Friday Blognado: The downward spiral

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James K

James is a government policy analyst, and lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His interests including wargaming, computer gaming (especially RPGs and strategy games), Dungeons & Dragons and scepticism. No part of any of his posts or comments should be construed as the position of any part of the New Zealand government, or indeed any agency he may be associated with.

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  1. Avatar Kenneth
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    says:

    I think part of the issue with single-horse races is the rampant gerrymandering. Take a look at Texas (if you can do so without puking); the Republican party is somewhere between 35-40% of population, depending on numbers, but having managed to control their legislature in 2000, they managed through multiple rounds of gerrymandering (including the infamous Tom DeLay shenanigans) to lock up 2/3 of the texas house and senate and roughly 2/3 of the congressional delegation too.

    The only way to even contest these assholes is to go after them in the Republican Primary rather than the general election… and the only way to beat them in a primary, where only registered Republicans can vote, is to play it even more “conservative” than the guy in office.

    Thus you get the predecessor to all the GOP-sponsored rape bills, the “texas sonogram bill”, introduced and championed by Dan “smaller government except I get to decide what women do with their hoo-hah, oh and fuck education spending the kids can just work the fields” Patrick himself – a man who NEVER would have managed to get elected if it weren’t for gerrymandered safe districts and a bribe to his opponent to agree to drop out of the race in exchange for part ownership of Patrick’s right-wing talk radio station.Report

  2. Avatar Kenneth
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    says:

    Ok wtf? I tried to post, it vanished, then I tried to post again and it says I already posted?Report

  3. Avatar wardsmith
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    says:

    James K another excellent Blognado (BTW did you make up that term? If so let’s follow it and see if it gets legs).

    Jeff Bell has some interesting thoughts and apparently stats to back up the /lean/ in Republican politics in this country. It is like the problem with mudslinger ads here, everyone criticizes them but the stats prove they work and work well, unfortunately. Ocamb‘s razor is right here, since the average person (correctly IMO) believes all politicians are corrupt it is much easier to think the worst of them than the best.

     Report

  4. Avatar Kimsie
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    says:

    Greens run as a second party in San Francisco, occasionally getting elected.

    Down in texas, it’s libertarian versus republican.

    Thing is? Republicans are different everywhere, as are democrats. We have PRO-LIFE democrats in my state (a US senator!)

    And you’re missing an entire dynamic — the shadow leadership of a party.

    My prediction is that once Koch (and company) is done running the Republicans into a ditch, there’s going to be a saner conservative party. I dunno if they’ll call it republican or not, but it won’t be this social conservative nutjob place it is now. It will Definitely be more environmentally friendly (can’t HELP that, people been pumping oil stocks so they can get out of them, and the whole “no global warming” is another ploy to get people to invest…)Report

  5. Avatar Samantha
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    says:

    I wouldn’t be too–pardon me–concerned about the direction of the Republican party or for that matter the concept that “the Democrats will become increasingly corrupt and self-serving secure in the knowledge that their voters have nowhere else to turn” because of the purity climate this election cycle.  The tactics and talking points haven’t changed as long as I can remember between the two parties.  It might calm your fears a bit to go back and see what the two parties were saying to and about eachother both in ’80 and ’84 (or any General election cycle for that matter).  Trust me, the talk now PALES in comparison, and I can still get the pill, I can still drink the water, and, oh yeah, we haven’t been destroyed by nuclear holocaust.  Perspective helps.Report

    • Avatar kim in reply to Samantha
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      says:

      We’ve come a long way from Ike. We’ve come a long way from our last liberal president (Nixon). And yes, ’84 was whack, very different from now.

      The democrats now own the center (and a touch of the right, courtesy of Obamacare). In ’84 it was the other way around.

      But let me put it this way — it took the democrats 40 years to become corrupt in power. And it took the Republicans about six.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Samantha
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      says:

      It’s not the attitude of Republican voters toward Democratic candidates that concerns me, it’s the attitude of Republican voters toward Republican candidates.Report

  6. Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark
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    says:

    I had written a magnum opus of a comment on this thread, hit submit, and the whole site went down.   It detailed the fracturing of the Democratic Party coalition, and the polarization of the political parties.    So my pungent insights are, regrettably, stuck to the inside of a router somewhere in Kansas city.

