How to Lose the House

Just for fun, I’m going to go off on the Democrats today.

Nate Silver over at Five Thirty Eight now estimates that there is a two in three chance that the House will go into Republican hands in the next session, and while my own (rather less statistically robust) estimation is that the odds are less favorable to the Republicans than that, neither is it particularly favorable to the Democrats. I think the House could go either way, and if the Dems do retain the House, it will be by a very thin majority, indeed.

I don’t particularly wish for the Republicans to take over the House, although if they do it’s not bad for me: John Boehner, presumptive House Majority Leader and the orangest man in American politics, happens to represent my district, and given the voter demographics here will do so until there’s nothing left of him but a small, russet melanoma. And I’m a well-to-do Caucasian man in any event, the demographic which the GOP is prepared to prop up indefinitely at the expense of all of the rest of you. Sorry about that. But if the GOP do take the House, it won’t be because Americans actually prefer the current Republican platform, which can be summed up as “let’s forget 2008 ever happened,” but because the Democrats have been so woefully incompetent on so many levels.

Not in passing the legislation they have, which they were in fact elected to do — and if you plan to say in the comments “but Americans didn’t want that legislation,” please jam it back into your insipidly partisan brain hole. Obama was pretty damn clear what his intentions were when he took office, and the American people were on board enough to give his party large majorities in the House and Senate. Where the Democrats have shown complete incompetence is in how they went about their legislative agenda (i.e., like unheardable brain-damaged stoats), and how they’ve allowed the GOP — and its crazy nephew from the attic, the Tea Party, as well as its bullhorn Fox News — to frame everything they’ve done as one step short of eviscerating live kittens and feeding noisily on their carcasses on live TV.

Really, this just completely appalls me: That a political party handed one of the largest legislative majorities in decades can do what it was sent to do by voters in such a manner that it seems both defensive and apologetic for doing so, and has allowed the party which was swept from power for being to political intelligence what late-era Hapsburgs were to genetic robustness to potentially crawl back into power, not on the strength of its political ideas but on its ability to exploit the Democrats’ weaknesses in organization and communication.

And some Democratic partisans will say, but, you don’t understand. The GOP and all its various offshoots and media abbetors, they’re just so mean. To which I say: Really? This is somehow a surprise? Of course they’re mean — they’ve got nothing else. The GOP has no actual and verifiable legislative plan, nor is it currently smart enough to come up with one. What you’re left with when you’ve got no brain is shaking your fist and yelling at the clouds for being socialist. The GOP can’t help themselves doing this any more than they can help themselves thinking that the best way to cure diphtheria is to give a fund manager a tax cut. For god’s sake, this has been the GOP strategy since at least 1994, when that bilious creature known as Newt Gingrich erupted out of the back benches with his strategy to turn the word “liberal” into the moral equivalent of “pederast.”

Given the paucity of intellect in the GOP, you can’t really blame it for running back to this strategy over and over, especially when it works. What you can do is blame the Democrats for continuing to fall for this shit, over and over and over again. The reason it works is because the Democrats can’t or won’t call stupid stupid; they keep trying the “let’s be reasonable” thing against people working hard so that the sentence “OBAMA IS A NIGERIAN ISLAMO-SOCIALIST WHO’S GOING TO MAKE YOU GAY MARRY AN ANCHOR BABY”  doesn’t strike 20% of Americans as evidence that something in the utterer’s brain has just exploded. You can also blame the Democrats for doing a piss-poor job of reminding voters that what they’re passing in Congress is what they were sent there to do. And you can also blame them for not doing the one thing the GOP actually does remarkably well, which is keep its caucus in line and on message and voting the same way on the things that actually matter.

And as it happens, I do blame the Democrats for this. In a sane world — in a world where the Democrats had enough political acumen that they couldn’t only get Congressional majorities when the GOP had screwed things up so badly that even the dimmest of voters could no longer ignore the damage — we wouldn’t be talking about the very real likelihood that the GOP, this GOP, arguably the least intellectually and legislatively impressive GOP in the history of that august party, might take back the House. That we are talking about is really is all down to the Democrats. If they lose the House, it won’t be because the GOP deserve to have won it. It’ll be because the Democrats simply weren’t smart enough to keep it.

That would make them, in fact, stupider than the modern GOP. The mind reels.

173 thoughts on “How to Lose the House

  1. “small, russet melanoma” is one of my favorite bob dylan albums.

    As if the senatorial elections weren’t bad enough we have the total hump Paul LePage, a Republican, Tea Party loving beast denying global warming and believing in Creationism. I wish I could have faith in our Democratic candidates but they are a bit too weak in the knees to deal with our local blowhard.

    Oh, well. There’s still Canada, right?

  2. You’ve succinctly described that I attempt to tell every Democratic party phone-banker who calls me asking for a donation this season. I may have to print this and keep it by the phone.

    I’m still voting D, and I’m selectively giving what little spare change I have to the few honest-to-god progressive (dare I say “liberal”) Democratic candidates I see out there … but the Party of Oh, Sorry, Pardon Us For Existing gets not one dime of my contributions until they grow some spine. Or appurtenances further south.

  3. Sadly so true.

    Why the Democrats so thoroughly ceded the framing game, I simply don’t understand. It’s not like, at this point, it’s not both a well-understood phenomenon and a fact that the Democrats are on the fact-positive side of these issues. It shouldn’t have been all that hard to, I don’t know, trump up some facts into some soundbites… (We Americans do so love our soundbites).

    At this point, I figure the best hope for the Dems is actually the Tea Party pushing forward such extreme right-wing candidates that enough people wake up and smell the fascism and get out to do something about it, come Election Day.

  4. Stephen Watkins:

    Well, that, and there’s also the fact that six weeks is enough time for lots of things to happen. I do suspect that Obama, at least (who is savvier about these things than most Democrats in my estimation) has been holding his fire until the last part of the election season, when more people are actually paying attention, and that if the Democrats actually do turn on their brains (and their cash spigots), they can tighten up a bunch of races considerably between now and the first week of November. It’s one reason I’m more optimistic about the Democrat’s chances to keep the House than Nate Silver seems to be.

    But in point of fact, even allowing for the fact that people go insane (politically) in August no matter what, the GOP shouldn’t be this far up right now. That’s definitely a failure on the part of the Democrats.

  5. Longtime lurker, first time poster.

    John, I’d gay marry you for this post if both you and I were gay (NTTAWWT, natch). It’s brilliant, and I think it does a better job of capturing the state of the current Democratic party better than any I’ve read in a long time.

    Oh, your books are OK, too. I kid; they’re superb, and I loved reading the two I’ve read to date.

    Keep up the good everything!

  6. Dood! Man, you crystallized the frustration I feel. That whole ‘snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’ thing and all just pisses me off. And it’s not like I have any real choice in voting this time around. The Republicans are nucking futs and the Democrats are just sad.

  7. I couldn’t agree more with Stephen about the best hope for Democrats.

    Living on the southern side of the Ohio River, I am personally hoping Rand Paul’s campaign falls apart. I don’t think it would change the election results, but it would put a strong spot light on the uglier aspects of the current GOP strategy.

    BTW, can anybody confirm that Rand Paul is named after Ayn Rand? I suspect that is the case, but I can’t find any source to back up my hunch.

  8. If it makes you feel any better, this is pretty much what happened in the UK earlier this year. Our Labour party’s actual record was pretty solid. What they sucked at recently was PR. Mainly because Gordon Brown treated the electorate as intelligent decent people (then he met some, and was caught on mic saying the obvious).

    Our conservative party and associated press (Sky and The Sun tabloid owned by guess who) attacked not the record, but him personally for being boring and Scottish. Two charges that he really couldn’t deny, since he really is boring and Scottish.

    Now we’ve got a bunch of idiots in charge who alternate between making policy based on soundbite and tabloid headline, and then blaming the entire disaster on Labour. I mean even when the Governor of the Bank of England says it wasn’t their fault and the chief PR person has been illegally tapping phones of whoever he felt like, the left still can’t manage to fight back.

    Why is the left in both our countries so afraid to get its message out?

  9. Actually, it’s the economy and the size of the deficit.

    Also this is a Center Right country (as I might have pointed out in the past) and it is perceived to have taken a sharp Left turn. While the “tea party” existed prior to 2008, this gave huge impetus to the movement.

    In the last 40 years, certainly within my lifetime, the Democratic Party moved to the Left. And so did the Republicans. What you are seeing now a correction and Party Republicans don’t like it much.

    The response now is deemed to be better than the response in 2006, which was to sit back and let the Democrats win. The awful consequences of that made this no longer an option. But re-electing the Republican status quo is also deemed unacceptable.

    So here we are.

  10. English is not my first language – so apologies if this is completely wrong. However, is it ‘unherdable’ or ‘unheardable’.

  11. “OBAMA IS A NIGERIAN ISLAMO-SOCIALIST WHO’S GOING TO MAKE YOU GAY MARRY AN ANCHOR BABY”

    I’ve missed you, John. Welcome back.

  12. I love how the deficit becomes a problem when a black man gets elected.

    The current leadership of the GOP is a bunch of rabid dogs. And the Democrats are lily-livered weaklings, who keep asking for abuse.

    You know what ought to happen when you get elected by the kind of majority that the Democrats did in 2008? You do exactly what you want. If the people don’t like it, then you lose. But you will get relegated to the back bench if you do nothing.

    Blech. I don’t remember doing anything to deserve this kind of government.

  13. You say all this as if divided government is a bad thing.

    Seriously, were the 90′s all that terrible for the country? Clinton and the Congressional GOP spent so much time at each others’ throats over stupid shit they didn’t have time to muck up anything big. The deficit shrank, and the budget was in surplus. The economy was humming, unemployment was low. Whatever wars we got involved in were short, basically casualty-free, and in many cases successful in achieving their goals (Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo).

    And really, can you think of a more fitting punishment for the Democrat and Republican parties than being forced to work together after having one-party rule for 7 of the last 10 years?

  14. Obama was elected because of George W Bush, not because of his platform. His platform was intentionally nebulous, so as to appeal to voters who thought that he understood their problems.

    Quite amazing, actually, that he almost entirely avoided talking policy specifics the entire time he was on the campaign trail. Talking about ‘reform’ is all well and good, but the devil is in the details.

  15. Frank:

    “Actually, it’s the economy and the size of the deficit.”

    And where the Democrats are doing a shit job is in reminding people that a) both of those are largely where they are because of the previous administration, and b) that digging back out of that hole was going to take time (and money). So we’re back with the issue of communication. It’s a nice trick of the GOP’s that they can try to blame it all on Obama, of course, but it’s not actually true.

    “In the last 40 years, certainly within my lifetime, the Democratic Party moved to the Left. And so did the Republicans.”

    Dude, you’re sooooo high. I suspect it’s probably more accurate to say the GOP moved left on some social issues, which would be a statement I’d have no problem with. But both parties have had notable rightward trends over the decades.

    That you can both assert that the US is a center-right county while asserting that both parties have moved to left suggests you do not have all your rhetorical ducks in a row, there.

    Masterthief:

    “You say all this as if divided government is a bad thing.”

    Well, I’m on record as believing that divided government is often a fine thing, so, no. That said, I don’t think that divided government with the GOP as currently constituted is the best thing, because I don’t believe that the GOP any actual interest in shared governance; I think it will simply double-down on being obstructionist. I’m happy to be proven incorrect, but I’d be even happier to be proven incorrect with a GOP that I think had brains and an actual legislative strategy.

    Bill:

    “Obama was elected because of George W Bush, not because of his platform.”

    Well, no. He was elected because of Bush, and because of his platform, and because John McCain ran a terrible campaign which included adding a frighteningly vacuous running mate to it. It wasn’t just any one thing.

    That Obama was nebulous about the details is axiomatic; he was running for president, not being president. Bush’s first campaign was similarly vacuous on details, as I recall.

  16. What really ticks me off about all of this is the fact that the house, for the most part, actually did alot of the stuff it needed to do. Then it would go to the Senate where the Republicans made sure you needed 60 votes to so much as wipe your nose and all of the bills died. And yet the House is most likely to change hands.

    @Frank:

    The problem isn’t that this is a “center right” country. The problem is that we have a lower competency level than we should in government, and that no one is willing to make the tough decisions anymore because they know they will be punished instead of being rewarded.

    People don’t get angry about going in there and pursuing your own agenda (left or right) while in office. They get angry about failure and incompetence, both of which describe the GOP from 2002-2006, and the party hasn’t changed one bit.

  17. Isn’t this a symptom of having two bloated parties mostly invested in maintaining the status quo of growing the government and promoting themselves not through achievement but by demonizing the “other party”?

    Perhaps both the D & R wings of the Big-Fed-Gov party need some purging … or they can go the way of the Whigs for all I care.

    When a two drunks crash your car consecutively, you don’t hand the keys back to the first one, you get out of the back seat and drive your own damn self.

  18. @16, John

    “I think it will simply double-down on being obstructionist”

    Considering how very much the GOP has been wistfully looking back to when they shut down the government under Gingrich I think you’re probably right.

  19. John

    I agree that the Republican platform is currently “let’s forget [the last election cycle] ever happened.”

    However, didn’t the Democrats come to power in 2008 by using a remarkably similar platform?

    D

  20. When you have 9% unemployment for 2 years, one party that controls the presidency, the house, and the senate, that party is going to lose. In an off year election, turnout is lower. The party out of power in a bad economy will be more likely to turn out voters than the one in power in a bad economy.

    They also claimed that the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8%. It did not. Some people (like nobel prize winner Paul Krugman) say it was because it should have been twice as large. It doesn’t matter why, that was there plan for recovery and it did not work. It also looks like the bill itself was constructed poorly. Alot of the money went for junk. Ok so you pay someone to make a park, then those guys are out of work. Isn’t there a better way to spend the money than that? Maybe something that would have a lasting effect. It looks like large amounts of the money was spent on pet projects to get votes for congressman.

    Then the whole way they went about the healthcare legislation. They had to bribe the senators from Nebraska and Florida to vote for it. WTF? It should not require a bribe to get them to vote for major party legislation like this. If it costs them re-election, they can get a regular job easily enough(I am not a liberal and not sure I like the health care reform).

    Then on top of that there is some evidence(not it is NOT proven) that this reform is behind even larger increases in healthcare premiums. Lets face it. The US is not England. Most people who have good healthcare insurance care about themselves and don’t care if others don’t have healthcare. Now no politician would say that, but it is obvious from the polls. It is basically ingrained in the culture. This is not a knock on anyone. Just stating it the way I see it.

    Then you have the uber-lefty whackos who want Obama to be the next Vladimir Lenin. He did tell liberals that he wants to fight the war in Afghanistan during the campaign. Yet the whackos now think he is a war mongerer.

