is older than it's ever been and now it's even older


Liberal Ravings, concluded.

In further thinking about the reasons for why I have such intense distaste for the GOP and my own sad devotion to a currently losing cause (that of liberalism) I have attempted to articulate for myself the over-arching factors of what it is the Republicans stand for. I have chosen, of course, to do this from my own biased perspective. That’s the only fair way to do it, the way I see it, because this is my weblog and because as noted with the Reagan speech in part I the conservatives tend to move the target when it comes to what they’re in favor of.

I have determined three major elements of conservativism, and am confident that most, if not all, of the policy and rhetorical positions taken by the Republican party can be effectively filtered through one or more of these principles.

(1) Republicans are mean.

(2) Republicans want to benefit rich people with their policies.

(3) Republicans are more likely to grandstand about irrelevant but hot-button issues than they are to pursue good policy.

1. Meanness. Of course, this is an inflammatory way to level this charge. Republicans could be said to be less… touchy-feely. Hell, it’s not like this is such a big surprise for them. George W. Bush’s first election campaign was one that heralded his “compassionate conservativism,” a campaign slogan that aimed at calming doubts among the electorate that the GOP was just a bunch of assholes. He wasn’t even the first Bush to go for that effect. The first President Bush memorably called for a “kinder, gentler nation” in his 1988 nomination acceptance. (Interestingly enough, the author of those words, Peggy “Points of Light” Noonan herself, recently turned this charge around, charging that Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton are being mean to Bush now. The mind boggles…)

So, how does the amorphous charge of ‘meanness’ play out in the political process? Well, in the state of Minnesota, it means that when faced with a budget shortfall, the GOP sought to kick poor people out of the state health care pool. In Washington, it means that the federal government can find hundreds of billions of dollars to fund the military (which also hits on principle 2, as the military contracts are not exactly disappearing into a hole in the earth) yet has never in 29 years ever funded the special education requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which as of 2002 has cost the states billions of dollars since the act was passed (for perspective, the CSM reports that the US has spent about $270 billion on our wars since 2001). That is, of course, what Republicans call an unfunded mandate; ironically, up until 2004 the Republican party platform called for both the abolition of the Department of Education and the elimination of unfunded mandates on the states.

Of course, the mean aspect became an absolute positive after 9/11. Voters didn’t want nice politicians, they wanted politicians that were willing to kick some ass. Not that I blame them, frankly. But I just wish the ass-kicking could have been a bit more discriminating. Is it so hard to ask that we go after the terrorists and securing the homeland, as opposed to going after a country that had nothing to do with the attacks? But such charges have been well leveled elsewhere.

2. Cui Bono? I have long noted that a key test of any political issue is to ask “who benefits?” (In my archived post I just linked to I was decrying the Bush administration’s energy plan, which I noted tended to benefit companies like Enron and people like Ken Lay. Remember them? ) The answer to that question for Republican policies is usually “the rich” or “campaign contributors” or “large corporations.” A Republican would characterize this tendency as instead being in favor of the American economy (or “the business of America is business,” as Calvin Coolidge and his disciple, Reagan, liked to term it), yet when Americans are most concerned about the economy as opposed to other things, they tend to vote Democrat. So how does this tendency play out?

The estate tax was essentially repealed (I ought to write about this in depth soon) two years ago with the claim that family farms were being broken up upon the death of the owner and that this was terrible. The death tax, they called it. So what’s the truth? Well, in a recent survey by the Congressional Budget Office the total farms subject to the tax last year was about 300, and of those, somewhere between 0 and 29 farms did not have cash on hand to pay the tax. But don’t let the facts get in the way of the political campaign. So who benefits? The extremely, very, mega, massively, never worked a day in their lives rich. And whose detriment? Yours, mine, and the even bigger hole in the budget by lost revenue.

This also plays out in the military-industrial complex, which is now itself one of the largest forces in policy making. We have seen the fulfillment of the prophecy of that America-hating liberal, Dwight Eisenhower, who warned that:
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

And the spoils of war go disproportionately to Republican contributors, and the military contracts are given to large corporations. Follow the money. Ask who benefits.

3. Republican grandstanding.

Rather than sticking to a principled view of limited government, as claimed in their platform, the Republicans would love to use the government to intrude on people’s lives. Especially if it bones up their credentials among religious conservatives. Consider:

  • They are the ones that argue that there is no “right to privacy” and that the government can and should intrude into people’s bedrooms to stop gay sex, contraception, and other acts they are offended by.

  • They are the ones that call on their fellow politicians to use wedge issues like gay marriage to get votes.

  • They are the ones that would rather pass a flag burning amendment than investigate a disgraceful torture scandal or a lying, traitorous, unelected party hack that works in the White House.

And these are just the wedge issues; other stated political concerns that seem completely non-partisan fit into the grandstanding, such as the ubiquitous combination of “I support my troops” and “Bush/Cheney” bumper stickers on people’s cars.

Okay! So now that my cards are on the table, a brief analysis of recent Republican issues through the three factor system.

  • Iraq war: All factors. The Republicans wanted to show they’re badasses (meanness), they wanted to benefit corporations and their rich base (rebuilding contracts and oil contracts), and they wanted to grandstand about their patriotism.

  • The PATRIOT act: mostly 1 and 3. Again, this is a way to show toughness in a visible way. Also, major intrusions into people’s liberty and legalized discrimination.

  • Terri Schiavo: 3. Injecting the government into someone’s private life as a way to create a wedge issue and show they’re in favor of Jesus and life. No relation to good policy.

  • Social Security reform: 1 and 2, mostly. It’s mean because it will hurt the poorest, who need the SS money the most. It’s pandering to the rich, because privatization will benefit very large companies that will be needed to manage “private accounts”. Also, it pays back Bush’s base who never got over that “New Deal” thing.


  • At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Isn't it "cui bono"? "Que Bono?" sounds like something you might say to that grandstanding git with the fly glasses.


    P.S. you are, of course, right on all three counts. Especially the fucking mean. --s.

  • At 7:33 AM, Blogger Nathan said…

    ...or when ordering something at Taco Bell. Very true, and that is why I edited it.

  • At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Chris Hangsleben said…

    At the risk of sounding like I'm way to tattooed to know what I'm talking about --

    Uh, you say cui, He says que... Lets call the whole thing off.

  • At 12:53 PM, Blogger Nathan said…

    Angriest liberal since Howard Dean. What're you going to do next, vote for Amy Klobuchar and Mike Hatch?


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