Home / Robert Farley / Grass Greener, etc.

Grass Greener, etc.


I just want to draw everyone’s attention to the comment thread of this post.  The post itself isn’t particularly interesting, but the comment thread is fascinating in that it reads almost as a direct mirror image of dozens of comment threads that you’d find on progressives blogs decrying the latest “surrender” by Democratic office holders.  I find it fascinating because beliefs in the incompetence of the Democratic party, and a set of related beliefs about the political ruthlessness of the GOP, simply aren’t shared by movement conservatives; they believe that the GOP is full of weak-kneed traitors kneeling before Reid/Pelosi/Obama and willing to surrender its most cherished principles etc. etc. etc.

To be sure, I’m not surprised by this; the GOP faithful have demonstrated an admirable (?) willingness to destroy any politician who wanders, however briefly, into “moderate” territory.  What’s interesting is that the subjective interpretations of both progressives and movement conservatives regarding their Congressional delegations are almost identical.  Moreover, New START isn’t even really an issue where we would expect that oligarchic centrist village corporate duopoly etc. etc. to have a strong set of opinions.

…I should note that if you read this post and think that I’m assigning any kind of moral equivalence to progressives and movement conservatives, ur doing it wrong.  What I’m interested in are the structural/psychological dynamics of blame; who it’s assigned to, and what the character of that assignment is.  In this case, I find it fascinating that both progressives and conservatives assign key blame for failure on their own party, and that the character of that assignment is dispositional rather than situational (weak, spineless Rep/Dems, etc.).

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  • Charrua

    This is not surprising; the “radical” wing ALWAYS feels that the “moderate” office holders are about to betray them (in fact, feeling that way is part of their role), the difference is that the Party discipline shown in Congress suggests that the GOP “radicals” have more clout than the Democratic ones.

  • Brad Potts

    Very similar to the reaction to the tax deal and the extension of the upper-class tax breaks.

    While I thought libs were blowing the tax deal way out of proportion, I could at least understand their annoyance. In this case, I don’t even understand why conservatives are upset. Not only does the new START treaty seems less consequential than the tax breaks, but I don’t even know what negative consequences all of these conservatives believe will happen.

    • mark f

      When Putin rears his head over Wasilla and we don’t have enough missle shields to stop his tanks, then you’ll understand.

    • NonyNony

      The negative consequence is that Obama has a foreign policy “victory” to tally on his belt.

      That’s pretty much it. If Obama gets anything that looks like a “win” in his column the movement conservatives get angry. Because they want him to fail – just like they wanted Clinton to fail and they wanted Carter to fail. And their predecessors in the John Birch Society wanted LBJ to fail and Truman to fail and FDR to fail.

      The actual substance of what’s going on doesn’t matter – if START had come into Congress under Bush the Lesser there would have been no problems and it would have passed (with only a few whimpers from the old Cold Warriors who still think that the Soviet Union is lurking in hiding – waiting for us to fall off guard). The point is that a Democratic President gets a win on his belt and that’s bad because liberals so shut up that’s why.

      The Republican Party has been pretty much controlled by this branch since Newt came into power. And their power only seems to grow as the years go on.

      • bobbo

        Exactly. I saw one comment that had anything to do with the substance, and then just barely. It’s just a given that whatever the Dems are for, they’re against. There was another substantive (and actually smart) comment, but it was about net neutrality!

  • Malaclypse

    Well, there is one difference I can think of – ideas like “don’t destroy social security” and “don’t cut unemployment benefits during the worst post-war recession” are becoming the position of Democratic “radicals,” while Republicans radical positions include abolishing the income tax, along with popular election of senators, and gaining the ability to opt out of federal laws. So I’d argue that one of these things is not like the other.

    • Brad Potts

      Well, except that social security isn’t going to get destroyed and unemployment benefits got extended. Meanwhile, I really doubt radical republicans are going to see an end of the income tax or an adoption of anything resembling the Federalism Act. So I think you are off-base unless you are trying to imply that democratic radicals are getting what they want while republican radicals don’t stand a chance.

