Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Department of Easy Predictions

Two points about this item by Matt Yglesias about how Bobby Kindal blackmailed the democratic Lousiana AG into joining the healtcare lawsuit:

1)  It's fairly easy to see that the attempt to give a bapartisan sheen to the whole thing will, in all likelyhood, succeed, and not just on Fox news.  Since our journalistic class consantly displays a casual disrigard for actually informing their readers of facts, and since they can be counted upon to cover any "conflict" in a utterly predictable way, the "bipartisan" nature of these lawsuits will take hold and be repeated endlessly, much the same way in which the 2% of tea partiers which are dissapointed democrats got a great deal of media attention.  In this way, Jindal's move is incredibly smart: he will likely pay no consequence for his blackmail, it will benifit the GOP talking points, and the true believers will remember his contribution to the cause.  It's also worth pointing out how Jindal makes it clear he's part of the usual Nixonian GOP establishment with this decision.

2) Insofar as what will occur when the GOP bubble meets "actual legal practice" the answer is quite simple, the rejection of their arguments will be used further their view that the entire judicial system is full of corrupt activit liberals.  If the justice is nominally republican, they will streghten  their demands for ever tighter and higher loyalty tests for new judicial nominees, as part of the general right wing feed back loop that has been genuinly successful in moving the overall idelogy of both the country and the judicial branch very far to the right over the last 30 years.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How the right handles losing

It remains to truly be seen how the right wing populist movement, the so called Tea Party etc, will, in the long term, respond to losing HCR, but its worth keeping an eye on this for several reasons.

It's already clear, given the vandilism committed at several democratic congressmen's offices around the country, that the general levwel of fear, hate, and paranoia the republican party has been inciting against this bill is having some frightning consequences.

If that sort of mob like response continues, it will tell us alot about the Republican party.

However, wether the response by the republicans is violent or not, its also worth seeing if Republican ground forces get tired, feel defeated, etc, because this, again, gets at what I feel may be a diffrence between the republican and democratic coalitions.

Democrats, after being defeated, feel, well, defeated.  They tend to step quietly, become less engaged, and go home for awhile.  They are long soul searching post-mortems.  For better or for worse, the response of democratic voters to defeat, by and large, is, again, to feel defeated.

It's becoming increasingly clear that the response of Republican voters to defeat is *not* to feel defeated.  Instead, they get angry.  Republicans, after defeat, bounce right back and aggressivly fight democrats.  They lost 2008 by historic margins, and they bounced right back to fight aggressively with the democrats.  More to the point, it was this very bouncing back aggressively that begin to diminish democratic popularity.  It is clear that the opposition party's response to the political reality, whatever that reality may actually be, to a certain extent dictates how the electorate *percieves* that political reality, and thus begins affecting the political reality itself.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Responses to protests: now and then

In Steve Benen's item in the Washington monthly's blog about how the Tea Party protests on capitol hill got uglier than usual yesterday, with Tea Partiers calling black congressmen "nigger" and Barney Frank a "faggot", he says something, unintentionally, that's actually quite educational: "But by last night, a related question arose: why aren't Republicans making any efforts at all to denounce the actions of their extremist allies? Can there be any doubt that if liberal protestors, speaking out against the war in Iraq a few years ago, had engaged in these kinds of tactics, the demands for Democratic condemnations would be overwhelming?" (emphasis added)

But of course, there's an actual response to this rhetorical question.  Voters *did* protest the Iraq war, altough they never engaged in this ugly kind of name calling in any way shape or form, nonetheless, Republicans *did* demand democrats apologize for the allegedly treasonous behavior of the protestors.

But even more important, many prominent Democrats likewise questioned the patriotism of the Iraq war protestors and called on the Democratic party to distance themselves from them.

But to reiterate again, the Iraq war protests were nothing like this, they were bog standard protests. No racism, no homophobia, and certintly non of this feeling of being a mob on the edge of violence.  But democrats were called upon by republicans, everywhere, to condemn those protesters. Other democrats did the same.