    Nevertheless, I am surprised that this blognado is not quickly filling up with outrage and despair.    I certainly find nothing to fault with James K’s framing of the issue, and share his despair, but being American, it’s all a little less abstract to me.   I’ve been thinking about this for years, and I ultimately have to place the blame for the current situation firmly at the feet of the Democrats.

    To review the gist of the lost post, as the Democrats lost important parts of their FDR-created coalition–most importantly the South and blue-collar whites–they broadened ideologically in compensation, to encompass more of the “center.”   This allowed the Republicans to keep moving right, and rendered the Democrats progressively less able to craft a moral narrative that bound all of its members.

    At some point, the Democrats more or less gave up on trying to sell a coherent moral / ethical point of view.  Meanwhile, the conservative movement–which has the will and discipline to be brutally effective politically, went about making “liberal” into a dirty word.   Instead of defending liberalism, and pointing to its proud history in creating the fundaments of our current society, “liberal” politicians abandoned the word, as well.   When, sometime around the Kerry presidential candidacy, some people started using “progressive” instead of liberal (progressivism was a rather distinct strain of political thought in American history), conservatives started to demonize that word as well.

    Democratic politicians don’t understand the conservative success, and are freaked out by it.  The seemingly unassailable virtues of technocratic incrementalism, scientific progress, and traditional liberal policy reformism are no longer accepted.   Instead of defending them, or standing for something consistent, the Democrats simply react to conservative framing.   The result, of course, is that conservative framing rules the day.   So somehow, in the midst of the largest banking crisis and depression in 80 years, we are talking about imposing austerity measures and deregulating the banking sector.

    So, to the observer, it appears that the conservatives are principled, and the liberals are not.   The conservatives strive to frame their issues to bring in more people, and the liberals don’t.   If you are able to watch Democratic politicians when they stumble into controversy, you would want to hang your head in shame:  they distract, they prevaricate, they throw sops to all parties, but the one thing they seem incapable of doing is taking a strong and principled stand that may cost them votes.   

    I do not like at all the America that the conservative movement is trying to create.   But the Democratic party will not be the vehicle to oppose it.    Liberals often dream of the Republican party disintegrating under the weight of its own extremism, and being replaced by a more “rational” conservative party–much as the Republicans replace the Whigs before the civil war.    But I am convinced that it is the Democratic party that needs to be replaced:  one that does not spend most of its efforts trying to resurrect a coalition that is long dead and not coming back.Report

  7. Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark
    Ignored
    says:

    I had written a magnum opus of a comment on this thread, hit submit, and the whole site went down.   It detailed the fracturing of the Democratic Party coalition, and the polarization of the political parties.    So my pungent insights are, regrettably, stuck to the inside of a router somewhere in Kansas city.

    Nevertheless, I am surprised that this blognado is not quickly filling up with outrage and despair.    I certainly find nothing to fault with James K’s framing of the issue, and share his despair, but being American, it’s all a little less abstract to me.   I’ve been thinking about this for years, and I ultimately have to place the blame for the current situation firmly at the feet of the Democrats.

    To review the gist of the lost post, as the Democrats lost important parts of their FDR-created coalition–most importantly the South and blue-collar whites–they broadened ideologically in compensation, to encompass more of the “center.”   This allowed the Republicans to keep moving right, and rendered the Democrats progressively less able to craft a moral narrative that bound all of its members.

    At some point, the Democrats more or less gave up on trying to sell a coherent moral / ethical point of view.  Meanwhile, the conservative movement–which has the will and discipline to be brutally effective politically, went about making “liberal” into a dirty word.   Instead of defending liberalism, and pointing to its proud history in creating the fundaments of our current society, “liberal” politicians abandoned the word, as well.   When, sometime around the Kerry presidential candidacy, some people started using “progressive” instead of liberal (progressivism was a rather distinct strain of political thought in American history), conservatives started to demonize that word as well.

