Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and Conservative Talk Radio

The Chicago Tribune has spoken to Reverend Jeremiah Wright. What he had to say doesn’t really matter. It never did. What this does bring to mind, as a few conservative blogs are once again ranting about how evil Obama must be because of what he allegedly heard Wright say in church all those years, is another insight into the conservative mind.

Most liberals (other than a few rabid Clintonistas who I never considered to be significantly different from conservatives anyways) were never concerned about what Obama may or may not have heard Wright say in church. What we are concerned about is Obama’s views, not Wright’s views. Besides, the same conservatives who were upset by what Obama might have heard Wright say never seem to have paid any attention to the relatively conservative economic advisers Obama has had when making up their ridiculous claims that Obama desires to redistribute the wealth. If one believes that Obama should be judged by the people he listens to, it isn’t kosher to pick and choose which people you point out when assigning the views of others to Obama.

This all makes much more sense when I think back to this post which considers the role of talk radio in the conservative fantasy world, relying considerably on this post by Nate Silver. The rants by Reverend Wright are very similar to the rants on conservative talk radio, except from a different ideological extreme. The key difference is that, while liberals can listen to such rants and think for themselves, many conservatives cannot. While conservatives listen to Rush Limbaugh and others on conservative talk radio and go on to repeat his nonsense, they just might not realize that non-conservatives can listen to nonsense without having their own beliefs be influenced.

Mark Halperin, Right Wing Hack-Journalist, Criticizes Media For Pro-Obama Bias

Mark Halperin, who has made a career out of quoting right wing talking points and unsubstantiated stories from Drudge as fact, now further reduces his credibility by attacking the news media for “extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage.”

The examples provided in this report are quite weak, comparing two stories on Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain. This shows the journalistic sloppiness Halperin is known for. There is no doubt you can find stories which show both bias for and against either spouse (as well as each candidate). To compare only two stories proves absolutely nothing, especially as there are far more negative facts in Cindy McCain’s past than in Michelle Obama’s.

Jake Tapper weighs in supporting his former colleague by citing the limited media coverage of a Spanish language ad from Obama which was misleading. Both sides ran misleading ads, but McCain ran far more dishonest ads and his ads went far further than any of the ads I wish Obama had not run in distorting the truth. Most likely Obama’s Spanish language ad received minimal coverage because it was in Spanish, and as it wasn’t as significant to the campaigns as, for example, McCain’s totally dishonest ads on Obama’s tax policies. McCain’s dishonesty on this was so over the top that even Fox couldn’t allow McCain to get away with it.

Even if coverage was one sided, Halperin hardly has the credibility to complain. In reality, Obama received lots of attention from the media for obvious reasons, but the coverage included both positive and negative reports. Media stories were dominated by the horse race, and often coverage of Obama was favorable based upon his leads in the polls.

If McCain did not receive the coverage which Halperin would have liked him to receive, the problem is largely due to the nature of the campaign McCain decided to run. McCain concentrated on dishonest attacks on Obama, regularly distorting the facts and Obama’s positions, and failed to make coherent arguments for voting for him. Of course Halperin, who has never been able to separate right wing talking points from reality, was probably oblivious to this McCain also did not help his case by limiting answers from the press and frequently attacking the media.

If anything the media was even more favorable to McCain than he deserved. While fact checkers often debunked McCain’s frequent lies in separate stories, this made it into regular coverage far less than it should have. McCain’s frequent gaffes and statements which demonstrated poor command of the issues were also overlooked by many reporters. The media often went overboard to in avoiding criticism of McCain, such as in his poor showing in the debates.  As Editor and Publisher points out:

This year, one of the best high-profile measures of how the media often bent over backwards to be kind to McCain surrounded the four presidential and veep debates.  In every case, most of the TV network anchors and analysts declared when the debates ended that the Republican had tied or won narrowly.  Then the post-debate polls of voters came in, showing that in every case, Obama or Biden won easily.

