Political Animal


July 02, 2011 9:25 AM We tried it their way

By Steve Benen

I love a good rant, and Kevin Drum’s piece yesterday was a beauty.

After noting Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) latest nonsense, which we talked about yesterday, Kevin reflected on the last decade.

Republicans got the tax cuts they wanted. They got the financial deregulation they wanted. They got the wars they wanted. They got the unfunded spending increases they wanted. And the results were completely, unrelentingly disastrous. A decade of sluggish growth and near-zero wage increases. A massive housing bubble. Trillions of dollars in war spending and thousands of American lives lost. A financial collapse. A soaring long-term deficit. Sky-high unemployment. All on their watch and all due to policies they eagerly supported. And even worse, ever since the predictable results of their recklessness came crashing down, they’ve rabidly and nearly unanimously opposed every single attempt to dig ourselves out of the hole they created for us.

But despite the fact that this is all recent history, it’s treated like some kind of dreamscape. No one talks about it. Republicans pretend it never happened. Fox News insists that what we need is an even bigger dose of the medicine we got in the aughts, and this is, inexplicably, treated seriously by the rest of the press corps instead of being laughed at.

I’ve long believed one of the great political tragedies of the post-Bush era is that practically every aspect of the Republican approach to governance was thoroughly discredited, but the vast majority of the public and the political mainstream simply didn’t notice.

By early 2009, those who were either directly responsible for a world-changing fiasco or who cheered the failure on as it happened, were still treated as if they had something worthwhile to contribute, not only to the discourse, but also to the policymaking process. Bush administration officials became pundits, whining about the speed with which Democrats were cleaning up their mess. Republicans who voted for the discredited conservative agenda pretended like they deserved to be taken seriously, and the establishment simply went along. Indeed, GOP lawmakers decided they wouldn’t work in good faith, wouldn’t cooperate with Democrats, and wouldn’t even allow votes on key measures in the midst of ongoing crises, and this was somehow seen as routine.

Now they’ve even prepared to crash the economy, on purpose, because they’re pretending to be concerned about a debt they created, and can’t bring themselves to address through one of their other policy failures.

Those whose policies had failed felt comfortable barking orders, and instead of pointing and laughing at their chutzpah, America gave them talk shows, Senate seats, newspaper columns, and governors’ offices.

Indeed, these same folks are beginning to tell the electorate, “Vote for us and we’ll roll back the clock, bring back the policies that failed so spectacularly, and be even more right-wing.”

And they stand a reasonably good chance of winning.

The mind reels.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Philip Turner on July 02, 2011 9:32 AM:

    Both Steve's commentary, and Drum's post that triggered it, are dead-on correct. Best thing I've read in days.

  • stevio on July 02, 2011 9:36 AM:

    The mind and every other organ...

    We are in contention for the dumbest electorate since the German's elected Hitler to run their Volkswagon headlong into a ditch.

    If the Democrats were smart, they'd pay to have some producer to create a TV program with episodes that tell the history of what the GOP has pulled over the past decade. Lace the shows with copius amounts of appropriate violence and sex and weave the story line around how frigigin' wrong they got it by getting everything they wanted. Make the "stars" people who got the shaft and the antagonists ALL GOP losers on yachts.

    It'll get 11 Emmys in the first season and the electorate, who are glued to TVs instead of intellectual curiosity, will "learn" the lesson.

    $5 says it would work...

  • walt on July 02, 2011 9:42 AM:

    Sometimes it helps to accent these things so people notice. Democrats were complicit in much of the deregulation and Wall Street-friendly policy. Our megaphones were muted as a result. Obama kept the plutocrats on board and neglected the middle class. Instead of tackling the housing crisis, Obama's administration agreed to a largely Republican prescription for a limited stimulus coupled with tax cuts. And having bought the Republican framing on the deficit, further muddied the waters in terms of the current crisis.

    Politics is war and the plutocrats are winning. Obama's conciliatory and post-partisan persona put us in the crosshairs of a right-wing counterrevolution that threatens our already-weakened social democracy. It's too late for rants. We didn't fight when it could have done some good and now there's one more surrender looming on the horizon.

