Republicans Lost On Both The Culture War And On Reagonomics

If the Romney/Ryan Team to Repeal The 20th Century had won last week, there is no doubt they would have continued to call  this an election over ideas, with their ideas winning. After losing they have other excuses. Romney blames the loss on “big policy ‘gifts’ that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies, including young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics.” He doesn’t understand the concept of government taking legitimate action for the good of the country, accepting the Republican philosophy of denying legitimacy to government. Romney is wrong if he thinks Democratic constituencies receive more than their fair share of government money. It is actually the red states which voted against Obama and for Romney that receives a greater share.

Paul Ryan blamed the loss on the urban vote, ignoring the questions of why Republicans cannot win in the cities and why they are now also losing in the suburbs.

There is a wide range of opinion as to why they lost among conservatives. Conservative culture warrior Bill Bennett is wrong in his ideas, but he gets it right when admitting that Republicans lost the culture war.

I doubt many conservatives will agree with Michael Tomasky that Mitt Romney killed Reagonomics, but he gets it right:

Here’s something that happened in this election that has been largely overlooked but I think is a very big deal indeed. Trickle-down economics died last Tuesday. The post-election chatter has been dominated by demographics, Latinos, women, and the culture war. But economics played a strong and even pivotal role in this election too, and Reaganomics came out a huge loser, while the Democrats have started to wrap their arms around a simple, winning alternative: the idea that government must invest in the middle class and not the rich. It’s middle-out economics instead of trickle-down, and it won last week and will keep on winning…

Supply side was rejected. And in its place, voters went for an economic vision that says: don’t invest in the wealthy in the hope that they’ll decide to spread the wealth around; invest in the middle class, because it’s demand from a prosperous middle class that ultimately creates more jobs, and because doing that makes for a healthier society all the way around. Obama embraced this message late last year in his speech in Kansas, and even though I wouldn’t say he pressed it consistently for a whole year, he certainly emphasized it in the second debate and spoke regularly about it toward the end. “I believe you grow the economy from the middle out,” he said in a key October ad.


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Mitt Criticized By His Father’s Longtime Aide

There was once a time in which there were moderate Republicans who did not hold positions which are bat-shit crazy. These included former Governor George Romney of Michigan, whose greatest sins were admitting he was brainwashed in Viet Nam and having a pathological liar for a son. One longtime aide to George Romney has been speaking out about Mitt:

A longtime aide to George W. Romney issued a harshly worded critique of Mitt Romney, accusing him of shifting political positions in “erratic and startling ways” and failing to live up to the distinguished record of his father, the former governor of Michigan.

Walter De Vries, who worked for the senior Mr. Romney throughout the 1960s, wrote that Mitt Romney’s bid for the White House was “a far cry from the kind of campaign and conduct, as a public servant, I saw during the seven years I worked in George Romney’s campaigns and served him as governor.”

“While it seems that Mitt would say and do anything to close a deal – or an election,” he wrote, “George Romney’s strength as a politician and public officeholder was his ability and determination to develop and hold consistent policy positions over his life.”

Mr. De Vries’s stinging assessment was contained in a nearly 700-word essay that he distributed to a small group of journalists with whom he has spoken over the past year. He said it was an outline for a book that may or may not be published. A spokeswoman for the Romney campaign declined to comment.

A registered independent, who said he voted for Barack Obama in 2008, Mr. De Vries has previously expressed reservations about Mr. Romney’s political postures in interviews, but never with such sweep.

In a telephone interview, he said he was motivated to write the essay by “an accumulation” of Mr. Romney’s actions, like his comment about 47 percent of Americans and his decision to campaign with Donald Trump.

Mr. De Vries said he was annoyed by Mr. Romney’s repeated references recently to his father as inspiration and influence on him.

“I just don’t see it,” he said. “Where is it? Is it on issues, no? On the way he campaigns? No.”

Mr. De Vries continued, “George would never have been seen with the likes of Sheldon Adelson or Donald Trump.”