Individual criticism can be made towards many of the news reports, but to claim that overall the media was showing bias towards Obama, especially to a degree greater than seen in previous elections, is absurd.

Christina Romer Chosen to Chair Council of Economic Advisers

Recently I noted reports that Austan Goolsbee, previously thought to be Obama’s pick for Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, was being passed over in favor of Cecilia Elena Rouse. Political Punch is reporting that neither will get the appointment and instead Obama is choosing University of California-Berkeley Economics professor Christina Romer. They provide this information on her:

Romer and her husband David, also an economist at Berkeley, are members of the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, which decides when a recession has officially started or ended.

One highly relevant area of their expertise — how tax cuts can help stimulate economic growth.

The Politico adds that she was once the author of a paper entitled What Ends Recessions? Let’s hope she knows the right answer. They also provide this additional information on her:

In March, National Journal had this précis on the couple: “As professors at the University of California (Berkeley), they are well-known macroeconomists — experts on the workings of the U.S. economy — who jointly hold one of six spots on the academic committee of economists that decides when recessions begin and end. They are both steeped in the history of the country’s economy and have recently produced a series of papers looking at the causes and effects of most of the major changes in tax policy in the last 100 years.

“At the same time that Obama is calling for higher income taxes on people making $250,000 or more, the Romers have found that tax increases are generally bad for economic growth and that they primarily discourage investment — the supply-side argument that conservatives use to justify tax cuts for the rich. On the other hand, the Romers have shredded the conservative premise that tax cuts eventually force spending reductions (‘starving the beast’). Instead, they concluded that tax reductions lead only to one thing — offsetting tax increases to recover lost revenue.”

Initial response to this appointment appears favorable. Brad DeLong considers this an excellent choice, also stating that either Goolsbee or Rouse would also have been excellent choices.

Obama’s Pragmatism and Complaints From the Left

If Jimmy Carter is, as many consider him, our best ex-president, then Barack Obama must be one of history’s best president-to-come. Due to the combination of the financial crisis and the incompetence of the outgoing president support for Obama, along with hope for his success, is astronomical, even among many Republicans. Speculation about an Obama administration is based largely upon his appointments, including rumors of those not yet made, and even many conservatives are praising him for building a centrist, pragmatic economic team. With moderates and conservatives praising Obama, it is inevitable that some factions of the far left are questioning Obama. This has been a common topic in the blogosphere recently, with Glenn Greenwald discussing this today.

I don’t share the disappointment of those on the far left as I (along with many Democratic voters) never desired a far left economic program any more than I desired far right policies from the Republicans. I will have to wait and see what Obama does before judging. As I wrote before the primaries began, “My suspicion is that in a couple of years I will be writing a number of blog posts disagreeing with some of your actions as president, but things will be far better than if any of your major opponents were to win.” After the Bush years I primarily hoped for reality-based economic policies. Once the Democratic race came down to at most three viable candidates, I greatly preferred the pragmatism displayed by Obama over the Nanny State views of Hillary Clinton or the opportunistic class warfare of John Edwards.

Despite the attacks for being on the far left coming from the Repubicans, and perhaps the hopes that he is from a minority of Democrats, Obama made his views quite clear. As Glenn Greenwald wrote:

So many progressives were misled about what Obama is and what he believes.  But it wasn’t Obama who misled them.  It was their own desires, their eagerness to see what they wanted to see rather than what reality offered…

But Barack Obama is a centrist, establishment politician.  That is what he has been since he’s been in the Senate, and more importantly, it’s what he made clear — both explicitly and through his actions — that he intended to be as President.

Barack Obama was not elected by the far left or the netroots. He was elected by a coalition which included them, but also contained many more moderates, independents, and even Republicans.

The description of Obama as a centrist, establishment politician is somewhat true in economic matters and, while I might not agree with him on everything, this is how many of us who voted for him hope he governs. In other areas there continues to be  hope that Obama will govern based upon liberal values, including strengthening civil liberties, ending the influence of the religious right on public policy, defending reproductive rights, ending the ban on financing embryonic stem cell research, protecting the environment, ending torture, and returning to a reality-based foreign policy.

