Saturday, June 10, 2017

Don't Let It Spread

One of the things I written about a lot of the years on this blog, and posts I've put on other spaces, is the idea that one of the bigger problems in American politics is that the Republican Party has become dysfunctional in a number of ways. (See classic posts from long ago and in other places.)

I don't think this dysfunction matters when it comes to electoral outcomes. Voters just don't really vote that way. But while the dysfunction of Bush The Younger, Trump, or the 114th Congress might not cause the GOP to automatically lose elections, it does have some pretty big impacts when it comes to that party trying to actually govern.

Dave Hopkins recently wrote a great blog post about this and what he calls "the politics of resentment" and how it leads to governing failure. What strikes people like me as being reasons why you should do whatever it takes to keep a man like Trump from becoming your nominee, might actually have been a big part of his appeal to Republicans all along. As Dave puts it:
The democratic system works best when the same qualities that make someone a strong candidate for office also make him or her an effective leader once elected. But Republicans now face the problem that the individual attributes likely to bolster popularity within the party have become fatally misaligned with those necessary for governing success. Wasn't it a problem that Trump had no experience in public office? Not to Republican voters who scorn "career politicians" and venerate businesspeople who claim a superior background for managing the public sector. Wasn't Trump's temperament far from ideal for a national leader? Not to consumers of conservative media, where contempt and outrage are the default emotional states. Didn't Trump demonstrate little command of actual policy issues and elementary concepts? Not to vocal conservative authorities who dismiss reporters and intellectuals as snobby liberal hacks.
But the bill comes due after the election is over as we are seeing right now:
However, a party that rewards skill at stoking such sentiments rather than policy fluency or governing competence is asking for trouble—and now the trouble is here. Democrats, of course, find nothing to celebrate in Trump's record so far. But Republicans who prioritize the implementation of sound conservative policy are also being primed for disappointment. The GOP is in such a state that it cannot, by its own admission, be counted upon to avoid a government shutdown or a possible default on the national debt this year—much less to develop and enact successful initiatives on health care, taxes, financial regulation, and other topics.
Oh it's not all bad, the GOP got a conservative to fill the Supreme Court seat that they stole from Obama, environmental rules are being rolled back, and so are civil rights protections. And the GOP might still succeed in ending Obamacare and replacing it with a system that takes away health care from 23 million people to finance tax cuts for the very rich. Even still it's remarkable how bad things are going and how much worse they could become for the GOP.

But while it's certainly fun to sit back and ridicule the people in charge who you don't like very much, I'm getting increasingly concerned that some of the same pathologies that are make it hard for the GOP to govern (at least at the national level) might be showing up inside Democratic politics more and more as well.

Recently progressive hero and CNN talking head Van Jones gave a speech at The People's Summit (a sort of new progressive/left political gathering in Chicago) in which he sounded a lot like Sean Hannity screaming about RINO's on his TV show, all be it with Hillary Clinton as the subject of The Two Minute Hate rather than some Republican who failed to live up to conservative standards.

The Hill had a good summery of it, but I'll just go through it bullet style:
  • "[Hillary Clinton spent] A billion dollars for consultants. A billion dollars for pollsters. A billion dollars for a data operation, that was run by data dummies who couldn't figure out that maybe people in Michigan needed to be organized." Jones is just being objectively wrong here, as Dana Houle pointed out on Twitter most of what presidential campaigns spend on is pass-through to places like TV stations or the postal service. Also scroll down the thread for great points about how Bernie Sander's campaign consultant Tad Devine made a killing on the race as Sanders largely spent his $220 odd million dollars on TV adds in the primary. In other words being in a "post-truth" state is a big part of modern GOP dysfunction as a lot of people have pointed out over the years.
  • The Michigan thing is particularly annoying to me as it shows how lots of pundits have difficulty counting to 270. Again if HRC had won Pennsylvania and lost Michigan and Wisconsin she still would have won. And if you want to bash her because another visit to Madison would have changed everything fine, but acknowledge she campaigned hard in PA, she outspent Trump by 3 to 1 in TV ads in PA, she ran a huge GOTV effort in PA, and Trump still won. Trump of course makes up claims about how he "won" all the time as well.
  • "And now they want us to fight about whether black folks or white workers or Latinos or any other group should get the money," Jones said. "First of all, you need to give the money back to the people, period." I don't know how to respond to this claim other than it could have been said by Rush in 1995 about how The Clintons are corrupt and stealing money, devoid of any actual substance let alone proof.
  •  "Let's be honest," Jones continued. "They took a billion dollars, a billion dollars, a billion dollars, and set it on fire, and called it a campaign!" Our back stabbing leader betrayed us, is a staple of dysfunctional Republican politics from Bush The Elder being declared a turncoat after cutting a tax deal with Tom Foley to James Comey going from Greatest Lawman In America to a traitor after he decided to testify about Trump.
Van Jones is just yet another talking head of cable news, his nonsensical speech doesn't really matter a whole lot. But his speech does show that some of the same political pathologies that have inflicted a know nothing game show host on us could emerge in the Democratic Party if we're not careful. Which of course could result in a Democratic Party as completely unable to govern as the GOP under Trump is once they get back into power.

In other words: Seven save us from President Zuckerberg.

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