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Nada Hatin’

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With respect to my recent post on conservative vanity candidate Ralph Nader, some response to the many intelligent comments are in order. First, fine commentary from The Poor Man and Nathan Newman.

In response to Erik’s reasonable comments about the Democrats’ lack of vision, he has a point to some degree, although the Democrats have at least gotten a lot tougher post-Dean. I do, however, wish to deny that Nader has a compelling vision. The TAC interview is further evidence of what an utterly unserious candidate he is. His fiscal policies are just batshit nutty (No taxes under $100,000! Less estate tax! More spending! Everyone gets a free pony!)”Corporations are bad” doesn’t really constitute a political program. And to the extent he has an overarching vision, it’s not a progressive one; his chief desire seems to be to return to Ward Cleaver’s America.

More importantly, I also think that Dave and Erik are dead wrong about the substantive accomplishments of the Republicans. The GOP and movement conservatives have certainly produced a formidable electoral machine, but it’s one that hasn’t effectively accomplished any major goal except tax cuts. Matt Yglesias recently summed it up:

Undoubtedly, since 1964 the GOP has won (or, more recently, “won”) a lot of elections, especially presidential elections. But what has this Republican Party that allegedly “is more conservative than Mr. Goldwater could have imagined” actually achieved? Certainly, it hasn’t repealed the Civil Rights Act, which Goldwater opposed. The main policy achievement the authors point to — later in the piece — is welfare reform, a modification of progressive program that substantially didn’t exist until the second Johnson administration’s war on poverty.
The largest Johnson-era anti-poverty program, Medicaid, is still with us, as is Medicare for senior citizens, which has only grown more generous (most recently, via a bill passed almost exclusively with Republican votes) since it’s creation. Social Security, the centerpiece of the New Deal welfare state, is likewise more generous than it was in 1964. The federal government plays a larger role in funding education than it did in 1964 (and, again, it’s role has gotten even larger under the Bush-DeLay regime). Abortion, illegal in 1964, is now legal, anti-sodomy laws were eliminated in the recent past, and today we have gay and lesbian couples getting married in Massachusetts, while civil unions, surely a proposal more liberal than anything Johnson dreamed of, have become the moderate plan.

Indeed, as many people have pointed out…the Republican Party has essentially abandoned the small-government agenda, a small army of disgruntled conservative think tankers notwithstanding. So while the country certainly does face some serious problems, I don’t think some kind of right-wing intellectual hegemony has a great deal to do with it. Likewise, while a better-organized and better-mobilized liberalism would be welcome, the past forty years of conservatism — an impressive financial, electoral, and communications apparatus that’s utterly incapable of achieving its substantive goals no matter how many elections it wins — is a terrible model to emulate.

Exactly correct. The double standards that progressives use to evaluate Dems and the GOP are strange. The modest incremental changes achieved by Republicans–fighting the expansion of the welfare state to a draw, moving jurisprudence to the right (though while keeping the Warren Court landmarks safely in place)–are seen as incredible accomplishments, while similar achievements are derided when Democrats achieve them.

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