Reader Request Week 2015 #6: Me and Republicans

G.B. Miller asks:

From what I’ve read, you seem to be progressive Democrat with a distaste for Republicans. Has there/will there be a time where a Republican, on any level, will do something that might momentarily soften your distaste for the Republican party?


One, I’m not a Democrat. I’ve been registered as an independent for as long as I’ve been a voter. Two, I’ve voted for Republicans as recently as the last election, for local offices where I believed they were the best-qualified candidates. Three, the last actual politician I donated money to was Jon Huntsman, in the belief that even if I was not a Republican, as a citizen of the US, it behooved me to encourage the Republicans to nominate for president someone who was not ridiculously out there. It didn’t do him much good, alas, nor the Republicans.

Four, I’m not at all sure I qualify as a genuine “progressive.” I will certainly allow that to folks on the right, I look like a progressive, but then, for a lot of folks on the right, Obama looks like dyed-in-the-wool socialist, rather than what he is, which is a technocratic centrist with just a little lean to the left. Obama being called a socialist causes actual socialists a nasty case of hives, as I understand. With the exception that I was for same-sex marriage well before he was, overall I’m probably a smidge to the right of Obama. As I am fond of saying to people, in the days of yore, the politics I have today would have qualified me to be a “Rockefeller Republican.” Which is to say I didn’t leave the GOP; the GOP left me. When I was, like, eleven.

(If you want another perspective on my politics, ask lefties from outside the United States, i.e., where there is still a genuine political left, if I seem like a lefty to them. I suspect most of them would position me as center-to-center-right; in other words, the guy who is wrong in a lot of his politics but doesn’t make an ass of himself about it at family gatherings.)

What marks me as a “progressive” these days is the fact I’m for same-sex marriage and am pro-choice, which are positions that could be equally “libertarian,” if “libertarian” hadn’t somehow transmuted itself into “reactionary conservative” here in the US lately, and the fact that I am both for having the United States have a slightly better social net and infrastructure than it does (which is a “liberal” position) and that it should actually pay for those services/infrastructure rather than deficit finance them (which is a “conservative” position), and that probably the best way to do that is punt up the marginal rate a bit on the high end because those of us on the high end (Hi! I’m the 1%!) can afford it. There are other fiddly details but that’s the gist of it.

Bluntly: if that’s a “progressive” viewpoint, there’s something very wrong with the definition of “progressive.” In a world where the politics of the moment weren’t ridiculously skewed, these positions would be “moderate” at best. Equally bluntly: I’m a well-off, white, middle-aged dude who likes being comfortable and likes his country genially middle-class. I should not be seen as anywhere near the vanguard of leftist politics in this country. That I am seen to be so really is a problem, both for the left and for the right.

The county I live in is overwhelmingly Republican and/or conservative; I get along with nearly everyone here on a day-to-day basis, even if I vote differently than many of them do. I have Republicans and/or conservative friends and family members and business associates; I get along well with them too. By and large they don’t have to do anything to make me think better of them; I think well of them as it is.

That said, and to be blunt again, there’s very little chance I’ll be voting for GOP candidates for jobs above the local level anytime soon, because at the state and national party level, I don’t see a lot of rationality when it comes either to individual rights or the proper role of the government with regard to services/infrastructure or taxes. I also think the party’s been blinded by frankly incomprehensible hatred of Obama, which almost certainly does have a racial element to it, thanks for asking, added on top of a general howling outrage that a Democrat is in the White House at all. I like many Republicans but I actively dislike the policies and strategies (such as they are) of the Republican Party on the state and national levels.

If the GOP ever wants me to vote for it above the local level — and who knows? Maybe they don’t! — then they will need to ditch the Gingrich/Atwater philosophy of painting anyone of differing politics as heretics to be burned and never to be negotiated with, and they’ll have to have a serious rethink of how they approach taxation and services. I think it’s possible to believe in low(ish) taxation and constrained government coupled with a robust private sector while still recognizing that some things really do need to be handled by government, and paid for. I’d also like to see evidence they believe civil rights are indeed for everyone, not just the straight, white and/or embryonic.

But — and this is significant — there is no reason for the GOP to change its current strategy. If you’ve not noticed, it holds both the House and Senate at the national level, and a whole lot of state executive and legislative branches. What it’s doing is pretty successful, and when it’s not (2008, 2012), the strategy simply to double down and do it harder has not been a bad one for them (2010, 2014). So I don’t see the GOP doing anything it needs to do to win my vote — or even to lessen my overall dislike of it — on the state or national level anytime soon.

Which I’m sure they think it fine. They don’t, in fact, need my vote. By the time they ever do, I suspect it might be too late for them.

192 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2015 #6: Me and Republicans”

  1. Hey! It’s a discussion about politics. The Mallet is out. Be polite to each other, please.

    Also: This is a thread discussing the GOP. We are not discussing the Democrats and all the terrible, horrible, awful things they do. One, because this is a thread about the GOP. Two, because even if the Democrats do terrible, horrible, awful things that’s not a justification for the GOP to do so too. This should be obvious to anyone who gives it even more than a cursory bit of thought. If you comment is judged by me to be “But, but, WHAT ABOUT THE DEMOCRATS?” then it’s rather more likely to get Malleted.

    Also also: My noting same-sex marriage and the right of women to choose to be pregnant (or not) should not be construed as an invitation for a long general discussion of either or both topics. Keep the discussion of these two tightly constrained.

    I may add some more caveats as we go along. Watch this space.

  2. Agree on all fronts – even to the living in a conservative community and getting along with most people on a day to day basis. I could do without all the abortion billboards and the “No Bama” bumper stickers, but what can you do.

    Best Bumper sticker I have seen locally by the way was on a Prius. It said – “Commuter – Not a Liberal.” I was laughing for miles.

  3. I would find political discussions with you to be very boring. Just a whole bunch of, “yes, I agree with that point as well.” You pretty much mirror another blog I follow by a local political figure and professor:

  4. I’ve used the same “Republicans left me” line. It’s so nice to hear it from another source. There’s got to be a healthy number of us out there, right? A healthy number not making a difference. Eh. At the very least, John, you made me feel a little less alone today. Literature’s greatest achievement.

  5. Heh. If I were a better writer (and a member of the 1%, haha) that is almost exactly, word for word, what I would have written in response to the question.

  6. Brilliant response, Mr. Scalzi. And has already been stated above, agree with everything you have said (including being registered Independent for more than 25 years). I like how you state your position without any name calling or disparaging those who disagree with your position, just presenting the facts. Thank you for that.

  7. I think my husband is exactly in your position as well, except that the Republicans left him before he was born. His family is very conservative and he’s moved steadily to the left being married to me (who is very liberal – I’m pretty much the definition of Green Party), but he’s still pretty moderate. I suspect there’s a lot of people in his position in the younger generations, so I hope that they can either give the Democrats the ongoing support they need to actually get stuff done or move the Republicans to the left.

  8. I’m a definite ‘Rockefeller Republican’ or, as the Washington Post recently described, an ‘NPR Republican’ and liked your response (I also gave to Ambassador Huntsman’s campaign).
    My biggest issue comes with the question itself. Living in DC but with family all over the US, I hear too many people (many well younger than my 47 years) comment about how they’d never be friends with those who don’t agree with them politically, which both saddens me and scares me. If we can’t find ways to come together, in on non-political terms, which allows us to understand each other, things will only get worse – we’ll live solely in the world of stereotypes for ‘the other side’

    Will say that I do disagree with the views on the President’s position – he’s not a centrist. He’s definitely not a socialist by any stretch of the imagination but he is to the left of Pres. Clinton. He’s just been more restrained by outside forces (2010 and 2014 elections) plus the international community won’t cooperate (as if it ever does).

  9. I grew up in a “Rockefeller Republican” family, and like you, the GOP left me years ago. My support of things like a reasonable social safety net, restrictions on corporate political spending, higher taxes on the wealthy, and same-sex marriage have gotten me labeled by some as a socialist, so I eventually decided to embrace the label. Fine, I’m a socialist. There are worse things to be called.

  10. I too have been mystified by the amount of rabid Obama bashing that’s been going on pretty much since he stepped into office. I find it hard to see why he’s deserving of such vilification, hatred, abuse, and smear propaganda. They don’t pay enough to put up with all the crap he has to deal with. IMHO, compared to Bush the Second he’s done pretty well. I’d give him a solid B.

  11. In Canada we used to have something called a “Red Tory”. I think it is similar to a Rockefeller Republican.

  12. You would think that a party with a shrinking base (older white men) would try to expand their reach. But since that expansion would piss off that same base, well…

    Demographics will be the end of the GOP as currently constituted. Things will look considerably different in 30 years.

  13. “You would think that a party with a shrinking base (older white men) would try to expand their reach. But since that expansion would piss off that same base, well…”

    Exactly. They made the choice with Nixon and Reagan and now they are trapped by their ever shrinking base.

  14. This may be a trans-atlantic difference of view, but on this side “tax the rich more to pay for public services” is typically seen as both progressive and left-leaning. Obviously without knowing you better I can’t judge all of your politics, but add that to “support same-sex marriage” and I suspect most people in the UK would mark you up as both progressive and leftist…

  15. Yup, as a dirty foreigner lefty, you’ve characterized our view pretty well.

    The “center” is not midway between Democrat and Republican – Democrat is already at the center (or even to the right of it), and midway between D and R is well into the right. From the perspective of someone from a place that actually has a left, that is.


  16. amysrevenge the NDP win in Alberta last week gave me some real hope for the future. :-)

  17. Thanks for the quotes around “libertarian”. I’ve considered myself a libertarian since before I could register to vote. I wouldn’t come close to voting for any of the clowns pretending to be libertarian these days.

    It’s hard to find anyone worth voting in most elections, but plenty to vote against.

  18. One of the greatly troubling things with the modern GOP is the “collateral damage” from its stance. Its strategy of regional focus (abandoning the cities for the suburban and rural areas) and total opposition (thanks Newt) and dismissal of the idea of the government having any role in shaping public policy (wonderfully contradictory there, but such is ideology) has screwed the country as much as any particular legislation has. With no opposition force in city governance there is low incentive to correct issues with mismanagement. So you get things like DC and San Francisco where basic things like housing markets and bus services are out of whack with the population needs. Or you get their complete lack of interest in criminal justice reform because the people being harmed by it aren’t their constituents. With total opposition to everything you get a refusal to work on infrastructure bills or energy bills to update what we need – David Frum has some solid articles on this. If you don’t see a role for defining institutional structure because you declare the man-made system to be naturally arising you have no way to correct when those flawed institutions drift and decay over time.

    Past any particular policy one may disagree with, the total abdication of responsibility to effectively govern has horribly damaged this country. Its the old chestnut that “refusing to make a decision is the same as making a decision”

  19. You know, that strategy has been working for them historically but I think changing demographics is eventually going to hurt them. I know people have been saying that for literally decades … but I honestly don’t see a focus on traditionally conservative wedge issues being particularly effective beyond the next couple of presidential election cycles. As their voting base ages and as young people begin entering the ranks, they’re going to have to wiggle on those issues if they want to stay relevant.

  20. Reasonably close to my particular position, although I was a registered Republican (and voted that way, more or less) for years. Reagan’s ascension disturbed me, and the ridiculous harassment and impeachment of the conservative corporatist Clinton finally caused me to leave the GOP. The scary thing has been watching the steady slide away from mere partisan politics into an insane fantasy world by the GOP. I thought the silliness on the part of my Democratic friends under Nixon was rather foolish – what’s going on now on the Republican side is simply terrifying. We’re living in two worlds any more – the Democratic world is more or less recognizable, but the Republican world is a collaboration of Bosch and Dali, with a paranoid cherry on top. I wish I had any idea how to fight it, but every step further down the road seems to make the next two steps not just easier but inevitable. It’s like watching a fly in a pitcher plant. And even now, people are refusing to vote. Sure, the machines can be easily hacked, and quite possibly have been. So what? I may be naive still, but I think that if we got a bigger number of voters out, there might possibly be a chance to reverse this slide. Of course, that presupposes the voters take the time to find the information instead of simply believing what they are told by people who have an axe to grind. It also presupposes that people step back and ask for definitions of the labels that get thrown around – “Conservative”, for instance, clearly means nothing like the familiar word “conservative”. There are loads of terms like that now – we can use the same term, but if we mean different things, are we communicating? I’m not even going to address the rise of Fox here, but that has been a massive factor.

  21. Until my mid to late 20’s, I was a staunch Republican. Then, due mostly to the social issues you mention, I drifted away. Result, last 4 national elections, have voted almost straight Democrat ticket although I have many fiscal issues with them. Wish someone could start a new party, call them the Rationalists, and be successful. Alas, not going to happen.

  22. I consider myself an independent, even though you do not register for parties in Indiana, but I find myself coming closer and closer to straight ticket Dem. voting, even on the local scale. I’m not really sure when it was that I realized that the candidate doesn’t matter since they’ll be voting with their side > 95% of the time anyway, but especially highlighted by our recent RFRA debacle and local education missteps, any plans for voting other than straight dem. are out the door.

  23. I, also, agree with everything you say here… It all seems so reasonable and simple when articulated so well. How could anyone not see the sense of these positions?

    And that is where I start to lose hope… There is so much vitriol levied against these ideas. There is so much money deployed to prevent any shift towards these ideas and to take us further the other direction. And the Democratic Party seems ill-prepared to do anything to slow it, much less halt it.

    It feels like it will take at least a generation to unwind the state level messes and gerrymandering that have become the underpinning of the right’s national program to eliminate the social security net, to expropriate public funds into private coffers (charter schools, parking meters…), to establish a permanent uber-class.

    I do what I can in my community to improve the situation. However, the likes of the Koch brothers and the Tea Party push the fight down lower and lower with every election cycle. They have pumped funds and support into school board elections, police & fire levies, and city councils in towns of 50k and smaller. And it is exhausting.

    I fear that my children will still be swimming against this tide as they become full adults and then bear the brunt of the cost to correct it.

  24. One of the main problems I have with Republican politicians is the overwhelming loyalty to the party over what they feel is the best option.

    I was recently talking to a state rep, in NH where we have approximately 400, who explained that her neighbor in the state house was a republican, but felt that the republican produced budget was a stunningly bad one and that we should be funding things like roads and schools and that the funding requests that those agencies had made were reasonable. But he voted for that budget anyway, even though he thought it was terrible, because his party had created it.

    There are a lot of individuals in the GOP who have nuanced and rational opinions, and are willing to address the real issues and figure out what they feel to be the best solutions, but who vote for bad policy anyway because otherwise they’ll be voting against their own team.