    Then you have Guantamo Bay. That is actually really only a voting issue for the really far left wingers (this is a large part of his base). It is alot more complicated of an issue than it appeared on the campaign trail.

    As far as republicans not having a plan. Duh. The party out of power always does this. Why put yourself out there, when you can frame the election as a referendum on the economy? They ALL do this.

    One last issue. Obama is just like Bush in his approach to polls. Neither Obama nor Bush govern by polls and basically do what they want. In this respect they are both the polar opposite of Bill Clinton.

  21. Daniel:

    No. Please try again.

    Guess:

    “When you have 9% unemployment for 2 years, one party that controls the presidency, the house, and the senate, that party is going to lose.”

    I don’t think that there’s any question that the Democrats were going to lose seats; this generally happens in to the party in power at mid-terms, and I agree in this particular time a stalled economy isn’t good. The question worth asking is whether the Dem would be possibly losing the House if they had done a better job at communicating and in fighting off the GOP framing of their actions.

  22. John, I think when the Democrats lose, they should be required to come here and read this. All of them. Daily. As a meditation on how they screwed up.

  23. As far as the deficit is concerned. It is clearly a voting issue for conservative republicans. It becomes a major issue for them when a democrat is in office. That being said, in 2 years Obama has out spent all of Bush’s 8 years.

    I don’t think it is a voting issue for anyone who is a moderate republican to a liberal. So basically the deficit increases voter turnout for republicans, but has no effect on anyone who might vote democrat. So edge democrat.

  24. Scalzi@16

    a…b

    Right. Perhaps you could make an argument that the recession is the “fault” of the previous administration, but the astronomical deficit that was exchanged for not discernible result is not.

    But I would really argue that the situation tat existed circa 2008 was the result of structural problems that go beyond politics. The problem now is that the “correction” has lasted too long and Democrats have in control for the non- existent recovery. Let us not forget that Democrats have in control of Congress for 4 years. And if they had sniffed a coming economic disaster they had a chance to fix it prior.

    …you do not have all your rhetorical ducks in a row

    Well the leftward shift has been happening slowly and like a lobster getting boiled it just didn’t get noticed much. During the bubble-boom of the Clinton years and the bubble-boom of the Bush years few wanted to notice.

    But the hard left turn of Obama and the Democrats combined with the economy and the debt woke folks up. And it’s not just the Democratic establishment tat doesn’t like it.

  25. You are so wise.

    On the other hand, are the Republicans shooting themselves in the foot by letting the Tea Party candidates run the show? When Republicans (like my husband and my mother-in-law) think that the Tea Party is going to ruin everything (i.e., those crazy people), then this is a problem also. And the Dems shoot themselves in the foot by not taking advantage of this fact. Don’t you just love politics? Not really.

    I’m sorry, but those Tea Party people scare me. Democrat inaction scares me too.

  26. If the Democrats lose the House, it will be largely because of GOP tactics in the Senate. The House has actually done a lot of good work over the last two years, but procedural rules have killed their initiatives in the Senate. Recently, Republicans blocked tax reform that would have made 1099 reporting requirements much simpler for small business owners. Simplified taxes for small businesses is apparently not on their agenda.

    Which isn’t to say that Democrats haven’t made mistakes. It’s true that they aren’t as on message or as unified. I think that comes from being a much larger tent than the current GOP.

    Still, I wouldn’t put too much faith in Obama’s speechifying. He’s pretty good when he wears his extrovert face, but they don’t have much effect.

    And the idea that this is a center-right country is risible.

  27. John@16
    >I think it will simply double-down on being obstructionist.

    It does seem to be their plan. From Politico last month: “a handful of aggressive would-be committee chairmen — led by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) — are quietly gearing up for a possible season of subpoenas not seen since the Clinton wars of the late 1990s.” (full article linked from my name).

  28. Frank:

    “Perhaps you could make an argument that the recession is the ‘fault’ of the previous administration, but the astronomical deficit that was exchanged for not discernible result is not.”

    I suspect this is another example of forgetting under whose administration the TARP program was begun, and whose actions (or inactions) made a stimulus package required. So, yeah, actually, you can make a fine argument that Obama’s deficit spending can be laid on Bush’s doorstep, and that the GOP’s sudden alarm-raising at deficit spending after the previous eight years was, at best, opportunism. I’m not opposed to Obama shouldering some of the deficit blame load, mind you. But let’s not rest it all (or even mostly) on his back. That’s inaccurate.

    “Well the leftward shift has been happening slowly and like a lobster getting boiled it just didn’t get noticed much. During the bubble-boom of the Clinton years and the bubble-boom of the Bush years few wanted to notice.”

    Sorry, Frank, this is a completely bad argument. The idea at Clinton represented a leftward drift by the Democrats is patently laughable; likewise that Bush waltzed leftishly relative to previous Republican administrations. The only thing one could argue that Bush did in a left fashion was to increase the size of the government (and of government debt), but the practice of that was well established by Reagan; and even that’s not a charge you can lay on Clinton, who if you recall shrank the government deficit during his time in office.

    No, Frank. Your “left drift” thesis is nonsense.

    Crayonbaby:

    “On the other hand, are the Republicans shooting themselves in the foot by letting the Tea Party candidates run the show?”

    In the short run, possibly not, although we’ll see. In the long run, I suspect so.

  29. @John: It is not really how the democrats communicate. It is the argument. Bush sucks. Its his fault. The republicans are just like Bush. I think (could have my dates wrong) that in 1936 FDR used the platform “are you better off today than you were 4 years ago”. That is a reference back to Hoover sucks, but things improved a little bit. The economy has gotten worse. That is not going to inspire liberals to turn out.

    Off year elections are more about the turnout of republicans and democrats than it is about moderates (in a presidential year, I think it is almost entirely about moderates).

    The republican base is radicalized to go to vote because they are out of power totally and the economy sucks. I don’t see anything inspiring democrats to turn out.

    I think the key to democrats holding onto the house is democratic turnout. They need something to turn them out in high numbers. Going Bush really sucks does not seem to work. One problem for republicans is they don’t have a Newt Gringrich like republican (big name republican not in the white house) to run against. No one really knows the Republican leadership. Sarah Palin is not office so that won’t work.

    They need a better platform than Bush sucks. Lets not repeat Bush. They need something new. It is kind of late for a new argument.

    That being said, Obama could very well pull a Clinton. Lose the house and senate in his second year. Have them to blame and pivot off them to get re-elected in 2012. It could actually be harder for Obama to win re-election if democrats retain control of the Senate and House.

  30. Guess:

    Oh, I don’t think the Democrats losing the House will be terrible for Obama in 2012. It’s a long way away anyway, and lots of things can happen. Remember that after the 2008 election people were wondering if the GOP exile from power would be measured in decades. I mean, hell. I don’t even know what will eventually happen yet this November.

  31. Scalzi:

    That said, I don’t think that divided government with the GOP as currently constituted is the best thing, because I don’t believe that the GOP any actual interest in shared governance.

    Neither party has an “interest” in shared governance only because neither party has actually had to really share governance for the last 10 years. Obama himself spent the decade as an state senator backed by an urban political machine, a powerless junior senator in a minority party, or president with a damn near filibuster-proof congressional majority. Boehner spent 2000-2006 as Denny Hastert’s yes man, and 2007-2010 as Nancy Pelosi’s no man. Neither one of them has ever been in the position of having no choice but to deal with the other side instead of steamrolling them.

    I want to use the metaphor of a shotgun gay marriage, but I’m pretty sure those don’t happen. Yet.

  32. Guess@22
    “Then the whole way they went about the healthcare legislation. … It should not require a bribe to get them to vote for major party legislation like this.”

    Why not? It took a massive bribe in the UK in 1946 when the then government had a majority of 145 members elected specifically on a platform of Welfare and Healthcare establishment to get the UK National Health Service set up. Since then it has been the best thing to ever happen to the country, but in the words of the minister responsible, Aneurin Bevan, “I stuffed their mouths with gold”, bribery was required to get it on the statute books.

  33. Seriously, were the 90′s all that terrible for the country? Clinton and the Congressional GOP spent so much time at each others’ throats over stupid shit they didn’t have time to muck up anything big.

    There’s more to good governance than just riding an artificially inflated economy until it pops, which is precisely what Clinton did in the 90s. He ran on Universal Health Care and education reform, neither of which we got because of Newt Gingrich and his panty-sniffing witch hunt. The government did nothing for Clinton’s second term because the GOP, led by Gingrich, shut down Washington. This is what they’re trying to do again but it isn’t working because we don’t have the artificial prosperity of the Tech Bubble to hide bad governance and no ideas from the public view.

    Coasting on our own inertia isn’t the same thing as forward momentum and mistaking it as such is how we got where we are now.

  34. One thing people haven’t been talking about are the mail-in ballots. Many counties and states across the country are switching to mail-in ballots only (we have) so there’s no need for enthusiasm, or even to make a special trip to vote. You just check off a box and toss it in the mail.

  35. I think it will simply double-down on being obstructionist.

    Which, if it does, will lead to an astonishingly large Democratic victory in 2012.

    I’ve said before that I think Obama’s superpower is causing his enemies to destroy themselves (see: Ryan, Keyes, Clinton, McCain – his opponents all lost the elections for him). I’d lost faith earlier this year, but it’s starting to come back – I can’t imagine that two years of the news being filled with Sharron Angle and Rand Paul, while the House is doing nothing helpful, will do anything but turn voters off.

  36. My opinion is that the Democrats got into power and saw it as their big chance to get everything all at once. Including all the pork they’d been missing out on.

    I think that they would be in much better shape politically if they had actually worked toward their stated goals. But they didn’t. They worked toward each politician’s goals. Basically: more more more for me and hang the consequences for anyone else and for the future!

    I don’t see why anyone should expect working Americans to vote for a party that sees nothing wrong with voting for gigantic spending bills that the congressmen don’t even read through! I don’t think anyone should vote for the Republicans that let that pass either.

    The Democrat leadership let pretty much every Democrat hang their favorite amendments and additions onto the stimulus and health care bills. Stuff that had nothing to do with the bill’s purpose but adds billions to the cost.

    They *deserve* to lose. Failure and incompetence as another commenter said.

  37. I actually think the majority of independent voters who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal feel more comfortable voting for Republicans than Democrats. George W. Bush was a disappointment for me primarily because he ran as a fiscal conservative and then ran up the debt through two wars and by signing budget bills crafted by the Democratic leadership. Bill Clinton only balanced the budget because he lost the House in 1994 and a balanced budget was shoved down his throat.

  38. sirkenneth:

    “I actually think the majority of independent voters who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal feel more comfortable voting for Republicans than Democrats.”

    People who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal feel more comfortable voting for the party that is demonstrably neither fiscally conservative nor socially liberal? I’m sorry, this really does not compute for me.

  39. When you say “Democrats”, the most important group of Democrats at blame are… *us*. We, the Democratic voters.

    The Tea Party is out there targeting — and eliminating — every Republican leader who doesn’t toe their line, Mike Castle being just the latest scalp. They’ve successfully driven their own party hard in the direction the Tea Party wants. They didn’t sit back and wait for the Republican leadership to go further hard right — they went out and *forced* it. They raised up hard-right candidates in the primaries, they donate and they canvass, they pack the town hall meetings and turn out for the primaries, and *that’s* how you win. *That’s* how you get your congressman to quake in his chair and do what you want.

    *That’s* why Lieberman feels safe thumbing his nose at the Democratic voters in Connecticut — and why, in contrast, Bob Bennett in Utah no longer has a job.

    Our side sulks at home because our leadership doesn’t “inspire” us. Their side goes out there and *forces* their leadership to toe their line, and destroys and drives out the moderates who would dare suggest apostasy. And ironically, the major hope of Democrats (and major fear of Republicans) is that the sheer insanity of the Tea Party’s chosen might finally, *finally* get enough Democrats off their asses to actually *do* something. And even then, maybe not.

    Democrats had primaries, didn’t they? If Democrats were “uninspired” by their leadership, they had their chance to promote and support grass-roots challengers, just like the Tea Party did. They could have raised money and packed town halls and gone to the primaries, just like the Tea Party did. If we didn’t like the timidity with which our representatives fought for us, we could have packed their offices with letters, found challengers for their primaries and fueled their coffers with dollars. We could have raised hell until the Democrats in Congress were as scared of us, as the Republicans in Congress are scared of the Tea Party. But instead, among Democrats, there’s an “enthusiasm gap”. Which is a polite way of saying, as a whole, we were too gutless, too wimpy, too lazy, to show up and fight to save ourselves.

    There *have* been and remain pockets of Democratic activists who have been trying, this whole time, to fight and drive their own party. But it is entirely obvious which side’s rank and file as a whole was more willing to get off their asses. And unless in the next six weeks that changes, the outcome is going to be the side who fought and donated and marched the most, will be the side that wins.

    So put the credit and the blame where it belongs. Up to this point, Tea Party showed up to fight. And we Democrats — we rank and file Democrats — didn’t.

  40. @39, sirkenneth

    “fiscally conservative and socially liberal feel more comfortable voting for Republicans than Democrats.”

    What? No, really, what? Can you please explain to me how you mean “fiscally conservative” could possibly be applied to the years 2001-2008 or how “socially liberal” could ever possibly apply to the homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-immigration, won’t-anyone-please-think-of-the-poor-suffering-white-man Republicans?

  41. Okay, I hope this doesn’t get me malleted, but I would like to share a slightly different perspective on a couple of (perhaps minor) points in John’s post:

    1) I agree that the President and his allies in Congress largely passed the platform they ran and won on. But there’s one item that they left out that I thought was pretty important: Then-Senator Obama promised very clearly during the campaign to reduce net federal spending. I understood this (and I believe many other moderates understood this) to mean that he would focus resources on some big campaign issues like health care and education (which he referred to as important investments) while cutting a lot of older government programs that haven’t been successful or don’t relate to current politically salient issues. So kudos to the Democrats for accomplishing that part of their legislative agenda, but is it totally unfair for moderates to feel betrayed that the Democrats haven’t made any move yet on the spending cuts in other areas that were supposed to (more than) pay for it?

    2) Is it totally fair to say all the vitriol is coming from the Republican side while the Dems are trying to be polite and reasonable? Ms. Pelosi at one point, for no reason that I could fathom, compared peaceful protesters to the 1970s murderers of a San Francisco mayor. Several Democrats in Congress accused a crowd of peaceful protesters of hurling racial epithets, when copious video and audio of the event turns up nothing at all to back up that accusation.

    I realize that the right has been somewhat more vitriolic than the left for the past 2 years, but that is not uncommon for the party out of presidential power. Recall all the “Bush = Hitler” crap from circa 2004-2006. I think both of the major parties are mean and unfair, and it seems that whichever is out of presidential power tends to be more mean and unfair, but if you compare their respective behavior at corresponding out-of-power time periods I think you’ll find one is not significantly worse than the other.