  • Rob on July 02, 2011 9:43 AM:

    When are the Democrats going to wake up to the fact that being right about facts doesn't matter a whole hell of a lot to most Americans? Americans like certainty, whether its earned or not. Republicans are CERTAIN they are right; the fact that they are not is irrelevant.

    I think most Democrats (except, sadly, for ones like Anthony Weiner and Alan Grayson, both now gone) don't want to fight, they think its so obvious they're right that voters will reward them simply for being right. They won't. There's just enough stupid voters to keep putting the GOP back into power.

  • wordtypist on July 02, 2011 9:45 AM:

    What bugs me about this conversation is that there is never a mention of the fact that in April the House passes a budget that would require continued borrowing for at least the next ten years, assuming Ryan's magical revenue fairy shows up. How can you vote for that and then refuse to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling? Yet nobody in the Democratic Party or the media, even the liberal blogs, ever mentions this.

  • c u n d gulag on July 02, 2011 9:45 AM:

    Paul Krugman had this to say about our "Serious" MSM:

    "This is actually a fairly familiar thing from my years as a pundit: the surest way to get branded as not Serious is to figure things out too soon. To be considered credible on politics you have to have considered Bush a great leader, and not realized until Katrina that he was a disaster; to be considered credible on national security you have to have supported the Iraq War, and not realized until 2005 that it was a terrible mistake; to be credible on economics you have to have regarded Greenspan as a great mind, and not become disillusioned until 2007 or maybe 2008."

    You're not serious if you figure things out too early.

    At this point, never mind serious, MSM - you're really 'STUCKING FUPID' if you haven't figured this out YET!!!

  • Davis X. Machina on July 02, 2011 9:52 AM:

    You can't refute a theology.

  • Davis X. Machina on July 02, 2011 9:54 AM:

    Indeed, these same folks are beginning to tell the electorate, “Vote for us and we’ll roll back the clock, bring back the policies that failed so spectacularly, and be even more right-wing.”
    David Cameron and the Tories rode this exact platform into a Nick-Clegg's-ego-length of the finish line in the last UK election. I see no reason why it wouldn't work here.
  • Goldilocks on July 02, 2011 10:00 AM:

    Emigrate, Steve. Check your passport's in order. Transfer your savings to a foreign account. Have your emergency bag packed and ready - for, who knows, you may stand a reasonably good chance of needing it.

  • Daniel Kim on July 02, 2011 10:09 AM:

    It's not so much the mind reeling, but a feeling of nausea. It's like watching a train wreck in progress. Every general election since 2000, I think about how Halloween was supposed to be scary, but November is now the most frightening month. When Obama was elected, I had such hope that the widespread insanity that brought us two terms (!) of Bush were over. Perhaps the country had finally clued in. Then the Tea Party thing really took off, and everything stayed the same.

    I remember when Al Gore opened for SNL with a fantasy SOTU about how the national debt had been erased, employment was high, and the world was at peace. On election night, when McCain gave his concession speech, I was ready to see those things become closer to reality.

    I even posted a comment here warning that the upcoming prosperity could lead people to forget the disaster that we had faced. Quoting the Bible, where God warns Israel not to forget that they owe their new lands and prosperity to Him, I cautioned that the nation should not forget that it was the unfettered policies of Republicans that brought us to our crisis.

    And then: Death Panels! Birth Certificates! Austerity! Tax cuts for the rich! Job Killers!

    I thought to myself: 'Who is stupid enough to fall for that again?'

    Imagine my horror to find the answer was: 'We are'.

    I am no longer optimistic. I wonder if this won't end until the country is a smoking ruin.