  25. Replying to John McGrath stating that in the UK “tax the rich to pay more” is seen as left leaning and progressive. I would disagree.

    On the margins obviously the left would want the rich to pay more than they currently do but mainstream conservative thinking still believes that the wealthy/upper middle class should pay higher rates of taxation than thoe less fortunate and can have certain benefits (like child benefit) removed.
    Given that the conservative party here introduced same sex marriage and in the main is pro choice (though there are a few MPs who are clearly anti pro choice) I suspect you could certainly consider voting conservative if you lived in the UK.
    You could also consider voting labour as tbh both parties try to occupy the centre ground whilst also throwing some extreme policies on the margin to their core support.

  26. I actually am a progressive, and people calling Scalzi progressive makes me wish the “you keep using that word” meme wasn’t too overplayed to be used argumentatively.

    Back in college, I was all over the comment threads on the political posts here. These days I’m far less interested in discussing politics on the internet, but I respected that this was a space where people who disagree could have a mostly-civil discussion. While a lot of that is down to attentive moderating, a big chunk of it is also Scalzi setting a decent example of how to disagree effectively.

    I say effectively instead of politely or respectfully because Scalzi’s not known to recognize the jurisdiction of the tone police. Folks studying how to use tone as a rhetorical tool could do worse than watching how Scalzi does it. If it seems like he aims his harshest snark to his right, I suspect that’s because he knows that aiming it at actual progressives wouldn’t be a very effective rhetorical tactic, given our (lack of) proximity to power.

  27. A couple data points to support the racial component of the Obama hatred: 1) In Montana in 2010 I saw a bumper sticker that said “Don’t renig in 2012.” 2) I have a friend who lives in Vacaville (a Central Valley town on I-80 about 30 miles from Sacramento) whose neighbor told him “You can’t trust anything Obama says. He’s a nigger.” If there are people who still feel that this is a valid viewpoint to communicate to others rather than a base instinct to be ashamed of and dealt with in therapy, I’m ready to give up all hope.

  28. As to Republicans (or either party) changing its policies because they control the house, I think their policies have far less to do with how they get elected than being able to control voting districts and opaque advertising money.

    That’s probably part of the problem you allude to.

  29. “If you want another perspective on my politics, ask lefties from outside the United States, i.e., where there is still a genuine political left, if I seem like a lefty to them.”

    To this center-left Canadian (who has lived in the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain and Greece) you’re right-of-center with slight progressive tendencies. As others have said, America does not seem to have an actual left, at least not one that’s visible in your current political culture.

    I’ve known Americans who sincerely cannot tell the difference between a democratic socialist and a communist tyrant. I sometimes wonder what the rest of the world looks like to them, but then I remember that it’s a rare rightist American who ever thinks about the rest of the world. (I was going to add, “or find it on a map” but that would be rude.)

    But here’s one thing that puzzles me: all over the world, for decades if not centuries, the color of the left has been red and the color of the right has been blue. Somehow, America has got that wrong. So I wonder, if the American right ever stages a revolt, will they do it under a red flag?

  30. Annalee

    I too value Scalzi’s willingness to provide a space where people can actually have a discussion; it’s pretty rare, not least because it requires a great deal of time and effort on his part in moderating it.

    I do get baffled by people who believe that sending a tweet constitutes political activism; I was pressed into service as a teenager by my mother to do things like knock on doors, canvass for candidates, help with getting the vote out and so forth. All of which requires a great deal more time and energy than tweeting into the void and then congratulating oneself on one’s heroic efforts…

  31. @Lily: The phenomenon you describe is exactly why I can’t, in good conscience, vote for any Republican candidate for high office. Even if I like what an individual has to say, and even if I think he or she might do a good job on his or her own, I can’t get past the fact that I’m also voting in the entire rest of the party. And given the more and more extreme nature of the GOP as a collective, I can’t stomach any action of mine leading to them gaining even a toehold of power.

    That said, I (along with many others) sincerely hope the Republican party can find its way back to reality soon. I think we need an opposition party. I think when one politician starts talking about all the amazing things the Government could do, there needs to be someone to say, “Wait, slow down and think about the consequences. Also, how are you going to pay for it?” (Personally, I think we need more than two real parties, but I doubt that’s likely to change in the near future.)

  32. Exactly. They made the choice with Nixon and Reagan and now they are trapped by their ever shrinking base.

    Which has led them to control the House, Senate, and a majority of state governments. That’s some shrinking going on…

  33. I’m to the left of Scalzi, and have been reading here for a number of years. I’d say that when I first started reading here, I noticed the differences between my politics and Scalzi’s politics more, but as the GOP has gone further down the well of crazy, the gap between Scalzi’s politics and the GOP position have so overwhelmed the differences between his position and mine that it’s harder to see our gap.

  34. “I’ve been registered as an independent for as long as I’ve been a voter.”

    Wait, what?

    Americans actually register their party affiliation when they register to vote?

    I mean, I remember hearing people talking about being registered Democrats and Republicans, but I thought that was literal party-membership, so they could vote in primaries and the like. But there’s no Independent party to register with, so…

    I have voted for the Liberal party (and provincial and federal level) every time I’ve ever voted, but I’m not registered “as a Liberal”.

  35. I think I’ve actually moved to the left as I’ve gotten older, which leaves me right about where you are now. Reagan’s courting of the evangelical right reminded me of what Goldwater said about them: They will not negotiate. Religion is all about believing things without having a reason to (this is called “faith”) and that carries right over into the way the GOP now practices politics.

    Now, I don’t really care what religion anybody practices in private, but until the GOP gets over practicing politics the same way, they have lost me.

  36. Stevie: I suspect the folks who used Twitter to make the world take notice of their protests against the Egyptian government would disagree with you on that point. Ditto the folks who used Twitter to start a national conversation about the state and state-sanctioned violence African Americans face in the US. Most of us wouldn’t know who Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown were if it wasn’t for the hard work of activists who used Twitter to make the mainstream media take their deaths seriously. Those tweets brought about more tangible changes than my knocking on doors as ever done.

    As for time and energy: no one who’s faced even a fraction of the harassment and abuse aimed at activists on twitter could ever doubt the courage and tenacity it takes to keep speaking up in the face of such terrifying bile.

  37. The most frustrating bit is that, generally speaking, I get on with my conservative friends and family; we agree on what’s best for each other and the planet, and the road forks at 1) how to pay for it and 2) what does responsible look like, but even though we’re veering a bit, I can still see the road they’re walking down and it’s nice enough, it’s got pavement and properly dashed yellow lines. I don’t hate them or their road.

    The cliff appears with “wedge” issues. it’s almost as if, say, a man, lets call him Frank Luntz, put a group of people in a room and asked them to rate their feelings about certain buzz words, for example, “gay” or “Kenya,” and then sent the findings from that polling to a significant portion of GOP strategists, who then wrote scripts containing those words and anyone who strayed from that script was no longer invited to participate in their primaries. (Goodbye Huntsman and Reason)

    I live in Iowa, their home-away-from-home during election cycles where they invade my son’s little league games on Friday nights and stand next to Rep. Steve King on Saturday afternoons, nodding absently while he says things like this: They court this man’s favor like he’s a Daddy with a shotgun and get bitchy about the nacho situation at the concession stand. It’s all very uncomfortable to watch.

    My political views generally align with yours John, so its not entirely unlikely that I’ll vote for a Republican, but one instance after the 2010 election that no-shit made me cry was when President Obama released his long form birth certificate. I will never vote for anyone who participated in the commentary leading to that shame, either by actively encouraging the suspicion or through their silence, and that includes nearly everyone who will walk across the stage at the upcoming primaries.

    But the democrats…well, I guess they’re lucky we live firmly in the two-party system.

    Cheers, John, you always have good, thoughtful things to say. And thank you for reminding me to upgrade my phone. Hello fancy Droid Turbo.

  38. Ten years after I thought I’d jump into the political discourse arena (boy was THAT a bad idea–some of my old LJ posts paint me as a complete tool), I’ve pretty much forced myself to take a much more distanced, nuanced view of both main parties. Agreed, they both have some great people, they both have some utter asshats, they both have people who Dance to the beat of the party line (hey! a B&S reference! go me!). I’ve pretty much gone from flaming liberal to moderate independent: do what you want, don’t be an asshole about it, and if you’re going to commit to a project, don’t do it halfway.

    I think one of the most problematic issues I have with the Republican party, specifically its followers, is the noise from the noisiest parts. Calm discourse from the Democrats will be met with derision, name-calling and patriot-questioning from the other side. A news channel that all but admits its Republican leanings reports via scare tactics, pedantry and embarrassingly outlandish opinion…and states it’s done via the zero-sum game of ‘fair and balanced’ reporting. A lot of it is patently false, mean-spirited, and downright childish and embarrassing. [Again…not to say Democrats are always saintly, either.]

    THAT said…I have quite a few family members, friends, coworkers and acquaintances who are Republican, at least on the ballot. Wheaton’s Rule still applies for the majority of us–we have differing opinions, but we’re not about to call each other stupid poopyheads because of it. We’d like to think we’re better than that.

    I only wish the noisiest parts could do the same, because this comedy is really getting old.

  39. Stephen Dunscombe: It depends on the state, I think. Some states have closed primaries, where only party members can vote in that party’s primaries. In those cases you have to register as one party or the other, or as independent. In other states, with open primaries, you can vote in either party’s primary (but only one party’s) and registering as a party member is more to get on mailing lists than anything else. It’s been many years since I registered in my state and I’m not a member of either party, but I can’t remember if I actually checked an “independent” box or just declined to check a box for either party.

    I am somewhat to the left of Scalzi in that I believe in a MUCH more robust safety net including single payer healthcare, but in the overall scheme of things I still have plenty of views that could be considered “conservative” like balancing budgets and avoiding deficits (which ironically the Dems have been much better at working toward than the Republicans in at least the last 3 decades). I feel like I’m only a “liberal” or “progressive” in that the center has moved so far to the right.

  40. >> This may be a trans-atlantic difference of view, but on this side “tax the rich more to pay for public services” is typically seen as both progressive and left-leaning.>>

    That may have something to do with the vagueness of the word “more.”

    In this case it doesn’t mean “tax the rich more than everyone else,” it means “tax the rich more than they’re currently taxed,” which is, by and large, at lower effective rates than everyone else, thanks to the American right’s answer to almost everything being “cut taxes on the wealthy and that’ll fix everything.”

  41. Heh.

    This was exactly my response, and exactly what I figured your response would be, when I saw this question on the “requests” page.

  42. @MVS and Ssteve, I came to realize about 2 or 3 years ago (I think I should have realized it sooner) that the completely incomprehensible hatred of Obama was due to racism. There is no other explanation. We have seen Republicans vote against something they were in favor of simply because Obama supported it. The implacable hatred for all things Obama coming from the Republicans, as part of Republican policy, has changed my distaste for Republican policies and “values” into something close to hatred. This Republican policy is so irrational (other than in the sense it has worked to get elected – what does that say about voters) it makes one wonder if there is a group insanity involved. It is also eerily similar in some ways to ISIS fundamentalism, as some actions and statements are simply inexplicable as anything other than insanity.

  43. I have disagreements with the Republicans on some things. But, then again, I also have disagreements with the Democrats on certain things, and many of the things that I think are important, neither party will support.

    I suspect Our Host would probably say much the same thing. That’s one of the difficulties of living in a political system where you only have a choice between Wimp and Shrimp, and can’t vote for Gregory Peck. (reference)

  44. My mom was a hippie. Both my parents raised me in the belief that stewardship (in the Christian duty sense) meant you take care of the people who need it, actively try to make the planet healthier, and use the tools of government and religion to minimize the damage done to either.
    I identify myself as a liberal and do my best to protect those that need protecting, which at this point means voting largely democrat. The small parties don’t have the funding machines to get anywhere and the GOP keeps actively legislating to make my life as a queer cis woman and those of my friends (POC, trans people, people in poverty) less safe. I *couldn’t* vote Republican even if there were (and there are!) individual Republican politicians and policies that sound good. The money-monster that is the extreme Christian Right Wing is running the party. They scare the crap out of me and I can’t in good conscience put their people anywhere near more power than they already have.

  45. I suspect the Red – Blue designations we use is to avoid labeling the Democrats as Communist (which would be used during campaigns).

    I have known Republican politicians who were literally kicked out of the party because they were too moderate. The GOP is being run like a religion where you need to have the one true faith, or you are the enemy. And somebody like Obama or Clinton who behave a lot like old-school Republicans have to be especially attacked or else they might
    attract away to some of the flock. You will note that it seems all GOP candidates for president claim to have been anointed by God himself.

    Pretty sick in my mind. It has been effective, but as soon as Gerrymandering and vote tampering are no longer enough, the GOP will be dead. The GOP knows this, which is why they are trying to lock in their power in any way possible. If they controlled both houses, the Supreme Court and the Presidentcy, they would pass legislation intended to prevent the Dems from ever regaining some power (a goal stated by Rove).

    Minorities don’t seem to understand just how important it is for them to vote. Saying your vote doesn’t count is just handing the election to the GOP.

    The GOP should be called fascist at this time. Their only concern is power/control and helping their corporate supporters. I imagine they think anything that helps companies has to automatically be good for America. It is just a nice side benefit that these same corporations give huge donations to these politicians in return. But that’s not quid pro quo, no, never.

    I don’t know the endgame for the GOP. If we extrapolate what is happening now, we get some kind of Sci-Fi dystopia like Blade Runner. I guess if one can live above the squalor, it doesn’t make any difference. For those of us in the trenches, it’s not so good. As one guy in the .01% bracket said, “it’s getting close to pitchfork time.” And trying to control people even more isn’t helping one bit.

  46. Another registered independent here. I’ve half-joked several times that I registered this way to stay off the Republican and Democrat fund-raising lists, but to be honest it’s pretty much how I’ve traditionally voted. That said, these days I’m far more likely to agree with the Democrat candidate than the Republican.

    There’s definitely a racial element to the Obama-bashing, but I think there’s more going on. One of the guys in the local gaming community just recently decided that there’s a remote chance Obama’s birth certificate isn’t a complete forgery; he’s also been in a mixed-race marriage for over 20 years.

    @Matthughes, I’ve gotten several giggle-fits over the Republicans being identified on political graphics with the color red :) .

  47. US politics baffles me. A two-party system of centre-right and far right is exactly the sort of thing that will get your novel returned from a publisher for being too unrealistic (I joke, I joke).

    More interestingly, what exactly happened to US Libertarianism? Some of the so-called “Libertarian” forums are depressingly full of paranoid wingnuts who are nevertheless more conservative in their social / political / economic outlook than nineteenth century Russian noblemen. Did US Libertarians get too attached to the Gun’s Rights Activists of the weird kind?