  42. Interesting discussion. I confess that some of the so-called Tea Party Movement confuses me, because either they’re going to have to get organized on a national level as either a political party and/or special interest group (1-800-TEABAGR?) complete with national spokesperson and consistent platform that must be written down somewhere, or they’re going to cannibalize the GOP into splinter groups.

    I actually have been mostly pleased with Obama and nothing gives me a case of the uncontrollable screamie-meamies than to think of where we’d be today if McCain/Palin had won the election.

  43. MyName @18

    The problem isn’t that this is a “center right” country. The problem is that we have a lower competency level than we should in government

    Well I will give you that our political class is broken, but the cognitive dissonance between the governors and the governed has become to great to be sustained as well.

    Then it would go to the Senate where the Republicans made sure you needed 60 votes to so much as wipe your nose and all of the bills died

    Perhaps, but remember; Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate until Scott Brown.

    So when the President says that it was the Republicans were being obstructionist, what he means is he needed Republican help to get around the Democrats who were being “obstructionist” to him and his agenda.

    But if something was too far left for right-wing Democrats, what were the chances?

    He should have made sure the Democratic Leadership had the Republicans at the table to begin with. Now the President has to go back and revive some of the ideas presented by the Republicans back then (which were ignored) and put them on display now to show he still has a few bullets in his gun.

    They get angry about failure and incompetence, both of which describe the GOP from 2002-2006, and the party hasn’t changed one bit.

    Which is why the Tea Party has taken it upon themselves to try to fix that.

    But as much as the Republicans were bad in the period you describe, the Democrats are perceived to be worse. Which is why many will be voting for Republicans even if they don’t like Republicans much.

    Guess @25

    As far as the deficit is concerned. It is clearly a voting issue for conservative republicans.

    And see this is a problem for the Democratic Party: This is not just an issue for conservative republicans. Most people recognize you can not sustain the massive debt we have incurred. They know it could not be sustained in their own lives and they believe it can not be sustained in public life. That the Democratic Party not only seems oblivious to this fact, but seem to want, if given a chance, make it even bigger is extremely disturbing to main street folks of all political stripes but most notably “independents”.

    When the Democrats begged Americans to be voted in in 2006, one of their agenda points was balancing the budget. And that not only hasn’t happened, it’s got to a point where the national debt is a horrorshow.

    Scalzi @30

    I suspect this is another example of forgetting under whose administration the TARP program was begun, and whose actions (or inactions) made a stimulus package required.

    I actually have no problem with TARP either from Bush or Obama. I think the financial back-bone of this country was on the brink of collapse and I think it needed to be done.

    I do not accept that the “stimulus” was necessary as a result and even if a stimulus was necessary this particular hodge-podge of port-barrel spending was and remains disastrously ineffective.

    And I don’t think the bailout of the auto-industry was necessary either.

    Nor was the health-care plan well thought out.

    If you wanted a stimulus package I would argue that Reagan’s was much more effective where he presided over the military build-up. Not only did this create thousands of high-paying engineering and manufacturing jobs, as well as the (dare I say) trickle-down supporting businesses, but there were civilian benefits that spawned more jobs (i.e. GPS).

    And the President didn’t even need to beef up the military. If he had taken the trillion dollars and gave it to NASA and said, “here. Go to Mars” we would have been better off than what was done.

    Sorry, Frank, this is a completely dumb argument. The idea at Clinton represented a leftward drift by the Democrats is patently laughable; likewise that Bush waltzed leftishly relative to previous Republican administrations.

    Dumb, huh. I’m wounded.

    No Clinton did not end up leftish, but he started out that way. And what lost him the House and Senate was his attempt at healthcare. But Clinton was (is) a smart politician and he “triangulated” right when Republicans took control. And he managed to win re-election as a result (of course without getting 50% of the vote and thanks in part to Ross Perot: Remember him?)

    But the Democrats used not to be hard anti-war. The Democrats used not to be deficit spenders. Most Democrats of the 50s and 60s were a completely different breed than most Democrats of today. That’s just a fact. They were not big-government democrats. They have become big government democrats. And big-government is the distinguishing factor to me for the left-right divide. So when you say: The only thing one could argue that Bush did in a left fashion was to increase the size of the government (and of government debt) you make at least half my point for me. Nonsense indeed.

    Bush with his Part-D and No Child Left Behind did contribute to the Party moving left. Sure he was strong and clear against terrorism, but this is not the defining factor of a Conservative, just common sense survival. His “Compassionate Conservatism” was his way of attempting to move the Party Left, plain and simple.

    even that’s not a charge you can lay on Clinton, who if you recall shrank the government deficit during his time in office.

    Actually, since Congress is in charge of spending and the Executive is in charge of, well, executing, it was the Republicans who shrunk the deficit during the Clinton years.

    But Republicans lost their way after a while and found ways around their own PayGo rules (which Democrats have recently, and tepidly, attempted to resurrect).

    And look at the charts, the deficit was shrinking under Bush until 2006. Mostly because more people were paying taxes. This happened during the low unemployment periods during the Clinton era as well.

    It is a fact that the best way to increase income to the Federal Government is to have people working.

    But not spending a lot helps too.

    Regardless of all of this, people perceive that the Democrats have us on an unsustainable path and the legislative “successes” are unpopular. So you don’t need to be a political wonk to want to vote the bums out.

  44. “but Americans didn’t want that legislation,” please jam it back into your insipidly partisan brain hole. Obama was pretty damn clear what his intentions were when he took office, and the American people were on board enough to give his party large majorities in the House and Senate.

    Do you really believe that people voted for the legislative program? That flies totally contrary to my experiences of electoral politics – its not about actually policies but about personality and narrative. Obama won because he could claim to represent ‘change’ (not that much has actually changed – he’s just continued most of Bush’s policies where it matters) and almost anyone could probably have beaten McCain/Palin…

    The result of the election does not say anything about what legislation the ‘American people’ want (and that’s leaving aside the majority of people rarely vote for the winner, or loser in elections and the idiocy of trying to claim that a massively diverse group of people all want one thing).

  45. @42: Matt

    “What? No, really, what? Can you please explain to me how you mean “fiscally conservative” could possibly be applied to the years 2001-2008 or how “socially liberal” could ever possibly apply to the homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-immigration, won’t-anyone-please-think-of-the-poor-suffering-white-man Republicans?”

    Your response is thoughtless, knee-jerk, and cynical. You must have missed the part of my post explaining my disappointment in the lack of fiscal responsibility during W’s years. I’d like to see a fiscally conservative Congress like during the 90s.

    Secondly, the vast majority of Republican’s are not homophobic, Islamophobic, or anti-immigration. For example, it’s a typical liberal smear to say Republicans are anti-immigration. Republicans are anti ILLEGAL immigration. How could such an open-minded liberal like you apply such stereotypes?

  46. Mr. Scalzi,

    First, a cartoon:

    http://afrocityblog.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/spine.jpg?w=573&h=587

    Secondly, wrt: “People who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal feel more comfortable voting for the party that is demonstrably neither fiscally conservative nor socially liberal? I’m sorry, this really does not compute for me.”

    In my experience, the lie of GOP fiscal conservatism is taken as an axiom in the USA – something you don’t even bother to question. This is starting to shift, but it’s only happening slowly outside of folks who aren’t already Democrats. To some extent, it is probably similar to the idea that putting the Obama in power would significantly roll back the civil liberty rightsizings that occurred under Bush. (Heck, I believed the first lie until around 2007 when I say some good data, and the second until about a year ago.)

    Finally: you are being unnecessarily harsh on “unheardable brain-damaged stoats.” What did freedom loving mentally handicapped mustelids ever do to you to be so badly abused?

    regards,
    mll

  47. @Tristan, if people really are that uninterested in a candidate’s platform, then they have no business complaining about that candidate’s legislative agenda once elected. It’s like signing a mortgage without even looking at the interest rate.

  48. Everyone wants to blame the Republicans for what has or has not gotten done in the last 20 months. Yes, they have filibustered at an unprecedented rate and blocked much legislation. But, for most of that time the Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, a large majority in the house, and the presidency. They had the power. They instead spent a lot of time bickering among themselves, creating endless legislative processes, and watering down bills by removing anything that any one person does not like.

    Obama did have a rich agenda and made many promises. Of these, the stimulus was bungled, allowing concern over less than 10% of its cost cut the major infrastructure spending that would have helped (don’t get me wrong; without the stimulus we would be up a creek with no paddle right now. It would have been a real depression). Then they bogged down on health care, chewing on it forever and ignoring many other things that should have gotten done while the Republicans had plenty of time to frame the health care debate any way they wanted, not matter how absurd and we end up with a bill that does nothing about costs, the real problem. Why is Guantanamo still open? Why no cap and trade bill? This idea that congress can only do one thing at a time is stupid. Obama should have pushed through his agenda the first year. Then he would have something strong to stand by in the election season.

    They live in constant fear that some agenda item will be called out as “socialist” or “liberal” and they will get knocked out of office, forgetting that these are the things that Obama ran on and achieved a large victory with. Now that mandate is gone and they are effectively impotent.

  49. John

    Frank is correct. Obama ran as a moderate when in fact he favors a government more like a European Social Democracy. McCain was leading in the polls until Bear Stearns collapsed. Obama’s win was misintupreted by people who also want to be more like Europe as a sign that the public at large wanted to be more like Europe. So they went and voted on measures that expand the roll of government. A lot of people don’t want that and are expressing themselves in the polls. There is a move to a smaller less intrusive government afoot as shown in the primary losses of insufficiently conservative republicans and the losses the democrats will suffer in the fall.

    You stated that the Republicans have no legislative plan. Rep. Paul Ryan has a very detailed plan. How does that not count?

    As a conservative, I don’t feel that my beliefs are because I am stupid, uneducated, racist or xenophobic. It does not seem smart to me to assume those things about someone because of their political views. What if the left is losing the election because they are actually losing the war of ideas? They pushed through a giant healthcare plan that greatly expands the roll of government even though it doesn’t include the ultimate goal of having a single payer system. Today the only democrats that are advertising their vote on the bill are the ones that voted against it. Would that change if it had somehow passed as a single payer plan? Really?

  50. Frank:

    “No Clinton did not end up leftish, but he started out that way.”

    Yeah, no. The Clinton/DLC brand was to the right of the party in 1992, nor was Clinton shy about throwing positioning himself to the right of said party during the campaign.

    “it was the Republicans who shrunk the deficit during the Clinton years.”

    Yeah, again, no. Clinton made deficit reduction a cornerstone of his presidency and in 1993 his move in that direction, Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, passed without a single Republican vote. To suggest that Clinton was not through his office instrumental in bringing down deficits is flatly historically incorrect.

    “And big-government is the distinguishing factor to me for the left-right divide.”

    Which is to say that when you feel free to define your terms in a manner that is not generally accepted or incomplete, then you can make the words “right” and “left” mean whatever you want them to. Yes, well.

    Sorry, Frank. Your argument is still bad. For future reference, please use the models of history, and the general definitions of political alignment, which have currency outside of your own person.

    Eric:

    “Frank is correct.”

    He is so really, really not.

    “McCain was leading in the polls until Bear Stearns collapsed.”

    Actually McCain spent most of 2008 with poll numbers below Obama’s. So, again: Let’s use models of history that conform to reality outside our own person, please.

    “As a conservative, I don’t feel that my beliefs are because I am stupid, uneducated, racist or xenophobic.”

    I was talking about the GOP, and you assume that I am therefore necessarily speaking of conservatives. This amuses me.

    That said, that someone believes their beliefs are not rooted in stupidity, ignorance, racism or xenophobism is not surprising; everyone thinks they are reasonable. I am not suggesting you are stupid, uneducated, racist or xenophobic — I know plenty of smart, knowledgeable, tolerant conservatives, and you may be one of them. Which would be awesome.

    Charles:

    “Everyone wants to blame the Republicans for what has or has not gotten done in the last 20 months.”

    And yet, oddly enough, this entire article was about the failings of the Democrats.

    Martin:

    “the lie of GOP fiscal conservatism is taken as an axiom in the USA – something you don’t even bother to question.”

    Well, it’s an axiom because, in fact, the GOP has shown absolutely no inclination toward fiscal conservatism for three decades, unless, of course, they are out of power, at which point they start bleating about it. You are incorrect, however, that I treat the assertion as an axiom; I base it on my own not inconsiderable political awareness.

  51. @Frank: Your math on the Senate after ’08 is just plain wrong. The Dems had 57 + 2 independents, which only made 59 until July ’09 because of the election dispute in Minn. So there was a brief period of about 6 months between July ’09 and Feb. ’10 when the Democrats actually could pass legislation without worrying about a filibuster, and yet according to you, the Democrats are “responsible” for everything between November ’06 and today. It just don’t make sense.

    And in any case, my point still stands that many bills would pass the House, and die in the Senate because instead of getting 51-55 votes they would need 60. And yet the House is the one most likely to change hands.

  52. @Eric, didn’t you feel the whoosh of air passing by us as the rest of the Republican caucus ran like Hell away from Rep. Ryan’s plan?

  53. You must have missed the part of my post explaining my disappointment in the lack of fiscal responsibility during W’s years. I’d like to see a fiscally conservative Congress like during the 90s.

    Secondly, the vast majority of Republican’s are not homophobic, Islamophobic, or anti-immigration. For example, it’s a typical liberal smear to say Republicans are anti-immigration. Republicans are anti ILLEGAL immigration. How could such an open-minded liberal like you apply such stereotypes?

    sirkenneth, there hasn’t been a fiscally responsible Republican in office since Nixon, at least, and he only just squeaks by. Every Republican president from Reagan through W. increased the national debt. It was a Democrat, Clinton who balanced the Budget and did so against the GOP, some of whom at the time actively opposed a balanced budget because they thought it would undermine economic competition.

    As for the reputation of the modern GOP being homophobic, Islamophobic, and anti-immigration, you might have an argument if it weren’t for Republicans constantly acting homophobic, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant. This is the party that proposed an amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as male/female, regularly calls the President a Muslim like it’s a slur and seriously suggested building a wall along the Mexican boarder. None of these actions were undertaken by fringe weirdos but by sitting members of congress, presidential candidates and spokesmen for the RNC.

  54. The Democrats have trailed the GOP in the ability to frame the message since Reagan took office. But the real key was when they started paying people who understood language was a tool to figure out how to present their message in a way that the Democrats have never been able to trump.
    Which I don’t really understand…there has to be a number of competent socio-linguists who would be willing to work for the Democrats. I don’t know why they won’t pay them…

  55. Scalzi

    The Clinton/DLC brand was to the right of the party in 1992

    OK, so now you prove the other half of my point. If the DLC was to the Right of the Democratic Party, everyone else must have been to the left of it, no?

    budget reconciliation act 1993?

