Thursday, February 26, 2009
Many people ascribe the success of the 1994 Republican Revolution to Newt Gingrich. And he was the public face and driving force behind it, no doubt about it. But it was really William Kristol who made it possible with his famous memo about obstructing health care reform:
[P]assage of the Clinton health care plan in any form would be disastrous. It would guarantee an unprecedented federal intrusion into the American economy. Its success would signal the rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment that such policy is being perceived as a failure in other areas. And, not least, it would destroy the present breadth and quality of the American health care system, the world’s finest.
He's making the same arguments today:
Obama intends to use his big three issues -- energy, health care and education -- to transform the role of the federal government as fundamentally as did the New Deal and the Great Society.
Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort. They will oppose it. Can they do so effectively?
Perhaps -- if they can find reasons to obstruct and delay. They should do their best not to permit Obama to rush his agenda through this year. They can't allow Obama to make of 2009 what Franklin Roosevelt made of 1933 or Johnson of 1965. Slow down the policy train. Insist on a real and lengthy debate. Conservatives can't win politically right now. But they can raise doubts, they can point out other issues that we can't ignore (especially in national security and foreign policy), they can pick other fights -- and they can try in any way possible to break Obama's momentum. Only if this happens will conservatives be able to get a hearing for their (compelling, in my view) arguments against big-government, liberal-nanny-state social engineering -- and for their preferred alternatives.
It worked the first time. But Clinton had won with a plurality in an election where the deficit was fetishized as the greatest threat to economic prosperity. The economy turned around quickly from the recession of 91-92 and the tech bubble took off shortly thereafter. Health insurance was still affordable. The Republicans were ascendant, the culture war was in full effect, the decades-long electoral realignment was coming to completion with the old conservative Democratic Lions finally retiring. The cold war was over and nothing had yet emerged to take its place to keep the Military Industrial Complex humming. It was a different world.
Today, nearly all of that is completely irrelevant and we are possibly in the midst of a once in a century economic meltdown and an unprecedented climate crisis. Oh, and there are a bunch of religious fanatics blowing stuff up around the world. We just came off of eight years of Republican governance --- and 28 years of conservative dominance -- that either created or exacerbated all those problems. Indeed, it's the reason the Republicans were routed in the election.
But then none of that would be persuasive to Kristol, would it? The man is arguing that Roosevelt should have been obstructed in 1933, so the scope of the crisis doesn't affect his view and the size of the mandate is obviously irrelevant. He simply seeks to find a way to keep the Democrats from achieving anything that the people might see as a positive in their lives. Like Rush Limbaugh, he is openly advocating failure.
Think about what Limbaugh said:
If I wanted Obama to succeed, I'd be happy the Republicans have laid down. And I would be encouraging Republicans to lay down and support him. Look, what he's talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don't want this to work. So I'm thinking of replying to the guy, "Okay, I'll send you a response, but I don't need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails." (interruption) What are you laughing at? See, here's the point. Everybody thinks it's outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, "Oh, you can't do that." Why not? Why is it any different, what's new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what's gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it? I don't care what the Drive-By story is. I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: "Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails." Somebody's gotta say it.
He is not saying that he doesn't think liberalism can succeed. He's worried that it will. So is Kristol when he writes that Obama can't be allowed to succeed the way Roosevelt and Johnson did. After all, Roosevelt succeeded in leading the country though two of the worst events of the 20th century. Johnson finally ended American apartheid. These are the successes that Obama must not be allowed to emulate.
It's primarily politics, of course. Both Limbaugh and Kristol are afraid that Obama's success would mean decades in the wilderness for Republicans. But by looking for failure of Obama's policy initiatives they are also showing a tremendous insecurity about their own philosophy.
All day I see Republicans on television, filled with sanctimony and phony concern, keening about the deficit and reckless spending and fiscal responsibility. Today, they've even resurrected the "tax and spend" trope. These are the same Republicans who gave away the budget surplus to to their wealthy friends and who then went on to destroy the financial system. The same people who spent an estimated three trillion dollars on a war based on lies that didn't need to be fought. Now they are shamelessly publicly lecturing the new president on "responsibility" and obstructing everything they know is necessary for a recovery, but it sounds hollow and strange in current circumstances.(See: Jindal, Bobby)
They will not change. They will wait it out, hoping for failure, trying to figure out some new "branding" and marketing" for their stale, aristocratic philosophy. They will try to keep the Democrats from enacting the kind of programs that will permanently undermine wealthy interests while trying to resurrect their own ideology so that it's ready for them to ride it to victory once the liberals have cleaned up the mess. It's a tightrope, but they've walked it before, and been successful.
In fact, it's the way the pendulum swings. And that's why it's important that liberals protect the safety net programs and initiate those that are overdue at times like this. They need them to be there in the future when the aristocrats get greedy and screw things up for everyone as they always do. Roosevelt enacted unemployment insurance, welfare for women with children and social security during the depression. Johnson enacted poverty programs like Head Start that are still feeding little poor kids today during this economic crisis. Without all those things, this country would be in much worse shape today after the greedheads drove us off a cliff. Again. One of the functions of the safety net is to give our society a cushion for the times when wealthy criminals use their outsized power and influence to loot the treasury and cause a cascading effect of misery to come down on average peoples' heads.
It would be pretty to think they will never do it again. But they will. And if they truly believe their own cant about self-interest, they should be hoping that the Democrats pass health care (which is a good for business as it is for individuals), tackle global warming and do all these things that Meteor Blades recommends. Conservatism is a luxury that can only be afforded by a thriving country. It needs a healthy organism to feed on. And they almost killed it this time.
They need to let the country recover and recuperate but they can't admit that, make amends or pay the price for their perfidy. They are Randian bullshit addicts and they haven't hit bottom yet.
Update: And by the way, if Kristol and Limbaugh need some further education on whyfFree market Hooverism is so dangerous, this is it. Maybe all the neocons think Roosevelt should have just let the economy correct itself, but human beings are creatures with free will and tend to react when the "correction" destroys their lives and their futures. Bad things were happening in 1933. Bad things can happen again. These are not things to trifle with.
Update II: Limbaugh today:
LIMBAUGH: I am told South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford called me an idiot, not by name. But he said, “Anyone who wants Obama to fail is an idiot.” I don’t anybody else who said it. So, I guess he’s talking about– … Politicians have different audiences than I do and they’ve got to say things in different ways. So, after he said, “Anyone who wants Obama to fail is an idiot,” then went on in his own way to say, “Gosh, I hope this doesn’t work.” … He just had to say, “We don’t want the president to fail.”
Hell we don’t! We want something to blow up here politically. We want something to not go right. … We’re talking about freedom that is under assault!
He just keeps digging.
digby 2/26/2009 01:30:00 PM