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Friday, November 18, 2011

Let's Stop Whitewashing the Republicans

Whatever substantive criticisms one wishes to lob at the Republican Party, one has to give them this: they know how to preserve their brand.

For example, way back at the very beginning of his presidency, Barack Obama gave an interview in which he said that his economic team had prepared estimates indicating that the minimum economic stimulus necessary to lift the country's economy was $800 billion. But in the end, due in no small part to Republican intransigence, Obama was only able to get $787 billion in stimulus funds out of Congress -- and about 40% of that was in the form of tax cuts, which don't do much at all to stimulate the economy. So, by Obama's own statements, the stimulus bill that got passed was insufficient to do the job.

Nevertheless, when the wholly insufficient stimulus bill failed to do what had been hoped, Republicans went on air spreading the story that the stimulus had "failed." They haven't stopped since, and the Democrats haven't been able to counter this story. Ask most people in America today, and I think they'll tell you that Obama's economic policy failed -- despite the fact, by any objective measure, Obama's economic policy was never really even tried.

On the other hand, Conservatism itself never fails. Back when George W. was riding high, so were the Conservatives. There was no -- absolutely no -- daylight between ol' W. and the Conservative party.

But when W. started to tank, when his approval ratings were right down in the basement, when he was the least popular sitting president since WWII . . . suddenly ol' W. wasn't a Conservative anymore. No sir, when he became unpopular and turned into an albatross hanging around the neck of the Republican Party, suddenly we learned that Bush II was actually - wait for it - liberal. That's right, he had spent like a drunken sailor, run up huge deficits, somehow managed to do all that without the help of any Congressional Republicans, and was no better than one of those icky tax-'n-spend Democrats.

The Republican Party, we were told, suffered devastating defeats in the 2006 and 2008 elections not for their conservatism, but because they hadn't been conservative enough. They had "lost their way." This is arrant nonsense, of course, but at least it preserved the Republican brand, and now this is the Official Story: Conservatism would have worked, but that feckless Bush II led the Republicans astray.

Writing today in Bloomberg.com, Conservative pundit Ramesh Ponnuru takes issue with the "official story," in an opinion piece titled "Republicans Lose Way by Misreading Bush History." Unfortunately, while Ponnuru (author of such balanced and non-inflammatory books as The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life) takes issue with the Official Republican Cover Story, his version of events is no less a whitewash of history. See if you can spot what is missing when Ponnuru explains that:
If Republican overspending drove voters away, they should have lost support first among conservatives. But there was no sign of a demoralized base in 2006. . . . It was among independent voters that Republicans got slaughtered.

It seems much more likely that Republicans lost in 2006 because of the bleeding in Iraq, corruption in Washington, wage stagnation and the lack of any agenda by the party to do anything about these or other problems . . . .


Meanwhile, the real mistakes of the Bush years keep being made. Republicans had nothing to say about wage stagnation then and are saying nothing about it now. . . .
Yeah, Ramesh, I guess that's all there was too it: Iraq was still a mess, and wage stagnation and Washington corruption -- both of which had been going on for decades prior to 2006 -- finally caught up to the Republican Party. I can't recall anything else that may have turned the country against the Republicans.

Oh, wait . . . yes I can. It was called Hurricane Fucking Katrina.

I don't believe I have ever hear -- not once -- any Conservative pundit, politician, or talking head ever so much as acknowledge the possibility that the federal government's complete and total inability to respond to the devastation that Hurricane Katrina wrought might even possibly have had something to do with the "thumpin'" the Republicans received in the elections the next year.

But that surely was a large reason why the GOP got trounced.

Katrina wasn't a surprise, Katrina wasn't something "nobody could have predicted." Like a whole lot of ordinary Americans I turned on my TeeVee sometime over the weekend before Katrina hit, looked at the Doppler Radar showing a big ass storm steering itself straight for New Orleans, learned for the first time that New Orleans sits below sea level, and thought to myself: "This looks really bad."

But nobody in the Bush II Administration seemed to have so much as a clue about what was barreling straight toward The Big Easy. And then, after it hit, we were treated to TeeVee images of American citizens lying dead in the streets, or dead in wheelchairs at the stadium where they had gathered to wait for help that never came, or waving for help to helicopters from the roofs they had been stranded on by the flooding. We were treated to images of George W., on the day the Hurricane hit, holding a birthday cake for John McCain and then, later, looking out an airplane window at the devastation below. We listened to ol' W. try to persuade us that FEMA Director Michael Brown was doing "a heckuva job" while police were still going door to door looking for bodies.

The feckless, clueless, utterly incompetent Republicans -- who controlled all branches of the federal government and who had staffed the Federal Emergency Management Agency with their own cronies -- left a major American city to fucking drown.

And, in doing so, they proved to the American public that the "bleeding in Iraq" wasn't an accident, and it wasn't the result of circumstances completely beyond their control. Iraq was bleeding for the same reason New Orleans was drowning: because the Republicans in charge were incompetent, venal idiots.

And that is what is missing from Ponnuru's piece, and is missing from every single Conservative pundit's attempt to explain why the GOP lost so badly in 2006. Not because the Republican Party lost its way, but because a natural disaster showed the rest of us what we could expect if we kept following the Republican Party along that way.

And it sure didn't look good.

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