    Democratic politicians don’t understand the conservative success, and are freaked out by it.  The seemingly unassailable virtues of technocratic incrementalism, scientific progress, and traditional liberal policy reformism are no longer accepted.   Instead of defending them, or standing for something consistent, the Democrats simply react to conservative framing.   The result, of course, is that conservative framing rules the day.   So somehow, in the midst of the largest banking crisis and depression in 80 years, we are talking about imposing austerity measures and deregulating the banking sector.

    So, to the observer, it appears that the conservatives are principled, and the liberals are not.   The conservatives strive to frame their issues to bring in more people, and the liberals don’t.   If you are able to watch Democratic politicians when they stumble into controversy, you would want to hang your head in shame:  they distract, they prevaricate, they throw sops to all parties, but the one thing they seem incapable of doing is taking a strong and principled stand that may cost them votes.   

    I do not like at all the America that the conservative movement is trying to create.   But the Democratic party will not be the vehicle to oppose it.    Liberals often dream of the Republican party disintegrating under the weight of its own extremism, and being replaced by a more “rational” conservative party–much as the Republicans replace the Whigs before the civil war.    But I am convinced that it is the Democratic party that needs to be replaced:  one that does not spend most of its efforts trying to resurrect a coalition that is long dead and not coming back.Report

    • Avatar Jeff in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark
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      says:

      You leave out the role of the media.  This was thrust upon me in the 2000 election.  Rove and Company would throw out lies and half-truths (“I was instrumental in starting the internet” is NOT the same as “I invented the internet”) and the press would print them as fact.  (Even the “Dean Scream” wasn’t — it was taken out of context to sound wacky.)  When anyone tried to correct them, they were “tsk tsk”ed into silence.

      The only reason the Tea Party holds such power today is because the media printed their ignorant prattle (“Death Panels!”) as truth.  They play up Evangelicals as if they were anything but a “special interest group” akin to unions or Hindus. 

      How can any party deal with that?

       Report

  8. Avatar Sam M
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    says:

    ” Look at the trouble Huntsman had because he did what any president should do – based his policies on the consensus of experts. ”

    This begs the question.

    That’s really what a president ought to do? Why have a presidency? Just have a journal for experts to expound on things, then have them vote. Quick: What’s that vote look like when all the US military and intelligence experts vote on whether Iraq has WMD?Report

    • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Sam M
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      says:

      Thanks for bringing this up Sam, I also wondered what would have happened in Iraq once Bush was told by all and sundry that it had failed so he went /against/ advice and ordered the surge. General “Betray us” came through, the surge was a resounding success and we all got to watch Obama (dutiful lapdog to experts everywhere) eat some humble pie as he pretended he was really in favor of it even though his lips kept saying the opposite.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        One counter-example proves little.  Even if the surge was implemented against advice (and to be clear it would have to be against the advice of his military experts to qualify as a counter-example) that doesn’t refute the point that more often than not the experts know better than the President.  After all, they’ve spent their lives understanding an issue while the President’s primary skill is being appealing to voters.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith in reply to James K
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          says:

          Read the title of this piece for example. A salient quote from the article:

          Bush’s tendency to defer to commanders in the field and his defense secretary had delayed a new approach to Iraq until the situation bordered on anarchy and “civil war,” as a late 2006 CIA analysis termed it, the Times reported. At that point the Pentagon was in favor of moving responsibility to Iraqi forces, facilitating U.S. troop reductions.

          Sam’s point was perfect, the consensus of the EXPERTS at the time was the Iraq had WMD, and it is specious argumentation and partisanship that denies this was the case, thousands of quotes from Democrats such as Clinton saying precisely the same thing carry about as much weight with the partisan crowd as as lead balloons. In fact it was precisely the president’s willingness to follow “expert opinion” that led him by the nose into Iraq and the mess that followed.

          You know from our interactions over these many months that I am an iconoclast through and through. While technocrats are 99.9% in favor of technocrats running things (behind the scenes naturally) my counter arguments include well-intentioned but dismal failures such as the housing projects, War on Poverty, the “new math” etc. Well intentioned all, but ultimate failures.