  48. “Which has led them to control the House, Senate, and a majority of state governments. That’s some shrinking going on…”

    Gerrymandering only works for so long. :-)

  49. Stephen, voter registration in the US varies from state to state. In Texas, for example, you just register. You don’t register *as* anything. I’ve always considered myself an independent (and as such generally refrained from party primaries by choice), but could switch to vote in either party primary on a whim. And change parties for the next primary (but not in a run-off in the same primary since they stamp your voter registration card for that year). In other states, I understand you have to formally state party affiliation when you register to vote. I’m not sure what the practical effects are, since I’ve never lived in such a state. It probably determines which primary you can vote in, but that’s a guess.

    I’m generally in Scalzi’s position (though not as high up the bracket). I’m a bit to the left of our center/center-right President rather than smidgen to the right. I do think our regulations, tax code, and services have become so skewed over the past 40 years that some major correctives are needed just to restore sanity. I would definitely be comfortable with Eisenhower’s policies and practices. And Lincoln (the real one, not the modern GOP fantasy) is a President I’ve pretty deeply studied and love. But neither of them would have any place at all in the current GOP. In fact, they would likely be vilified if they tried to run for anything now as a Republican.

  50. Speaking as an actual socialist, Obama’s not a socialist. And I get pissy whenever Glenn Beck or Bill Hannity or whoever tries to claim so.

    Fundamentally, the problem is that the Republican Party no longer represents a broad section of the population. They committed to the support of hard-core conservatives, global warming deniers, and so on, and now they are paying the price–their base is literally dying off.

    I just wish that they’d get it over with and leave instead of broadcasting so much asininity where people can see it. Protip: If you’ve got to be an asshole, do it in private where nobody needs to tolerate you.

  51. I run into this same question all the time. Being against the GOP doesnt make me a commie. Every political spectrum test that I take shows me to be strong libertarian, center, center-left. Which is not lefty.

    The right has moved so far to the fringe right that everything else has become LEFT in their minds.

  52. My brother is one of those conservatives whom the GOP has summarily left. Decent enough in general scope stuff to chat with, though we have some blunt issues of difference. I’m probably pretty center with a few outliers here and there, but mostly I just hate to be labelled, classified, or grouped since I don’t toe party lines for any party on the basis of loyalty. Most of my family are conservatives, but willing to vote what makes sense to them rather than “sides”. I have one aunt I love dearly but cannot stomach most of her more extreme Tea Party style viewpoints. We trade pictures of beaches and kittens and studiously avoid each others political gaze. My personal take is you need the push/pull of these kinds of viewpoints to keep things balanced and make sure issues and voices are being heard. But when this isn’t seen as an organic situation and made into artificial groups, and THEN the attitude starts prevailing that one group is for the good so the other group MUST be evil. That’s when it breaks down.

  53. The Red=GOP, Blue=Democrat convention actually dates to a quite recent presidential election–2000, I think it was–when three major news outlets all coincidentally happened to use that color scheme to track voting results. Prior to that, colors on the tracking map varied by network and year, but for some reason this color scheme stuck. It has little or nothing to do with symbolism or relation to ideology, it’s just a convention.

  54. I am reminded of a character from Pratchett and Gaiman’s novel “Good Omens”…

    | “Shadwell hated all southerners and, by inference, was standing at the North Pole.” — Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens

  55. My family is old style Republican, while I am the weird ‘lefty’. Nothing changed – the line separating left, center, and right kept moving rightward over the years. My older siblings have stuck with the R’s because of tradition, I guess. They sometimes wonder what happened at the national level, but don’t realize these folks were once at the local level.

  56. More interestingly, what exactly happened to US Libertarianism?

    We have a de facto two party system (esp at the federal level). Libertarians and Ross Perot-ans realized that the only way that they could get elected was to join one of the two parties, so they picked the GOP. Or the GOP picked them.

    The Tea Party Movement absorbed all the “small government” libertarians and the Tea Party ran on the GOP ticket. Welcome to the downside of not letting party bosses decide who you get to vote for.

  57. I understand and identify with a lot of what you’ve written here, Scalzi (nods in direction of name thread). The only significant difference I see between you and me is that I went and registered as a Democrat, after having been an indy for, oh, about a decade. I did this so I could vote in primaries (underlying reason: a burning desire to fire Joe Lieberman), which are closed here in CT. I can still vote for the occasional local-level Republican. I understand the reluctance to join oneself to a party and all, but in the end I decided that (for me, at least) it’s really just ego. Look at me I’m so independent!

    I googled Ohio primary rules and it looks like they’re open for you, which removes a major reason to register for you. So, as with so many things, YMMV.

  58. I am 70 years old, and have been an active voter since I was 21. In all that time I voted for the individuals I considered best qualified, rep, dem, whatever. Last year, due to the teaparty fanatics that have taken over the GOP, I voted straight party democrat for the first time in my life. The GOP didn’t so much leave me but allowed itself to be dragged away by non-thinking selfish demogogues of the “I got mine, I owe you nothing” sort.

  59. The way things used to work, at the start of each presidential election the TV networks would flip a coin to decide which color to use for Democrats and Republicans on the voting returns maps. In 2000 Democrats ended up blue and Republicans red. The bitter intensity of the recounts that year burned those colors into place.

  60. Yeah, both you and Obama are center-right, from a UK-ian perspective. I’m actually pretty right wing in UK terms, but left of Obama in US terms, mainly because of the absurdity that is the US healthcare system – spending 16% of GDP to get similar/worse health outcomes to the rest of the first world which spends a maximum of half that is the ultimate in ridiculousness.

    I’m not sure how it’s possible to ignore the destruction that has been rained on Kansas and Wisconsin following a total takeover by Republicans – both states’ budgets have been cratered due to tax cuts on the rich, which (surprise surprise) didn’t stimulate the economy enough to prevent sales tax rises to shift the burden of tax to the poor.

    The basic “F you, I’ve got mine” attitude of the Republicans is terrifying.

  61. These comments make it clear that the left can stereotype just as well as the right.

  62. Libertarians and Ross Perot-ans realized that the only way that they could get elected was to join one of the two parties, so they picked the GOP.

    To prove your point, the 1980 Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate is now a noted fundraiser for the Republican Party. (That’d be one David Koch).

  63. “Mmm. No gerrymandering in Senate elections.”

    Thank about this a little more….

  64. “They left me” really resonates. I also live in a pretty conservative place (as a teenager, I was a fairly high ranking Young Republican in a one party Red State), and generally got along with people on the right, but in the last handful of years, it is very hard to be friendly with people who pepper their conversations with “moochers,” “whores,” “thugs,” “fags” and other phrases they picked up and sling around with cable-fueled abandon. During the birth control uproar, I just took to telling people, “oh, I’m one of those whores you just excoriated.” These names, not to mention policies, deeply hurt people I care a lot more about than the people I’m casually friendly towards. It is hard not to retreat into a bubble when engaging means I’m going to be getting yelled at and belittled by people I considered reasonable pre-2008.

  65. Like John, I’ve voted for a number of local Republicans. They were generally people I know from the kids Scout troop or soccer coaches or school. They were sane.

    A lot of the national GOP stuff makes me despair for the level of crazy.

  66. what he is, which is a technocratic centrist with just a little lean to the left.

    A little lean to the right.

    But otherwise, carry on….

  67. matthughes writes:

    But here’s one thing that puzzles me: all over the world, for decades if not centuries, the color of the left has been red and the color of the right has been blue. Somehow, America has got that wrong. So I wonder, if the American right ever stages a revolt, will they do it under a red flag?

    The United States went until the year 2000 without a standard for who gets marked red and who gets marked blue. The whole thing congealed by accident in the news coverage of the election of 2000, and it happened to settle on a color assignment that isn’t in line with the rest of the world. In some contexts, red is still sometimes used in the traditional sense, so it can be confusing.

    Many comments in this thread speak of gerrymandering as if it’s a uniquely Republican activity. In my blue state, gerrymandering to favor Democrats is common.

    I’m not sure about the long-term outlook for demographics. Evangelicals, for example, tend to reproduce at a greater than replacement rate, where many any demographics do not.

  68. I remember the Last Ex–British–describing his politics. “I’m conservative for home, which means wildly liberal over here. Liberals back home get called communists here.”

    Also, as someone who came of age in the nineties, it’s sort of–well, not reassuring, because I don’t think it’s a good thing, but confirms my impression that, when I was young, it was more possible to respectfully disagree with conservatives on at least a few issues.

    I also have gotten more liberal as I’ve gotten older*, but…I was sixteen or seventeen during the Clinton hearings, and that’s when “we disagree on things but we can negotiate” seemed to morph into pure spite and a Harper-Valley-PTA-esque inappropriate interest in someone’s personal life.

    And honestly? No, I’m never going to be friends with someone who really believes in the GOP’s message, and that’s part of the reason why. I can understand wanting to make sure everyone contributes to the system which benefits them, to punish people for hurting others, to simplify regulations so that things can get done faster and more intuitively**, and so forth, even if I disagree on how to do that, what the priorities should be, or what “contribute” means. There’s room for discussion there, and when we’ve exhausted that discussion, there’s generally room for “well, that’s where we are–Chinese food?”.

    However, I’m never going to be friends with someone who thinks my sex life is his business.*** I’m never going to be friends with someone who thinks I don’t deserve to control my own body. I’ll be civil when the occasion demands civility, but frankly, concern for my own mental and possibly physical well-being means I’m never going to be close to that person.

    *I suspect because I had a fairly secure and fortunate childhood, whereas getting out of college allowed me to see first or close-secondhand how much unrestrained capitalism can fuck people over, for instance.
    **I mean, Jesus, I don’t even have the patience to learn half the rules in 3.5Ed, myself.
    ***Have cut off contact with personal friends, many of them ironically liberal, on this basis.

  69. More interestingly, what exactly happened to US Libertarianism?

    10 years ago, Markos Moulitsas of the rabidly Democrat supporting website DailyKos, used to regularly describe himself as libertarian. Back in those halcyon days, Ayn Rand was a curiousity who you sampled in college and then forgot about. “Libertarian” more generally meant a concern about civil liberties, which is why, for instance, Glenn Greenwald still calls himself one. It’s only since Obama’s ascendancy, and the national prominence of people like Paul Ryan and Ron Paul that libertarian has become synonymous with the philosophy of Alisa Zinov’yevna, and the spectacle of white, educated, middle class rich dudes recasting the Good Samaritan as an example of moral hazard became its defining characteristic.

    it should actually pay for those services/infrastructure rather than deficit finance them

    Argh. Demonstrates basic misunderstanding of national finance. Economics 101: federal budget surplusses year-on-year would lead to deflation and economic misery because the Treasury would be hoovering up money in the economy to store in Federal Reserve vaults. We need apparently need Slim Pickens to rise from the grave to ride a fat stack of bills and teach us How to Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Deficit. I mean we’ve only been running one for the last 175 years.

  70. But — and this is significant — there is no reason for the GOP to change its current strategy. If you’ve not noticed, it holds both the House and Senate at the national level, and a whole lot of state executive and legislative branches. What it’s doing is pretty successful, and when it’s not (2008, 2012), the strategy simply to double down and do it harder has not been a bad one for them (2010, 2014).

    It is this absolute undeniable truth that has me packing up and heading for Europe. The system is broken. And not just “well, we can fix it if…” broken. It is irretrievably broken because there are huge swaths of people that are really just government authoritarians looking for someone to tell them what to do. The American experiment has failed.

    The result is… Well we’ve got it now.

  71. I have a friend who worked for the Republican Party in the 70s or thenabouts. He’s an economist, and I think he was even a strategist. We talk a lot about the GOP. One thing that consistently comes up is how the GOP has so thoroughly shifted the Overton Window that at this point Obama “the socialist” is to the right of Nixon. You’re right that their strategy of ideological purity and running further and further to the right is working. They don’t even need to play fair on negotiations, because as soon as they start pointing their fingers while yelling “SOCIALIST!!” any opposition melts through the floorboards. The need for the Democrats to finally suck it up and copy what is clearly a working strategy in order to shift the Overton Window back to where the center is the center is a common refrain.

    Years ago, talking to a Scottish friend about politics, he said the Tories are about where the Democrats are (this was before the Dems finally grew a spine about same-sex marriage). I asked where would the GOP be, then? BNP? UKIP? They’re not known for arch-conservatism so much as racism, so what’s equivalent to GOP conservatism? Nothing. He said there is nothing that far to the right in Britain.

    Last year a friend who was left behind by the GOP changed to Democrat. One of her older friends was aghast. “How can you not be a Republican? Don’t you know what we stand for?!” to which she responded “have you read the party platform in the last 30 years?” “No.” “Look at the current platform.” Her older friend did an about-face.

  72. @MattW:
    But in the Clinton years, we ran a budget surplus and used that to pay down debts. That’s not just money sitting in a treasury vault if you’re paying off debts with it. (Though yes, I get that there’s a G in CIGNX, and that’s why I’m not anti-spending, just wish the GOP was more willing to recognize that you can pay down debt or lower taxes but not both)

  73. One thing that consistently comes up is how the GOP has so thoroughly shifted the Overton Window that at this point Obama “the socialist” is to the right of Nixon.

    I know that’s a trope going around, but unless Obama has been fighting against desegregation and is against abortion, that’s not really true.

    (Nixon on abortion: “‘“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white or a rape.'” Yes, he was saying that an interracial baby would be call for an abortion. I really don’t think Obama’s to the right of that.)

    The Presidential partisanship scale:

    (explanation here: )

    Has Obama as more conservative than Clinton, but nowhere near any Republican President.

  74. I’m a bi trans woman and when leading figures in the GOP aren’t calling me mentally ill, a pervert, or deserving of stoning to death, they’re actively seeking to make me a second class citizen and enshrine the right to unapologetically discriminate against me into law. It’s no wonder that I despise the Republican Party.

    As for individual Republicans, its hard not to have anything but hate for someone who supports the enactment of policies designed to destroy my life. I realize there are individual members of the party who don’t have that goal, but the people they vote for *do*. I try to be kindly in my estimation of people’s character, but…

    I’m also saddened by the racism that the Republicans display on a regular basis. I think most of their significant political figures aren’t consciously racist, just unreflective about privilege and willing to use the actual racism of some in their core for political ends.

    And, of course, the war on women. The existence of a party based on increasing the power of the powerful at the expense of the weak, in every way, is repulsive.

  75. In spite of actual attempts, the Republican party is still bleeding minority votes and squandering minority goodwill. Demographics will have the last word eventually.