    Are you being serious or what? This is the bill that raised taxes on everyone including social security recipients.

    This bill is not what effected a balanced budget for the time Clinton was in office.

    What effected less deficit spending was welfare reform, the dot-com bubble which resulted very low unemployment, the “peace dividend” and fiscal responsibility by the lawmakers appropriating the spending bills.

    Which is to say that when you feel free to define your terms in a manner that is not generally accepted or incomplete, then you can make the words “right” and “left” mean whatever you want them to.

    Yes, well, clearly my definition is becoming more mainstream. The Tea Party is united by less government principles. People differ on social issues, but smaller less intrusive government is what unites them.

    And its what connects them to independent.s

    And what separates them from Democrats.

    So excuse me if I use “my own” definition.

  56. Politicians, by their nature, are vacuous and self-serving. They want to be elected to positions that leave them above the law and on impressive salaries they can vote on at the expense of the peons. The largest mistake people are making right now is in looking within the two party system to correct the problem OF the two party system. There is no logic behind this.

    I think you’re underplaying the reason the dems will lose. People are smarter than that, just as some people will always vote the party line, there are many who have begun to think about how this system only serves itself. The two main parties are the reason the system can successfully do that and ALWAYS at the people’s expense.

    Response to various comments: Are people forgetting who actually composes and passes legislation prior to it getting to the desk of the President? Seems to me there’s an awful lot of “blame the Republicans” going hand in hand with “let’s forget the Dems had control over the House and Senate in 2007″ which was, btw, PRIOR to the first TARP.

    Look, I don’t like either party. I argue for the Constitution not some outlandish notion that people should simply be able to elect themselves (or others, because it’s bad to think of one’s self m’kay?) entitlements that come from other people’s money. Probably needless to say but I vote for whatever third party managed to get on the ballot in my state since neither of the two major parties gives a crap about my freedom. We swing right, we swing left, and that means we’re invisibly chained from each side by whoever was decided upon by the masses.

    The more meaningful conversation about American politics is where the limitations of power are supposed to be in place, why it was decided this way and, last but not least, the reasons why the founders were against democracy and formed a constitutional republic.

  57. It is shocking a commications apparatus that was so good at messaging during the campaign has been so poor at communicating while governing.

    Outside of the stimulus, the hallmark legislative actions have been health care reform and financial services reform, one a Democratic priority for six decades and the other an attempt to address (preconditions that allowed) the worst economic catastrophe of this generation.

    How galactically incompetent is your communications operation that you lose a PR battle to insurance companies and credit card issuers? EVERYBODY hates those guys. Pretty sure if you had a steel cage death match based on popularity, they’d probably lose to used car salesmen and ambulance chasing trial attorneys.

    But the Administration has managed it, and opportunistic opponents are grabbing hold.

  58. Frank:

    “OK, so now you prove the other half of my point. If the DLC was to the Right of the Democratic Party, everyone else must have been to the left of it, no?”

    No. Beyond that, that Clinton was to the right of his party does not suggest his party had drifted left at any time, which is at the heart of your thesis; it suggests only that he was to the right of his party. You’re being lazy with your logic.

    “Are you being serious or what? This is the bill that raised taxes on everyone including social security recipients.”

    We’re talking about deficit reduction and you attempt shift the frame to complain about taxes? Nice try, Frank, but again, no.

    “So excuse me if I use ‘my own’ definition.”

    No, I won’t, actually, Frank. You are either arguing poorly because you don’t know how to argue this topic, or because you are intentionally being mendacious, or both. In either event, you’ve been here long enough to know that goofy little rhetorical tricks and poor argumentation annoy me, Frank, and you’ve argued better other times, which suggests to me that you can argue better. I wish you would.

    But not on this thread; you’re done with this particular one.

  59. @Andy. You are correct. Not everyone is willing to sign on because it tries to address the serious problems that our entitlement
    programs face and most politicians on both sides are afraid talk about such scary things. The difference now is that some of the people on the right who are to meek to take a stand are losing primary races to people who run on those very issues. Look at the Senate races in Alaska, Deleware and Utah. The move is for smaller, less intrusive government.

    @ John. You are correct. My history was askew. I said Bear Stearns when I meant Lehman Brothers. However McCain did lead the gallop polls for the 9 days prior to the September 15 Lehman collapse.

  60. Eric:

    “However McCain did lead the gallop polls for the 9 days prior to the September 15 Lehman collapse.”

    Absolutely, because among other things he was coming out of the Republican convention, which ended on September 4; he saw an upward swing in his poll numbers beginning September 2nd (i.e., the first day of polling after the convention started). That a candidate sees a bump from his nominating convention is not in the least surprising.

  61. @Frank:
    Which is why the Tea Party has taken it upon themselves to try to fix that.

    Until the Tea Party takes it upon themselves to purge the lunatic fringe – the theocrats, the people who tear up school buildings because a teacher displays a copy of the Declaration of Independence on the wall (see the Tea Party in Massechussettes), the Sharon Angles, the people who say that the Civil Rights act should be repealed because they should be able to kick blacks out of their schools and churches and businesses (i.e. Rand Paul) – they are the problem, not the solution.

  62. @Frank:
    Which is why the Tea Party has taken it upon themselves to try to fix that.

    I have to ask: where was the tea party during the Bush administration? Why were they not concerned about a massive new entitlement program (prescription drugs), expanding federal power (signing statements, presidential power), a large increase in discretionary spending, massive blowups of earmarks, wiretapping of American citizens, discarding the constitution’s protections for individuals, etc., etc., etc.? They are up in arms about TARP, but did not protest when a Republican pushed it through and a Republican presidential candidate endorsed it. Why did this movement wait until a Democratic administration to suddenly get all in a huff about issues like this?

    For that matter, why isn’t the Tea Party united against the Arizona immigration law? Of all things, requiring you to carry proof of citizenship should be way over the top for them, but they are actually thrilled with this idea because the American Citizen victims of this law won’t be the demographic they see at their rallies.

  63. @47, sirkenneth
    Secondly, the vast majority of Republican’s are not homophobic,

    And yet the break down, in many cases for things such as same-sex marriage or other issues involving homosexuality (such as allowing gays to adopt), fall with Republicans on the side not supporting such things.

    Islamophobic,

    Recent polls revolving around the ginned up controversy over Park51 would disagree with you, as would the numerous Republican leaders who have done nothing but latch onto said controversy and use it to try and instill fear and suspicion into the American people.

    Beyond that, President Bush’s one comment about not being at war with Islam aside, the idea of “terrorist” over the last eight years has been made to be synonymous with the imagery solely of the Middle East, to the point where we had a white guy fly a plane into an IRS building for political purposes and he wasn’t branded a terrorist.

    or anti-immigration. For example, it’s a typical liberal smear to say Republicans are anti-immigration. Republicans are anti ILLEGAL immigration.

    To the point where they want to do away with portions of the Constitution that cover protections for children of legal immigrants born here. Right.

    How could such an open-minded liberal like you apply such stereotypes?

    I comment on the trends I see in the Republican leadership. Is it a stereotype to say “Most Republicans display homophobic tendencies” when most Republicans vote against same-sex marriage?

  64. @Eric – okay, good. I think you can see how Rep. Ryan’s example actually reinforces Mr. Scalzi’s point about the Republicans having no real plan. Rep. Ryan actually came up with a plan, which would be consistent with the GOP’s supposed professed ideals while making some tough choices about how to address America’s long-term fiscal problems. The rest of the GOP in Congress promptly distanced itself from his plan, because they are afraid that having too specific a proposal would cause voters to associate the GOP with the pain engendered by those tough choices and/or give critics a more solid target to attack. Thus, they have no plan, and seem to deliberately avoid adopting a plan.

    It is not for me to speak for Mr. Scalzi, but I suspect that if the GOP had rallied around Rep. Ryan’s plan, he would indeed admit that it is a plan, even if he disagrees with it. As things stand, unless you are saying that Rep. Ryan = the GOP, the Republicans cannot be said to have a plan.

  65. @John: I’ve told Frank he has to take a time out from the thread, so asking him questions at this point won’t be fruitful.

    Ah, but I did intend my questions to be rhetorical. Expecting a reasonable answer from Frank would not really be something I would hold my breath for.

  66. “What you can do is blame the Democrats for continuing to fall for this shit, over and over and over again.”

    Well, yeah. This, and also for seeming to feel like they have to appear to be “nicer” than the subset of the Republican party structure who seem to have no problem with lying (in all its forms) and using dirty tricks in order to win.

    I’m not saying here that I want the Democrats to stoop to dirty tricks and lying (and, god knows, there are Democrats who have done their share of that, too), because I don’t. But I am saying that the Democratic party structure has to learn to step up and be willing to kick ass and take names when the Republicans try to lie and use dirty tricks. I don’t see them doing that. A good start would be to stand up to the wingnuts and say, “Excuse me. You’re insane, and here’s the evidence of it.” Don’t dither around. It looks weak, especially when you’re not dealing with actual conservatives (some of whom I have a good deal of respect for even though I consider myself to be a liberal-leaning moderate), but with right-wing ideologues who are so far past “conservative” that they’re in danger of falling off the political spectrum altogether.

  67. Part of the reason for the estimated loss of the House is the “enthusiasm gap” — more Conservatives are motivated, and will show up to vote.

    If the Democrats lose the House (which will result in the Republicans peppering the White House with subpoenas over every invented opportunity — Bachmann is already on the record) — the Democrats in power share part of the blame…. But the majority of the blame should lay firmly at the feet of progressive/liberal VOTERS, who can’t be bothered to show up.

    As I’ve said to many of my fellow liberals: Obama didn’t manage to turn the Bag of Crap he was handed into Gold, and so now your inaction is going to hand power back to the guys who crapped in the bag in the first place. Smart.

  68. Charles:

    Let’s not go down that road. Frank is a long-time commenter here and often he has very good points to make, and makes them well. Just because I’ve bounced him off this particular thread does not mean I’ve announced a free-for-all on his person.

    Gareth:

    “But the majority of the blame should lay firmly at the feet of progressive/liberal VOTERS, who can’t be bothered to show up.”

    This is indeed a point to consider.

  69. Everything is the fault of the other party. This is a truism no matter whether you consider yourself a democrat or a republican, or whether you simply have a tendency to vote mostly for one or the other.

    The problem is not whether the republicans are reactionist pigs or the democrats are socialist jerks, the problem is that both of them put a far higher value in controlling the government than in doing anything with that control. Thus at least half of the members of congress will do anything in their power to block any measure proposed by the other party that might be popular with the people, because that would help the evil other party gain power. And then they will blame that evil other party for not getting anything done, or for doing too much, whichever is more convenient.

  70. Sirkenneth, I’m a fiscally conservative, socially liberal independent who voted for Bush in 2000, was horrified by what followed, and have voted Democrat ever since. I’ll continue to do so until a fiscally conservative party actually exists.

  71. My final point is that we citizens who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal are orphans–neither party fits our ideology.

  72. Obama really needs to come out swinging in the next couple of weeks. At 9%+ unemployment any President should be really pissed about not getting everything he asks for. The time for compromised died the first time the phrase “death panel” was uttered. It doesn’t seem like Obama has realized this.

  73. Sorry John, the “you” in “the lie of GOP fiscal conservatism is taken as an axiom in the USA – something you don’t even bother to question” is a “you generic American” you, not a “you John Scalzi” you. When writing that statement, I though the first clause made the purpose of the pronoun in the second one clear, but on reflection, in the greater context of the conversation, it could certainly be taken either way. Please take it to mean:
    “the lie of GOP fiscal conservatism is taken as an axiom in the USA – something one don’t even bother to question”

    I stand by the truth of this statement. I hope it becomes wrong soon, but I’m not holding my breath.

  74. Not sure why you are hating on the TEA party people, calling them “crazy nephew from the attic” and all. For me they are the underdog, and they are trying to reform the GOP and through them our government. I am sorry Obama did not turn out the way you hoped he would but that shouldn’t be surprising, look where he came from and what he advocated for. Nor do I think it is reasonable to blame the GOP for the DEM lack luster support of their own idea. The political evisceration of kittens is nothing that hasn’t happened before, so I don’t see why it should matter, this President is one of the most divisive Presidents in recent history.

    The DEM over reached on their political power play in this economic recession and so it is going to hurt them this November and doubly so because it is a mid term election. Remember they didn’t want to waste this crisis, so they brought out their wish-lists and went to town, is it any surprise that the voter feels ill used?

  75. @sirkenneth, 74:

    I agree. There used to be a place in both parties for Socially liberal, fiscal conservatives…Now there is no place in either party. The BlueDogs have abandoned Social liberalism, and religious conservatives have pushed the social liberals out of the GOP with a vengeance. Unfortunately, the third party alternatives tend to be dominated by persons of an untenable nature. My father keeps telling me the tea party has a place for us, but I haven’t seen it. The tea party in Illinois is clearly religious conservatives who think the GOP isn’t religious enough. Same with Iowa, and Wisconsin. Don’t know about where you are, but it doesn’t seem to be a welcoming place to me.

  76. @Paul, 77;
    Not sure why you are hating on the TEA party people, calling them “crazy nephew from the attic” and all.

    Well, when I walk past a Tea Party rally where the speakers are calling for the death penalty for gays, banning Islam and Judaism, and still perpetuating the long dismissed (and disproved) birther arguements, what am I supposed to think? That they’re just the Upright Citizens Brigade putting the joke on us? The loudest voices from the Tea Party are from the lunatic fringe.

  77. The DNC chair was on the Daily Show last week. Here’s Tim Kaine (starting around 21:00) with an opportunity to be articulate and forceful on a show that regularly goes viral the next day, and when Jon Stewart questions him about the party’s total failure to communicate, Kaine comes back with a keychain. Apparently that’s his big PR plan.

  78. Gareth @70: But the majority of the blame should lay firmly at the feet of progressive/liberal VOTERS, who can’t be bothered to show up.

    Amen. A large part of Obama’s victory on 2008 was credited to his energizing younger, more progressive voters to the polls. But getting those same voters to carry that enthusiasm over to state and local elections (including elections for US Congress) in between Presidential election years is like pulling teeth. As a Democrat, this has been a pet peeve of mine since I’ve been old enough to vote (1976 was my first election).

    And this, I believe, goes a long way towards explaining the spinelessness of Democratic elected officials. If a progressive lobby threatens to make trouble for a Democrat at the next election, it’s largely seen as an empty threat, because progressive voters are apparently more interested in American Idol than in who their Congressman or Senator is. And unless a charismatic person is running for President that year, they can’t be bothered to show up at the polls. But if a conservative lobby makes a similar threat, it’s taken seriously, because they know that conservative voters get up off their asses and VOTE.