It should not come as a surprise that Obama has picked more centrist figures, many from the Clinton years, for his top positions. Bill Clinton was the only Democratic president in recent years and Democrats who have experience in Washington are most likely to have obtained it from working under Clinton. The economic crisis requires that Obama builds an administration which displays stability and competence, preventing the appointment of inexperienced outsiders to top positions.

Much of the work of government is also done by the appointees under the cabinet secretary position, and this is where there is greater possibility for bringing in new blood. The people brought into government at this level are the ones who will advance in future years and might be the ones who really change Washington. Policy is also developed far more in the White House than by the cabinet, and I expect Obama to be receiving a wide range of opinions, including from the left.

Cabinet members under Barack Obama will still be implementing the policies of Barack Obama. It is fortunate, not cause for panic, that many Republicans are pleased with Obama’s appointees as this will better enable Obama to achieve bipartisan cooperation to pass his policies. Many ideas which were considered far left in the past are now considered to be more centrist. If Obama’s policies are good policies, it is actually advantageous politically if they are considered to be pragmatic or centrist as opposed to leftist. We should judge Obama based upon the actual policies which come out of his administration, not by his appointees before he has even taken office or the labels applied.

SciFi Weekend: Woman in the Red Dress; Jack is Back; Jimmy Smits in Danger from Dexter?

In this week’s episode of Life on Mars, The Man Who Sold The World, Sam learns more about his father. While he is apparently in a coma in the present, the manner in which he learns about his past suggests that his life in the past is also real as opposed to merely something going on in his head.

Sam had said in previous episodes that his father left home after his fourth birthday party, but in this episode we find that he had repressed additional memories, including Vic attacking a woman in red. Both Annie and his mother wore red, and they suggested that Sam’s father might have killed Annie before Sam went back in time to stop in. However things get more confusing as Annie was only at the park because of a request from Sam, and presumably she would not have been there if Sam had not gone back in time. Sam also gave away his view that he was Vic’s son and I wonder if this will come up in the future.

Life on Mars will be on hiatus until January,and they ended the episode with a cliff hanger to keep us wondering until it returns. What is in the basement? When Life on Mars does return, it is fortunate to be placed after Lost.  Some other ABC shows weren’t so fortunate as it looks like Pushing Daises, Eli Stone, and Dirty Sexy Money will be limited to the currently planned episodes with no additional ones ordered. I figure that genre shows are always in danger of not succeeding, but I did expect Dirty Sexy Money to do better.  If the all out fight between Karen and Lisa couldn’t save this show, nothing will. Scrubs is moving to ABC with new episodes beginning in January.

Time travel also continues to play a major role in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. There is a new twist. Jesse remembers how Derick was tortured by Charles Fisher (Richard Schiff) but Derick does not recall this. It turns out he had a good reason for not remembering as it did not happen to him in his timeline, even if it did in Jesse’s timeline. This tells us that the future can be changed, but does that mean Judgment Day can be prevented?

Jack is back Sunday night as 24 has a TV movie to bridge the long gap from the last season it was aired before the strike. Redemption takes place in real time over two hours instead of twenty-four just as a new president is preparing to take office. 24 might have helped prepare the country for a black president with President Palmer. Now they have a woman president too late to help Hillary Clinton. Joel Surnow, whose conservative influence on the show was discussed here, is no longer with 24. The nature of the show still fits in better with a simplistic conservative world view, but it will be interesting to see if this changes with Surnow gone.

I love seeing the Miami backgrounds in Dexter such as the one above after having spent spring break in South Beach last year. I’ve also been wondering where the relationship between Dexter and Miguel (Jimmy Smits) is heading. Once Miguel learned about Dexter’s activities I assumed that one way or another he would wind up getting killed at the end of the season. It could be a case of getting killed in the line of duty while going after the Skinner, but I’ve also suspected that Dexter will wind up killing him. My suspicion of this outcome increased at the end of last week’s episode when Miguel went to Ellen’s house with the implication that he might kill her. If Miguel does kill for reasons not accepted by Dexter’s code it is quite plausible that Dexter would feel obligated to take care of Miguel.