I know some might discount this because De Vries has voted Democratic, but it must be kept in mind that the same is true of many Republicans of the 1960′s who did not move as far to the extreme right as today’s Republican Party. This is not limited to the now-dead moderate faction of the GOP. In his later years Barry Goldwater called himself a liberal while protesting the growing domination of the religious right over the party. Despite how often his name is raised, the party has also moved far to the right of Ronald Reagan.

Recently, after Mitt Romney shook the Etch-A-Sketch, there has been a myth of a Moderate Mitt. While he has reversed himself on some positions, his views remain quite extreme. Besides, even if there really was a Moderate Mitt, there is no doubt that if president, Romney would rubber-stamp all the extremist laws passed by the far right GOP Congress and there is also little doubt that he would nominate Supreme Court justices who are acceptable to today’s Republican Party. The result of a Romney presidency would be far greater government intrusion in the private lives of individuals, further rigging of the system to transfer the nation’s wealth to the top one-tenth of one percent, and increased risk of war.

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The Choice This Year Is Between A Center-Left Democratic Party And Far Right Republican Party

If Democrats are to have a chance at retaining the White House and possibly controlling both houses of Congress, it is necessary to get out the message to voters who have voted Republican in the past that this is not the same Republican Party. It has moved so far to the extreme right that it is no longer the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater. Rather than being the party of William F. Buckley, Jr., the Republican Party is now dominated by the type of far right wing extremists that Buckley once fought to exclude from the conservative movement. Today two columnists who often push for a centrist agenda discussed the extremism of today’s Republican Party.

Barack Obama has called the Republican economic plan Romney Hood, or Robin Hood in reverse. Matt Miller has another name for the GOP: Drawbridge Republicans:

Mitt Romney came from wealth and went on to build his own quarter-of-a-billion dollar fortune. Paul Ryan, who has never worked a day in the private sector (outside a few months in the family firm) reports a net worth of as much as $7 million, thanks to trusts and inheritances from his and his wife’s family.

Wealthy political candidates are nothing new, of course. But we’ve never had two wealthy candidates on a national ticket whose top priority is to reduce already low taxes on the well-to-do while raising taxes on everyone else — even as they propose to slash programs that serve the poor, or that (like college aid) create chances for the lowly born to rise.

Call them the Drawbridge Republicans. As the moniker implies, these are wealthy Republicans who have no qualms about pulling up the drawbridge behind them. Such sentiments used to be reserved for the political fringe. The most prominent example was Steve Forbes, whose twin obsessions during his vanity presidential runs in 1996 and 2000 — marginal tax rates and inflation — were precisely what you’d expect from an heir in a cocoon…

Today’s Drawbridge Republicans can’t be bothered. Yes, when their political back is to the wall — as Romney’s increasingly is — they’ll slap together a page of bullet points and dub it “a plan for the middle class.” But this is only under duress. The rest of the time they seem blissfully unaware of how off-key they sound. As the humorist Andy Borowitz tweeted the other day, “As a general matter, it’s a bad idea to talk about austerity if you just had a horse lose in the Olympics.”

Contrast conservative Prime Minister (and heir) David Cameron’s decision to defer his plans to lower the top 50 percent marginal rate in the UK. “When you’re taking the country through difficult times and difficult decisions,” Cameron said, “you’ve got to take the country with you. That means permanently trying to make the argument that what you’re doing is fair and seen to be fair.” As his spokesman added: “We need to ask those with the broadest shoulders to contribute the most.”

Now that’s a conservative ruling class with a conscience! Can anyone imagine Romney and Ryan saying the same?