  79. Paul:

    “Not sure why you are hating on the TEA party people, calling them ‘crazy nephew from the attic’ and all.”

    It’s not that hard to figure out. Basically, the Tea Party modus operandi at this point seems to be “let’s nominate people who in the real world would be suspected of eating crayons for breakfast,” and while I think it’s nice that these folks seem to think that’s somehow affirming, it doesn’t really lend any credence to the theory that the Tea Party, as nebulous at it actually is at the point, is about anything other than old white people acting out and/or credulously being gulled by political cynics who would otherwise have no chance to be taken seriously.

  80. I blame the ideals of the media for a large part of it.

    We critique Fox News for its descent into fake news, but honestly if they just removed their “Fair and Balanced” slogan they would be the most intellectually honest of the different channels.

    The idea that news can and should be impartial is an unobtainable ideal. It can and will never happen because the idea that people can be impartial will never be a reality.

    I would rather have MSNBC ect actively trumpet their ideals than try to be fair to everyone.

    Because right now, if you leave the Daily Show off, what you have is the following argument:

    Fox: Obama is a Socialist! He is Islamic! He is like Hitler! Health Care will have DEATH CAMPS!

    vs.

    Other news outlets:
    Well, some people are saying that Obama is a socialist, but this does not seem to be true. What do you think? Oh, Look at this Sarah Palin tweet!

    And we wonder why the republican lines seem to control the news cycles and through them control the terms in which the last year has been discussed?

    It is because the people who could be spreading the counter-narratives are doing so in such a backwards and moronic way that they are being beaten at public relations by people who manage to contradict themselves weekly.

    But, really, I don’t actually blame the people in office. They should NOT be having to worry the way they are about what people will think of their every breath. They should be running the country, not a perpetual campaign. The democrats have done exactly what they said they would when they were elected. We have healthcare.

    This is opposed to the people in the media who have decided that all that matters is how much money their news makes and that they have no obligation to actually use their soapbox to try and improve the country.

  81. Running as an apologist for yourself, which appears to be the strategy of choice for most democrats, is not particularly likely to generate solid wins. Or, wins.

    While republicans were running around like victims of mercury poisoning, the Democrats had a debate amongst themselves on the issues. That inclusiveness is, in other topics, remembered as a selling point.

    Some of what is labeled indecisiveness as a party is what a rational debate looks like when one party goes batshit insano. I also think the media hasn’t really done them any major favors by covering the politics of two major parties. In reality we’ve had several parties, one of which has been the party of reasonable adults disagreeing reasonably with one another over policy issues. Meanwhile, the other two groups have been on a throat cutting race to lowest common denomenator land.

    But, again, that’s pretty much the Dems fault for not being more competent at sales. I think it is remarkable that the GOP currently espousing so many untenable political thoughts has a future looking so bright. Which will probably only exacerbate what must be their impending megadeath-style hangover. Right? Because sober individuals wouldn’t have spent the last two years talking about death panels, socialism, communism, fascism, socia-commu-fascism, evils of Islam, ending civil rights, reeducation camps…Jesus. These guys are looking up.

    I don’t think anyone losing a debate to these ideas can be considered competent. How do you lose a debate where your opponent ripostes with death panels? Or Kenyan anti-colonialism? The people that are losing the debate are arguing with folks who have a current hateon for ANTIcolonialism.

    I want to find a more complex explanation. But, when the Democrats are losing the war of ideas to this mess of madness, what else is there to say? They have no clue how to communicate anything.

  82. “It’s the economy, stupid.”
    Clinton was able to learn the lesson, and learn it well. Why has Obama and the Congressional Democratic leadership failed to do so as well?
    In Michigan, unemployment is enormous. Fix that, and you will get reelected.

  83. Jason B @85:

    If that’s true, then why would anyone in Michigan vote against the party trying to jump-start the economy in favor of the people who deride government intervention in the apparent belief that the economy should be left to fix itself?

  84. Some here are asking that the Tea Party organize itself into a real party. Not going to happen. That’s not the idea. We are not interesting in taking the place of one of the parties; we are interested in removing both branches of the Dysfunction Abusive Parent Party. Both; the Mommycrats (do what I want and I’ll give you a treat, dear!) and the Daddycans (do what I say or I’ll whop you!) have been in power too long, pretending to be parents to children-citizens. The idea of the Tea Party is that citizens are Adults, and don’t need abusive parents at all.

    So given a choice of voting for incumbent or crazy — we pick crazy, because they’re not part of the abusive parent system, they’re just crazy.

    You might read (stop at the local book shop, it’s an easy hour) “The Starfish and The Spider”. Attempts to seduce the Starfish (Tea Party) into becoming a Spider (proper political party), will, at least -I- hope, fail.

  85. The Senate rule that it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster, combined with the Republicans’ eagerness to use the tactic over the past couple years, has totally reamed the Democrats, in two ways.

    First of all, the average voters are not going to care about the niceties of parliamentary procedure. As far as those voters are concerned, the Democrats own Congress, the Democrats own the White House, and therefore the Democrats are responsible for whatever becomes law… or doesn’t.

    Second, while we had that joyful year and a half (a pox on thee, Martha Coakley) in which the Democratic caucus did have 60 votes, that meant that the most conservative member of the caucus could hold everyone else by the short hairs. The Democratic leadership, which has enough trouble finding the spine to play hardball with Republicans, was even less willing to tell certain members of its own party, “you will vote for cloture on this bill, or you will spend the rest of your term as the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Finding Spare Change Under Seat Cushions”.

    Better Democrats, please, with a side order of Senate rules reform.

  86. In many of the recent R primaries, that’s what the choice has looked like to me. (Sometimes incumbent v. crazy1 v. wako2 v. silly3, but that obscures my point.) There are people who prefer to vote for the crazy abusive parents they’re used to, rather than grow up. People fear change, and the Dysfunctional Abusive Parent Party has used that for decades to stay in power. Look at the “rules” for minor parties in your own state (any of you, in every state in the union), vs the “rules” for the DAPP (both faces.)

    Don’t want to read? Beckstrom discusses The Starfish and The Spider at Authors@Google.

    The Tea Party is a starfish organization, and if it centralizes, it will be co-opted and consumed by (probably) the Republicans.

  87. As a weary liberal, I very nearly welcome the thought of getting a few tea-party noise machines into the congress, and maybe it’d be fine if the republicans took at least one house of congress.

    For two reasons. One, I think giving a few of these folks a very public platform to shriek from, and at least a few opportunities to introduce bills calling for the elimination of the IRS, the Fed, social security, etc… will wake up the sleepy centerists in this country that these people are effing serious.

    Two. On a more pessemistic note I think I miss being in the minority party. It’s soooo much easier to bitch and moan about the government, as if everything were obvious and simple when the guys you vote for aren’t on the hook for doing a damn thing. And when things are generally bad (like right now), the opposition party almost seems to have more power than the majority party, if they want it. But maybe that’s wishful thinking, and maybe it’s just that republicans will always be better at shouting down progress (in any direction) that democrats will be.

  88. htom:

    Maybe you should pass along a message that they shouldn’t call themselves The Tea Party. If, you know, they’re not a party.

    Because right now they’re an amorphous blob of political leadership open to manipulation by not having the ability to “vet” tea party candidates.

    TeaIsm candidates support an ideology. Ideologies do not endorse candidates. Or, shorter, I hate to break it to you, they’re a party. And it’s run by the Republican right wingers.

  89. Well, sometimes what you see is what’s happening? I’m not sure what that means. Or how to respond.

    Tea Party supporters seem to have a cadre of elites regularly making the rounds to speak and lead the party. And people routinely show up to support then.

    There were a number of fights in different races over whether candidates were really tea party affiliated. Which suggests a counter to the idea that there is no Tea *Party*.

    This movement wants to be an ism fed up with anyone in government. But their champions are ex and current movers and shakers in the republican party.

    But, that’s a Tea Party Ism, too, isn’t it? “Just because you see a crass upswelling in response to the election of a black man by a bunch of white people who were republicans until Obama scared them Libertarian doesn’t make it Real. I see a Shangrila of political ideologies coming together to retard goverenment growth. I am the architect of my own reality!”

  90. There are two Tea parties. There are the Tea Party Patriots and the Tea Party Express. The Express folks are a PAC, the Partiots are a grass roots effort. The only thing they have in common is their name and a strong desirability for some fiscal sanity in washington.

    The Express folks are basically a bunch of GOP folks. The Patriot folks are ot part of the GOP. They hated Bush just as much as the left, the difference being that they hated him for being a big spender.

    The mistake that the Democrats made is in thinking that the last election meant that the electorate (i.e. the people) liked them and their platform, when in reality it was about the people geting sick and tired of the same old Republican shenanigans. In other words the people did not want the Democrats ajenda nearly as much as they wanted to punish the R’s.

    I predict that this time around thee Republicans will easilly retake the House of Representatives, but will fall 2-3 seats short of taking the Senate. After that, I fully expect them to be back to their spendthrift ways, and the pendulum to swing back the other way in 2012.

    If and only if they can actually get a handle on Federal spending will the voters reward them in 2012. This is why some of the folks winning primary are somewhat “kooky”, right now the primary voters are acting like “single isssue” voters, and .gov spending is that issue. Given their past actions I doubt that they “actually mean it this time”.

  91. I’m surprised to find myself saying, you may be over-optimistic.
    If the Repugnants take enough state houses this November, they get to gerrymander the House for the decade, and the “permanent majority” has a much better shot at coming back from the dead.

    And Obama may be doing damage beyond the reach of the Repugs. It’s been pointed out that a significant chunk of his majority came from people who ordinarily wouldn’t have bothered, or who hadn’t bothered before. If he turns their stomachs from politics, it will be a long time before they come back . . .

  92. As far as I can tell, Tea-ists are honest to goodness populists. They want a bunch of stuff common sense that everyone knows to be enacted over the objections of the corrupt incumbents.

    Unfortunately, ‘common sense’ isn’t common, and most things called common sense are actually astroturfed propaganda or someone’s pet issue. Oh, and they are badly echo-chambered on what ‘everyone knows.’ For extra fun, it is hard to tell rank corruption from arguably beneficial lubrication from statesmanship if you are not an expert in the field with access to inside and classified information.

    TL;DR version: Politics is complicated, and any populist organization is going to seem loopy to those better versed in the facts, no matter what part of the political landscape they come from. (Populist communists, although pretty rare these days, are just as loopy as tea partiers.)

  93. I think it’s telling, that any entry into discussion of “The Tea Party” with someone who sympathizes with it will begin with them saying “You see, alot of people are angry…” at which point, depending on who you’re talking to, the conversation will diverge into a laundry list of what their personal pet peeves are. There is no agenda. It’s all about anger. Beyond vitriol, they don’t actually agree on much, or they adopt the stances that come down the pike from Sarah Palin, or Glenn Beck, and sticky-tape them to their battle-standard of generic outrage.

  94. @98

    What I find amazing is the idea that Obama is doing damage. Congress, sure, but Obama?

    Health Care ain’t perfect, but it is the single largest democratic legislative victory since before Reagan.

    Yet, instead of it being trumpeted as what it is, it is being trumpeted as a negative and the democratic supporters seem to consider the fact that it compromises at all to be a defeat.

    The economy sucks, but if you blame that on Obama, you really cannot see the big picture. No one can fix 20 years of ill advised de-regulation, combined with ill advised cuts in revenue for the government, combined with two expensive wars in a year, while at the same time fixing all human rights issues this country has and still protecting it from all foreign enemies.

    If Obama could have lived up to that kind of expectation, then I think we would owe a deification ceremony or two and maybe an office for life, because he would be well beyond human.

  95. I predict that this time around thee Republicans will easilly retake the House of Representatives, but will fall 2-3 seats short of taking the Senate. After that, I fully expect them to be back to their spendthrift ways

    What spendthrift ways? This is the party that started 2 land wars in Asia, burning through a budget surplus in the process and whose answer to everything is to cut taxes. There’s nothing spendthrift about that.

    But all of that is beside the point.

    The US is a big country. You have to spend money to keep it in working order. Besides the big ticket items like military and health care, there’s the little things like maintaining/overhauling the outdated power, water and sewage infrastructure and road repair. These things aren’t sexy but they are expensive and necessary. And 30 years of knee jerk, anti-tax ideology has ensured that these things have been underfunded to the point of breakdown.

    The Dems have dropped this ball too. They should be running on a platform of job creation and national infrastructure renewal. Instead, they’re busy trying to convince the GOP bullies not to take their lunch money.

    And of course the GOP response is to keep arguing about the scary black man in office and how poor people don’t deserve healthcare.

    Because that’ll solve all our problems.

  96. A few things:

    1. Obama did a pretty clear job of laying out his domestic agenda prior to being elected, and indeed he has hit the only two significant items on his domestic agenda, as promised: massive stimulus plus health care.

    However, he also did a pretty clear job of laying out his foreign agenda, civil rights agenda, executive power agenda, espionage agenda, and then turned around and broke every promise he made on those grounds. The portion of his coalition that was enthused about Obama the anti-war candidate, the pro-privacy candidate, the non-unitary-executive candidate, the mellowing the drug war down a little candidate is justly disillusioned and angry. They haven’t been manipulated by the right wing noise machine, the Democrats haven’t failed tactically to show off their successes: Obama turned hard right in all those areas, and it pissed people off.

    (Yes, yes, the Republicans would have been worse. True. I’m not a Republican.)

    2. The stimulus didn’t do what it was supposed to do.

    You can go all over the place on justifying this, and have some reasonably good points, but there was genuine hope among serious, non-manipulated people that the stimulus that we actually got would bring unemployment noticeably down and that the economy would be in recovery right now. It didn’t happen. The party that oversaw the stimulus gets the political fallout from that.

    (Yes, yes, the Republicans were in favor of the stimulus as well. True. I’m still not a Republican).

    3. One of the ways that liberals/progressives repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot is by imagining that they’re way smarter than Republicans.

    The Republican party is considerably more effective, at pure party business, than the Democrats. It’s well-organized, has good internal discipline, and gets its message out well. This is because the people who do the pure party business are, in fact, smart people. And even the politicians like George W Bush and Sarah Palin, who provide the ammunition for this belief, while certainly not geniuses, are a lot smarter than they sound. They talk up their anti-intellectualism and their folksiness for the benefit of their constituency. That it appears to drive a lot of really bad political behavior from their opponents is a useful fringe benefit to them.