  • berttheclock on July 02, 2011 10:12 AM:

    From 1949 until 1987, the FCC required a Fairness Doctrine for the broadcasters pertaining to contraverisal issues. However, there appears to be more self imposed "Fairness" by most of the media, today, than ever during that 38 year run. "On, we must allow the other point of view to be heard", seems the mantra. Of course, on FAUX, they continue with their one sided Unfair and Highly Unbalanced programs. But, the so-called "Liberal Media" bends over backwards providing the Right to whine about the evil Libs. There are very few (RM, Lawrence O'Donnell, Turk, KO) where only the Left is allowed to pound the points given above by Kevin and Steve without that unwritten rule of "Oh, we must provide a counter view".

    To Hell with Fairness - When, has the Right ever been Fair with any of us?

  • bleh on July 02, 2011 10:16 AM:

    Rob is right. Facts don't matter.

    Food fights are great entertainment. The media are not going to let a few silly facts get in the way of a great show.

    Also, do let's remember that there's a black man in the White House, and for an awful lot of Americans that matters a lot (for some it trumps everything). The Republicans could nominate a child molester, and as long as he's a white man, a third of the country would vote for him without question, and another third would seriously consider it.

  • pluege on July 02, 2011 10:28 AM:

    but the vast majority of the public and the political mainstream simply didn�t notice.

    mmmmmmm, now why might that be? Couldn't be that US corporate media buries the truth and distorts the facts continually and incessantly in favor of republicans? Corporate media that controls almost all of the information Americans receive; corporate media that is run by a handle full of plutocrats in corporate boardrooms. Nnnnaaaahhhhhhhh.

    There is nothing more important to reviving pre-reagan middle class America than to breakup Big Media. Nothing.

  • JS on July 02, 2011 10:32 AM:

    Everyone from Krugman to the PUMA contingent at FireBagLake to the commenters at DailyKos to people you read on message boards continue to perpetuate a myth that President Obama could have waved his hand at Congress, and got every progressive his or her own magic pony.

    The reality is that after Al Franken was seated to when Scott Brown won the special election in Massachusetts was 6 months and 12 days. That was the total time the Democrats had 60 actual votes in the Senate. And as we saw with the ACA, the country was going to get a health care bill that was as liberal as Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu would allow. And if Joe Lieberman didn't like a Medicare buy-in provision because liberals really liked the idea? Tough s---.

    Sure, you could argue things could have been done differently around the margins, but for the big picture I find it hard to see a legitimate gripe. If there was a mistake by Obama, it was emphasizing his goal to work in a bi-partisan manner. Since the Republicans didn't have the votes, they (McConnell in particular) used procedural delay, relentless messaging and near-absolute caucus discipline to deny the President any appearance of bi-partisan victories.

    No matter how many conservative ideas were adapted to meet the administration's legislative goals.

  • Susan DeMark on July 02, 2011 10:32 AM:

    Yes, a country that forgets so soon and so much makes a Michele Bachmann a very real and threatening phenomenon. What Kevin Drum wrote is so true: "But despite the fact that this is all recent history, it's treated like some kind of dreamscape." We are living, to a large extent, in the United States of Amnesia, as I call it.

    Thanks, Steve! We must all combat this willful forgetfulness.

  • Mimikatz on July 02, 2011 10:56 AM:

    Totally agree, but it us the Naughts not the aughts. We all got naught out of it, it was all for naught, and there isn't even really a word "aughts".

    But Drum and Steve and most commentors are dead on.

  • emjayay on July 02, 2011 10:58 AM:

    And here I go again....while I don't think Obama is the antichrist or anything, right sometime at the beginning he said he wanted to look to the future, not the past, etc. Until a couple of days ago he wanted to portray himself as the never blame anyone for anything, consensus guy.

    He could have spent two years calling it the Bush recession. He could have spent two years saying it was caused by financiers run amok with your money. He could have blamed the deficit on two Bush Wars and the Republican tax cut on the most wealthy. He never did. Not his style. Fox news got to set the parameters of the discussion. Besides the MSM (like Krugman was talking about) to inform people and paint the picture, there's just one person there at the old Bully Pulpit.

  • Jim H on July 02, 2011 11:13 AM:

    @stevio: I would put up a couple of digits worth of cash to make your TV show... Anybody else?

