dem rout this fall, not because they can then dominate the policy debate, but because this iteration of the GOP must be destroyed. Today's GOP must go the way of the Whigs. We need an honest conservative party, willing to represent their constituents and come together with civic-minded liberals for the good of the nation. We don't have that now. Don't try to shoehorn the Dems into the same nihilistic politics that the GOP has conducted for the past several years, it's not what's happening in the Real World. Brooks is such a condescending, arrogant, dishonest hack.

  • Roddy McCorley on August 24, 2012 1:22 PM:

    But I donít think Ryan and most of his GOP colleagues are terribly interested in playing a ďlong gameĒ at this point.

    Especially when you factor in that our GOP friends have been playing a long game since 1981. You can actually take it back to the mid-1950s, if you're so inclined.

  • Anonymous on August 24, 2012 1:50 PM:

    Brooks is simply awful. At least Krauthammer is an effective polemicist, in an evil sort of way. Brooks is neither creative nor original nor accurate in his thinking. He's also confused, unclear, muddled and cliche-ridden.

  • Rick B on August 24, 2012 5:16 PM:

    Ed, you and the commenters here get most of the idea, but the conservatives ARE playing the long game.

    Once they get into control they will pull out all the stops on voter suppression (they've only been playing baby-steps so far) and totally lock the government away from any opposition party. All they have to do is go full out Southern voter suppression while their Federalist Society stooges rule every thing they do as legal. Any judge who does not go along with them will simply find his job eliminated. Not the paycheck, but the right to hear cases.

    A few cases brought to the courts like the recent one by some ICE officers who claim the Obama order that permits children brought to the county illegally to stay for two years will be decided for the conservatives no matter what the law says. The government will be unleashed to act on the voter suppression actions and voila! No one can vote except certified and trusted conservatives.

    If Romney/Ryan are elected this will be placed under way. That's the long game and mere demographics will be no more effective changing that than were the majority Black Southern Counties after the Reconstruction ended.

  • Doug on August 24, 2012 8:30 PM:

    Awful lot of feverished imaginings here. And damn little knowledge of history or human nature, apparently.
    For those wondering about my, let's call it complacency, I'd suggest you read Jack London's "The Iron Heel" which foretold EXACTLY what was going to happen based on what was going on when he wrote it. Which, by the way, was 1907.
    So, what did YOUR great-grandfather do during the Great Socialist Revolution?

  • Anonymous on August 25, 2012 12:36 AM:

    a lot of conservatives seem to believe that liberal policies are excessive today now that we are more equal that the system sometimes actually discriminates white men while acknowledging that civil right movements did work to integrate different races and genders in the past.

    I wonder if these "discriminated" white guys might be unattractive. i know it's rude but i wonder if that's really reserve racism as they believe or simply that humans discriminate against "ugly" people.
    I believe that a lot of job discrimination against unhealthy or "boring" looking people like obese people or generic looking people... "fat old white guys" basically that we think of when people think of republicans. plus that set of mind might make them behave unpleasantly in a diverse work place.

    Now a lot of people think dark guys/women are handsome/beautiful. in the past that would have been very rare. Most people think women are more attractive than men.
    We also tend to be biased toward fat people being less sharp or fast.
    Meanwhile, we no longer think that pretty women are dumb as much, i think.

    it is all biased, but i wonder how much of this is the actual cause for some of those white guys' claimed "struggles" today instead of racism or sexism.

    Academic studies show time and time again that minority and women are still underrepresented and underpaid compare to white male counterparts, though.

  • Anonymous on August 25, 2012 12:44 AM:

    i was referring to Republicans' serious dreams about repealing 1960s civil right movements laws. but i think it also applies to mentality of victimhood by some conservative people when they think "other people" are taking "their" money though taxes and medicaid and food stamps.

    I think it's thinly veiled modern racism that is not as apparent as the past straight forward racism. (in fact, racists today might not be self aware of their bias)