    • ChrisS

      White people drive like this, black people drive like this.

      The GOP gives up gays in the military and START (a pretty toothless treaty in reality). Meanwhile, they get nearly a trillion dollars in tax cuts, hostages for 2012, and, possibly more importantly, a nail in the coffin of Social Security. Sure, fair trade.

      The stalwart movement conservatives, I think, are pissed for a little different reason than progressives. Conservatives are promised in full throated defenses, plus hushed tones and winks and off-the-record dinner cruises that their GOP representatives think just like them. They’re told that gays are teh evil and America will defend its ideals with great vengeance and furious anger, and that the UN is the source of the liberal-marxist-communo-facist plot. Their senators and congressmen stand up and declare that they believe just about whatever kookamamie idea is dreamed up in the bowels of Liberty U or Heritage, or wherever. When the GOP, predictably rolls over on just about anything other than taxes for the wealthy, defense spending, or the easy culture war stuff – there’s understandably buyer’s remorse.

      Or maybe, because both sides are pissed that means that a truly perfect compromise was struck. Or maybe conservatives aren’t very bright.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Actually there are a number of differences.

      The GOP is a smaller tent and has more party discipline.

      And the entire national political conversation has moved far to the right, which helps account for Malaclypse’s observation.

      But neither party is particularly responsive to its grassroots. Both are dominated by corporate special interests, leading to substantial grassroots disappointment.

      When I attended my wingnut GOP Congressman’s healthcare town hall in the summer of 2009, the overwhelmingly Tea Party-inclined crowd were most angry not about “Obamacare” (which they certainly hated), but about TARP, for which he had voted.

      • Brad Potts

        But neither party is particularly responsive to its grassroots. Both are dominated by corporate special interests, leading to substantial grassroots disappointment.

        Exactly. It is becoming more and more difficult for our elected officials to act like the machinery they attempt to manage works in the voters’ interests.

      • mpowell

        This is basically what I was going to write. The Republican party is very disciplined in supporting the interests of their financial backers. But their commitment to their base is only as strong as it needs to be to get re-elected. The Democrat’s are just not as disciplined. So I think the critique by the Democratic base that you are referring to is more or less valid while the critique by the Republican base, while having some truth to it as well, is mostly just driven by the misinformation provided by Fox News and other similar sources.

        It’s not just a grass is greener thing.

  • mark f

    Let me just say that as a Massachusetts voter I’d be thrilled to see Scott Brown Tea-primaried over an issue 75% of the electorate doesn’t give a fuck about.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    One other difference between the parties:

    While the leadership of both are perfectly willing to mislead their base, the GOP leadership is less prone to denouncing its base than the Democrats are.

    In part this has to do with the fact that the Democrats are more invested in the narrative that the beliefs of DC elites constitute “the center” while activists from both parties are equally unreasonable “extremists.” In part it’s simply that Republicans are better at playing this game than Democrats are.

    • NonyNony

      It’s mostly because conservatives are more successful at driving the narrative that the “average American” fits a conservative profile and that the liberal profile is a crazy, un-American thing. This dynamic means that Republicans gain little from denouncing their base (who are, at their heart, “real Americans” of course) while the Democrats gain cred by denouncing theirs (because theirs are clearly un-American).

      Reagan was a master of this, but it goes back at least to Nixon. Given what I know about socialism and fascism in America in the 20s and 30s it could be older than that, though I don’t think it started really gaining traction as a distinction between the parties until the Civil Rights Act. The Vietnam War protests probably helped cement the imagery too.

      (And liberals tend to like their iconoclast status and wear their “not an average American” tag as a badge of pride, so I don’t see this dynamic changing anytime in the near future either.)

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        I think you’re correct about Nixon (and Nixon-era politics) being the font of this, NonyNony. Nixon’s “silent majority” still haunts our politics.

        Not entirely coincidentally, the Democratic Party has often been in more or less open war with itself since 1968. Many of the splits of that year–Hawks vs. Doves, New Politics vs. the AFL-CIO, the tattered remains of the Solid South vs. nearly everyone else–still remain and other have joined them, leaving a huge residue of mutual suspicion within the Democratic Party.