    This is an election where I’d really encourage people to vote third party. Whichever third party. The Republicans still need to be punished for the Bush years, and will need to be punished for probably a decade. But the Democrats only deserve your vote if you’re a pure health-care-and-paul-krugman voter. This isn’t a year where you particularly need to worry that if you don’t vote Democrat, the Republicans will jump back into the Bush agenda (both because the Democrats are doing a fine job of following Bush’s foreign policy agenda as is, and because at best, the Republicans will get the House, and not be able to get anything passed).

    So vote anything but the big two. Save your pragmatic, tactical voting for 2012. Vote your actual ideals in 2010.

  97. Michael @ 63 wrote:

    “the people who tear up school buildings because a teacher displays a copy of the Declaration of Independence on the wall (see the Tea Party in Massechussettes), ”

    I’m trying the best I can, but Mama Google takes “tea party” + “declaration of independence” + massachusetts + teacher only brings up historical references (even in the news section). Can you provide more info?

  98. martin @99: “As far as I can tell, Tea-ists are honest to goodness populists.”

    If by “populist” you mean “largely bankrolled and initially organized by folks like the Koch brothers, and rallied and all-but-advertised-for by Fox.”

    Because, really — if you honestly believe that is populism, rather than a completely astroturfed creation of the Usual Suspects, stirring up rural, white, religious conservatives…. then words no longer have meanings.

  99. Keith@104
    “What spendthrift ways? This is the party that started 2 land wars in Asia, burning through a budget surplus in the process and whose answer to everything is to cut taxes. There’s nothing spendthrift about that.”

    Sounds like spendthrifts to me. Spendthrift means to waste money needlessly.

  100. Sirkenneth @74, on that point I agree with you.

    Since there’s no fiscally responsible party (I classify the Democrats as “bad” and the Republicans as “disastrous” when it comes to fiscal responsibility), I end up voting Democrat because at least they match me on social policy.

  101. Stoats *would* eat live kittens if they could get at them! I’m not sure how noisy it would be, but by your own metaphor, it seems Fox News is ACCURATELY portraying the Congressional Democrats. Yet you Libtards in the MSM (or the humorous fringe blogosphere) demonize Fox News (which, of course, is NOT part of the MSM, although it IS a huge media corporation who’s offices are right across the street from the MSM) for saying the same thing you are saying! For shame! Nazi socialist masturbators!

    /sarcasm

  102. John, I’m going to have to put some of this blame on Obama as well. He’s not displaying the sort of leadership (well, whip-cracking) that the Dems need to get more done, or to keep their story out there in the media.

    I’m also disappointed with his lack of leadership on the DADT policy. Truman forcibly integrated the races in the military, while Obama’s content to let the Pentagon do a study to see if letting gays serve openly would negatively affect morale. If Truman had been so gutless, it’d have taken another President for racial integration to happen, because I’d almost guarantee the average grunt wouldn’t have liked it back then. OTOH, Candidate Obama wasn’t real keen on gay marriage either, at least early on in the campaign, so I suspect he doesn’t honestly care *that* much about gay rights.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lot happier with this particular lizard than his predecessor, but I’d like a lot more out of him.

  103. Scalzi: If they lose the House, it won’t be because the GOP deserve to have won it. It’ll be because the Democrats simply weren’t smart enough to keep it.

    Amen. ‘Nuff said.

  104. Love your writing, Mr. Scalzi.

    I disagree with your premise in as much as it seems you feel the largest failing within the Democratic Party has been in getting their message out and letting Republicans frame the discussion.

    The Democratic “failing” is simple and not something they can easily fix – the economy today is not noticably improved from it’s state when Obama took office 2 years ago. That is the bottom line for the majority of citizens who sent Obama to office in the midst of an economic collapse in the hope that things would improve under new management. If the economy were better, this possibility of a massive shift in Congressional seats would not exist.

    Please note I’m not suggesting that it is the *fault* of the Democratic Party that the economy has not improved more. Not at all. I think it is completely unreasonable to expect that any new administration could effect a complete economic turnaround from the huge hole that we were in only two years. This is not a two year problem. But Joe Public does not get that (and NEVER will). Joe Public only sees that things are no better (and in some cases, perhaps, are worse) and Joe Public does what Joe Public does best – blames the President.

    Sadly, the only “messages” that the Democrats can send at this point – something like, “Hey, we’re on the right track,” or “Hey, it’s getting better, promise,” or “Hey, it would really be worse under the other guys,” are not the ones that resonate with any particular stength. The messages that resonate are things like “We need a CHANGE!”

    Maybe the Democrats could be doing a better job in trying to educate Joe Public why it’s not their fault the economy isn’t all sunshine and rainbows after only two years (and I guess there’s no maybe about it), but I seriously question how much of a difference that would actually make.

    Call me a cynic. I have little faith in the intelligence of the “average” voter.

  105. No, the Tea Partiers are not a political party. Not at all.

    That’s why Dick Armey’s Freedom Works is trying to organize them like crazy using sites like this one.

    Keep to your illusions, Tea Partiers. If your side wins you’ll be kicked aside in a microsecond.

  106. John said:

    “But see, that’s just dumb, because in fact the choice doesn’t have to be between “incumbent” and “crazy.””

    So Boehner’s been the rep for your district because his opponents have been competent and/or sane? Or had it been because the past few election cycles he’s been the best of two bad choices?

    There is a certain segment, say 5% on each side of the party lines of the voting population that would vote for Stalin if he had a “-D” after his name, or an “-R” for that matter. They don’t care what that politician says or does, their party affiliation is enough. There is about 60% of the population that’s going to reliably split (usually 50/50) along party lines most of the time, Unless their local candidate or National candidate has done something to really make them mad. Then enough of them will leave for an election cycle to make themselves heard for the next time around.

    What the national parties fight over is that remaining 30%, the vast majority of whom are not ideologically hidebound or beholden to one parties point of views, or are single issue voters (IE “I like everything he says but he’s anti 2nd amendment so I am not going to vote for him). Most of them are socially liberal and fiscally conservative, in the sense that they don’t care that Bill and Ted can get married as long as their taxes aren’t going to be increased to support them sort of thing. That’s who the politicians pander to in an election year, and that particular segment of voters is going to vote for the politician who is going to screw up the next four years of their lives the least. Which is why two years ago “It is all Bush’s fault” resonated with a decent amount of those voters then. The problem now is, many of those same voters are looking at the past two years and saying to themselves “You’ve had two years, and things aren’t better, you haven’t done some of what you said you’d do, and it’s still Bush’s fault? When do you take ownership of a problem?” and many of them are also looking at the other party and saying “you’ve had your chance” and they’re going a third direction.

    Clinton tried claiming a mandate with less than 50% of the vote, how long is it going to be when 34% of the vote is seen as a mandate?

    Andrew

  107. Until the Democrats stop squabbling amongst themselves and figure out how to work together and present a unified front, this will happen over and over. Loud and ugly speaking with a single voice shouts down reasonable yet divided in every case.

    And yet, I’ve had one hell of a time trying to figure out how to talk to the angry GOP people myself. My workplace is largely well-to-do white GOP males and there’s a level of fear and desperation there that’s hard to fathom. Being white and male isn’t as much of a free ride as it used to be. Women, minorities and gays – oh my! – are creeping up on them and they don’t know how to handle it. I think fear and anger are the only responses they can muster to this confusing turn of events.

    I have otherwise-reasonable coworkers who say things like, “Barack HUSSEIN!!!!!!!!!!! Obama” or spout things about death panels and how our president doesn’t truly represent us (i.e. he’s not white). Typical responses on my part are, “My middle name is Anna. What does that say about me?” Or “Come now, death panels? Really?” Or “Obama is as white as I am – exactly half.” When faced with a reasonable response, they backtrack and hem and haw and I see just how upset they are. Change is a nebulous, frightening thing and here are a few low-hanging fruit that they’ve been trained to grab at.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that even intelligent people can be snared into stupid shenanigans when they’re scared. And change is scary. When the status quo is collapsing, what can you say to assuage the fears of those who are losing the high ground? Especially when they’re being whipped to a fine frenzy by people who stand to profit from that fear and outrage. I’m not sure what the right move is there. I hope the Democrats find it.

  108. Andrew:

    “So Boehner’s been the rep for your district because his opponents have been competent and/or sane? Or had it been because the past few election cycles he’s been the best of two bad choices?”

    This isn’t really a relevant question because it presents a false choice. It doesn’t entertain the idea, for example, that whatever Boehner’s other failings, he may still be a fine Representative for his district. And in point of fact, while he’s certainly not been my choice as Representative, as far as I can tell he does a good job of constituent service, and also he does a reasonably good job in his politics of approximating the political inclinations of his constituency. Boehner is in point of fact not a bad choice for his district.

    Given those two things, the personal qualities of his Democratic opponents are sort of immaterial; some years the opponents have been of better quality than other years (this year’s opponent is pretty good; the one two years ago was a bit of a joke), but in a district in which most its counties went 60% or better for the GOP candidate in the last three presidential elections, and which has seated a Republican representative for the last 70 years, the idea of a Democrat sneaking in here and coming away with a seat is not a feasible one, any more than Speaker Pelosi is in grave danger from whichever poor GOP bastard runs in her district.

  109. Zan Lynx

    Whether or not the Democrats deserve to lose (and I tend to agree that they deserve some sort of punishment for their incompetence), “the Democrats deserve to lose” is not equal to “the Republicans deserver to win”.

    Voters who go Republican to punish the Dems will more likely end up punishing themselves.

  110. John Scalzi, Getting back to your original post you said, “Obama was pretty damn clear what his intentions were when he took office.”

    I agree. He claimed that we should not be RED states or BLUE states we should be the United States. That sounded great to me. He was going to make that happen by listening to both sides of the aisle, having transparent debate on C-span. Not hiring Washington insiders and lobbyists, etc. That was “pretty damn clear.”

    Well now, 18 or 20 states are suing the Federal Government over unfunded Health Care mandates, and the Federal government is suing Arizona, and soon to be other states, over immigration issues. That doesn’t sound like “united” states to me.

    There has been no transparent debate.

    The Washington insiders and big Union lobbyists are running the administration.

    He was “pretty damn clear” about how he would unify the country. The problem is, he’s doing just the opposite.

  111. I see a lot of posturing and fulminating and recriminations (and self-recriminations). I don’t know that any of it is ultimately relevant.

    Economy in the tank? Voters blame the party in power. With a roughly six-month timeframe for reference. Anything more than six months ago was someone else’s fault, last six months is the incumbents’ fault.

    Economic reality? It’s very hard for the government to manage the economy at all in the first place, much less over six month time periods. Reality is that it seems to take 1.5 to 3 years for major swings in management to have effect, which is only marginally better than poorly managed swings take (though, the depth of downturns is managed better now on the average).

    What we have here is an impedance mismatch. It doesn’t matter how good your leadership are – voters vote with their pocketbooks, and on a timescale offset from the timescale the leaders can actually make a difference in.

    The Republicans will gleefully take credit for this, but it’s not them. They aren’t even vaguely doing anything right at the moment, other than playing populist to the “Something’s wrong” feelings the economy is causing to rise up in the electorate.

    This is not fair to whichever party is in power. Which, statistically, is both parties over time. It comes around, it goes around. Next decade, the repubs will receive a beautiful harvest of this payback at some point, just wait for it. We’re nowhere near good enough at managing business cycles to avoid it happening again with at least moderate recessions…

  112. You know, I see a lot of people who say they’re fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Does anybody ever cop to being socially conservative anf fiscally liberal? I mean, I could see some religious groups taking that stand, but would any individual say so?

  113. On the other hand: at least the American Communists (they exist!) seem to be highly active on my college campus, which I find moderately annoying. Their manifesto more or less says “our government is lying to us,” which I find less believable than “our government is full of stupid with just enough corruption for spice and good politics headlines”.

    I would accept them as a valid counter-argument to the Tea Party, though. The all around wacked-outness would (as a best case) cancel each other out and maybe we could have a return to civilized discourse.

    Then again, given politics: Nah.

  114. John, I’m afraid that your emotions are clouding your judgement. Frank is largely correct. He certainly has been focused on honestly debating the point where you have fallen back on snark and conclusory opinion in lieu of rational discussion.

    Which is your perogative as it is your board.

    As to the Democrats losing the House, I believe they will lose the House and by a large margin, 55+ seats. And I believe the Democrats are in serious danger of losing the Senate.

    I like to read Nate Silver’s site, not necessarily because I agree with his analysis (which I do sometimes, sometimes not), but as he attempts to apply logic and reason to the polls. Over the months the prospect of the Democrats losing the Senate was slim. Now it is at the 20% plus mark. It was north of 30% a day or two before O’Donnell won Delaware. I believe the odds will continue to tilt toward the Republicans as we approach election day.

  115. Dave,

    Depends on the crowd they are with probably. I can think of a couple of people I know who seem to think they know of better things I can do with my money (in terms of who I donate to), but they wouldn’t go near the theater crowd I associate with from time to time.

    But a politician? LBJ maybe?

    Andrew

  116. Billy Quiets @ 120

    “Well now, 18 or 20 states are suing the Federal Government over unfunded Health Care mandates, and the Federal government is suing Arizona, and soon to be other states, over immigration issues. That doesn’t sound like “united” states to me.”

    Right. But your laundry list is a list of things orchestrated largely by the right to foment conflict. Over things that Obama said he would do and did.

    “There has been no transparent debate.”

    I think you need to substantiate that.

  117. Stevem:

    “John, I’m afraid that your emotions are clouding your judgement. Frank is largely correct.”

    Yeah, really he’s not, alas, either rhetorically or on the facts (or on his various theses), and your rather obnoxious attempt at an ad hominem argument there doesn’t make his arguments any better. Don’t do that again.

    Billy Quiets:

    “Well now, 18 or 20 states are suing the Federal Government over unfunded Health Care mandates”

    The hand-wringing evidenced here would be a lot more compelling if the attorneys general of the states in question were a solidly bi-partisan group rather than the GOP folks trying to stall health care by other means. Likewise, when states like Arizona start attempting to pre-empt foreign policy matters, it’s not really shocking for the Federal Government to disagree with that. Beyond that, criticizing Obama for not bringing the country together when the GOP leadership has made no bones about its strategy to oppose him on just about everything takes a special sort of credulousness of which I don’t feel obliged to partake.

    Which is to say I find the fundamentals of your argument a bit weak.

  118. Maybe I should just try to explain the “Tea Party Movement” by directing people to question the president of the Internets … ;)

    It’s a different way of being organized. So different that lots of people think it’s not organized at all.

    A third link in an attempt to explain the non-organized organization Johnathon Rauch writing in National Journal.

    I’ll stop now, John, and thank you for your patience.

  119. Speaking as a life long Democrat, I have but one thing to say to you Mr. Scalzi:

    Damn straight. WTF, are they sharing one spine and brain between them all?

    I’m a Quaker, and I want to smack the ever living shit out of the Democrats in Congress, with the exception of a few.