Meanwhile, in the present, the Tea Party protesters who *did* all these genuinely objectionable things are not condemned by the Republican leadership, or even by their moderates.  The response of both parties to eahc set of protests, despite the Iraq war protests being quite normal and the Tea Party protests descending into something you' expect to see in the South during the 1960's, are actually quite instructive.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What elites want is power

A general description of the phenomena Matt Yglesias (TMWIAC's number one source for links!) describes here, wherein the rich tend to support conservative policies even when progressive policies leave them better off is that it doesn't leave them better off *relative* to the rest of the country.  If elites can engineer high amounts of wealth disparity, they also, by the same token, engineer high degrees of *power* disparity, even if they might have fewer millions, our economic and political elites are as a general rule all wealthy enough that a few million dollars here or there are not all significant to them, especially when a near monopoly on economic and political power are the costs of that money.  Cheap at twice the price really.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Do not promise what you cannot deliver

While Yglesias has a good point here that countries around the world are right to view the US askance and still potentially as a rogue state, I don't think this has been a failure by Obama, per se.

Republicans, as they have been proving for twenty odds years, love wars when they are in power, and especially since 9/11, the basic attitude of the GOP has been that war is not the question, war is the answer, the question is where and how soon can we get there.

Given that Obama cannot guarantee that these lunatics won't be elected into office again, there's nothing that can be done about the situation.  The status of America as a trusted superpower was borne out of a bipartisan foreign policy consensus that no longer exists. So long as the republican party has the foreign policy views it does, and so long as it continues to be a viable party capable of assuming governance, the threat of a new American rogue war ala Iraq exists.  In fact, I'll go ahead and place a bet here and now that the next Republican administration *will* start a new war somewhere when it is elected.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A feature, not a bug

I think one of the basic problems that the current crisis has revealed is that the set of instiutions we, the world, have, are not in any way commesurate with a global economy. Speaking as a historian in training, it's not an accident to me that the highest volume of world trade was 1929 right before the crash, a volume that only reached that level around the 90's and into the naughties.

You can see this in the failure of the euro for countries like Spain.  Krugman gets closer to the truth when he says it's a catotrophic success, i.e. that the elites saw the euro as a wya to force greater european economic integration.

My take is darker than that, actually.

Global capitlism is proven to work very well for economic and financial elites, and not so well for trade unions, socialized government systems, etcetera. In short, I think the world's elites quite simply don't care. They don't, per se want to stick it to poor people, but they pursue policies engineered with their own self-intrests in mind, and if these policies happen to hurt people poorer than them, oh well.

To take it further, its utterly predictable that greater eocnomic integration with low levels of political integration would result in a situaiton where elites can take advantge of regulatory arbitrage.  The very ineffectivness of our world governmental instituions is the veyr thing that makes it possible for them to be unaccountable.  Nation states find themselves more or less helpless in the face of a global dilemma, and the various western democracries have proven that the power of the elites to make government effective and responsive to their needs ahead of and even at the expense of others has also proven itself.  You see this is the German banking policy, in the fact that american programs whose primary benificires were corporations worked while programs whose primary benificiers were middle class individuals did not.

Add to this, in the american case, an amazing case of a populist right wing movement whose effective policy is to roll out the carpet for the corporate overlords they claim they are railing against.

It's really quite depressing.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The ever changing middle

this post by Ezra gets at another aspect of the way our politics works that seems completely broken.  This dyanmic, fundementally, is what leads to the eternal lucy and the football meme that atrios and others point out.  To an outside observer like me, what's most surprising isn't that "moderate" compromises become controversial given the dyanmics of modern american politics, but rather that this development seems entirly surprising to democratic leaders. They keep engaging in good faith compromises and discussions hoping to create a "bipartisan" bill, where the current political and instituional incentives mean that republicans will be rewarded for causing democrats to not pass bills and that they have the power to do that very thing.

The frustating part is that I'm pretty sure that when democrats are in the minority, they won't play by these rules, much as they didn't during the Bush years.  Of course, given the still existant media bias towards republicans, its probable that if they attempted to play by republicans rules they'd be murdered by the media that has ignored the republicans doing the same thing.