Monday, August 30, 2010

Choosing Evil

There's something profoundly sad about this quote from Paul Krugman:

So what will happen if, as expected, Republicans win control of the House? We already know part of the answer: Politico reports that they’re gearing up for a repeat performance of the 1990s, with a “wave of committee investigations” — several of them over supposed scandals that we already know are completely phony. We can expect the G.O.P. to play chicken over the federal budget, too; I’d put even odds on a 1995-type government shutdown sometime over the next couple of years.

It will be an ugly scene, and it will be dangerous, too. The 1990s were a time of peace and prosperity; this is a time of neither. In particular, we’re still suffering the after-effects of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and we can’t afford to have a federal government paralyzed by an opposition with no interest in helping the president govern. But that’s what we’re likely to get.

If I were President Obama, I’d be doing all I could to head off this prospect, offering some major new initiatives on the economic front in particular, if only to shake up the political dynamic. But my guess is that the president will continue to play it safe, all the way into catastrophe.

It’s Witch-Hunt Season

I don't disagree with this assessment very much. What disagreement there is would be in details like whether the government will come to a screeching halt, as it did during the Clinton Administration because Clinton at least had one or two principles, or that Obama will just go along with whatever the Republicans decide, because he really has none.

There are several lessons here that progressives have refused to learn.

The first is that Obama has done well fighting against progressives. That's because, with rare exceptions, most progressive organizations haven't demanded that Democratic politicians support our agenda or face consequences at the ballot box. What they have done instead, with tiresome frequency, is alter their expectations to whatever Obama and the Democrats want to do. Politicians who don't need to please their base won't bother. Think I'm just spinning nonsense here? Then answer this question - how many progressive organizations that are not FireDogLake or, and the ACLU have criticized the Obama Administration's decision to assassinate American citizens? You'll have a hard time finding any. We don't even need to mention the comparatively minor offenses against the Constitution that were a problem while President Bush was in power, but are somehow not worth mentioning any more.

The second lesson is that, in stark contrast to liberal organizations, conservatives aren't intimidated by Rahm Emanuel and his phone list. As Jane Hamsher wrote during the controversy over her co-signing with conservative pundit Grover Norquist a letter demanding an investigation of Emanuel's dealings while he was on the board at Fannie Mae:

In this instance, the fact is that most “liberals” who work at institutions can’t step out and take a shot at Rahm, because Rahm would take it out on their organizations. That leaves the people on the right — those out of Rahm’s reach — who can be called upon to get the media “heft” you need to call attention to an issue.
Rahm Emanuel is destroying not only the Democratic majority but the Democratic Party. There isn’t enough pork in the world to hold his “Blue Dogs” in office with the legacy of bailouts that he has engineered, and that’s why his “big tent” is now collapsing in his wake. Parker Griffin, and now (possibly) Chris Carney, may blame Nancy Pelosi for their defections to the GOP, but that’s pure demagogurery. The mess they are fleeing — the corrupt back-room deals, the endless bailouts — belong to Rahm.

Why I Reached Out to Grover Norquist on Fannie/Freddie

Yet, it won't be too hard to find people who still, to this day, talk about how Emanuel is "our guy", a Democrat in other words, and how dare any of us criticize him? First of all, I'm not a Democrat. Even if I were, however, I'd be criticizing both this fool and the collection of sycophants, cowards, and mouth-breathing idiots who defend him. Jane's right, this guy, and his boss, have been killing the Democratic Party.

Which bring us to our next point, which Jane neatly summarized in a comment awhile back:

I would like to see [congressional Democrats] face consequences, I’d just like those consequences to be losing to progressives, not Republicans.

Writing About Politics Is Hard: Comment #95

There's the problem, in a nutshell. Democratic politicians won't do anything that progressives want, because progressives won't punish them for not doing it. I'm just quoting Jane here, because I like that she agrees with me. Anyone who thinks I hadn't come to that same conclusion a long time ago hasn't been reading here very long.

Which brings us to our final lesson. Voting against something you're afraid of, while sometimes smart and necessary, is a bad habit to get into. In the end, what you will do is lose to the people vote for people who will do what they want. Progressives, I'm sad to say, have that habit, and have for a long time. It wasn't last year that Ralph Nader said that when you choose the lesser of two evils, you still end up with evil. This is what decades of doing just that has bought us.

Evil, in the form of bad policy and societal decline abetted by the politicians we voted for.

Nothing about that is going to change until progressives do.

Afterword: I think it should go without saying that the picture of Dr. Evil, a character in the Austin Powers movies, is just a reference to something that's become a cultural icon. It does not represent an endorsement of this article by the producers, cast, or production staff of this movie.

It's humor. Get over it.


One Fly said...

You covered a lot of ground there. The change needed isn't coming like you say from progressives.

What Krugman says will happen first and then we're toast.

Cujo359 said...

It's a summary of what my thinking has become in the last year or so, One Fly. I was always more independent of the Democratic Party than many progressives, but until about a year ago I really hadn't realized how much of a corner progressives had painted themselves into with their slavish devotion to the Democratic Party.

This situation is what makes it so hard to blog about politics lately. There really isn't much point in trying to persuade people who just don't want to see things, and that's where we are. Anyone with any sense has already gotten to where I am by now. They either agree, or they don't know what to do. Neither seems a really good choice.

What will happen next year is either the Republicans will win the House, and we'll have something like Krugman describes, or the Democrats will win, and nothing will change. Those are our immediate choices, and I really don't see either being anything but bad.

Talk about choosing the lesser of two evils.

One Fly said...

I agree Cujo and for sure not much is going to change unless the dark side wins which is a distinct possibility.