    Never have I seen such a crowd so eager to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  120. (Michael B, #129 — snicker. You have evidence that there is a spine in Congress? or a brain? Anywhere, on either side of the isle? There was a time when I thought Lieberman had captured both, but he seems to have used them up!)

  121. htom @ 128

    If John thinks it isn’t on topic, I’ll defer to his judgement and cease and desist. Otherwise, I’d like to respond.

    Looking at the article, it seems as if they’re tooting their own horn at discovering something new. But, the truth is there are a lot of organizations that operate like that, the least of which is community organizing. And that’s part of my beef with the Tea Party, of either stripe. They aren’t above downtalking Obama’s community organizing past, meanwhile that’s what is driving the members at the personal level. A desire to work within their neighborhoods, advocating for the issues that their members establish for themselves. Also, do some reading on how ACORN functioned. Remarkably similar.

    And I certainly won’t speak against that particular point on the Tea Party. There isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with the idea of interested parties setting their goals and crowdsourcing what works and moving forward with that any way that they can.

    So, organizationally, we agree. That’s great. And any American should get involved with politics and advocate for their personal issues in the strongest way possible available to them. And if that means crowdsourcing, bottom up management then right on.

    The problem that I have is that portion willfully ignores the Tea Party Express portion of the movement that does the dirty work of political organizing for them. The Tea Party Express movement is in large part responsible for breathing life into the grassroots, and it certainly doesn’t hurt their notoriety by advocating similar principles and the idea of a grassroots movement based on those principles. And that isn’t okay. They can’t have it both ways.

    My comment earlier that they are party is based on that issue. These folks want to homegrow a strong locally grouped third party movement, that’s great. But, you can see the growing pains that they’re having on the decentralized side about who really represents the party. There have been several candidates having to fight over whether or not they are representative of the Tea Party moniker. Which is embarassing. Eventually, if they continue, I imagine they’ll sort that out. But, that’s part of the problem when they’re a party claiming they aren’t a party. And that’s wrenching up their works. They’ll discover that ideologies don’t support candidates, parties do. There isn’t anything wrong with being a party. It’s the insistence that they aren’t a party while searching out and running candidates as their representatives that is causing a problem for them.

    Mind, that’s not reflective of my opinion of their brand of politics. Full disclosure, not a fan. But, their organizational challenges are an interesting enough conversation. And the politics of the Tea Party in general do affect their results. And results influence organizational structure. So, at some point, they’ll have to consider that. I imagine it will be an easier conversation to have after the midterm elections where there is some post finish line data to examine. Academically speaking. Politically speaking I certainly hope they’re already doing that.

  122. Cosign completely John. And I’m as partisan Dem as they come.

    Here’s how you do it:

    You go back to ’05, you find quotes from all the Republicans who wanted to use the nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster, including, I’m sure, Mitch McConnell and John Kyl.

    You call it the “Mitch McConnell and John Kyl were right” bill (technically, it’s a ruling, but who cares.)

    You get up, all 52 or 53 Democrats with spine, and you read out loud all the anti-filibuster quotes from Republicans in 2005 when they couldn’t appoint all the crazy judges to appeals courts.

    You eliminate the filibuster via the Mitch McConnell Was Right Bill.

    All of a sudden, you only need 51 votes in the Senate. Bye-bye Lieberman, don’t need him. Sayonara Ben Nelson. The others can vote how they want.

    YOU PASS ALL THE STUFF YOU WERE ELECTED TO PASS.

    YOU DEFEND IT.

    YOU LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY.

    Goddamnit, why am I not a U.S. Senator?

    For more exciting angry posts from Greg, just ask him what negative ads he would’ve run during the health care debate (hint: it has to do with the tens of thousands of Americans who die every year because they don’t have health care.)

    Somebody put me in charge of the Democratic party, stat.

  123. Kieth @ 104,

    Spendthrift (also called profligate) someone who spends money prodigiously and who is extravagant and recklessly wasteful.

    That’s the Republicans from 2001-2008 in a nutshell. It’s why no one actually believes them when they say, no really we’re going to be the party of fiscal responsibility.

    Obama campaigned on reigning in the spending, then managed to somehow actually outspend the Republicans. (In fairness, the president always get’s blamed but it’s really the Congress, specifically the House, that should get the blame)

    That’s why the people are going to give the house back the the R’s, they have a choice between two drunks, and they are going to hand the keys to the guy who says he’s going to AA. (even though we all suspect he’s got a flask somewhere)

  124. “OBAMA IS A NIGERIAN ISLAMO-SOCIALIST WHO’S GOING TO MAKE YOU GAY MARRY AN ANCHOR BABY”

    Really?

    “to frame everything they’ve done as one step short of eviscerating live kittens and feeding noisily on their carcasses on live TV”

    Really?

    “the GOP — and its crazy nephew from the attic, the Tea Party”

    Again, really? I’m a registered Libertarian, I’m neither for or against abortion and gay rights. I’m not a fan of Bush. I think Fox News is biased and I don’t care about Obama’s heritage. On the flip side, the media did a whole lot of demonizing during the Bush Administration. MSNBC and CNN are no less biased than Fox. For a fair debate you should have a chat with Larry Correia some time, it would make for a good blog series.

  125. Nick Sharps:

    “Really?”

    Yes, Nick, really.

    Beyond that, what your being a registered Libertarian has to do with my kvetches here about either the Republicans or the Democrats is beyond me. With the rest of it, I suppose it’s nice you want to show you’re an okay guy. Good for you. But it’s not actually on point.

    Indeed, your entire post beyond “really?” doesn’t have much to do with anything here, although opining that MSNBC and CNN are no less biased than Fox indicates a certain lack of discrimination in news feeds (MSNBC and CNN’s opinion shows are no less biased, because they’re opinion shows. But even in that regard, when Fox gives a morning show to a liberal in the same manner MSNBC gives its morning show to Joe Scarborough, you let me know). Be that as it may, it’s all drift and not relevant to the topic at hand, so if you have something to say on point other than “Really?” please get to it.

  126. @MatthewC: “…the economy today is not noticably improved from it’s state when Obama took office 2 years ago.”

    Wow, is our memory that short? 2 years ago was September, 2008. Companies were crashing and burning left and right. Lehman brothers filed for bankruptcy. The stock market was crashing and burning. Jobs were hemorrhaging everywhere. The word “depression” was a regular utterance on every news channel. It continued to worsen for the rest of that year. Look at a chart of job losses sometime. It was getting worse every month until January, 2009, when the trend reversed direction. Our economy has been seriously damaged and will take a while to recover, but we are massively better off than we were two years ago.

  127. John, I completely agree. I had never voted for someone other than a Republican in a federal election prior to voting for Obama in 2008. I am a conservative with libertarian leanings (or vice versa, perhaps) and I think the GOP has completely lost it. They’ve been in a downward intellectual spiral since 2006 **at least** going all the way back to Terri Schiavo.

    On the other side of the aisle, if the Republicans are Creationist lemmings, the Democrats are a bunch of wishy-washy cats. They need to get their act together.

    I’ll be voting anti-incumbent for a while, if only to decrease their margins of victory.

  128. Maybe if the republicans take back the house or the senate, they’ll have some skin in the game, and will finally be unable to hide behind their minority status as things collapse around them.

  129. @ben:

    No, they’ll still complain loudly about how the liberals are stopping them from having absolute power, and how we should pretend that 2001-2007 never happened.

  130. Sorry about that, I suppose it really wasn’t on topic. I just feel like there’s too much vilification going on, on both sides.

  131. Gareth @ 107
    ” If by “populist” you mean “largely bankrolled and initially organized by folks like the Koch brothers, and rallied and all-but-advertised-for by Fox.” ”

    Oddly, all of the things you say are true, but I still think the majority of the Tea Partiers are Populists. Consider the definition:
    ”political ideas and activities that are intended to represent ordinary people’s needs and wishes” Astroturfing doesn’t stop something from being populist – anti-elitism feeling makes something populist.

    Now, populism used to be anti ‘business elites,’ sure, but anti ‘intellectual elites’ or anti ‘political elites’ is certainly just as populist.

    Now, populists being cynically exploited by various cynical elites for their own purposes is nothing new. The Roman Populares were the faction that JC and CA used to turn the Republic [1] into the Empire.

    At the individual Tea Partier level, you are probably looking at someone who simply doesn’t trust a significant portion of the elites currently running the country (a quite defensible position if you ask me) and who thinks that their ideas, if enacted, would fix things (which is usually ill informed and reactionary enough to seem totally moonbatlike).

    [1] The Populares were made possible by the systematic screwing over of the lower orders by the elites, so the Republic was already dysfunctional at the time. [2]

    [2] It occurs to me that the current situation in the US is darkly amusing in that the elites that are most busy screwing over the general populous are the ones who are most effective at gaining populist support. This is a powerful place to be, as you can tune how angry the mob is at your opponents by careful timing. Heck, we’re seeing that now.

  132. @Charles

    Two years ago was September 2008, yes. This was not when Obama took office (I was, you know, rounding up).

    I’m not disagreeing that the overall economy has improved somewhat since that time, but I would dispute your contention that there has been “massive” improvement.

    The Unemployment rate for the entirety of 2008 was 5.8%. In Obama’s first year, 2009, it was 9.6%. This year, 2010, has not seen significant improvement, and has hit 10% a couple of times. (again, NOT Obama’s fault, but that doesn’t really matter).

    Forclosure rates have skyrocketed.

    During the same period of time we have run record deficits, going over a *trillion* dollars in each of the past two years.

    I’m not arguing whether that’s a good or a bad thing, or whether things would be worse today if we hadn’t done it because I’m no economist and I don’t know. But what I feel I can say is that for the “average” person, who cares about whether he can find a job and whether or not he has a house to live in, things do not appear to have improved significantly.

  133. And Matthew C points out what is in fact the conundrum, which pointing out to people how much worse it could have been doesn’t do much for people whose day-to-day situation isn’t any better.

  134. Even given the state of the economy, I think Tea-party candidates (in particular) and their supporters are going to be sorely dissapointed when election time comes. Yes, things are bad right now, and arguing that it could be worse is not sexy, but mainstream voters, dissatisfied with the democrat’s running of the situation, are not going to turn around, put their pants on their heads, and get on the pants-on-head-crazy-train with the likes of Christine O’donnell. Not unless she does a fantastic job of hiding her core beliefs and stances from them until election day. She’s off to a good start, by the way. If you go to her website, it’s been converted into solely a donation page, with no links to any information of her policy stances.

    Y’all shoulda stuck with the republicans. At least they knew when to bring the crazy, and when to bide their time.

  135. 1. Fantastic column. And I’m a Republican. I don’t agree with all of it, but I certainly enjoyed its radiant glow of anger.

    2. FWIW, I’m for much-lowered government spending, higher taxes, gay marriage, harsh penalties for violent and recidivist criminals, no corporate bailouts of the GM-type … a mish-mash which makes me a RINO, despised by all proper people.

    3. I do think conservatives/Republicans are theoretically for lower government spending. Bush II did not do a good job of it, and blaming Bush II’s failings on the legislative Democrats is ridiculous. (There’s something called a “veto,” I heard.) But Obama’s made GWB look like a thrifty person.

    4. The biggest differences in executives has been competence, not partisanship. Reagan/Bush I/Clinton were all competent. I’m less happy with Bush II/Obama.

    5. Politics makes people stupid. We root for our team whether it’s drunken killers or gay-smearing liars. Just because a candidate’s wearing the right colors doesn’t make us the good guy.

    6. I’d like to like the Tea Party – the small government message resonates with me – but I gotta agree with The Scalz. When you’ve got people making happy jokes about Matthew Sheppard or not knowing anything about anything, you’re somewhere south of the Ross Perot movement, and that’s a low bar.

    7. Don’t worry. No one will get smarter. The Democrats couldn’t run a Pizza Hut, and the Republicans are getting unelectable twits through the primaries.

    8. Maybe I missed something, but I didn’t see bouncing Frank from the thread as necessary. (As ever, bloggers can and should control their comment threads; I’m not screaming “CENSERSHIOP!!!!!!!”, just that this bounce seemed unhelpful.)

    Once again, classic column.

  136. JRM:

    “Maybe I missed something, but I didn’t see bouncing Frank from the thread as necessary.”

    It was reminder to him that he’s argued better, and should argue better again. I’ve bounced Frank before; he’s come back with better arguments when that happened. As noted in the comment policy, being bounced out of one thread does not mean you can’t comment elsewhere. And in any event Frank is a longtime commenter here who very often has smart things to say, so I do hope he contributes more later.

  137. JRM @147
    “Don’t worry. No one will get smarter.”

    Heh, I like your style, sir, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  138. Semi on-topic from John Oliver on the Daily Show on how the Dems will screw up the gifts given them in the persons of Paladino, O’Donnell, et al:

    You’re forgetting that the Democrats are a dynamic, innovative party, constantly thinking of new ways to fuck up a sure thing. I believe the Democrats will try to usurp the tea party’s folksiness by throwing a working man-themed fundraiser, where the likes of Sean Penn and Barbara Streisand dine on panko-crusted mahi mahi in the back of Will.I.Am’s stretch Prius. Whilst the bald eagle they rented, to provide a patriotic flare, attacks a group of nearby handicapped schoolchildren, forcing the front-running, can’t-lose Democratic candidate to beat that bald eagle to death in front of live television cameras with the nearest large book he can find, which is — you know it — a Koran.

  139. This is my first comment and before I get to the point I want to say I enjoy your writing. Old Man’s war is one of my favorite books. I also enjoy reading most of you blog post. As I am conservative today’s post was not my favorite. Now I am not going to get into all the points as I really don’t think we will agree much on anything. I would like to comment on the following.

    “Where the Democrats have shown complete incompetence is in how they went about their legislative agenda (i.e., like unheardable brain-damaged stoats), and how they’ve allowed the GOP — and its crazy nephew from the attic, the Tea Party, as well as its bullhorn Fox News — to frame everything they’ve done as one step short of eviscerating live kittens and feeding noisily on their carcasses on live TV.”

    I think maybe you are giving to much credit to the current administration’s, failures or perception of failure, as you seem to suggest, to the opponents of the Obama administration. I really don’t think Fox news has that much effect on the general populous. I agree they are right leaning, but IMO no more so than most other news organizations are left leaning. Let’s face it, not that many people today even watch the news. Fox has by far the largest viewer ship of any of the Media organizations. I think, however, the phrase preaching to the choir comes to mind. Just as you say Fox describes the Dems agenda as kitten cannibalism, people more left leaning describe tea party folks in the same manner. You know statements like crazy nephew from the attic. So to me it all seems a wash.

    I think it’s more of just people expected immediate change and they are not getting it. IMO, with the current spending policy of the this administration, “That’s a long wait for a train don’t come.”