  76. As a young Hispanic raised in poverty and descended from immigrants I would like to thank the progressives here for protecting me with their disparaging stereotypes. Yes I am a registered republican. No opposing many of Obama’s policies does not make me a racist. No I don’t believe the govt should have any say over what adult you marry. I also don’t believe that paying individuals to not work encourages any positive contribution to society. And unlike most of you I’ve worked for nearly a decade in public service to some of the most poverty stricken neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

  77. I was raised by Republicans, even voted for Jerry Ford in 1976…but never voted for another Republican presidential candidate after that, and haven’t voted for a Republican for any office in this Millennium, They’ve just gone too far off the deep end. They keep claiming there is no “war on women,” and yet make laws to restrict women frequently. They claim there are opportunities to work their way up but it’s almost impossible under crushing student loan and other types of debt. I’m more of an independent, but I’ve been a registered Democrat since just after the 2004 presidential election. I can’t imagine ever voting Republican again.

  78. @Dan_reads_books I know Scalzi said not to bash the Dems, but your comment about how Republicans not being competitive in cities is causing corruption is insane. You are literally saying “Democrats cannot govern well and its all the Republican’s fault!”

    Also, that’s not really even true. There are still competitive votes for City level offices in deep blue cities, its just that the vote that matters is the Democratic Primary and not the general. As a Republican (and as a general matter) I think that’s a recipe for disaster since that means that not everyone gets to participate in the important election (assuming closed primaries) but its not like there are no choices for voters to make. If Democratic voters are making bad choices, or all the Democrats running are bad I don’t see how you can blame the Republicans for that.

  79. Someone said upthread that they can’t understand people saying “i can’t even be friends with folks who vote republican.” This is an example of privilege, because the political, for me, is deeply personal

    Well, I’m a non-binary lady who is also married to a lady, and is currently in the process of adopting. If you tell me you vote for the GOP this is what you are saying to me; “I don’t think you have the right to marry the person you love, and you should probably be forced to, by some way we carefully aren’t stating because that looks bad, to go back in the closet.”

    You are also telling me, “I don’t think you should be able to adopt because of who you are.”

    You are telling me, “Your ‘wife’ should not be able to hold down a job because her reproductive system tries to kill her without birth control because we think it kills babies, even though ‘science’ says it doesn’t”

    And I could go on. I get messages from being a woman, from being bisexual, and I get the fringes of the shit trans folks have to listen to. If I was trans? I would be terrified of folks who say-in public- that they vote for the GOP.

    If I was black? I’ve talked to black folks about what the GOP says to them. Ask what all those dog whistles said to them. Ask them what the GOP has been saying to them and tell me that you shouldn’t cut people out of your life because of who they vote for.

    See, I’m like Scalzi here-his views match up with mine. But, yeah, i deserve to stop talking to and cut folks out of my life if they say those things to me. And I suspect you would too.

  80. I’m going to shock a lot of people and say that, while I’m currently registered Democrat, I’ve previously been registered Republican, Libertarian, and Green Party, though obviously not all at the same time.

    I will admit that my most recent stint of registering Republican was so I could vote Republican in the primary—to vote for Republican candidates that I thought would be worthy adversaries in major elections. It’s an interesting way to use one’s party registration and I recommend considering it if your state requires you to register for a party to vote that way in the primary.

  81. FWIW, since Conservative Dude has come out to throw intolerant-of-my-intolerance accusations around: Yes, I am indeed intolerant of people who act like bargain-basement versions of Judge Frollo. Or at least I’m not accepting. Legally, I think they have the right to be sour, sniffy, disapproving prodnoses and curtain-twitchers all they like; they can just do it over there, not around me.

  82. @macoafi
    1) We didn’t run a surpluss during the Clinton years. That’s a claim based on applying inflation selectively to the numbers. Look at the historical year-over-year debt values at Treasury’s website. They increase all through the 1990’s.
    2) Paying down the debt is more complicated than you suggest. Bond sales and redemptions are controlled by bond buyers and holders, not directly by the federal government. Interest rates provide an indirect control, but in a deflationary paradigm are essentially useless.
    3) Paying debts with surplusses doesn’t put the money back into the economy. It’s just asset swapping: cash for bonds.

  83. “The county I live in is overwhelmingly Republican and/or conservative”

    I mis-read that as “The country…” and I figured, yeah. I’m an Englishman living in New York^WJersey. I’ve been here for 14 years. Back in England I was slightly to the right of center, which puts me somewhat to the left of Obama.

    I joke that the US doesn’t have a main center party; it has a right wing party and a far right wing party. The Republicans need a telescope to even see the center; the left is outside of their realm of knowledge.

  84. My perspective is that the Republicans essentially won during the Reagan/Bush I years, and then ran into a problem figuring out where to go next.

    The Democrats ended up eating a large chunk of the GOP to stay alive, and what the Republicans have left these days is mostly just the indigestible fringe of crazy. (Meanwhile, what used to be the Democratic Party is left with very little in the way of representation.)

    It baffles me to hear Obama described as a socialist, when I would consider him to be a moderate Republican by any sane historical standard. I’m not entirely kidding when I describe him as “to the right of Ronald Reagan on a lot of issues”.

  85. @Isabel

    I once saw a comment (On the Sad/Rabid Puppy discussion, thus bringing everything back to the Hugo Awards) that ‘tolerance’ isn’t a defining property of progressives, but an emergent one. Which explains why we don’t tolerate intolerance.

    Basically, when you believe ‘everyone needs to be treated fairly, and that means examining systems for bias and being proactive rather than reactive about things that might be passively causing problems’, that means you want everyone to be able to speak up. When someone starts insisting that Those People Over There don’t get to speak, or should be polite and quiet and appreciate that we aren’t killing them like they do in For’n Parts, that disrupts the primary values of progressivism, so we ask that someone to knock it off.

  86. @DAVID: since it was a conversation with an economist, the topic was rather more limited to finances. For instance, the top marginal tax rate in 1970 was 71.75% whereas in 2012 it was a measly 35%.

    @Matt W: I thought the reason the debt increased even while the budget had a surplus was that the interest on trillion-dollar principles is so huge it’s hard to outpace. Anyway, it’s the GOP that says “oh no! We need to do something about this debt!” and uses it as an excuse to hold up the rest of the government. So then they…cut taxes, realizes that’ll make it even worse, and use it as an excuse to cut services.

  87. @DAVID (basically, when talking about accusations of socialism, gay marriage, abortion, and interracial whatever are 100% off-topic. Socialism is an economic idea. Those are not. So it doesn’t make sense to bring them up when trying to talk about accusations of socialism. Only fiscal policy is relevant)

  88. @TyB – Your description of ‘Republicans’ is very stereotypical, based more on pundits than actual people. Sadly, it’s in many way the stereotyping that those same pundits use about you. (btw – the Hobby Lobby decision, which I disagreed with, still only affect FOUR of the TWENTY forms of birth control that were on the plan).

    and THAT is the problem – many of the comments above seem to be based solely upon not knowing actual Republicans or by viewing all as if they are the same as a small percentage of the group. It’s no different than the talking heads on FOX pointing to riots in Baltimore and saying “Well, that’s the problem with blacks” – it’s not reality but a fed perception of it from people who have an agenda.
    That leads to questions that started this.

  89. @Mackenzie the interest on trillion-dollar principles is so huge it’s hard to outpace

    Yeah, that works too, though you can also see a dip if you use real rather than nominal dollars for the total debt amount.

    I totally agree about the, uh, idiosyncratic Republican response to debt. The problem is that the GOP’s policy agenda is moral, not pragmatic. They want to punish sinners and reward the righteous. You see this in abortion policy, where if they really wanted to reduce the incidence of abortion, they’d focus on poverty alleviation and women’s rights, both of which inversely correlate internationally with abortion rates. That’s not their focus though: if it’s wrong, it should be illegal. Likewise, poor people have clearly made bad choices and should not be enabled or rewarded for them. Rich people have clearly made the right choices and should be able to reap the maximum benefit of that. Debt is used as a rhetorical lever to crush social welfare programs for the undeserving, and then conveniently forgotten about when it comes time to truckle to the makers.

  90. @mattw and @macoafi:

    Pointing to the (non-inflation adjusted) Treasury annual debt reports is a bit misleading. The debt is going to increase from interest on longer term securities unless an unusual number of securities are redeemed. That’s separate from the question of budget surplus or deficit. Part of the problem is the “money” is pretty much a convenient fiction at the national (or eurozone level for those who don’t have their own currency) level so different ways of reporting on it provide different, but still perfectly legitimate, perspectives. Yes, we reached the point where we ran small budget surpluses during the boom years of the Clinton presidency. Arguably, it’s appropriate for government spending to draw down during times of private sector booms. Some of it is natural (less need for safety net programs) and some of it is a balancing act between public and private sector spending. (Conversely, the government should spend a lot more during crises when private sector demand falls to prop up demand and because utilization of safety net programs spikes. And especially when interest rates are low or even negative, they should definitely borrow to do so. So the generally rule is to borrow heavily during a crisis and borrow less during good times. Macroeconomics 101.)

    The thing missing from this discussion, though, is that something like 70% of our debt is basically money we owe ourselves. A national economy isn’t like a household or a business. It really doesn’t have any place to “save” unspent money. At the national level, if we don’t spend it, we actually remove that money from the economy, reducing the overall economy with negative effects pretty much across the board. The government “saves” money earmarked for a future demand (like future social security expenditures) by issuing itself an IOU in the form of securities and then applying the money to other uses to keep it circulating. With that addition, I agree with Matt’s second and third points. But it’s an important note. Especially when it comes to paying an IOU to yourself, paying down “debt” doesn’t accomplish much.

    I’ll also note that there’s really no situation in which a national economy which controls its own currency “can’t” pay debts. There might be an inflationary cycle or some other crisis in certain situations, but those will stabilize eventually. And that’s typically worse for less central economies. It’s hard to imagine any situation where the US goes into a complete tailspin that doesn’t pull the rest of the world down with it. But we don’t have anything vaguely like a national debt or deficit crisis. That’s a widely accepted and deeply damaging fiction.

  91. @mackenzie:

    And under Eisenhower, the top marginal tax rate (though it seems like a lot of people these days don’t really seem to understand what “marginal tax rate” in a progressive tax system actually means) reached a height of somewhere around 90%. That was probably too high and had negative effects on revenue collected. There are actually plenty of analyses on the way to optimize revenue while minimizing negative effects. Most of the ones I’ve seen seem to place that somewhere around a top marginal tax rate (with more intermediate rates than the tiny number we have today) of 70%. All of them indicate that our current top marginal tax rate is way too low. And our capital gains tax rate is a joke.

    But the far right pretty much won the propaganda argument on economics with nonsense like the Laffer Curve. And then proceeded to drive out all the moderate (or right-wing pro-business) Republicans who told them they were full of BS. I’m not sure how we fix it now.

  92. @MattW: oh, yeah, I realize it’s a total cloaking mechanism

    @Scott Morizot: I always did prefer micro over macro. Macroeconomics class always had me going “but how long term? They both go up over time! They pull each other along. So uh, long-term, they both go up, and if you don’t want me saying that, then fine, long-term one goes up and even-longer-term the other does?”

  93. @Becca: Pretty much, yeah. And while everyone should be able to speak up, if That Guy is trying to speak over everyone else, or abusing the other speakers, or trying to go on for an hour when everyone else takes five minutes, *then* we, or at least I, don’t want to hear from him again.

    @Tim: Then…you really need better spokespeople, because I’m basing my opinion of the GOP on the actions its members have taken in federal and state governments, and while I can’t speak for TyB, I expect she is too.

    When GOP elected representatives advocate for legalizing discrimination, for defunding Planned Parenthood, for abstinence-only education and DOMA, exactly what message are the rest of us supposed to think they’re sending?

    And whatever my opinion of the Baltimore situation, here’s the problem with your example: African Americans didn’t elect the people in Baltimore to represent them.

    You guys looked at Santorum, at Walker, at Bush and Cruz, you studied the information they presented and listened to their views, and then you went into the voting booths and pulled the lever.

    Again: what are the rest of us supposed to think about you?

  94. A lot of the confusion between the shrinking base vs the success in congress and state leg can be explained by the redistricting efforts the GOP has done over the last decade or so. Set the districts right, and you don’t worry about the elections as much.

  95. @Scott Morizot: I only know what a marginal tax rate is because of my AP Econ class in high school. We were drilled on the meaning of marginal, marginal costs, marginal taxes. I am not familiar with the Laffer Curve, though. It wasn’t covered in AP Econ (or in college-level macro, because my college wouldn’t accept a 3 on the AP exam…my HS teacher says I’m the only kid he knows to score higher on micro than macro). I know my HS teacher was a Republican, but he did keep the nonsense out and acknowledge that Demand Side and Supply Side were both supported and respected positions in Economics.

    Totally agreed that our top marginal tax rate is too low and we need more brackets and capital gains are a joke. Personally, I’d like to see the tax code simplified to make it so I don’t need TurboTax. Even if we weren’t trying to fix the wealth inequality problem in this country and build a more robust safety net, we could still save everyone some April headache by saying “ok, let’s knock 1-2 percentage points off every bracket and only have the standard deduction.”

  96. @Scott Morizot: Oh, and because AP Econ is the only reason I know what these words politicians say (and then try to spin) mean, I think economics and personal finance classes should be required in all high schools (just not AP necessarily).

  97. The trouble with waiting for the demographics is the low voter turnout for young people. I think I’m technically now old enough to “kids these days” and shake my fist about that (because 18-24 is the age range everyone always talks about), but if college students are the most liberal and aren’t voting and won’t really start voting en masse for another 5-10 years…well, we have some waiting to do.

  98. @Tim M

    I have to disagree. The issue here is that you are suggesting just because a very vocal minority sends a lot of messages into the public sphere, they don’t necessarily represent the rest of the party. That’s not inherently incorrect, but in this case it really does describe the GOP voter. There are, no doubt, many, many, many Republicans who don’t hate gays, women, blacks and the poor and only reflexively dislike them. There are probably many who don’t care one way or another about them or maybe even feel slightly sympathetic at times. However, the leaders they actively vote for (and give money to) DO hate the gays. And the blacks. And the poor. And women. And they make that absolutely incredibly clear. Not only that, they hound out of the party those who DO try to offer a sop to the minorities they collectively hate. Remember how right after the last presidential election even rabid fascists like Sean Hannity started to talk about reaching out to Hispanics? How long did that last?

    Right now the GOP is spiraling further and further to the right by effectively demanding ideological purity tests. Those who don’t LITERALLY espouse hatred for Obama, minorities, gays and the poor are forced out either by lack of GOP party support or by massive donations made to their opponents who DO toe the party line. While senior party officials are plainly worried about this, their party has become the party of hate. That’s not an opinion, that’s an objective fact.