Thomas Friedman’s column is about the need for a conservative party, quoting some conservatives who hold reasonable conservative positions as opposed to the extremist positions now held by the Republicans. Friedman, who often calls for centrist policies, now realizes that he is far more likely to see centrist policies from Barack Obama than the current Republican Party, with the extremism of the GOP preventing the government from passing reasonable solutions to today’s problems:

We are not going to make any progress on our biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and center-left. But, for that, we need the center-right conservatives, not the radicals, to be running the G.O.P., as well as the center-left in the Democratic Party. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed center-left solutions to all four of these challenges. I wish he had pushed some in a bigger, consistent, more daring and more forceful manner — and made them the centerpiece of his campaign. Nevertheless, if the G.O.P. were in a different place, either a second-term Obama or a first-term Romney would have a real chance at making progress on all four. As things stand now, though, there is little hope this campaign will give the winner any basis for governing. Too bad — a presidential campaign is a terrible thing to waste.

This is an important message to get out. This election is not a choice between a liberal Democratic Party and a conservative Republican Party. It is a choice between a center-left Democratic Party and an extremely far right Republican Party. The middle of the road is not somewhere between the Democrats and Republicans–it is near where the Democrats stand on most issues and far from where the Republicans now are. Those who seek centrist, or even old Republican ideas, are more likely to find their views represented by Democrats than Republicans if they go beyond all the misinformation being spread by the far right.

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Jeb Bush Says There Would Be No Place For Ronald Reagan In Today’s Republican Party

I’ve often pointed out that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that Ronald Reagan would no longer be welcome. It means more coming from Jeb Bush:

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said today that both Ronald Reagan and his father George H. W. Bush would have had a difficult time getting nominated by today’s ultra-conservative Republican Party.

“Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground,” Bush said, adding that he views the hyper-partisan moment as “temporary.”

“Back to my dad’s time and Ronald Reagan’s time – they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support,” he said. Reagan “would be criticized for doing the things that he did.”

Bush blamed both the hyper-partaisnhip of the Republicans and Barack Obama for the dysfunctional political climate during Obama’s first year. If we look back, Republican leaders were already saying their goal was for Obama to fail. In contrast, Obama’s major proposals during his first year included an old Republican health care reform proposal (which had been used by Mitt Romney), old Republican ideas to deal with climate change, and tax cuts.

Don’t get the idea that Bush’s criticism of the Republican Party suggest he is a moderate. Bush also supported the extremist Ryan budget.

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Right Wing Claims That Obama Is A Big Spender Are No More True Than Birther Claims.

As I’ve pointed out many times before, including here, here, and here, conservative Republican presidents, especially George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan,  have been responsible for the major increases in government spending in recent years and the deficit. The frequent right wing claims that Barack Obama is a big spender are no more true than the right wing claims that Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya. Rex Nutting at Market Watch has posted essentially the same findings which I had in the previous posts on this subject, updating them through the 2013 budget

Nutting found that  “under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s.”

He also found that, after years of growth, federal spending has leveled off under Obama and in fiscal year 2013,  “spending is scheduled to fall 1.3% to $3.58 trillion.”

Note that one way that conservatives falsely inflate Obama’s spending is by attributing the 2009 budget to Obama, but the 2009 budget was passed before Obama took office.

It is also notable that much of the spending under Obama was based upon policies from George Bush, including two wars and Bush’s unfunded Medicare D program. Even the stimulus spending was necessitated by the recession caused by Republican policies. In terms of the deficit, matters were made worse by the Bush tax cuts, and by decreased tax revenues due to the Bush recession.

A couple other conclusions from Nutting:

After adjusting for inflation, spending under Obama is falling at a 1.4% annual pace — the first decline in real spending since the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon was retreating from the quagmire in Vietnam.

In per-capita terms, real spending will drop by nearly 5% from $11,450 per person in 2009 to $10,900 in 2013 (measured in 2009 dollars).

Update: Michael Linden responded to the criticism of this data here. Bottom line is that it is valid to attribute most of the fiscal year 2009 spending to Bush rather than Obama as the spending for fiscal year 2009 was already planned and would have occurred regardless of who was president.

Even if the 2009 spending were incorrectly attributed to Obama, note that we still see spending level off and drop under Obama, which also contradicts the right wing claims about spending under Obama.