  140. Excellent post Mr. Scalzi, and welcome back. The internets just weren’t the same without you.

    While I share your frustration (indeed, I agree with everything you’ve said above) I think I’d expand ever so slightly on your comments by pointing out:

    1) The American media seems to subsist on a diet of lead chips eaten under power lines. One would think that when a politician, regardless of party identification, says something silly and untrue the media would stop and say, “Well, yes, Representative X, but nothing you’ve just said is in any way true or even slightly rational.” That isn’t what we get though; we get this, “…And that is what Representative X says, and now back to footage of a squirrel waterskiing.”

    2) The D’s have never, ever, ever been organized. I’d point to Will Roger’s quote from 1935, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

  141. “It’s the economy, stupid.”

    No strategy could have saved the democrats in this economy.

    The Tea Party is a mirror of the way liberals viewed G.W.Bush as the next Hitler. They feel the same way about Obama, and since Obama hasn’t done a damn thing to restore Gitmo and civil liberties, they have a point. The democrats are just lucky they cloud that point with Muslim, birther BS.

  142. # Loki:
    ” “the Democrats deserve to lose” is not equal to “the Republicans deserve to win”. ”

    Worth repeating, and it should have worked the other way as well. As a nation, we need to stop assuming there is nothing outside the two-party system and start booting the scumbags out … maybe we can end up with a reformed (D) & (R) party, or maybe we can end up with something a bit more 21st century than a two-party system still lurching forward from the 18th century, back when we didn’t have worldwide instant communication and an age of (potentially) informed voters living in the information age.

    The Tea party isn’t the answer, but the (R) pandering to _deliberately ignorant_ superstitious nutjobs on one side, and the (D) pandering to parasites waiting for a handout on the other isn’t working, and neither party is even delivering on their “rally the base” issues!
    On the (R) side, how’s that banning abortion and pushing creationist judeo-christian legislation working?
    On the (D) side, how’s the bread and circuses (and the new category, free doctor visits!) working out?

    Perhaps we need to neuter the Federal government and elect LOCAL government to do the things we’ve come to expect from the federal system.

    Ohio wants relief money for an isolated NW Ohio disaster? … Why the hell are they demanding Federal tax dollars via FEMA for it?
    Arizona wants to patrol their border? … Whatever they like, within the bounds of the constitution … and on their dime.
    Delaware wants to do whatever Delaware does? … Well, I just don’t have anything here, I suppose they couldn’t spend that much federal money if they tried anyway.

    But instead, everything is a federal issue, making the national “news” to sell commercial time, the more sensational and divisive the better, it seems.
    But can you name your county commissioner? Can you outline the performance of your state’s attorney general? Do you know who represents you to your city government?
    Or do you just show up to vote for the President and research the other races at the last second? (I hope you’re researching them before hitting that curtain, at least)

  143. Well said, John.

    And a paraphrase of that popular old chestnut as (sadly) as reliable as ever: The Republicans are obviously too idiotic to win, but they’re running against the Democrats, who are too idiotic to beat them.

  144. I disagree that that Republicans have no legislative goals: it remains what has always been their legislative intent: to protect and increase the power and the wealth of the already powerful and propertied.
    It’s worth remembering, that for those who own the bulk of the wealth:

    OUR INCOMES ARE THEIR COSTS.

    And the GOP is their preferred party for the furtherance of their gains in wealth and power.

    After 8 years of GOP/Bush, the Republicans were so discredited that some thought there could be a generation of Democratic rule. It seemed credible.
    But the incompetence of Obama and the corporatist Democrats has allowed the (even more) right to howl their way back to relevance.
    Obama should go down as the most ineffective president in several generations.

    My question to history buffs (I’m more of a buffette) would be: does that level of incompetence compare to the Chamberlain government of the UK, the Weimer Republic of Germany or what?

  145. Greg @ 132
    You eliminate the filibuster via the Mitch McConnell Was Right Bill.

    It’s late. I am tired. Are you writing tongue-in-cheek there Greg or are you serious?

    I would love to see the 60 vote for cloture on debate RULE in the US Senate deep-sixed into a forever grave.

    Much evil has been done to our nation by that rule because it allows a minority of senators to keep the Senate from taking action and moving forward needed legislation by the majority of senators who are simply trying to accomplish what they promised the voters who elected them.

    Our Constitution does require supermajorities on occassion. Declaring war and approving constitutional amendments come to mind. But our Constitution does not require a supermajority to end debate on legislation. That baby is a long-time Senate rule that never, ever should have been made, much less enforced.

    So, if serious Greg I am with you. Let’s get this baby passed-The Mitch McConnell Was Right Bill.

  146. Matthew C pointed out the deficits of the last couple of years…

    Yes, we did that. Normally, I’d be screaming about that, on the general theory that the Government should try and live within its means, and that it all does eventually come back to bite us later.

    Under the circumstances, though, I believe that I can honestly say that Paul Krugman now speaks for me on the appropriateness, timing, and dollar values we should have spent on recovery.

    Jumping out on the cliff that leads to Great Depressions is the sort of thing that should – really – cut through ideological bullshit and partisan bickering. Bush II went out and spent a bunch of money he normally would have been loathe to, and Obama went and spent a bunch more, and both of those actions were contrary to their previous background ideologies and inclinations, and opposed by less-economically-astute elements of the body politic. Both were correct actions.

    We have stepped back somewhat from the cliff, but it’s still not far enough away that we should be comfortable with either party’s economic dogmas. This is not Normal, and playing political gain either way is dumb timing.

  147. I agree with everything in John’s blog, but I think an additional problem is that people (and PARTICULARLY Americans) want things to be fast, easy, and NOW NOW NOW =RIGHT= NOW!

    From the day Obama was elected, I thought he was destined to be accused of failure and inadequacy because our economy wouldn’t be booming again in 9 months, which struck me as realistically about as long as most Americans would be willing to wait before they felt resentful that we weren’t again in a BOOM! BULL! ROBUST! economy with everyone employed and ALL American woes solved and behind us.

    In winter 2008-2009, I was up at 3 AM and listening (here in the US in the middle of the night) to a live broadcast of the BBC World Service (it was rush hour in the UK). They were interviewing a couple of world-class economists (one or both of whom had a Novel Prize) about the then-recent global economic meltdown. They did something on the BBC that you rarely hear in American, not even on NPR, and -certainly- not on TV, which is where most Americans get their “news” (and where 15-second soundbytes are the dominant mode of communication): they let these two economists TALK for about 40 minutes, only occasionally interrupting to ask for clarification or pose a follow-up question.

    And the gist of it is that what the economists said was, this is a HUGE meltdown, it’s been years in the making, it’s the result of a large and complex variety fo entrenched practices, and it’ll take at least a generation of concerted effort to fix.

    This is NOT a message destined to go over well in the US, where even while inhaling the still falling ashes of the towers’ collapse at Ground Zero on September 12, 2001, the media ALREADY yammering on about how “we need to start the healing.”

    So, hey, America figures it gave Obama and the Democrats TWO WHOLE YEARS to fix a massive global economic meltdown that was years or decades in the making, as well as resolve the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, fix the health care system, and stop global warming WITHOUT incoveniencing us or changing our lifestles in any way… and IT HASN’T BEEN ACCOMPLISHED. What have those people been DOING for 21 months? Eating bonbons and reading Stephanie Meyer novels? Off with their heads! They’ve had LOADS of time to completely fix the country 100% and THEN some! And… IT’S NOT FIXED. So let’s vote Republican.

  148. I liked the rant but found it facile. I agree with Laura, we’re all responsible. As De Tocqueville said, in a democracy the people get the government they deserve.

    We grew up at the end of an era, where America achieved international economic and, consequently, political and military dominance. That dominance was a historical anomaly, a result of two World Wars that devastated the rest of the planet while American socioeconomic policy created a broad-based prosperous middle class for the first time in American history. Instead, it was assumed to be the natural order of things, the way things would always inevitably be.

    In the now global economy, America still has many advantages. But those advantages are under attack and are eroding. Others invest in infrastructure, innovation and education. Meanwhile, the general consensus at home – beaten into people’s heads by three decades of organized messing – is all we need to do is cut taxes and the free market will somehow result in prosperity for all. Right.

    The global free market – for labor as well as goods – creates winners and losers. Many Americans, without large reserves of capital, specialized skills or a government that actually cares about them, may not be the winners their parents were. They may be as mad as hell – and I have no doubt the Tea Partier anger is genuine, this confusing multi-hued reality is not the one they grew up in – but I doubt that they’re actually going to be able to do very much about the result.

    There is no natural law that high value innovation occurs here while the Chinese are content to always remain low-value manufacturers. Eventually, the innovation will follow the manufacturing. The economy has undergone a structural change because of decreased international communication, sourcing and transport costs. A broad-based middle class is a historical anomaly even in America – it used to be much smaller before World War II. Perhaps its time for it to shrink again? That is, unless we have leaders with the vision and fortitude to do something about this. I’m not hopeful.

  149. “That would make them, in fact, stupider than the modern GOP. The mind reels. ”

    If that doesn’t speak to the state of American politics I don’t know what does.

    Btw. Laura at #160. Definitely good points. I’d add that there are good indications that the economy is rebounding in places, but how it will affect employment etc. is still to be seen. And the current gov’t changes to tax and health care policies certainly aren’t helping employment, due to economic uncertainty. (Caveat: Not Economist and may be wrong as I’m just someone who likes reading it in my spare time)

  150. I hereby vow that you will never see another dime of my money. Which is a pity, because I enjoyed your writings. I will, however, not contribute to a person that holds me and my beliefs in such contempt.

  151. Late Entry Dept: So I haven’t read all 166 comments, but the many I did are leaving out the one indisputable truth in American politics: we don’t have an opposition party. If we did, it could easily decimate Coke and Pepsi (nee D’s & R’s).

    There’s no political left to pick up the humanist slack, either, which is why we have stage 3 cancer patients wandering into the Remote Area Medical tents when they blow through town.

    Now, that’s no reason to avoid handicapping elections and such (Raoul Duke, we miss you!) but, like the Soviets in about ’88, we are in a tailspin of epic proportions.

    This is your captain speaking. Assume crash positions.

  152. From the Beating-A-Dead-Horse file……

    @167 Dave P
    “…we don’t have an opposition party. If we did, it could easily decimate Coke and Pepsi (nee D’s & R’s).”

    Actually, there is a nascent opposition party. They’re called TEA Partiers. (Taxed Enough Already — the real acronym.) What they represent is a massive bellow of “WTF is going on?” from the vast majority of people who have paid no attention to politics until the last two years. They see the insanity of what’s going on, and are trying to do something about it.

    There’s no over-arching theme, other than the fact that they’ve woken up to find that the government at all levels has taken over their lives, and they’re almighty pissed about it.

    They’re single issue voters. The single issue is to tell the kudzu-like government (at all levels) to get the hell of their lawn. This primal bellow is starting to get a little more specific.

    We’ll see just how specific in six weeks.

  153. @168 Dave In Georgia

    “There’s no over-arching theme, other than the fact that they’ve woken up to find that the government at all levels has taken over their lives, and they’re almighty pissed about it.”

    How specifically has the government taken over your life in the past two years? Mine has changed very little. I still have the right to own a gun if I wish. Junk food and cigarettes are still available at stores. Churches of different beliefs are still open. I just don’t see how my life has been changed by government in the past two years or even the past 10 years. The government is not trying to forcibly control how I live my life.

    (I know that the government is trying to nudge me in certain directions using the tax code, but I don’t think that is what you are talking about.)

    The problem with how the TEA Party presents itself is in its use of words like “tyranny” and “manifesto”. Those are words often used by people who are advocating open rebellion. It doesn’t help when Glen Beck uses phrases like “refounding America” and “restoring honor” as if those have been missing for the past two years.

    There are two problems that I have with the TEA Party. The first is that there are too many political and media opportunists who are trying to take advantage of them. I believe that Sarah Palin will say anything it takes to get the Republican nomination for President in 2012. The people at Fox News will say anything it takes to get their ratings up. I have a hard time believing that Palin or Murdoch have our best interests at heart.

    The other thing that I fear with the TEA party backed candidates is that they mean what they say. George W. Bush was pro-life and had enough conservatives in Congress and the Supreme Court to end abortion before 2006, but he didn’t do anything about it. Bush was for small government, but that just meant deregulating the corporations that had enough power to tank the whole economy. Government spending increased under Bush. The TEA Party candidates will actually work to get rid of the FDA, EPA and Department of Education. Those are three agencies that we need to be working right now if we want America to stay in a leadership position in the world.

    For this election, what we need to do as a nation is to dig deeper. It is time to stop watching political ads and read the positions of the candidates. It is time to worry about which candidate is more prepared to lead and not worry about who has more money. Finally, it is time to shut off the damn cable news, all of it. Nothing worth listening to is ever said there.

  154. @168 Dave in Georgia
    Needing to massively bellow about ‘WTF is going on’ is quite telling. There are many of us that have been following politics for more than twenty four months and are quite clear on what’s been happening: starting in the late Carter years, it’s been open season on average people and the things they value. For 30+ years, the wealthy and corporations have been smashing and/or stealing everything imaginable and there simply isn’t much left.

    But now that the tide of outrageous decline has (apparently) started lapping at your door, you’re upset? Ready to do anything just to feel like you’re breaking this political inertia, even if it’s by jumping off a tall cliff? I don’t know how best to start untying such perceptual knots, but let me make a modest attempt by asking that you not line up with billionaires. They’re not on your side.

  155. Guys, I’ve been paying attention to politics. (I almost majored in PoliSci back in the day.) I’m not talking about me.

    I’m referring to the people who work for a living and have paid no attention to things. Let’s face it — most people don’t follow politics, because they’ve figured what they thought didn’t matter because there were limits to what the politicians would do. You know — there’s always going to be fiddling on the edges, but the core bedrock of things was untouchable.

    Then they look up and the bedrock’s being chipped away — and the ones on the fiddle were going nuts with their money.

    Now they’re paying attention, and they’re getting slammed for it. Not real smart for those who stand on the other side of the divide.

    Yamamoto had a comment about a sleeping giant. It’s possible that this is the same situation, redux.

  156. @161: He’s not sitting you down,tying you to a chair, and forcing you to read his opinion/analysis on political matters. If you disagree that much then maybe you should just not read non-fic by the author.

    For instance: I like the Ender’s series and think Orson Scott Card is a gifted writer. That being said I feel that his politics are horrid and his stance on gay rights is pretty bigoted(especially his prop 8 stuff). That being said I’m not reading him because I agree with him on politics, I read his books because I enjoy them and I don’t have to seek out his thoughts on things if I don’t want to. So… cover your ears and go away is the alternative, I guess?

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