        In contrast, the GOP overcame its once equally intense internal divisions by essentially eliminating its moderate-liberal wing. The Eastern Establishment of the GOP, which Nixon detested, had ceased to exist by the end of the Reagan years.

        • Davis

          You got that right. My heart sank when I saw hardhats attack anti-war protesters. We used to be on the same side, I thought.

          • Green Caboose

            It has always been thus. The “party of the rich” can always get sufficient support from a large chunk of the proles simply by identifying an “other” group that is “not like us” and telling the proles that the “other” is the *gravest threat ever*.

            So the hardhats were scared by the Commies in the 1960s. Now the wingnuts are convinced that Marxist Muslims (yes, an oxymoron, but when fear is your driving emotion facts don’t matter) are ready to enslave them any-minute-now.

            And ultimately that is the key difference between the critique from the left and the critique from the right. The left is analyzing the policy positions and sees that the compromise not only isn’t very attractive on its face, but it sets up the Democrats for politically difficult battles in 2012. The right figures that anything the Democrats want, even START, is a step towards Marxist-Muslim-Anti-Christ- Atheist-One-World-Government, so any compromise at all is a compromise with evil.

            • DocAmazing

              Remember what Jay Gould said: “I can hire half of the working class to kill the other half.”

  • politicalfootball

    I find it fascinating because beliefs in the incompetence of the Democratic party, and a set of related beliefs about the political ruthlessness of the GOP, simply aren’t shared by movement conservatives; they believe that the GOP is full of weak-kneed traitors kneeling before Reid/Pelosi/Obama and willing to surrender its most cherished principles etc. etc. etc.

    Why can’t both be right about this? Surely these movement conservatives are, in fact, opposed to START just as they say they are. Many liberals were very unhappy about, say, health reform.

    Really. Ask them.

    You just disagree with their policy preferences, and that’s fine. But if the goal is to go completely batshit insane as a country, then Republicans, as a group, are going to have to suck it up and behave in a more batshit insane fashion. Likewise if we want to adopt more sensible policies on, say, healthcare or climate change, more of our elected representatives are going to have to be sympathetic to those goals.

  • Duck

    It’s also important to remember that the Republica base is made up of substantially more authoritarian minded individuals. They actually WANT to be on a team and view individualism and contrarianism (within the ranks anyway) as anthema.

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  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure that the criticism of the dems is dispositional. That was the first wave of progressive disenchantment with the center right direction of the Obama administration and the seeming inability of Dems in Congress to either go nuclear or to figure out how to get around minority Reps. But the second wave has taken seriously the idea that there is a dysfunctional structure here, symbolized best, perhaps, by the recent move by Orszag. The idea is that hat, really, the two party system exists to divide labor between the demands of the plutocrats, with all players among the political elites welcome, in the end, to enjoy the proceeds of the government of and by the banksters by joining them. Thus, the Dems take on the ‘reasonable’ position – for instance, it is just reasonable to do TARP against the overwhelming sentiment of the public, and it is reasonable to have the Fed loan 3 to 6 trillion dollars at less than 1 percent so that the players can pay back TARP so the gov “make a profit” – while it is politically impossible and totally unreasonable to, say, extend Medicare all the way down or in any way attack the parasitic private medical insurance system. In any fraud, you need someone to cool down the mark, and the Dems do that beautifully. Meanwhile, the GOP does an excellent job of rewarding their constituencies with lower taxes whilst maintaining and adding to the system of middle class entitlements, including that welfare for engineers known as the Pentagon. So, the second wave of progressive bitching – which has chipped Obama’s popularity among libs considerably (see the latest McClatchy poll) and may well confine him to the position of being the interim dem between Bush and Romney – are concerned less and less about Obama, or the Dems, weakness rather than their core convictions.
    This may well be a shakeout, and perhaps the Dems of today are going to make the bold plunge and become the DLC party entirely. But I don’t think, structurally or dispositionally, that this will work.

    habitually putting the knife in the back of their constituencies

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