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False Centrism In An Era Of Republican Extremism

Americans Elect has failed to come up with a candidate to challenge the Democratic and Republican Party’s hold on the electoral system. There were problems with their idea. The group was backed by centrists but whenever you look at the types of policies self-described centrists want, you have a platform which is only very slightly to the right of that of the Democratic Party. Old concepts about moderation and centrism no longer hold when one party has moved to the extreme right, and the other party has responded by moving towards the center.

I was also not terribly impressed by the idea of picking a presidential candidate from one party and vice presidential candidate from the other. It just sounds like a gimmick, as if having candidates from different parties would make the party more representative of the entire nation.  If I were to seriously consider a party, it is the ideas promoted by the candidates and not their party affiliation which really matter. Match Ben Nelson and any Republican and for all practical purposes you would still have two Republicans. Substitute Joe Lieberman and it wouldn’t be much better.

There is one purpose I could see for gaining ballot access for a party which is center-right The move by the Republicans to the extreme right does not leave a home for less extreme Republicans. Perhaps some day the typical Republican voter will get a better idea as to what has happened to the Republican Party and will want a choice which reflects their views. Where does a supporter of Ronald Reagan vote these days with the GOP moving so far to the right of Reagan?

If people really wanted centrist positions, they would be backing Barack Obama, who has gone overboard in offering policies which compromise with Republican ideas even though Republicans refused to come to the table to honestly negotiate with him. It was a noble idea on Obama’s part, but the wrong time for this. Fortunately Obama has realized this and has gone on the offensive against Republican extremism.

Chuck Hagel, while still too conservative for my tastes, would be preferable to the current GOP leadership. Last week Hagel discussed why Ronald Reagan would not identify with the current Republican Party:

“Reagan would be stunned by the party today,” Hagel said in a long interview in his office at Georgetown University, where he now teaches. He also serves as co-chair of President Barack Obama‘s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Reagan wanted to do away with nuclear weapons, raised taxes, made deals with congressional Democrats, sought compromises and consensus to fix problems, and surrounded himself with moderates as well as Republican hard-liners, Hagel noted. None of that is characterized by the current GOP leadership, he said. In his eyes, the rise of the Tea Party and the influx of new GOP lawmakers in Congress have driven the party away from common sense and consensus-based solutions.

“Reagan wouldn’t identify with this party. There’s a streak of intolerance in the Republican Party today that scares people. Intolerance is a very dangerous thing in a society because it always leads to a tragic ending,” he said. “Ronald Reagan was never driven by ideology. He was a conservative but he was a practical conservative. He wanted limited government but he used government and he used it many times. And he would work with the other party.”

The situation today is similar to where the GOP found itself in the early 1950s, when there was a battle for the direction of the party over the party’s identity, Hagel said. Dwight Eisenhower and his moderate allies won that fight, diminishing the influence of extremists like Joe McCarthy, Hagel said.

But today, the extremists are winning.

“Now the Republican Party is in the hands of the right, I would say the extreme right, more than ever before,” said Hagel. “You’ve got a Republican Party that is having difficulty facing up to the fact that if you look at what happened during the first 8 years of the century, it was under Republican direction.”

Yesterday former Bush speech writer David Frum discussed the extremism of the GOP, repeating a recent argument by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein that the core of our political problems today stems from the current extremism of the Republican Party:

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

After discussing the work of Mann and Ornstein, Frum went on to explain how the Republicans build support out of fear–with many acting out of fear to vote for Republicans contrary to their self-interest:

In these times, we are debating whether government should impose large reductions in programs or impose big increases in taxes — taking from people benefits that they now enjoy.

Human beings will typically fight much more ferociously to keep what they possess than to gain something new. And the constituencies that vote Republican happen to possess the most and thus to be exposed to the worst risks of loss.

