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2012 Election, Democracy

That $#!+ Cray

Hard to believe that Kanye West has summed up a political issue that I’ve been mulling over with just three words.

To see how that is, let’s start with a hypothetical situation where your partner is preventing you from achieving solutions to your household problems in an effective manner.  In fact, they are manipulating you into doing things that you don’t want to do.  And you know, without a doubt, that this happens repeatedly.  In fact it’s happened for thirty-plus years.  And shows no signs of stopping in the future.  That $#!+ Cray!

And not only that, but when you try to meet them halfway in order to make decisions together, they pull farther away, acting “irrationally” and blaming you in the process.  So, instead of giving your partner everything they demand now (you know, the solution they claim they want today), you offer a peace offering of sorts and acquiesce to the solution they demanded before (you know, the solution you claimed you hated yesterday)…if they’ll agree to it.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.  But what is not in question is that this game gets played over and over again with the same results.   That $#!+ Cray!!

If that were you, as your friend, I’d call you an enabler.

And as a friend, that’s what I’m calling Democrats.  It is time to stop this manipulative relationship and stop complaining that it’s unfair, and actually…”change” it.

This is not to say that I think that both sides, Democrats and Republicans, deserve equal blame for how this country is stagnating.  I don’t take issue with the recent Op Ed that was published in the Washington Post by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein because they claim that:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges

In fact, I agree wholeheartedly.

But…and there’s always a but…the fact is that this behavior has worked for Republicans.  Repeatedly.  Without fail.  As a result, why would they change their tactics?  Or to go to clicheland…”if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.”

And as much as Democrats and liberals complain about things being broken, and therefore wanting to fix it, do Republicans feel similarly?  If the goal is to move the country in a more conservative direction, lower taxes, make government smaller, and entrench more power in a small group of individuals and businesses, they are succeeding in every way possible.  And that’s regardless of whether they win an election or not.  So to call them “crazy” and “irrational” is  missing the point entirely as far as I’m concerned.

Crazy and irrational is Democrats continuing the same losing strategy for decades.  Even more crazy and irrational is not realizing that in “winning” you are actually “losing.”

And that’s the other thing which is so frustrating with the “compromise” argument…the compromises and centrist policy aren’t even good.  They are bad and, in many instances, worse than nothing.  And that’s just based on pure policy…it’s not even accounting for the effects on future policy game theory (think “negotiating with terrorists”).

For a list of major “accomplishments” which have been bipartisan in nature, I point to the following:

Welfare reform
Free Trade (i.e., NAFTA)
Deregulation (i.e., Gramm-Bleach)
Extension of Bush tax cuts
Civil liberties (i.e., Patriot Act)
Education (i.e., NCLB)
Foreign policy (i.e., Iraq, Afghanistan)
Environment (i.e., Offshore drilling, Keystone XL)
Criminal Justice (i.e., Prison privatization, strip searches, mandatory sentencing)
Gun Control (i.e. SYG)
War on Drugs

The stimulus, healthcare reform, and if you twist my arm, financial reform, can be excluded since, as flawed and conservative as I believed them each to be, they are better than nothing.  At the same time, of course, they weren’t even bipartisan agreements in the end.  Nevertheless, I find it extremely difficult to see how any entry listed above is better than if the legislation weren’t implemented at all.

I would advocate that Democrats be more like Republicans, but not in continuing to march rightward.  Instead, I mean by being truer to the ideals that Democrats supposedly embody.  Ceasing to enable Republicans would potentially end / slow the Republicans rightward march as well. Further, while “the alternative is worse” and “perfect is enemy of the good” arguments are trotted out quite successfully, in fact, if the alternative were status quo it quite possibly would be better than the “good” that results from centrist policy. And status quo is easily achievable…all it takes is following the same obstructionist script that Republicans have perfected.  I’m not necessarily a supporter of increasing polarization, which seems counterintuitive to solving problems, but, given the circumstances in our current political system, I tend to see no other choice.  For as is becoming increasingly evident, as a friend said to me: “Even if Democrats win, what do they get?”

The answer?  None other than the eagerly anticipated, worse-than-nothing grand bargain of a compromise of tax “reform” and entitlement cuts.

…That $#!+ Cray…



2 thoughts on “That $#!+ Cray

  1. While you make a good argument as far as you go, you don’t address what was gained (or rather, the pain avoided) in making those “compromises.” The alternative for Democrats was to get nothing, no extension of unemployment benefits, etc. So you have establish that accepting short term pain, which was mitigated through what you would call capitulation, is worth it in order to see long-term progress. The problem you then face is establishing how this long term progress occurs, i.e., why Republicans, given their goals, would have any motivation to change their behavior in the face of Democrats’ refusal to compromise. If Dems don’t compromise, then (perhaps) nothing happens, things crumble and the Republicans get even more of what they want. You are expressing what many on the “left” (whatever that means) have felt for a long time – stop compromising! – but to be convincing, you need to game it out a little further to see how refusal to compromise might result in progress on the specific goals that Dems (should) have.

    Posted by Jake | May 3, 2012, 3:55 pm
  2. My point is that “nothing” is better than the compromised deal that has been struck. Let’s table the extension of the Bush tax cuts for a moment, though that’s the one you seemingly have referenced. What other item on the list of major legislative accomplishments that I provided could you make the case resulted in any goodies from compromise like unemployment benefits? I don’t see one.

    Re: gaming it out. I agree with you. I just think it strengthens the argument that compromising as Democrats have done is bad strategy which is why I referenced it in passing re: “policy making game theory.” I view the game theory the opposite as what you have framed it where the compromise is short term gain (i.e., annual extension of unemployment benefits) resulting in long term loss (i.e., moving goalposts, deficit busting tax cuts leading to entitlement cuts and rolling back of New Deal).

    I think where I have departed from many of the lefties saying “stop compromising” is that I am not saying that will magically make everything better, just that it will stop things from getting worse. I’m not even saying that compromising is a bad thing generally. I’m saying that the way the Democrats are currently doing so is not working. Compromise typically requires roughly equal sacrifices and roughly equal gains. It is not supposed to result in centrist policy, or in reality what is center/right policy at best, which is actually worse than status quo…and lefties could easily maintain status quo. First, do no harm.

    Does that mean that all other problems could be addressed and a liberal agenda could flourish as a result of digging in and potentially being obstructionist? Not sure. Unfortunately, the no-compromise strategy may be too late because a lot of people are suffering because the New Deal has been rolled back already, so even status quo sucks. But I look out into the future and I am hard pressed to see how, by Dems continuing the rightward march, the New Deal ceases being rolled back further and, as you put it, crumbling. I may be cynical, but on the current trajectory, It almost feels like a matter of how fast we get to that point, not whether we do. So why give an assist in doing so instead of either a) trying to slow it down as much as possible or b) trying something (anything) that could potentially reverse the current trend. I see both as a possibility if Democrats followed the no compromise strategy. I dont see anyone gaming out how the current compromise, out-Republican-the-Republicans strategy will accomplish either a) or b)

    Posted by chico | May 3, 2012, 5:34 pm

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