    So while it’s completely possible that this is due to the actions of a small vocal minority, it’s effectively irrelevant. The people who vote for the GOP do so knowing that this will result in more voter restrictions on poor minorities, a continuation of the war on women, further oppression of homosexuals and the near-elimination of abortion rights. Some of them don’t admit it to themselves, some of them continue to vote GOP due to habit/tradition (or threat of community excommunication) and some don’t care about any of these groups because they don’t know any of these groups. However, for the rest of us, these people are enabling politicians who truly want to implement a theocratic oligarchy. It doesn’t matter their intentions, the results of their actions are plain. As such, it’s hard to agree that these people don’t actually exist and are ‘stereotypes’ dreamed up by pundits. The proof is in the slew of new legislation specifically designed to oppress women, gays and minorities.

  99. @isabelcooper – A couple of notes to your examples since they are couched as ‘big terms without nuance’. First, DOMA was passed and supported, in part, by both parties – yes, it was majority GOP but there were a lot of Democrats who backed it (only 67 NO votes in the house). Second, you cite ‘defund PP’ as if they are part of the government instead of being a private organization who isn’t guaranteed anything. They don’t get the vast majority of their money from the local or state governments; and even the ‘defund’ wasn’t a ‘defund’ in most states but a ‘cut back’.
    As for Baltimore – it’s a majority African American city with a Democratic government and has been for many decades. It also has a African-American majority police force. Not sure why you think they didn’t vote in their government.

    I’m not thrilled with the GOP candidates right now nor in 2012 (which is why I gave to Huntsman) but I’ll also not thrilled with anything the Democrats have, either announced or being demanded to run. Much of their positions are based upon a dream and ignores reality — but, as Scalzi requested, this isn’t about all the issues with the Democrats, just the GOP so I’ll stop there.

  100. As a Canadian who’s been living in the US for the last 15 years, I always laugh whenever any Democrat is accused of socialism. Americans literally don’t understand what the word means and have no sense of political scale. There is no party in the US that is recognizably ‘left’ on any international political scale.

    While I am personally far more in favor of a truly representational democracy with multiple parties forming a government, the US system presents me with a stark choice between two corporatist options that differ little. From a geopolitical point of view, neither one offers true hope for change. For example, Obama is on track to preside over the ruinous Iraq/Afghanistan war (or Vietnam II, as I like to call it) for longer than Bush II ever did.

    However, rather than abstain in disgust I’m compelled to vote because of the social issues that are involved. Close members of my family are gay. I am married to a woman and I have a daughter. I’ve been poor and have friends who are on welfare. I come from a country with national healthcare and I’m horrified that the vast majority of bankruptcies in the US are due to medical bills. Neither party is proposing solutions for these social problems, but only one of them actively wants to make them worse! I want my gay family members to have the same rights as the rest of us and not be relegated to second class citizens. I want my wife to have the same opportunities, freedoms and pay as I do. I want my daughter to be treated equally and have access to healthcare (yes, including abortion) if she needs it. I want my poor friends to be able to feed themselves even if they can’t get jobs. I want to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing any future illness won’t bankrupt me or my family if an insurer (or employer) decides to terminate my coverage in order to boost their bottom line. And only one party even pays lip service to those goals; the other is actively against all of them. And no, that’s not the opinion of a noisy minority in the party, it’s a major part of their platform.

    Finally, I come from a country with a long tradition of civility based in English parliamentary procedure. While Canadians can have extremely violent disagreements of opinion (dear god, do NOT bring up Quebec separatism, please!) we have always resolved them without resorting to outright hatred or actual physical violence. The GOP, on the other hand, has been steadily rebranding itself as the party of hate for the last 20 years. They don’t just disagree with the homosexual lifestyle, the HATE gays. They don’t just disagree with abortion doctors, they openly want them KILLED or forced out of business. They don’t just disagree with welfare spending, they want to PUNISH the poor. I’ve had civil discussions with Democrats where our opinions differ, but every Republican I’ve tried to engage with has segued immediately into hate-filled rants the second I raise an issue they don’t like. Couple this with an ingrained inability to accept facts that don’t fit their worldview (I’ve been told multiple times that Canadian healthcare means everyone has to wait months for treatment despite living most of my life there – an experience that is inevitably dismissed out of hand) and I have great difficulty in being friends with almost all GOP voters.

    When I’m told that my family members deserve to be stoned for who they love or that my wife should have died rather than undergo a D&C after her miscarriage, I’m not going to remain silent. When I point this out there are only two reactions I get. The first is a swift backpedaling condescension that they didn’t really mean MY friends whom their sure are nice people, just those other fags/sluts that are destroying America. The second is a doubling down of vitriol followed immediately by an end to any possibility of conversation.

    I’m happy to discuss politics with people who disagree with me. I’m not interested in being despised immediately for daring to believe that people other than white, straight, wealthy males are deserving of respect. So I hold my nose and vote for the lesser of two evils and shake my head sadly as Vietnam II grinds into its 14th year. Oh well, at least my insurer can’t deny me for a pre-existing condition any more. That’s progress, right?


  101. @Scott Morizot –
    If you think 90% marginal rate was too high BUT think 70%, a lower rate, is more optimal, then YOU believe the Laffer Curve because that’s what it says – there is an optimal point where you collect the most in taxes… raising the rate reduces the amount of taxes collected due to less work or shift in earnings to other income sources with lower rates (which was done in the 50s and 60s via deferred income plans).
    You may argue what that optimal rate is but that’s different than saying the curve itself is wrong.

  102. I’m pretty liberal, but I live in place that does not require me to choose a party. My dad does and is a registered Independent. He considers himself a Libertarian, but I am not too sure that fits either. I do know that he is a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. He lives in an area that is very conservative and likes to debate his friends about their views. May seem to just follow the crowd and not think for themselves. I can see some good in his views, but others I just don’t agree with. We don’t talk much about politics when we are together. We focus on being together as a family and not politics.

  103. @Tim M May 13, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    So, if I understand you correctly, you’re saying “Just because my elected officials raised the issue, lead the charge and rammed through these anti-gay and anti-woman initiatives through their lockstep voting, we convinced some of the other guys to vote with us so it’s really not our fault!”

    I’ll let Scalzi moderate, but this sounds a lot like the “…b-b-but the Dems do it TOO!!!!” argument he requested we avoid….

  104. Rockefeller himself would be a Democrat nowadays. So would Eisenhower. Hell, NIXON created the EPA, which is such a favorite bugaboo of today’s GOP.

    The last Republican nominee who I would have been okay with as President was Bob Dole. Sure, he had that third person quirk (Elmo, meet Bob Dole), but he’s a genuine believer in public service. He didn’t keep his Senate seat to hedge his bet, he said he was either gonna go big or go home. However, his lack of charisma next to the blinding charm and incumbency of Bill Clinton doomed him.

    Jon Huntsman is apparently too sensible, too polite, and not beholden enough to big business to get the nomination. I liked him last time too.

    Libertarians pretty much seem like Republicans who wanna do drugs. They don’t respect the individual rights of women. They’re all dudebros nowadays.

    @Mark Towler: word, as we said back in Bubba’s day.

  105. @Tim: I’m sure that people in Baltimore voted in their government. However, I’m also pretty sure they didn’t vote in the protesters/rioters, which is the example you gave, if you’ll recall.

    Second: not interested in arguing whether or not the PP defunding was justified. Whether or not it was, the GOP was the party largely behind that, and many if not most of those who voted for it expressly cited opposition to women’s reproductive rights as their reasoning.

    Third: yeah, I’m not thrilled with those Democrats either. However, the party wasn’t unanimous–whereas *every Republican but one* in Congress voted in favor. The party platform in 2000 endorsed it. So…again, the folks you sent to Washington are painting a picture for you.

  106. Tim: Your description of ‘Republicans’ is very stereotypical, based more on pundits than actual people. …. It’s no different than the talking heads on FOX pointing to riots in Baltimore and saying “Well, that’s the problem with blacks”

    NO DIFFERENT??? Dude, that is messed up.

    On one hand, blacks in Baltimore have been shown to suffer just horrible amounts of police brutality for YEARS and DECADES. In the span of 4 years, you’ve got 100 residents of baltimore getting money for suffering police brutality.

    On the other hand, you’ve got shitheads who also happen to be in power saying shit like rape was part of God’s plan and so abortion should be illegal even in the case of rape, or that women can’t get pregnant from “real” rape, and so on and so forth. In fact, here’s a list of 40 Republican MORONS who also happen to be in positions of POWER to take their stupidity and make it law.

    You SERIOUSLY want to argue that a handful of criminals with essentially no political influence whatsoever is NO DIFFERENT than an army of idiots in some of the most powerful political offices trying to push their idiocy into law???

  107. Scalzi is economically and politically a centrist, but socially he is a progressive or liberal or whatever you want to label solidly civil rights left.

  108. John, I currently consider myself a full-blown communist because anyone, like Obama, to the right of me is a socialist then I guess I must be a commie! BTW, I do not see him as left-leaning. ACA was a Heritage Foundation (GOP) program that enjoyed Republican support right up until BHO said it was OK with him. WHile he is liberal socially he has proven time and again to support GOP policy on trade and regulation.

    But what I really wanted to say is that by the time the GOP realizes it has gone too far & needs your vote it will be to late for all of us. If climate change does not kill us the policies enforcing greater income inequity will impoverish so many of us middle-class that the natural outcome will be guillotines. As a rational person I do not want it to come to that but it will and the titans of Wall Street and their enablers (primarily GOP but also a large number of Dems) will become much shorter in a reign of terror that will make France’s look pleasant.

  109. I agree with much of the sentiment in the comments – the issues that Republicans currently (nationally) run on – Anti Environment, Anti Choice, Anti Gay Marriage, Anti Science, Anti regulation, Pro Gun culture, Pro big business etc etc. I just can’t get behind, and the current authoritarian culture among republicans in the Congress (State and Federal) means that even if my local representative is rational/ has views that align with my own, he or she will vote along the party platform – so in effect any vote for a republican is a vote counter to my stand on some important issues. Democrats (currently) are like a herd of cats ‘party loyalty’ seems less important that stand on the issues- so that’s where I vote..

    what I’d like to see is for the House Of Representatives members elected by % of party vote in statewide elections (and do away with congressional districts) so if my state had 10 reps in congress and 30% of voters voted Democrat, 30% GOP, 20% green, 10% libertarian, 10% independent – we’d have reps in congress of those proportions (vs the jerrymandered districts)

  110. Jerry Pournelle postulates that the transition from convention nominations to primary nominations for the major parties created a disconnect between local party positions and politics and national positions and politics. There’s a paper there for any poli sci majors reading.

    I’m pretty sure my politics line up with OGH, aside from maybe a few minor details, though I’m a registered Republican (as my wife is fond of reminding me) due to the fact that our local representative is a Republican, and I consider incumbency recidivism to be the higher priority danger to our nation than any policy offerings from either side. OGH has called voting in a primary for a party in which you have no particular allegiance (as a spoiler, to be sure) to be making mischief, but I would posit that when you have a 95% incumbency recidivism rate, you can’t really claim to have a functional democracy, and ejecting incumbents should be a higher priority than voting by platform preference. But we may disagree. After all, the congress compromised of our honorable members has shown that they’ll take any and all actions necessary to block legislation from the opposition, and regardless, the greatest legislative mischief is occurring at the state level.

    A side note for our foreign readers, citing a party affiliation with voter registration is optional in all the instances I know of, though that’s hardly comprehensive. It’s just that some states have closed primaries, where you can only vote for a party nominee for the party which you registered as, and other states have open primaries, where any voter can vote for any nominee.

  111. @matthughes419434748
    Don’t think I haven’t considered it. However, my wife has 20+ years at a major US university and gets unthinkably good benefits. I also have a job that pays more than anything comparable in the Great White North and a lot more opportunities in my field if that job disappears. Finally, we live in one of the most liberal states in the union, so most of the racism, homophobia and general wingnuttery doesn’t really affect us on a day to day basis.

    Sadly, that’s what I really think the major difference is between Republicans and everyone else: empathy. I’m not particularly impacted by most of the GOP initiatives because I’m not their target, but I care about other people who are. Unless they’re directly impacted, Republicans don’t give a damn about anyone else. See Megyn Kelly’s 180 on maternity leave for a perfect example:

  112. In the “WTF happened to libertarians?” discussion there are a couple of historical nuances that are worth mentioning I think. The first is that libertarians used to be the party of nonintervention in foreign affairs. “What happens over there is none of our business” and all that. They also used to believe in free trade, open borders, and unrestricted immigration and emigration.

    9/11 blew all that out of the water. A bunch of prominent libertarian pundits, authors, and politicians completely lost their stuff and became Raving Loony Hate-The-Muslims War War War people, which put them in the position of supporting the whole security theater, “homeland security”, Patriot Act authoritarian suite of responses to 9/11.

    So that put a ton of stress on the movement and created a lot of divisiveness. Organized libertarians (to the extent that’s not an oxymoron) never regained any ideological purity on foreign affairs.

    Meanwhile, the rise to prominence of Ron Paul, who was widely understood to be a libertarian even while he was running for and winning public office as a Republican, destroyed libertarianism’s image as the party of individual rights. Ron Paul made it respectable to oppose abortion rights while proclaiming a libertarian identity. This made no sense to anybody inside or outside libertarianism, but he got away with it nonetheless.

    We’re left with a situation where calling yourself a libertarian doesn’t communicate anything about what you believe, except that you’re probably not for pot being illegal.

  113. @Mark Towler

    I see this all the time. “The difference between Democrats and Republicans is a lack of empathy.” Whenever you are making arguments that amount to “Those other guys cannot possibly have a decent reason for their positions, the only possible reason that they could disagree with me is ” you cannot claim to have one iota of empathy yourself given that this shows you have put zero thought into trying to empathize with your opponents and have skipped straight to demonizing them. So perhaps you should look to another different between the parties.

  114. @timm

    /facepalm Sigh. No. The Laffer Curve (at least as Laffer and his ilk have long presented it) holds that if you cut tax rates (to some theoretical point that magically never appears or hasn’t in 40 years) revenue will increase or at least remain the same. That’s not what I said. I said there’s a point of diminishing returns in the top marginal rate (not tax rates overall — just the top marginal rate). And that’s widely supported among economists. But if you cut taxes, you’re going to reduce revenue. Period. Kansas being the most recent illustration of that fact. Setting the top marginal rate at crazy levels (say at or near 100%) encourages evasion among the richest among the richest, as it reasonably should. There’s no evidence anywhere that taxes reduce incentive to earn money, which has been Laffer’s central contention.

