Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Failures of Movement Conservatism

Politically, movement conservatism did well for quite a while, from Reagan to Gingrich to Bush the Younger, but the majority of American voters rejected it in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Discontent may help it rebound in 2010 and 2012, which is troubling, because movement conservative policies have been absolutely horrendous for America.

Back on 1/3/10, Digby linked "Remembering Naught" by Devilstower over at Daily Kos. Here's the key section:

As tempting as it is to forget the bad times, the reason there's a whole friggin' biological system built around the idea of burning these events irrevocably into your cerebellum in 18pt type is so you don't do it again...

Don't forget the naughts, because this decade, no matter what anyone on the right might say, was conservatism on trial. You want less taxes? You got less taxes. You want less regulation? You got less regulation. Open markets? Wide open. An illusuion of security in place of rights? Hey, presto. You want unlimited power given to military contractors so they can kick butt and take names? Man, we handed out boots and pencils by the thousands. Everything, everything, that ever showed up on a drooled-over right wing wish list got implemented -- with a side order of Freedom Fries.

They will try to disown it, and God knows if I was responsible for this mess I'd be disowning it, too. But the truth is that the conservatives got everything they wanted in the decade just past, everything that they've claimed for forty years would make America "great again". They didn't fart around with any "red dog Republicans." They rolled over their moderates and implemented a conservative dream.

What did we get for it? We got an economy in ruins, a government in massive debt, unending war, and the repudiation of the world. There's no doubt that Republicans want you to forget the last decade, because if you remember... if you remember when you went down to the water hole and were jumped by every lunacy that ever emerged from the wet dreams of Grover Norquist and Dick Cheney, well, it's not likely that you'd give them a chance to do it again.

Because they will. Given half a chance -- less than half -- they'll do it again, only worse. Because that's the way conservatism works. Remember when the only answer to every economic problem was "cut taxes?" We have a surplus. Good, let's cut taxes. We have a deficit. Hey, cut taxes even more! That little motto was unchanging even when was clear that the tax cuts were increasing the burden on everyone but a wealthy few. That's just a subset of the great conservative battle whine which is now and forever "we didn't go far enough." If deregulation led to a crash, it's because we didn't deregulate enough. If the wars aren't won, it's because we haven't started enough wars. If there are people still clinging to their rights, it's because we haven't done enough to make them afraid.

Forget the naughts, and you'll forget that conservatives had another chance to prove all their ideas, and that their ideas utterly and completely failed. Again.

Digby added:

I don't deny that the corporate Democrats are screwed up too. But they didn't invent this political world. As I quipped before, they just learned to stop worrying and love the money. This world of graft and corruption and unfettered greed was the conservative movement's idea of utopia. And they got it.

I tried to make the same basic points in "The Persistence of Ideology" (which also covers the current conservative zeal for torture). Movement conservative ideology, or dogma, has been exposed as completely disastrous, except for perhaps a select few. Yet conservatives are still shilling it. And the media mostly do not call them on it. Of all the chronic and horrible flaws of our mainstream media, the biggest is probably ignoring how horrible the Bush years were on almost every conceivable front. Neil's Irwin's good WaPo articleon the "lost decade" economically has gotten a fair amount of attention. It's not as if America's economic woes are some big secret, though, even though the details are important. But despite the demonstrated failures of conservative economic policies (and throw in some blame for Bill Clinton, Summers, Rubin and the gang), it's hard to go more than a week without reading about some conservative (or purported "moderate") touting tax cuts for the wealthy and powerful, and slashing social spending such as education, hospitals, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (Steve Benen and Balloon Juice track these claims pretty diligently). Libertarian John Stossel attacks regulation and extols Ayn Rand (more on his cherry-picking in another post, perhaps, although I think it's fairly obvious). Schwarzenegger and California deserve their own post, but he continues to refuse to raise taxes on the rich (if anything, he'll cut them) and has threatened deep cuts to social services.

Back on 11/10/09, Paul Krugman noted the latest bile from Dick Armey, and wrote:

There’s a persistent delusion, on the part of many pundits, to the effect that we’re actually having a rational political discussion in this country. But we aren’t. The proposition that the Community Reinvestment Act caused all the bad stuff, because government forced helpless bankers into lending to Those People, has been refuted up, down, and sideways. The vast bulk of subprime lending came from institutions not subject to the CRA. Commercial real estate lending, which was mainly lending to rich white developers, not you-know-who, is in much worse shape than subprime home lending. Etc., etc.

But in Dick Armey’s world, in fact on the right as a whole, the affirmative-action-made-them-do-it doctrine isn’t even seen as a hypothesis. It’s just a fact, something everyone knows.

Truly, sometimes I despair.

Conservative partisans don't seem to get that acknowledging the failure of Bush policies is not itself partisan. Media figures are afraid to state the obvious for fear of being called partisan. Reasonable people, pretty much by definition, are interested in what works, regardless of political labels, and seek to avoid what doesn't. The old line is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. I'll explore this more in later posts, but: Opposing Reagonomics, and really all of the Bush administration's policies, is not (necessarily) a partisan matter at all – it's basic sanity.


aimai said...

I couldn't agree more. I've been working on a long post about how we need a political Reformation in this country, a dramatic shift in the way politics is discussed and understood--the same one that Elizabeth the first had to try to force on her country when the Catholic Church refused to recognize her legitimate authority as ruler because she wasn't Catholic. I think its the same problem that Obama and the Dems are having--at the highest levels, and at the level of ambient media discussion, we are still fighting even to have the existence of Democratic ideas and rule recognized as thoroughly legitimate. I am still reeling, all these years later, from Jesse Helms having the nerve to tell Bill Clinton that he'd "better watch out" and not come down to South Carolina. The top Republicans haven't quite had the nerve to say that to Obama, but the grass roots rightists certainly have. The level of complete rejection, by the republican party and its voters, of the government once they didn't own it entirely, is just staggering to me. And yet the mass media still thinks we are engaged in business as usual?


Batocchio said...

But only Republican elections are legitimate! aimai, I'll be sure to keep an eye out for that post. I have two more in the works on this general theme I hope to finish up tonight.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Excellent post, holmes!