The season finale of True Blood is also on Sunday night (preview above). There’s a lot to tie up, and I wonder if they will tie up the loose ends or if much of the story is to be continue into the second season. For those who have not been watching, HBO is planning some marathons of the show, including on New Year’s Eve. The second season is already in production, so hopefully there will not be the long wait between seasons which sometimes occurs on HBO.

Obama’s Win a Nightmare for al Qaeda

November 4 was a day in which two organizations, which have a lot in common, both lost big: the Republican Party and al Qaeda. Both organizations support restrictions on individual liberty and imposing fundamentalist religious views on others. Both depended upon each other. The Republicans would have been thrown out of office a few years earlier if not for capitalizing on fear of terrorism, and al Qaeda would be in far worse shape if not for the foreign policies of George Bush. The Republicans cared far more about using fear of terrorism for political benefit and to pursue their foreign policy goals than to actually do anything about terrorism. Bush enabled al Qaeda to accomplish one of their major goals–to see the end of one of the secular governments in the region–along with greatly assisting al Qaeda with recruitment. In attacking the wrong country after the 9/11 attacks, Bush also enabled al Qaeda to survive in Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda had a great deal going with George Bush in office. They hoped to continue this under their preferred candidate, John McCain. They have made their displeasure over Obama’s victory clear. Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution has discussed the importance of Obama’s victory in fighting al Qaeda in a column entitled Obama’s win a nightmare for al-Qaida:

While it’s a bit irritating to have an atavistic mass murderer presume to dictate appropriate politics for a black American, Zawahiri’s diatribe is good news. In fact, it may be the best news we’ve gotten in the struggle against al-Qaida since the so-called Sunni awakening in Iraq. Zawahiri and his fellow jihadists are clearly worried both about the symbolic power of an Obama presidency and about the smarter strategy against terrorism that Obama has laid out.

The hamfisted tactics favored by George W. Bush, including his ill-fated invasion of Iraq, were a gift to al-Qaida and its recruiting efforts. They allowed bin Laden and Zawahiri to paint the U.S. government as an imperial power bent on a 21st-century crusade against Islam.

However, that’s a more difficult argument to make when the Oval Office is occupied by a black man whose Kenyan grandfather was Muslim and who played with Muslim friends during his childhood years in Indonesia.

“Obama’s election has taken the wind out of al-Qaida’s sails in much of the Islamic world because it demonstrates America’s renewed commitment to multiculturalism, human rights and international law,” former National Security Council staffer Richard Clarke said. “It also proves to many that democracy can work and overcome ethnic, sectarian or racial barriers.”

The president-elect has also promised to restore the nation’s moral authority by returning to its fundamental values, starting with shutting the prison at Guantanamo Bay. That facility was never necessary for national security; the U.S. has prisons on continental soil that can secure dangerous suspects. But the Bush administration wanted an off-shore location where it could employ hideous methods of interrogation and isolation away from the prying eyes of the media and human rights officials.

We Americans believe ourselves to be a force for good in the world, but the Bush administration’s wholesale detentions and widespread use of torture badly tarnished our reputation. That matters in the fight against jihadists, who win converts by convincing alienated young Muslim men (and, increasingly, women) that America is their enemy. The toppling of Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with Sept. 11; the abuses at Abu Ghraib; the quest for permanent bases in Iraq — all those gave credence to al-Qaida’s claims.

Obama is far from naive about the threat represented by Islamist terrorists. The president-elect has promised to step up efforts to hunt down bin Laden and his Taliban sympathizers, the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. He also understands that we’ve wasted several years — not to mention billions in resources and the nation’s good name — in a diversion from that war.