    And that’s not really disputed point in the field, fantasies on the right to the contrary. To illustrate:

  115. That was supposed to say Those other guys cannot possibly have a decent reason for their positions, the only possible reason that they could disagree with me is {INSERT CHARACTER FLAW HERE}.

    I formatted it incorrectly and that part go swallowed.

  116. Nixon on abortion: “There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white or a rape”.

    The 1970s were a different time, man. The Southern Baptist Convention on abortion in 1971 (pg. 71):

    “Be it further RESOLVED, that we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”

    Hell, NIXON created the EPA, which is such a favorite bugaboo of today’s GOP.

    Nixon did indeed preside over the creation of the EPA – but that mainly was because the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 passed both houses of congress with veto-proof majorities. Left to his own devices Nixon would have governed much more to right, while Obama without an antagonistic Republican congress would likely be significantly more liberal, e..g. I’m pretty sure he would have pushed a single-payer health plan if it had a hope of passing.

  117. I think that believing that far right conservatives are going to die out is a bit too optimistic. I know a heck of a lot of younger people who believe in the Tea Party principles, sad to say. People who are liberals and moderates need to get out and vote.

  118. @Scott Morizot

    There are actually plenty of analyses on the way to optimize revenue while minimizing negative effects. …

    But the far right pretty much won the propaganda argument on economics with nonsense like the Laffer Curve.

    That first thing you describe up there? That *is* the Laffer Curve. The propaganda war isn’t that the Laffer Curve is nonsense, it’s that the right wing took a pretty common sense thing like the Laffer Curve and turned it into “Lowering taxes increases revenue!” religious nuttery. The secondary failing is that the left never bothered to find out just exactly what the Laffer Curve is. They just took the right wing’s word for it and called bullshit on that.

    All the Laffer Curve does is assert that tax revenue will be 0 at two tax rates; 0% and 100%. Somewhere between those two points is a place where the tax rate is low enough to not discourage economic activity, and high enough to maximize revenue.

    That is *all* it says, and as you note in your first graph up there, you agree with it.

  119. @heckblazer, the point being that Nixon cut his losses there. He knew it was veto-proof so he didn’t waste everyone’s time and money. Today’s Repubs are so obstructionist that in the same position, the theoretical GOP President in that situation would go ahead and veto it just to prove how ideologically pure he is.

  120. As a Canadian, I view with horror the polarization of American politics – though I also detest the partisan nature of our own current government. To take just one example, the argument against publicly-funded healthcare in the U.S. seems to be about the idea that healthy people should not be forced to subsidize those less fortunate. Whatever happened to the concept of sharing? Isn’t that what civilization is about? To my mind, people who take this position are declaring to the world that they failed kindergarten. Which makes them unfit to participate in society, let alone hold office. I don’t understand why this isn’t obvious to everyone. Anyone care to try to enlighten me?

  121. Pretty obvious the hatred towards Obama is race. I was hoping Powell would get into the race on the Republican side, just to watch heads explode.

    The Republicans have gone out of their way to be *against* anything Obama is *for*. I would like to see Obama come out for oxygen. The Republicans would be forced to hold their breath. Go on, I will wait….

    The thing that gets me about the Republicans is they *really have zero clue* about the damage they are doing to this country. Science is just voodoo to them. Florida Governor *mandating* no state employee can say “climate change” or “global warming”?

    Then there was the shutdown. They had zero game-planing other than shut the federal govt down. The damage to science was *immense*. Years-long experiments ruined. Antarctic research lost a season and put other the personnel of other countries at risk (you don’t care about the other guy’s country if he is saving your life).

    We basically handed China 10 years of science on a platter. I doubt we can ever catch up.

    And the hate politics has divided this country into warring camps. Instead of joining together to solve the real problems the US has, the Republicans basically refuse to play. The health insurance sequence is only an example. Instead of contributing to fix the real serious problem of so many uninsured, they refused to play, then howled when the result became law – “We should start from scratch!”. Umm.. no. Was the result perfect? No. Would it been better if the Republicans had actively participated? Yes.

    And for the first time in several years, I have health insurance for my family. I personally wanted a single-payer plan.

    So, for now they are on top. But it is a shaky perch. The only way they win is to lie, cheat, and steal.

    Personally, I like most of the Republican platform text/words. But they do everything in their power to *do* the opposite. I look at actions, not words.

  122. basically, when talking about accusations of socialism, gay marriage, abortion, and interracial whatever are 100% off-topic. Socialism is an economic idea. Those are not. So it doesn’t make sense to bring them up when trying to talk about accusations of socialism. Only fiscal policy is relevant

    Ah, okay. I’m sure the people accusing Obama of socialism are carefully considering 19th century socialism versus the socialism of the late 1970s British Labour Party and parsing the difference? Carefully only making economic arguments?

    I’m pretty sure I can define Nixon as liberal too if I leave out everything that doesn’t define him as “not-liberal” (look! He ended a war! His Secretary of State got the Nobel Peace Prize!).

    I’d rather look at the whole picture, thanks. In that picture — aka real life — Obama is substantially to the left of Nixon.

  123. Discussions of economics here are going pretty far afield at this point, folks. Let’s bring it back round to the topic of the thread (this includes the Laffer Curve discussion). Thanks.

  124. When people talk about how the Republicans left them I think they are drawing the line between traditional Conservatism and Postmodern Conservatism, which is an entirely different beast. A short summation of Postmodern Conservatism here:

    The end result being a disconnect between reasonable arguments and ideology. Which explains everything from why Climate Change Deniers are generally (postmodern) conservatives to why the Puppies utterly failed to produce any reason to think that a Leftist Cabal controlled the Hugos and don’t seem bothered by that failure.

  125. Many thanks for using my question this week, and many thanks for the clarification of what your political persuasion is.

    I’m (usually) the same way when it comes to the GOP on the local/state level, although last election they fielded a very bad candidate for governor. A very nice guy, but a newbie when it comes to a bruising statewide election. The current sitting governor, by all accounts, should have not been reelected, but this very nice guy doesn’t quite know that if you’re attacked with heavy body shots, you don’t respond with wimpy little jabs to the face.

    That being said, while I do realize that the GOP had control of 2/3 of the body elected, they still make me cringe with some of the stuff they do.

    Example: ObamaCare. It’s here to stay, but it should be modified so that not everyone can get a perpetual free ride. Prior to ObamaCare, if you wanted to keep your overage child on your insurance, and depending on whether he/she was a student, you either paid for it now (out of your paycheck) or later (on April 15th).

    If you’re gonna make everyone get health insurance, spread the financial pain. If you force insurance companies to bear the total financial brunt of this, don’t moan/groan when insurance companies make a profit. If you share the financial brunt, then you would have a legitimate reason to moan/groan.

  126. Political parties are made of coalitions of voters. RIght now the Republican Party’s coalition of the elderly, the wealthy and social conservatives appears to be more durable than the Democratic Party’s coalition of white liberals, minorities, progressives, and some conservatives, etc. All this translates into very tight party discipline. As Will Roger’s famously said, I belong to no political party, I am a Democrat.

    What we are seeing is our two parties sorting themselves out into a liberal and a conservative party. It used to be why you would see Rockefeller Republicans and Dixiecrats. There was a lot of ideological overlap between the Parties. Those days are over. A lot of the Republican success can be attributed to the fracturing of the old FDR coalition because of the passage of civil rights legislation in the 60s.

    Demographically, the Republicans are doomed to be a regional (southern) party unless they can somehow attract younger voters who are not all white, evangelical and conservative. That will take some doing, since the core Republican primary voters are older, more conservative and more bigoted against minorities. It is tough running for national or even state offices in the Republican primaries without catering to the interest of the people who actually turn out to vote. Ask John Huntsman about that sometime.

  127. There are a lot of people (including a lot of ex-Republicans, and if you look carefully enough a lot of its current party leaders, quietly) who think that the party’s worked its way into a conceptual and demographic corner and is doomed.

  128. Like many of the other ex-pat Brits I would probably have voted conservative in the UK elections. The state of US politics is something I can’t even describe and will at some point be subject to rapid change, can’t tell you when that will be. But as the man said the centre cannot hold and one hopes that the transition will be swift and beneficial.

  129. JS said, “But — and this is significant — there is no reason for the GOP to change its current strategy. If you’ve not noticed, it holds both the House and Senate at the national level, and a whole lot of state executive and legislative branches. What it’s doing is pretty successful…”

    This is so true. And as long as fewer than half of all eligible voters vote, this will likely continue. The GOP are no fools about that either, as their recent strategy of erecting barriers that make it harder for some of the people least likely to support them at the polls to vote at all.

  130. However, if they and you think you can intimidate the human race into bowing down to your perverse agenda, you had better guess again. You cannot hide the reality of your condition and motives forever. WE are the human race and you are tolerated only to a point.,

    — Steven Mark Pilling, Chair of the Harris County TX GOP, on Intersex kids.

    It’s no longer unacceptable in the GOP leadership to say such things in public rather than private.

    So much for social issues.

    Bottom line on economics – we’re in the midst of an unprecedented transfer of wealth upwards. The objective numbers show that Median income in real terms is falling at an increasing rate, though mean income is still rising for now. Regardless of cause (which can be argued) that’s the effect. Neither party is addressing this issue, they just don’t talk about it.

    When wealth becomes over-concentrated, you get a far greater return on capital invested in the legislature to increase regulation in some areas to stifle upstart competitors, while decreasing regulation in other areas to cost-cut on such things as anti-pollution measures, compared to investing in plant, equipment and training. You get to play both sides, “regulation is good, think of the children!” and “regulation is bad, we’re drowning in red tape!”.

    When both parties are indistinguishable in economic matters, you must create a differential on social ones, and also get one party to go the full crazy on matters like tax – as long as none of the crazy ever gets implemented in practice. But if it does, you gain anyway, in a small way.

    Mostly it’s all just political theatre. What matters to those pulling the strings is not whether abortion or homosexuality is legal or not – because laws are for the little people, such issues don’t affect the puppetmasters – what matters is amassing wealth and power. There’s no “grand conspiracy” here, though like-minded groups can act in concert for mutual benefit, just emergent behaviour.

  131. I stopped going to my Republican caucuses in the 80s after listening to conspiracy theorists claiming that the reason why pharmaceutical companies wanted to sponsor school nurses was to foist birth control on their daughters (that’s where all their profits come from, apparently), and that they preferred to send know-nothing “pro-life” men to the next level of the party organization before a woman who was pro-choice, a former staffer of the former Republican Senator, and a member of the state Republican Women organization. Clearly I was in the wrong tent.

    I’m all in favor of including metrics to make sure government programs are working, and dismantling the programs that don’t work, but it sure seems like all the Republicans want to do these days is cut the programs for the undeserving poor, and give even more tax cuts to the wealthy who need it so they can create jobs (where, in India and China?) Oh, and I’m not a scientist, so when 99% of the scientists in a field say X, and 1% say Y, Y must be correct, and we better cut the funding to any scientists who say X.

  132. G. B. Miller: If your overage child (26 & under) is using your insurance, then either you are paying for it completely, or you are subsidized by your employer, or you are subsidized by the government because you are on the exchange. Prior to Obamacare, once they are over 18 and not in school, they were off your insurance and you or they had to pay for their insurance separately.

  133. Okay, I’m Australian (meaning when I talk about Liberals, I’m meaning our more socially conservative and economically hard-line neo-liberal party), so please take that into consideration.

    I was brought up in what I always regarded as a politically “mixed” family (Dad tended to identify more with the ALP, Mum with the Liberals) whenever political items were discussed around the dinner table (which wasn’t often, for much the same reasons). Certainly Mum’s stated positions tended to correspond strongly with the positions of various Liberal politicians on various issues. Imagine my surprise to discover, many years later, she’s voted ALP all her life (and strongly approved of Gough). So, okay, still politically “mixed”, but with one side of the family being ALP Left and the other side being ALP Right.

    I tend more leftish than either of them, having spent quite a few years actually dealing with our country’s social security system (from a number of different angles – I’ve been employed by them three times so far, in three different roles, and I’ve also been a long-term social security recipient). During this time (since about the early 1980s, when I awakened to myself as a political animal, enmeshed in a number of power structures, and what that meant overall) the ALP has been gradually drifting further rightward, to the point where these days, Gough Whitlam would find it hard to be pre-selected for the ALP, while Malcolm Fraser (former Liberal PM, and Gough’s political rival) would be a shoo-in for it! As you may have guessed, the Liberals have been heading further right too (these days, they’re occupying political territory which the US Democrats would recognise as “theirs”, and which in Australia marks them as heading off into the far-right sunset).

    So, with the ALP having walked away from me, I tend to vote Greens these days – or at least, the Greens candidates in my electorate tend to get my first preference. My actual party of choice is the Natural Law Party – yogic flying for everyone, wa-hey! – on the grounds that they may be daft, but they couldn’t possibly screw things up any worse with well-meant incompetence than the two major parties here have done with apparent “expertise” and “experience”. Alternatively, I’ll vote for whichever party makes it a policy platform that the role of government is not to guarantee the profits of the business sector.

  134. “ask lefties from outside the United States, i.e., where there is still a genuine political left, if I seem like a lefty to them”

    Thank you for asking!

    From over here on the outside your politics look like “American average”.

    But of course, your tribal bickerings inside the USA aren’t always obvious to us on the outside.

    You seem to have some tribal markers like “gun rights” and “abortion rights” and “believe that scientists should be the best judges of answers to scientific questions” that people use to identify which group they are in, which don’t really seem to make much sense.

    It’s not obvious from outside the USA why a belief in extremely permissive gun laws is associated with opposing universal health care, with opposing more oversight of local police forces, and with a particular view on whether scientists are the best people to answer scientific questions. That last one’s especially odd.

    But I’m sure my country’s politics would seem just as odd to you.

  135. Seriously, up until about 10-12 years ago, I was classified as a centrist. My ballots always looked like I played a game of whack-a-mole because my votes were all over the board. Even though my mother was a died in the wool Democrat, we both lined up for the Republican primaries to vote for John McCain over George W. Bush though it did us no good. We both knew a couple of the local Republican politicians that we religiously voted for because we knew them and what they wanted for our community.

    Then shit changed. More and more the Republican Party started offering the Asshole Slate and dragging stuff so far to the right that I got left behind. So much so that for the last two elections I’ve voted straight Democrat… something I never thought that I would do. Before that, I regularly voted in the Republican and Democratic primaries because I wanted whoever was running for either side to be the candidate I though was the best. Now, I don’t bother with the Republicans because 99.9999% of the stuff they stand for around here is stuff I find abhorrent to my conscience and to human rights.

