.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Critique of pure Reasoner

Essays and commentary related to topics in Tom Reasoner's "Truth and Beauty" blog

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A very short explanation

Lancelot asked me to elaborate, so I will do so briefly and without much copy-checking.

All attempts to render my current perception of the divide between the modern GOP as led by Bush* and the modern Democrats as exemplified by Dean will, of course, grossly simplify. Those politicians with whom I've agreed most strongly have always been socially liberal Republicans, but they seem badly marginalized. Meanwhile, Clinton-era Democratic pragmatism meant that I felt some genuine enthusiasm about the direction of government. For a while, the Democrats moved away somewhat from statism in economics while largely maintaining their socially liberal roots. Generally speaking I rank social freedoms well above economic ones, so if the economic freedoms are at all comparable, I almost don't care at all for comparison's sake.

Then came Bush, who seemed at least as determined to spend as his Clintonesque opposition, but was socially very conservative - more so than Dole had been. It seemed a step back in every direction. I have complained about him in length before, so details are pointless, but I became so alienated from the Republican party that I would have felt safe voting a straight Democratic ticket anywhere outside New England.

Kerry was, of course, a disappointment, largely for the same reason Dole was in '96: he seemed to abandon his best parts in order to grab his running-mate's consituency. Dole took on Kemp's stupid tax-cut plan** while Kerry took an appalling position regarding outsourcing similar to Edwards' -- where it wasn't incoherent.

If Kerry sacrificed his best economic policies, Dean never had any. Worse, his form of social liberalism is combative, anti-intellectual and insulting in all the same ways I find the far right. I might agree with his positions, but he puts such an ugly face on them that I'd rather they not be advocated at all than be stigmatized with such unsympathetic and fascist rhetorical style. Hillary Clinton, his only current rival for influence, is... ick.

For Derek Obama I hold some hope, but he's so inexperienced, his promise for national politics is still well in the future.

I'll still vote Democratic against current GOP leadership because I think they are terrifying and I'll do just about anything to maintain reproductive freedom and/or advance gay rights, but if a moderate Republican could make it past the primaries to face a Dem like Dean or post-Edwards Kerry, I'd vote for him in an instant. That I'm even dreaming of that possibility, however, is largely a sign of my increasing horror at what's become of the Dems rather than any real belief in the possibility.

* My saying this will sound odd, but compared to House Republicans and the likes of Santorum, I feel almost warm toward Bush and his administration.

** Cutting taxes qua lowering the overall tax rate does nothing to shift capital to the private sector -- only reducing government expenditures does that. Otherwise the government must borrow the exact value of the tax cut back from the economy. Real interest rates in '96 were decidedly positive, so incurring debt was definitely *not* lucrative. Since it's been negative through much of Bush's administration, it's been largely a wash, so my complaints center more on the how of the tax cut than the existence at all. I still expect real interest rates to return to large positive values, of course, and *then* I'll be more upset about the grown debt, but that's the future.


Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

I agree that Obama does have promise, but of course the best way to kill that promise is to burden him with premature expectations. At least it's a bright spot.

Kerry's increasing focus on protectionism during the campaign was disturbing, especially since I think it worked for him well in quite a few states. This is not a promising sign for the future.

I have never been able to make sense out of Dean's economic positions, but I've been puzzled by the discrepancy between his record in Vermont (as I understand it, I may not understand it well) and what I think he's advocating on the national level. He tends to be mysterious, though.

I'm not sure if the Democrats moved away from economic statism or not. They seemed to me to be adopting a pro big business agenda that focused more on short term results than maintaining healthy economic conditions. I'm thinking particularly of the regulatory abdication that occurred under Clinton, and its dire outcomes. It seemed to me as if the SEC was toothless during his tenure.

Bush I think is personally a social moderate. That doesn't mean that political realities wouldn't cause him to bow more to the moral majority types, but I can't see him using any political capital to push that agenda. I hate to say this because it sounds incredibly cynical, but I think it is far more likely that the Republican party would push civil unions than the Democratic party at this point. It would be more of a political advantage to the Republicans than to the Democrats.

What disturbs me the most about political life is what seems like a 20-year trend toward the rise of an imperial presidency and the erosion of some civil rights protections. I suppose it's possible that this happened as a reaction to spineless Congresses, but right now even Congress's power to declare war has been effectively delegated to the President.

Don't you think we are in the process of dramatically shifting power to the executive arm? That's particularly disturbing because of the huge reach of regulatory law, which is controlled by the executive arm. It seems like such an imbalance of powers. Congress has been reduced to more of an advisory body than a legislative one.

Nato, I am not sure if we are not seeing a quiet shift towards a very different form of government. This is what worries me the most.

As for your point on taxes, it's a good one. On the other hand, we're now moving into the crunch period. I think Bush is desperately trying to get Congress to confront the reality while it still can. If it doesn't, we may be a nation with California's economic problems in 13 years.

Everyone knows we are going to raise taxes and cut social benefits sharply in the next decade. The problem is that the Democrats haven't evolved a way to talk about this necessity. I think he is trying to force them to do that.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Nato said...

My interpretation of the word "moderate" on social issues is well to the left of Bush. While Bush looks very good standing next to Alan Keyes or Jerry Falwell, he's otherwise not even close to what I had in mind*. As for the toothless SEC - that was part of the Contract With America. One could say that Clinton failed to use his political capital to save the SEC, but to intimate its weakness was a result of the Clinton Administration is going a bit far.

Anyway, if some weird political configuration caused the GOP to support gay and reproductive rights more reliably than the Democrats, I'd almost certainly start voting Republican.

*According to some recent news it looks like he really might be personally more moderate than his political actions, but how *much* more moderate I don't know.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Nato said...

Ah, regarding social security: I find it appalling that one of the Dems strongest political advantages is their head-in-sand stance on social security. Of course, Bush's prescription drugs move wasn't exactly smart either. In the final analysis, though, I definitely like the GOP's (unpopular) solutions over Democratic stonewalling.

11:03 PM  
Blogger Lancelot said...

Sorry I didn't respond earlier. As for reproductive rights, well, that is a sticking point. For those who believe abortion is murder, it's hard to justify not letting the abortion issue trump everything else. And there are those on the other side.

With gay marriage, to me the real issue is democracy. I don't care a whole lot whether gays can marry (in law) or not, per se. But to claim that gay marriage is required a law written by 19th-century legislators is an obvious mockery. In that sense, the backlash was well-deserved. I would be glad to see the Republicans embrace civil unions.

If Social Security is the biggest political issue over the next two years, it may create an opening for socially liberal Republicans. By adopting moderate or left positions on abortion, and by clearly advocating civil unions, while championing Social Security reform, Republican candidates might be able to shake things up in some blue states. We'll see.

4:06 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home