During the campaign, several of John McCain’s supporters — including the recently forgiven Joe Lieberman — tried to argue that an Obama win would be a victory for terrorists. The neocons hyperventilated over Obama’s promise to draw down troops from Iraq, to talk to our enemies, to restore the rule of law. Even Obama’s correct pronunciation of Pakistan (Pah-kis-tahn) became something to snicker about, as if it were a sign of weakness.

Al-Qaida’s cheap taunts, on the other hand, suggest its minions see something to fear in the new president. They know he’ll fight both the propaganda war and the shooting war a lot better than Bush ever did.

Clinton To Bring Baggage to State Department

The New York Times writes that Hillary Clinton will accept an offer to be Secretary of State. The good news is that this will get her out of domestic policy. The bad news is that she will have a voice in foreign policy.

To some degree I was hoping Clinton would get the job in order to keep her out of domestic policy in the hopes that Obama could then ignore Clinton as Bush ignored Colin Powell. I also noted problems with the idea of having a Secretary of State who is not on the same page on foreign policy as the president. Spencer Ackerman points out another problem with having Clinton as Secretary of State. Clinton will bring people who share her ideas to the State Department. Ackerman writes:

Clinton herself isn’t so much the problem, they say. It’s the loyalists and traditional thinkers Clinton is likely to bring into the State Dept. if she becomes secretary.

The dispute is only partly ideological in nature. While the coterie of foreign-policy thinkers around Obama have been more liberal, in an aggregate sense — on issues like Iraq and negotiations with America’s adversaries — the Obama loyalists question the boldness of the Clintonites. They fear that Obama’s apparent embrace of Clinton represents an acquiescence to the conventional Democratic foreign-policy approaches that they once derided as courting disaster. Some wonder whether a Clinton-run State Dept. will hire progressive Obama partisans after an acrimonious primary.

In addition, some Obama loyalists wonder whether the same people who attacked Obama on foreign policy during the primaries can implement Obama’s agenda from State Dept. perches. “Look, Clinton and Obama are both smart people,” said one Democratic official who would not speak for the record, “and I’m sure their one-on-one relationship would be OK. But when you hire a Clinton, you hire more than just that one person, you get the entire package.” If Clinton becomes secretary of state, it’s possible that the fissures between her loyalists and Obama’s would be a significant undercurrent of the administration’s foreign-policy decision-making.

Ackerman considers this significant both in the formulation of policy in the State Department at present and in determining who will have top positions in the future:

“Basically, you have all of these young, next-generation and mid-career people who took a chance on Obama” during the primaries, said one Democratic foreign-policy expert included in that cohort. “They were many times the ones who were courageous enough to stand up early against Iraq, which is why many of them supported Obama in the first place. And many of them would likely get shut out of the mid-career and assistant-secretary type jobs that you need, so that they can one day be the top people running a future Democratic administration.”

In the foreign-policy bureaucracy, these middle-tier jobs — assistant secretary and principal-deputy-assistant and deputy-assistant — are stepping stones to bigger, more important jobs, because they’re where much of the actual policy-making is hashed out. Those positions flesh out strategic decisions made by the president and cabinet secretaries; implement those policies; and use their expertise to both inform decisions and propose targeted or specific solutions to particular crises.

There are significant ideological differences between the Obama and Clinton people, plus one of the key Obama people called Hillary Clinton a monster, probably disqualifying her from a job at the State Department.

There is an ideological component as well — though it is more complicated than either side typically admits. During the Democratic primaries, the Clinton campaign attracted more familiar Democratic faces from the foreign-policy community — the people derided by the liberal blogosphere as self-styled Very Serious People — who tended to be less progressive than their counterparts in the Obama campaign. The foreign-policy wing of the Obama campaign, during the primaries, considered itself as a force for redressing the timidity of the traditional Democratic foreign-policy community that acquiesced to disasters like the Iraq war.

“You’ve already begun to see it even before Sen. Clinton gets to the State Dept.,” said the foreign-policy official who has served in previous administrations. “Look at the people on the transition team. These are not people who necessarily supported Obama in campaign, and had different views on Iraq.”