    I’m all for controlled spending, but not at the price of saying some of my fellow humans don’t deserve the same rights that I have. Straight White Male is a great thing to be as far as having rights. So damn great that I want everyone to have that same opportunity. Sadly, the Republican party around here doesn’t believe that.

  136. @Kakapo6

    I’m not the typical American. I shake my head and why we can’t have universal health care. I love my guns–loved even more in the Army–but I also believe there has to be SOME kind of sane laws governing who can possess guns, or what guns they can possess. Sadly, scientists are the only ones who can speak knowledgeably about science matters. Religion needs to do what it does best… if anything.

  137. Who was it who said, “We get the government we deserve”?

    My concern is not with the parties we elect politicians under but with the people around me who believe it perfectly okay to interfere in other’s rights while nonetheless rigorously defending their own. ‘Compromise?’ oh no, that’s loser speak – and by the way, in that vein, I have become thoroughly sick of any iteration of the term ‘rugged individualist.’ It’s just PC for selfish asshole. You want to affect change? Vote your conscience, sure, but then make sure the people you encounter know where you stand and – take the time to explain. Do your best not to be an asshole about it because nothing is so effective at winning sympathy as being a full-blown rage torch. Can’t always be polite but still, you know, do your best to be human.

  138. The big thing going for Republicans is that the far right shows up for the polls EVERY TIME. Until the rest of us do the same, we’re stuck with them. If, however, everyone showed up for the polls every time, we might be in for a truly interesting election year.

  139. @DigitalAtheist

    I wonder if there are many “typical” Americans.

    A big country means a lot of very different people. But you’ve a political system that results in an entrenched 2-party system, and with that seems to have come a “polarisation” where lots of people seem to identify with one camp or the other. Hence my “tribal” comment – it does seem like maybe some beliefs people take on are to do with them trying to belong in a community.

    It also seems lots of people want to identify *everyone*else* with one camp or another. To classify other people as being in a particular group.

  140. Did my comment from ca. 6:40pm on May 13 get trapped in moderation?

    I asked, “Would you be willing to write ‘Grand Old Party’ in every instance where you use ‘GOP’ in a blog entry about politics? Why or why not?”

    Or did it get snipped entirely? Puzzled, here.

  141. Doug, just curious but why would that be important? I never used ‘Grand Old Party’ even when I voted Republican back in the day. Seemed just a wee bit too precious.

  142. Honestly at this point I would vote for the person/party who would actually make life better for all people not just one group or another. Isn’t that the only definition of government that actually matters? Otherwise we are just going to keep up this “one extreme or another” charade which has no good outcome.

  143. My takeaway about US GOP politics from over here in the Philippines is that, as individuals many GOP members are fine upstanding human beings. Quite reasonable on a wide variety of issues, But when it comes time to act they value their identity as Republicans more than their own positions on the issues. Thus it seems that they move in lock-step in whatever direction the leadership deems is “right and proper”.

  144. Hm.

    Well, of course I’m not at all surprised to read this summery of where you stand politically, John; I’m a pronounced leftist (I tend to go back and forth between democratic-socialist and anarcho-communist, so by the standards of my native U.S. I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of “insanely far to the left;” in Australia, where I live now, I’m just on the left) and sometimes you drive me to distraction with one view or other.

    Mind you, to add my own two cents on the the-party-left-me issue, if I’d been born as little as twenty years earlier (which would have been 1958) or even ten, I’d almost certainly have spent most of my political life as a Republican. In Oregon, where I grew up, the state GOP stubbornly held tight to the conservationist, civil libertarian, left-wing-and-we-don’t-care-who-knows-it mode of Wayne Morse, Tom McCall, and especially the great Mark O. Hatfield — held onto that identity until well into the 1980s, when the Republican Party’s left wing was long since dead pretty much everywhere else in the U.S. (Maybe there were some hiding in storm cellars in New England. Stranger things have happened.)

    That had not a little to do with Oregonians of all political stripes being independent sorts who never really took to the idea of the national party (whichever party that might happen to be) telling them what ideas they ought to support or oppose. I myself, as I’ve said as leftist a lefty as you’re likely to find in the U.S., and I’m very proud that the first vote I ever cast was a vote for Mark O. Hatfield.

    Of course, now I live in a country where no one party really fits me, but at least there are several left-wing parties to choose between.

  145. I was going to offer my two cents, then realized I have nothing new to add to the conversation. I will offer this phrase, a favorite of my HS speech instructor:

    A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

  146. I do find it fascinating how much of people’s political opinions are primarily tribal (my side vs. your side), rather than rational. Of course, the worst offenders are usually the ones who assert most loudly that they are totally rational.

    As a non-American, I really look forward to seeing US politics realign sooner rather than later, to something more in tune with the 21st century. The world tends to be a better place when America is less crazy.

  147. @BrowncoatJeff May 13, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    You’re making a knee-jerk assumption here. I’m sure that many Republicans have deep-seated, strongly held convictions that drive their actions. The fact remains that those convictions are characterized by a marked lack of empathy for their fellow Americans. They hate government, despite the fact that millions (including themselves) benefit from government assistance. They despise gays despite the fact that LGBT tolerance literally costs them nothing in any way. They despise any hint of sexual education, liberation or abortion rights despite the fact that no one is trying to force them to take part in any of these things. They bemoan the insignificant fraction of the federal budget that is spent on healthcare and the social safety net, yet happily fund the obscene military and the bloated farm subsidies from which they benefit. None of these GOP ideals show any concern for the needs and well being of anyone other than their own white, male, Christian tribe.

    I’ve never seen a Republican campaigning for anything that wouldn’t directly benefit corporations, rich people or white Christians. When you can show me a member of the GOP who actually cares about (and works towards) improving the lives of women, the poor, blacks, gays, non-Christians or non-Republicans I’ll happily reconsider. In the meantime, I see people like Megyn Kelly who spend years bitching about entitlements like maternity leave right up until the moment she needs it. I see politicians who make a career out of gay-bashing who suddenly change their tune the moment their kid turns out to be gay or they’re found trying to get laid in an airport toilet. I see Nancy Reagan who constantly pushed for defunding science who suddenly becomes a research advocate when her husband gets Alzheimer’s. I see open carry advocates who suddenly freak out when their constituents want to bring shotguns into their council chambers. I see war hawks who gleefully rattle sabers yet ensure that they or their kids are never going to see combat. I see gleeful opportunism and a hell of a lot of punching down. I don’t see much in the way of empathy.

    The Republican ethos seems to be “damn you Jack, I’M OK!” and I’m hardly the first person in this thread to point that out. If you think Republicans have so much empathy, why don’t you provide a few examples? Or, better yet, why don’t Republicans just act with more empathy and make it obvious? All I see are paeans to the ultra-Conservative Christian right wing; everyone else can go to hell as far as they’re concerned. Disagree? Prove me wrong.

  148. Example: ObamaCare. It’s here to stay, but it should be modified so that not everyone can get a perpetual free ride. Prior to ObamaCare, if you wanted to keep your overage child on your insurance, and depending on whether he/she was a student, you either paid for it now (out of your paycheck) or later (on April 15th).

    Uh, since the “overage child” coverage ends at age 26, I’m not sure how that’s perpetual. Nor, since the family actually has to pay for the child, do I see how it’s a free ride.

  149. Doug, your comment from 6:40 on May 13 wound up in the “Boy Named John” comment thread.

  150. I find it mildly disturbing when a group of people that are moderately left of center describe people that are moderately right of center as being “extreme”. The reverse as true as well.

    I’m almost a mirror of John. A lot of libertarian leanings. I vote for Democrats at the local level when they can demonstrate that they posses fiscal sanity and don’t have their heads shoved up the arse of the national party. But I rarely vote for Democrats towards the top of the ticket because of the outright damage that results from when they take office.

    I’d be a little less “extreme” if the leftists wouldn’t keep trying to re-define the middle as being closer to their end of things. “A little less government” is a position that is just as valid as “a little more government”.


    final morph notice, FWIW – Same “Dann” different wrapper.

  151. @dann665: Right now, of all the declared and presumptive Republican candidates for President, I think very few of them are moderately right of center. Just out of curiosity, which of them do you think are moderates? So many of them want to target things like SNAP, where most of the recipients are either children or the working poor, ban all abortion, privatize social security, bust unions, shut down the EPA and the IRS.

  152. I find it mildly disturbing when a group of people that are moderately left of center describe people that are moderately right of center as being “extreme”.

    The people I’m describing are not moderately right of center. They are extreme. Rand Paul is the second most conservative Senator in Congress. Ted Cruz is the 4th most. Rubio is the tenth most. The current “faces” of the GOP are the most extreme members (and they are more extremely conservative than the extremely liberal Democrats are liberal).

    So, short answer: not moderate. Extreme.

    (rankings from here: )

  153. @dann665 May 14, 2015 at 10:30 am

    I’m curious about where your ingrained belief that dems cause “outright damage” comes from. They’re historically much better for the economy ( and they tend to increase (or at least tolerate) the social safety net. Republicans have a history of lowering taxes on the rich, generating incredible deficits and starting wars and other programs they have no intention of paying for (NCLB comes to mind). Are you basing your conclusions on evidence, or just what you’ve been told by your peers?

    Frankly, if your complaint is that ‘leftists’ are criticizing you too harshly for allying yourself with the ultra-far-right that’s trying to subjugate women and force gays back in the closet, then that’s the very definition of pearl-clutching. If you don’t like having to answer for the positively medieval activities of your party, you might want to reconsider your party affiliation. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas – complaining that we’re being too harsh in pointing out your infested state seems idiotic.

  154. the outright damage that results from when they take office.

    You know, if you can name a major war (beating up on small countries doesn’t count) that a Republican has won since, oh, 1865, I’d love to hear it. I’ll spot you George HW Bush and the First Gulf War.

    Democrats do damage? Hah.

  155. dann665: “A little less government” is a position that is just as valid as “a little more government”.

    If a situation is like a prisoner’s dillemma , then more government intervention to change the rules so that cooperation is the stable answer is the valid answer and no-government and less government are invalid answers.

    Corporations do not self-correct for monopolies. Government intervention is required. Corporations do not self-correct for environmental pollution. Government intervention is required. Individuals do not self-correct for health insurance, and given how massive an impact uninsured individuals put on the nation, government intervention is required.

    In those cases, “A little less government” is not a valid answer.

    What you’re doing is the common right-wing nonsense where creationism and evolution are both equally valid opinions and are both somehow a matter of personal opinion.

  156. Well, I agree with him about everything but deficit financing.

    People use “deficit financing” to buy a home, and to buy a car, which makes them more productive because they have a wider choice of jobs which fit their skills.

    I am not a big fan of frivolously charging Xboxes or Prada purses or whatever, particularly at the high interest rates that credit cards carry, but I notice that government can borrow at the lowest rates in history – so if there ever was a time to “deficit finance” this would logically seem to be it.

    We deficit financed World War II and World War I and the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and those mostly turned out OK; and we even managed to pay down a good part of that debt. Then, around 1980-2002 came the cries of “tax cuts because we can afford it” and when that didn’t sell it was “tax cuts because we need it”, which did.

    We deficit financed the Louisiana Purchase and that of Alaska, we deficit financed the Intercontinental Railroad and Hoover Dam and much of the great infrastructure of the early 20th century. It would be hard to argue that those were bad investments, even though they added to the debt.

    Yes, there are lots of places to cut in the federal budget – and there are also lots of places to raise additional revenue (although talking about that seems verbotten these days), and yes, debt needs to be managed. But virtually every Fortune 500 company carries debt, even as they are wildly profitable. If “deficit” is so horrible, why is it that so many rock-ribbed Republicans and corporations have so much of it?

  157. Dear David,

    Oh, why even spot him that?

    Kicking Iraq out of Kuwait was entirely justifiable. Possibly even destroying Iraq’s military.

    But destroying the country’s transportation, power and water systems, on the very specious grounds that a military needed those? That was purely an act of aggression against a civilian population that made the firebombing of Dresden look benign. It was an entirely evil war of aggression at a tiny opponent that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of women and children. It would have been prosecuted as an international crime ‘cept that the US is one of the big bullies on the block, and Bush is no more likely to be brought before the World Court for that than Putin is for attacking the Ukraine.**

    Yup, big bullies can get away with that. Doesn’t mean you spot them a point for it.

    So, yeah, this whole “Dems are so destructive” thing– show me that data.

    My mantra– what’s worse than a “tax and spend” liberal is a “don’t tax but still spend” conservative, because they *will* destroy your economy.

    pax / Ctein

    [[** important note: If you were in the military in Iraq I and you think this is an attack on you, personally, it isn’t. If you insist on reading it that way, email me privately (I’m not hard to find). If you take it up here, publicly, it’s going to instantly go ad hominem on us and John will bring out his Very Large Mallet. So, let’s not.]]

  158. BW at 9:49 am — Thank you! Too many open browser tabs, not enough brain to go around…

    Ambivalent in Tokyo at 2:23am — I know that many writers use “GOP” to save space, to provide variety in the words they choose, and to have a handy abbreviation for “Republican” that’s not going to get mistaken for a shorter form of “representative.” But I suspect that many of them would be reluctant to write out “Grand Old Party” because using that appellation for the Republican party would change the tone or substance of what they are writing. And so I ask them why they use the abbreviation where they would not use what it stands for.

  159. @Doug: You’re presuming they wouldn’t be using Grand Old Party sarcastically or ironically. Like, “Grand” Old Party.

    It’d just be nice if Republicans would use the correct term to describe their mortal SJW enemies. It’s the Democratic Party. There is no Democrat Party in the US. Let’s try getting that straight first — it’s a much more common mistake.

  160. Dear Doug,

    Really, it sounds like you’re hunting for an argument where there is none. Almost no one writes out Grand Old Party any longer. It’s just about always shortened to GOP or Republicans. It’s the writing convention.

    It no different than that you hardly ever see anyone spell out The United States of America. It gets short-handed to USA or more commonly, just US — short for “United States” which isn’t even the complete name.

    And how often did people (outside of history books) actually write out– “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?” They didn’t even do that much in “Russia” outside of official pronouncements.

    If you imagine there’s some malign political motivation behind the shorthands, I suggest, most humbly, you need to be directing your imagination to a more productive end.

    pax / Ctein

    PS– As a professional writer, I tend to use “Republican” because it’s more symmetric with “Democrat”– reads better. I tend to avoid GOP; it feels like a mismatch. I would never write out Grand Old Party unless I was trying to be pretentious (or sarcastic). It just ain’t the known style.

  161. >> And so I ask them why they use the abbreviation where they would not use what it stands for.>>

    Because it’s shorter.

    What more reason is necessary?

  162. Why do people use Mrs. instead of Mistress? Because it has become common parlance, and using the archaic long form would look weird and distract attention from what the person is actually talking about.