          I don’t agree the president should just “politic” and rubber-stamp blue ribbon committee recommendations. We have that president now, but when push comes to shove he is incapable of making a decision that he can’t walk back from, or blame on a subordinate. I thought Seal Team 6 was an exemplar of some backbone, but my military contacts have told me different. Yes he made the final call to go forward but he also was busy with contingency cover including his rushed announcement immediately following the operation, which negated the intelligence they had captured including where the other bad guys were (or do you believe his lieutenants were unaware that all that intel had been captured?)Report

          • Avatar Jeff in reply to wardsmith
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            says:

            99

            (Just so TVD doesn’t feel so alone)Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to wardsmith
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            says:

            The consensus may have been that they had WMD, but there were experts, including every single one of the experts on the ground in Iraq who believed that they didn’t, because they weren’t finding them. Even more damning is the fact that they weren’t finding them even when using the intelligence that we were using to build the consensus that Iraq had WMD. Even before the invasion, much of the consensus’ case had begun to crumble (Reuters, at the time, was doing great reporting). I don’t think anyone has ever denied that most people thought Iraq had WMD, but that doesn’t mean that they were right, or even tha the evidence was in their favor. As a global warming denialist, I’m sure you can understand that.Report

          • Avatar James K in reply to wardsmith
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            says:

            I don’t agree the president should just “politic” and rubber-stamp blue ribbon committee recommendations. We have that president now, but when push comes to shove he is incapable of making a decision that he can’t walk back from, or blame on a subordinate.

            Nor do I.  The President should listen to his advisors and make a decision.  Listening to advisors is not the same as rubber-stamping their recommendations.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James K
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          says:

          the consensus of the EXPERTS at the time was the Iraq had WMD, and it is specious argumentation and partisanship that denies this was the case

          Sorry, but that’s just not true.  The CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate said they were all pretty sure that Hussein was pursuing WMD, but that they just didn’t have any solid intel to demonstrate that.  Cheney put the pressure on the CIA Director and ultimately the CIA rewrote the executive summary to make a stronger case than any of the evidence within it supported. (A rare succumbing to political pressure by the CIA that is still haunting them to this day.)

          Did some experts believe Iraq had WMD? Yes. Consensus? Not by a long shot.  Had the President actually listened to what the experts in the CIA were really saying, he’d have concluded that we didn’t have any actual evidence for WMD.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith in reply to James Hanley
            Ignored
            says:

            The CIA’s national intelligence estimate isn’t worth the toilet paper it should be written on. Or should I remind you of their recent (completely erroneous) estimate concerning Iran? That document is purely political, the first thing the CIA does is calculate who the next party in power will be and then craft the “estimate” accordingly. There are and were other experts. No point in re-hashing all this old news I can post so many links the spam filter for this site will cough up a fur ball. I’m not interested in the specifics however, but the more intelligent and larger pictures, which is whether presidents should completely defer to the “experts”.

            For instance Obama’s economics experts were Keynesian and super-Keynesian there was a Mises in the bunch. Did he even get the best advice? The stimulus failed but we got a new thread in the vernacular, jobs saved, a statistically meaningless proposition if there ever was one. I give /that/ a 99Report

            • Avatar Kimmi in reply to wardsmith
              Ignored
              says:

              geez.

              if you were on calculated risk with this shit, I’d swear you were a troll.

               Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to wardsmith
              Ignored
              says:

              Ward,

              I have to vigorously disagree with you here.  First, the original NIE on Iraq was correct.   In fact none of the data or supporting documentation in it was changed; it was solely the executive summary that changed, and that was because they succumbed to political pressure in a way they generally just do not do.

              And it’s wrong to say NIE’s are purely political.  The analysts at the CIA do their best to avoid being political in that sense.  They see their job as to make the best inferences from the data available, not to write something that satisfies a particular group.  This–” the first thing the CIA does is calculate who the next party in power will be and then craft the “estimate” accordingly”–is fundamentally wrong, and doesn’t even make sense in the context of understanding bureaucratic politics (where permanent bureaucracies perpetually piss off elected officials for not being responsive to them).