    Captcha: plishing Naverf. Is that trying to catch a soft foam ball, or a promise not to try to get people to reveal their passwords?

  • divF on July 02, 2011 11:21 AM:

    I think that everyone who complains about Obama not using the "bully pulpit" enough forgets the one thing that constrains him on this. He is the first president who is not a white male, and the prospect of the majority (but not for long) white population viewing him as an "angry black man" would be even more devastating to a country that was already deeply divided and in fragile shape. He can use his position only when there is a consensus backing against Republican destruction of programs (as there is now on Social Security / Medicare), or when there is no other choice (unilateral raising of the debt ceiling based on 14th amendment arguments).

  • karen marie on July 02, 2011 12:13 PM:

    This morning I had to shut off the radio because my head was going to explode listening to stories on NPR about "the debt crisis" and that slashing government budgets is the only thing that's going to save us.

    At this point I'm starting to think that cutting off their taxpayer funding might not be such a bad idea. They certainly aren't providing information that's any different than the conventional wisdom vomited up on any cable or network news program.

  • ohhenery on July 02, 2011 12:15 PM:

    Well, take that Bork and Beck. Take that Anita Bryant and Michelle Bachmann. Take that Physllis Schlafly and Sarah Palin. Take that George Wallace and Lou Dobbs. Take that you mofos. Splash some water on my face.

  • sceptic on July 02, 2011 12:26 PM:

    And even worse, ever since the predictable results of their recklessness came crashing down, they�ve rabidly and nearly unanimously opposed every single attempt to dig ourselves out of the hole they created for us.

    No offense, Kevin, and you are not the only one, but, really, how exactly does one dig oneself out of a hole? Wouldn't it make more sense to climb out of a hole?

  • Schtick on July 02, 2011 1:49 PM:

    Not only the Fairness Doctrine disappeared, but remember when a monopoly of any given business enterprise fired people up? That disappeared, too. All bets are off. They can play any tune, dance any way they want to and the repub scotus will back them up.
    Someone said to me, you will never ever see a black man in the white house again. I said "I know. White folks hate a black person that is smarter than they are." I thought the dude was gonna cry.

    crapcha....for aturstu....almost maybe

  • ameshall on July 02, 2011 4:43 PM:

    Every word is true. Yet, you left out a key component of the GOP's success: the Democrats. The Democrats think it is beneath them to message. They assume that if they make cogent arguments about "the facts," aided by bar graphs and pie charts, lightbulbs will go off across the country and people will reject GOP talking points. That strategy has been a disaster (health care), and yet the Democrats have made no attempt to change. Just look at the debt ceiling debate. It's been going on for weeks and yet the Democrats have made no party-wide effort to make sure the public understands that the debt ceiling must be raised to pay debts that have already been incurred. The GOP is perfectly happy to let the public continue to believe that raising the debt ceiling gives Congress the green light to incur additional debts. If the roles were reversed, you could be sure the public would be outraged that one party would be willing to walk away from the country's existing obligations just because they don't want to pay them.

  • Anonymous on July 03, 2011 6:04 AM:

    I am sorry to disagree Ameshall, but the reality is that the problem with Democrats is their leftist faction who lack of pragmatism. Look had Ross Perot not handed Bill Clinton two terms the country would never have known how a democrat could both reduce deficit and at the same time grow the economy. Had the "holier than thou Democrats" not abandoned VP Al Gore. I seriously doubt that the country would be in such a mess we are in. But Oh no! The "holier than thou progressives" proclaimed: vote for Nader! There is no difference between corporatist Al Gore and corporatist George W. Bush! The same "holier than thou Democrats" decided to sit out the Congressional elections of 2010 because they were angry with corporatist Obama. The false notion that electing right wing Republicans will, some how, eventually push the majority of Americans to embrace pure progressivism, and thus usher in the triumph of a progressive utopia is so idiotic. It will only guarantee right wing control, and the destruction of liberal democracy, in this country.