Some Obama loyalists pointed to a 2007 memo written by Harvard’s Samantha Power — a former leading Obama adviser who resigned from the campaign after making an untoward remark about Clinton — that summarized the Obama campaign’s ideological meta-critique of many of the people who might staff a Clinton-run State Dept. Titled “Conventional Wisdom vs. the Change We Need,” the campaign released Power’s memo to the press after the Clinton campaign labeled Obama naive for proposing negotiations with dictators without preconditions; for ruling out the use of nuclear weapons on terrorist training camps; and for proposing highly-conditioned military strikes in Pakistan against senior Al Qaeda operatives.

“It was Washington’s conventional wisdom that led us into the worst strategic blunder in the history of U.S. foreign policy,” writes Power, who declined to speak for this story. “The rush to invade Iraq was a position advocated by not only the Bush Administration, but also by editorial pages, the foreign policy establishment of both parties, and majorities in both houses of Congress. Those who opposed the war were often labeled weak, inexperienced and even naïve.”

Some in the Obama camp are left wondering whether picking Clinton as secretary of state represents an acquiescence to such conventional wisdom. “That memo was emblematic in many ways of the difference between the two groups,” said a Democratic foreign-policy expert and Obama loyalist. Asked about the ideological implications of the difference, the expert said, “The early Obama supporters were generally much more opposed to Iraq and you can draw out assumptions from there.”

Quote of the Day

“If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed. ”

David Brooks, writing on the academic backgrounds of Obama’s appointees

Bonus quote from David Brooks for those who expect  him to be attacking Obama:

“The events of the past two weeks should be reassuring to anybody who feared that Obama would veer to the left or would suffer self-inflicted wounds because of his inexperience. He’s off to a start that nearly justifies the hype.”

Talk Radio And The Conservative Fantasy World

I’ve had a number of posts on how the Republicans lost due to being out of touch with reality and making arguments which making voting for them unpalatable to many educated voters. This includes some of the following recent posts:

The Republican Ship of Fools

Republicans and Meshugeneh Jewish Voters

Charlie Cook On The Republican Party’s Loss of Upscale Voters

Christine Todd Whitman Calls for Freeing the GOP From The Social Fundamentalists

Republicans Lost By Fighting the Wrong Battles

The GOP: Celebrating Ignorance

The Onion Has Serious Ideas On Meaning Of Obama’s Victory

The Reality-Based Argument for Barack Obama

These posts have two common  ideas. The Republicans base their arguments on religious dogma and on misinformation spread by the right wing noise machine. Nate Silver looks at this from the perspective of the harm done by talk radio. He begins with an interview with John Ziegler who conducted the rather strange poll I discussed here in which those who did not repeat conservative talking points as fact, even when totally incorrect, were considered to be ignorant. He highlighted a response where Ziegler considered the false conservative claim that Obama “launched his career” in the living room of Bill Ayers:

This might be the key passage of my interview with John Ziegler on Tuesday, for it is, in a nutshell, why conservatives don’t win elections anymore. It is not that conservatism generally permits less nuance than liberalism (in terms of political messaging, that is probably one of conservatism’s strengths). Rather, the key lies in the second passage that I highlighted. There are a certain segment of conservatives who literally cannot believe that anybody would see the world differently than the way they do. They have not just forgotten how to persuade; they have forgotten about the necessity of persuasion.

John Ziegler is a shining example of such a conservative. During my interview with him, Ziegler made absolutely no effort to persuade me about the veracity of any of his viewpoints. He simply asserted them — and then became frustrated, paranoid, or vulgar when I rebutted them.

This mindset of believing the right wing talking points and ignoring all evidence that their claims are untrue is common among conservatives. Nate moves into a lengthy discussion of talk radio which is better read in its entirety. A key point is that talk radio concentrates on stimulation to capture the attention of those who are also engaged in other activities while the radio is on as opposed to pursuasion.