  163. If you believe my afterlife is fire and brimstone because I am a man who loves men, friendship is a no go.

    If you believe a woman’s decisions regarding when to reproduce should be in the hands of anyone but herself, friendship is a no go.

    If you believe we live in a “post-racism” society, friendship is a no go.

    IF you support any or all of these positions, that is your right, but there is nothing wrong with my refusal to have a lick to do with you.

    If you find this “rigid” stance concerning; here’s a tissue, I’m unapologetic.

  164. Oh, why even spot him that?

    Oh, you know, saves us from him citing the First Gulf War and me saying “well, what else?”

    Efficiency, really.

    That was purely an act of aggression against a civilian population that made the firebombing of Dresden look benign.

    Number of civilians killed in the firebombing of Dresden (February 1942): ~25,000
    Number of civilians killed the bombing campaign of the First Gulf War: 2300 – 3660 ( &

    So one of the firebombings of World War II killed 5-10 times as many as the entire bombing campaign of the First Gulf War. And Dresden was surpassed in casualties a number of times during World War II: Hamburg, Berlin, Tokyo.

    (the destroyed infrastructure argument doesn’t hold, either: Germany’s infrastructure in 1945 was in much worse shape than Iraq’s in 1991. Estimates of the number of excess civilian deaths in Germany that resulted in 1945-50 range from 2 million to 15 million, the latter being nearly equal to the entirety of Iraq’s population in 1991).

    Look, I hold no brief for George HW Bush, but the bombing campaign of the First Gulf War was remarkably restrained by historical comparison.

  165. Rajesh: On the margins obviously the left would want the rich to pay more than they currently do but mainstream conservative thinking still believes that the wealthy/upper middle class should pay higher rates of taxation than those less fortunate and can have certain benefits (like child benefit) removed.

    That’s what the Tories claim to think. But they’re proposing a rise in the tax-free band from 10K to 12K, for instance, and a raising of the threshold where you move to the 40% rate. Both of those do nothing for the low-paid; if you don’t make 10K, being told you can now make 12K without paying tax is just a cruel taunt.

    Their tax policy is dogwhistle. It pretends to be for the low-paid but it’s a bribe for the middle class.

  166. Not that I’m not willing, but uncrating all of those issues would take a lot of time and space. I’ve had my humanity questioned enough for one life time, thanks just the same. As our esteemed host suggests, that would tend to make things wander a bit. And my desire to re-read and re-research the wonky details ebbs these days. I used to spend hours on end and real live libraries because these kinds of exchanges used to be fun and informative.

    Briefly, I find the GOP candidates to be roughly as far to the right as the Democrat candidates are to the left. Actually, if one includes Mr. Sanders, then they are less far to the right as compared to the him. The margin, it is not close.

    FDR’s long term plan for Social(ist) (in)Security was to add on private investment accounts that are not terribly different from today’s GOP privatization plans. “Insurance” is for unplanned expenses. Investment is for planned expenses. If we plan on most everyone being able to retire, then we need an individual investment based system. We do not one that taxes people that are less wealthy (on average) to give money to people that are more wealthy (on average). SS is currently a debacle that will unfold for decades.

    The IRS is a grossly inefficient method of collecting taxes that drags down our economy. Something like the
    Fair Tax Plan sounds much better to me. It would discourage consumption (and encourage re-use) and encourage savings. It would exempt the poor from all wage/payroll taxes. It would tax investment income at the same rate as earned income. And in all likelihood it would cost me more in taxes to the feds. For the life of me, I have no idea why Democrats aren’t all over this one.

    As for wars, you forget Iraq. As late as 2011, the Obama administration was touting Iraq as a success. And then they pulled us out prematurely and abandoned those poor folks to the jihadist thugs of ISIS and Iran.

    As for damage, the Great Society is a big one. The New Deal is another. Prohibition (both iterations) is a third. All have served to undermine our constitutionally limited republic. Again, not trying to wander here, but I’m talking about deeper issues than budgeting and relative impact on individuals receiving government benefits.

    One particularly recent form of damage would be the Obama administration’s foreign policy choices. They seem to prefer a US that is disengaged with the world. The multifarious instances of destruction that are currently unfolding are the predictable result of a weak US foreign policy.

    “A little less government” can take a myriad of productive forms. One example is that corporations buy Congresscritters all the time to get regulations written so that new competitors are shut out of the market or to shut down innovation. Change creates opportunity for innovation and efficiency improvements. Preventing change via regulation makes us all poorer and locks wealth into the current upper strata of our society. Stability is not progressive for our society.

    Aw heck. I don’t do “briefly” at all. My thanks to our esteemed host for his tolerance.


  167. As for wars, you forget Iraq.

    The best one you can come up with is a war no one thinks the US won? That Obama “touted”? So in the more than a century and a half since 1865, a Republican has won 1 major war (First Gulf) and done something you think is positive in the Second Gulf War? That’s it?

    Wow, that’s what I call “strong on defense.”

    And then they pulled us out prematurely and abandoned those poor folks to the jihadist thugs of ISIS and Iran.

    He pulled the troops out honoring a treaty signed by what President, exactly? I’ll give you a hint: the name starts with “B” and ends with “ush.”

  168. Are we wandering again?

    You said above that this was a “thread discussing the GOP.” I thought that’s what I was doing (in historical context, at least).

  169. Are we wandering again? Or still?


    I’m going with “still”, but you have been more than gracious so I’m going to leave it at that.

  170. Heh. I’m reminded of a time back when I was in college. I was completely insufferable in a way that only a newly-converted socialist can be, and I was arguing furiously with a friend (a very conservative scion of, I kid you not, a genuine Texas cattle-and-oil fortune) about politics generally and some issue of the day, I forget what, in particular. We’d gone around and around about a million times, and finally I broke down and demanded to know exactly how she, a woman, and a woman I knew to be not only intelligent but really very smart, how could she support the Republican party? How? How?!

    She grinned at me. “Because *I’m a Republican,*” she told me. “You know this. Do you want to see my voter registration card?”

    My point, I guess — and the thing is, it took actually having a conversation like this for me to get this myself, although I imagine most people would’ve figured it out more easily; I’ve got Asperger’s, so yay for me, people tend to be mysteries — that it actually took her pointing out that she genuinely did believe in the ideas (or, well, most of them — she had a very pragmatic view on abortion rights, for example) that the national Republican party (and, I suppose, the Texas branch) put forward.

    I know this makes me sound thick as a brick, but I still struggle with that. People believing stuff I don’t believe myself. For example — not to raise a topic that was definitely a-drifting, just trying to use the example that leaped most swiftly to mind — when Dann above was calling Social Security socialist (and implying that it was therefore bad, I’m supposing) — well, I read that, and I literally said “Well, what the hell is wrong with that?” out loud.

    But then… I’m a socialist, albeit a small-d democratic one. So, y’know. (I suppose I’m glad I’ll never be in the position Our Host is, with people asking me questions like the above — I could never handle defending my beliefs that way.)

  171. Scalzi a “Progressive”? Only to the Bush Nazis (in both family and league) who are the backbone of GamerGate, The Sad Puppies, and the Republican Tea Party!

    I suspect that, like with me, the Republican Party left Young John Scalzi behind when Nixon basically sucked all the Dixiecrat poison into it so he could win a second term – the effects of which we’re still dealing with to this day.

  172. dann665 @ May 15, 9:03:FDR’s original proposal for Social Security did have a provision for an voluntary old age fund that would provide an annuity when one retired, but was not private, it would have been run by the government, it would not have involved investment in the stock market. There are a number of voluntary retirement plan options available to almost everyone today, like IRA, Roth IRA, 401k,403c, etc. Yes, some of them are not available if you make too much money, which I think is unfair. Still, a $5500 Roth IRA is probably chump change to someone making upwards of a $1 million/year.

    The IRS costs $13 billion to collect $2.9 trillion in revenues. I don’t know that something like the “Fair Tax Plan” (obviously created by a politician, it’s not clear to me that it’s any more fair than the existing system), would be any cheaper to manage for individual taxation. Most of the IRS employees aren’t working with collections, they’re investigating deliberate tax evasion (like the wackos who have decided that the individual income tax is unconstitutional despite all the rulings to the contrary).

    ISIS started in Syria and expanded into Iraq, at least partly because of the dysfunctional sectarian Iraqi government. I don’t see how Obama could have prevented that, short of the US unilaterally trying to end the Syrian civil war. Some of the GOP Presidential candidates certainly think we should be far more involved militarily in a war on terror, others, like Rand Paul are isolationist and think we should pull all of our military from the Middle East. It’s not really an issue where the GOP is unified, beyond them all agreeing terrorism is bad.

    It seems as though you are against societal safety nets. The New Deal, Social Security, the Great Society, SNAP and Obamacare are such. All of them have unintended consequences, as all legislation does. They still have people who fall through the cracks, as evidenced by the homeless person I drove past on my way home from work today.Still, I wonder how many people would really be better off if they did not exist. My guess is that there are a lot of people on the fringe that this is helping keep life bearable, and for many it’s hard to see it because the programs are helping them with housing and food so they don’t become part of the problem.

    While there is a lot of regulation that is either ineffective (for example, why haven’t any of the upper management of the financial institutions that caused the 2008 collapse gone to jail), or written by lobbyists to stifle competition, al lot of that regulation makes a lot of sense and is useful to protect our safety. For example, the US didn’t have thalidomide babies, we didn’t have unscrupulous companies mixing melamine into baby formula to raise the apparent protein level. On the other hand, thanks to the drug lobby, we’re also subsidizing the rest of the world’s pharmaceuticals by not allowing our government to negotiate the discounts the private insurance companies and foreign governments get, and there are some drugs that get approved much later than they are elsewhere.

    I don’t think it’s a mistake for the EPA to restrict mercury emissions from coal plants,as an example, and I think the call by several GOP Presidential candidates to shut down the EPA shows how little regard they have for our population’s well-being. I admit that not all OSHA regulations make sense, and it’s known that sometimes there are conflicts between, for example, OSHA and FDA regulations. But I don’t think we should be throwing the baby out with the bath water and say that all regulations are bad and we should get rid of them because some of them make products more expensive, and yes, some of them are truly job-killers. I know it’s harsh, and maybe easy to say because it’s not my job, but maybe there are some jobs that are too risky to perform, and there are some products that have such bad by-products that we shouldn’t be making them (or at least not with the existing methods).

  173. As the granddaughter of a foreign left-lefty (she lived to see Tito rise and die), you’re not a lefty. But I have to agree with all you have said, even though I don’t live in the US.

    If I were a US citizen I wouldn’t vote for the GOP (this present GOP), but I’d probably also disagree with a lot of topics and decisions from the Democrats. There is no “perfect” political party. —- (And at this point I forgot what I wanted to say. Well then, I have to finish a presentation anyway.)

  174. So, dann, how’s that going on coming up with a major war that a Republican President has won? Anything?

  175. There are too many layers to why I don’t vote for conservatives to all be unpacked here.

    But beneath them all is this: I have absolutely zero interest in hiring people to run my government whose foundational mantra, since 1980 at least, has been either “government can’t work” or “government shouldn’t work.” It’s like asking pacifists to run the army, or communists to run major corporations, or Yankees fans to coach the Red Sox. If you’re so sure Government Doesn’t Work, you’ve got no business trying to run it. Move over and make room for the next applicant, the one who’s not going to begin every day by throwing up his arms and going “but that’s IMPOSSIBLE!” every time a challenge appears.

  176. znepj: I don’t think we are disagreeing. I don’t believe that the Conservatives want to tax the middle class or wealthy as highly as Labour; just that they don’t think any taxation rises against them are evil. Therefore I think an Independent minded American like John could see himself voting for the conservatives if he lived in the UK. The fact that other people in the comment thread have stated the same supports my assertion.

    However I have to admit I find your comments interesting. The description of the Conservatives tax policies as middle class tax bribes is the sort of comment that puts middle class people off voting Labour. They don’t want to be thought of somehow deserving of being taxed at a higher rate because they dare to earn more than £35K which is about where the current 40% tax rate kicks in.

    Also the idea that raising the personal tax allowance to 12k is a middle class tax bribe seems really strange to me. 12K is effectively roughly equivalent to a full time job paying minimum wage so this is not really aimed at the middle class. Those earning less have already been helped by the governments previous raising of the allowance.

    As I say I’m sure that other parties can reasonably disagree with these tax policies. I’m simply stating that the conservatives, in many ways, are similar to the democrats in the US and people who vote for the democratic party could vote conservative if they lived in the UK.

  177. Independents will find fault with both the Dems and the GOP. This guy seems to bash the GOP and be an apologist for the Dems. Not even close to being independent.

  178. Bill Stapp:

    You have an adorably simplistic view of what independents should do. What should independents do? Whatever the hell they like, which is why they’re independents. And this independent is currently answering a question about Republicans.

  179. I think it is important to differentiate between voters and politicians in our look at the philosophies of the parties. I live in a primarily republican area so I have pondered this issue deeply. The people here are caring, sensitive folks who belive in working hard and protecting those who for whatever reason cannot. Yet, the politicians who call themselves republican do not reflect this. In fact, the Republican party here in my lovely state of Wisconsin has been highjacked by corporate interest and those who dare act on behalf of their constituents are quickly and efficiently replaced. Gerrymandering plays a role in skewing votes but really, money is the greatest factor. Big money is misusing public ideals and fears to create favorable politics for corporations. Frankly, I am terrified for Wisconsin’s future. But the key is education. Whoever controls what young people are taught – especially what they learn- will ultimately control the government, for a long time.

    It really doesn’t matter where a person aligns oneself to vote, we don’t have enough diversity of political parties for that to matter. The true effort needs to be focused on education of both young and adult peoples so our fears cannot be used to control us.

  180. *Thanks* for reminding me of our newly unleashed UK Tory maj govt.

    As someone who works for the NHS there’s not enough prescription meds & alcohol in my house to deal with being reminded of the next 5 years of joy laid out for me.

    On the Scalzi scale if I lived in the US I’d be due to be rounded up by a time-travelling McCarthy tribunal aaaaanytime soon. At least one of my older family was a communist, but being from Liverpool with a strong history of socialism & radical politics that was pretty normal for the time.

    Ditto for European politics at the moment where there is a better reflection of breadth of views rather than the ‘Henry Ford of politics’ choice. I wish we had PR system in the UK, so the deadlock of a two-similarly-coloured horse race could be broken.

    Now you get called a socialist if you dare object to the commodification of human beings in the service of corporations, multinationals & power-hungry viruses’ endless chase for money. But maybe that’s just coz I haven’t drunk enough tonight…

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