              Do they get it wrong sometimes?  Of course, they’re trying to figure out things that other people are trying to hide from them!  And the U.S. and its allies have shit for sources in Iran, so we’re making inferences off next to nothing.

              And given that Obama ignored the findings of the 2007 Iran NIE, that’s some pretty dubious support for the claim the CIA writes it to make the administration happy.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                James, I happen to know a few people at “the Farm” so I have my own opinion on the subject, much of which I’ll never state in any kind of public forum. “Permanent bureaucracies” do their level best  to stay entrenched. They get along fine with politicians as long as they keep getting their budgets approved.

                The 2007 NIE report got PLENTY of play in the media and had a major influence on the election and it wasn’t political? Sorry doesn’t fly. Like all bloated bureaucracies, the CIA suffers from the worst kind of politics, internal. Yes I’ve previously said it is virtually impossible to fire someone who works for the federal gov’t, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a bureaucratic hell, no budget and no staff for your dept. There are an ungodly number of cul de sac positions in the federal bureaucracy, which is why they are reluctant to publish org charts. Cross the wrong higher-up and you’re relegated to bureaucratic purgatory as a warning, hell follows further offense.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                Ward,

                Your connections are apparently not my connections. 😉Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to wardsmith
        Ignored
        says:

        Ward,

        To riff off James K, was Bush in fact getting advice from, say, his Joint Chiefs of Staff against a surge?  My vague impression was the opposite, but I honestly don’t know (and don’t remember what I might once have known).Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Sam M
      Ignored
      says:

      Your misunderstand my point.  There are two types of questions government deal with – factual questions and policy questions.  Think of them as “what’s going on?” questions and “what should be do about it?” questions.  My point is that when it comes to factual questions a President should heed their advisers and believe what they say.  When it comes to policy questions they should listen to their advisers, but not necessarily do what they say – the decision is theirs.

      So the point of the presidency is to make decisions, but not to try and create their own facts.Report

    • Avatar Jeff in reply to Sam M
      Ignored
      says:

      Any true group of experts will disagree on certain issues — it would be the President’s job to listen, ask questions (just as Obama did during the Bail-Out Summit) and make an informed decision.Report

  9. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

     

    James, I don’t have quite the fear you do. My own, admittedly amateur, read of American politics suggests that the GOP may be due for some time out of power. Maybe a really resounding loss is all they need. Obama could have been that loss but perhaps because he was so unusual (his race and especially his soaring overinflated post partisan rhetoric) gave them an excuse to double down and refuse to accept the electoral slap on the wrists. Then of course came 2008 and the recession beat down losses Dems suffered reinforced the GOP’s extremist drift.

    My own guess: at some point (possibly as soon as 2012) the GOP is going to have themselves a Goldwater or Mondale style landslide loss and that’s going to precipitate much pondering and reprioritizing within their party. One reason I hope against hope for a Santorum nomination is he strikes me as the perfect figure to lead the GOP to such a shellacking that’ll really make the right rethink their strategies and positions. I desire this not only because it hopefully will make the right saner but also because having more moderated sensible opponents should help snap the Dems out of their lazy swanning all over the middle of the spectrum.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to North
      Ignored
      says:

      One reason I hope against hope for a Santorum nomination is he strikes me as the perfect figure to lead the GOP to such a shellacking that’ll really make the right rethink their strategies and positions.

      Oddly enough Cato made the same suggestion recently on their podcast.  It’ll probably be the closest thing Santorum ever gets to a libertarian endorsement.

      Hopefully you’re right, I like your scenario a lot more than mine.Report

  10. Avatar Scott Fields
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    says:

    One reason I hope against hope for a Santorum nomination is he strikes me as the perfect figure to lead the GOP to such a shellacking that’ll really make the right rethink their strategies and positions. I desire this not only because it hopefully will make the right saner but also because having more moderated sensible opponents should help snap the Dems out of their lazy swanning all over the middle of the spectrum.

    I find myself wishing for this, too.  As Snarky McSnarksnark says above, the Dems need a strong opposition if only to force them to make strong stands themselves.Report

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