Invariably, the times when Ziegler became really, really angry with me during the interview was when I was not permitting him to be stimulating, but instead asking him specific, banal questions that required specific, banal answers. Those questions would have made for terrible radio! And Ziegler had no idea how to answer them.

Stimulation, however, is somewhat the opposite of persuasion. You’re not going to persuade someone of something when you’re (literally, in Ziegler’s case) yelling in their ear.

The McCain campaign was all about stimulation. The Britney Spears ads weren’t persuasive, but they sure were stimulating! “Drill, baby, drill” wasn’t persuasive, but it sure was stimulating! Sarah Palin wasn’t persuasive, but she sure was (literally, in Rich Lowry’s case) stimulating!

Talk radio is only one portion of the right wing noise machine, but it does contribute to the disconnect between conservatives and reality. Talking points which are repeatedly yelled on talk radio are reinforced on Fox, in conservative publications, and blogs. Such repetition replaces any serious attempts at persuasion as well as consideration of the actual facts. Any news outlet which fails to repeat their misconceptions is labeled as part of the liberal media and ignored. This leads to a dwindling number of true believers among conservatives, who are no longer able to meaningfully engage in meaninful discussion of the issues. While they are convinced that their arguments are true, they increasingly lose the support of educated voters who gradually begin to see though them.

Can Republicans Get Back In The Game?

The fate of the Republican Party in recent elections has been closely related to the Republicans failing to address the issues which matter to most voters. Not only are they on the wrong side of the issues, they are so brainwashed by their own echo chamber that they no longer know what the issues even are. They attack Democrats for policies they imagine they have as opposed to their actual positions. Thus we have seen the Republicans become irrelevant in public debate as they take their economic policy from Joe the Plumber and falsely accused Democrats of desiring redistribution of the wealth in a Marxist sense, or for supporting a government takeover of health care. Now they dwell on the Fairness Doctrine, despite the fact that Barack Obama and most liberal oppose this.  When only one political party has actually been discussing the real issues, they are bound to win even if they don’t always have the right solution.

Many conservatives have no concept that their support for teaching creationism, denial of the scientific consensus on climate change, failure to respect the rights of women to control their own bodies, opposition to embryonic stem cell research, and support for intrusion of the government in personal decisions such as in the Schiavo case eliminate the Republicans from consideration as a serious political party by many educated voters.

Ross Douthat seems to be catching on to the fact that the problem is not only that conservatives are on the wrong side of so many issues but that they are not even engaging in the real issues:

On too many issues, conservatives have simply avoided the most important emerging debates, changing the subject whenever possible and leaving liberals to argue against liberals when it isn’t. This is true, too often, in transportation and infrastructure policy; it’s been true for some time in the climate change debate (though I’m hopeful that this changing); and it’s often true in education, where the most interesting arguments are between liberal reformers and liberal interest groups, with conservatives sitting on the sideline talking about vouchers and occasionally praising the Michelle Rhees and Corey Bookers of the world.

This problem is not, repeat not, a matter of conservatives needing to abandon their core convictions in order to win elections, as right-of-center reformers are often accused of doing. Rather, it’s a matter of conservatives needing to apply their core convictions to questions like “how do we mitigate the worst effects of climate change?” and “how do we modernize our infrastructure?” and “how do we encourage excellence and competition within our public school bureaucracy?” instead of just letting liberals completely monopolize these debates, while the Right talks about porkbusting and not much else.

Climate change provides a perfect example of the failure of conservatives to apply their views to problems that matter. There is a clear scientific consensus that there is a human role in climate change. Those who deny this, and think their ideologically based opinion holds up over all the scientists in the field who disagree with them,  have taken themselves outside of serious discussion of the issue. While there is a scientific consensus on the problem, science does not provide a single political solution. Rather than complaining that global warming represents a conspiracy to end the free market economy as many conservatives claim, they should be participating in the debate over solutions with free market ideas.

Republicans will not be able to get back in the game as long as they allow ideology to blind them to reality.