The Republican voting base includes not only the wealthy with the most to fear from tax increases, but also the elderly and the rural, the two constituencies that benefit the most from federal spending and thus have the most to lose from spending cuts.

All those constituencies together fear that almost any conceivable change will be change for the worse from their point of view: higher taxes, less Medicare, or possibly both. Any attempt to do more for other constituencies — the unemployed, the young — represents an extra, urgent threat to them.

That sense of threat radicalizes voters and donors — and has built a huge reservoir of votes and money for politicians and activists who speak as radically as the donors and voters feel.

Which means the solution to the problems so astutely diagnosed by Mann and Ornstein must ultimately be found outside the American political system — and will not be solved until America’s rich and America’s elderly become either less fearful or more generous.

Add to that the racism, homophobia, and xenophobia of the Republicans, who scare conservative voters into fearing that people who are not exactly like them will take away what they have or otherwise represent a threat.

In an atmosphere such as this, there is no point in searching for a centrist position, treating the Republicans and Democrats as being on opposite ends of the spectrum with equally valid viewpoints to consider. As Mann and Ornstein pointed out, the problem comes from one party being extreme, and unwilling to work towards real solutions.

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Quote of the Day

“It looks like the Republicans are going back to the strategy of 2008 where Obama is characterized as a celebrity. Says the party who is gay for Ronald Reagan. Come on, you can’t worship Ronald Reagan and then attack Obama for being a celebrity. That’s like running Chris Christie and saying Obama has a fat ass.” –Bill Maher

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Attacking Obama As A Celebrity

Do Republicans really think this ad will help them and hurt Obama? It is a retread of the old McCain attacks on Obama as a celebrity. This is sure a strange attack line from Republicans who bring up Ronald Reagan’s name every chance the get  (despite the fact that their party has moved so far to the right that Ronald Reagan would no longer be welcome)

The bulk of the ad will help as opposed to hurt Obama in our celebrity-obsessed culture. There are a few moments in which negatives are brought up. These should not hurt Obama as the ad raised problems caused by Republican policies which Obama has been working to solve (with Republicans continuing to try to block him).

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Ronald Reagan and the Buffett Rule

When Barack Obama talks about the Buffett Rule, there is no doubt that many conservatives will scream “class warfare” and even “socialism.” That’s the nature of the conservative movement these days. These are the people who worship Ronald Reagan’s name but have move far to the right of Reagan ideologically. Ronald Reagan supported the concept behind the Buffett Rule as is seen in the video above.

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The Conservative Mind

The differences between left and right have increasingly become a matter not of differences in opinion but in differences in facts which are accepted. This has been studied the most with regards to science, with conservative belief in science now hitting new lows. This has also been commonly seen with high profile issues ranging from false conservative beliefs that Saddam threatened the United States with WMD or was involved in the 9/11 attacks  to their false beliefs that Barack Obama is a Muslim, a Socialist, and someone born outside of the United States.

Conservative rejection of science is most striking to those who understand that science is the best way to study the world around us based upon verifiable facts, but Republican anti-intellectualism is not limited to science. They promote a revisionist history to justify their policies, and promote economic views which have no basis in any sensible economic theory, even ignoring the actual economic views of capitalist economists they claim to follow. If Adam Smith were to come back to life, he would die laughing over the economic views which today’s conservatives promote, often claiming they are based upon his views.

Chris Mooney, who has written a lot on this topic, has an article in Mother Jones coinciding with the publication of his new book on The Republican Brain. Studies have shown biological differences between conservatives and liberals. These differences certainly might have some influence as to the ideology someone holds, but I suspect that this is something influenced by both nature and the influences on an individual. Therefore we see far more liberals on the coasts then in the deep south.

Kevin Drum raises the question of why American conservatives are more anti-science than those in Europe. Similar questions could be raised based upon time. At some times, such as during the McCarthy era, conservatives were as fanatic as those today, while at other times the bulk of the conservative movement tended to be less extreme. William F. Buckley, with all his faults, would probably have tried to keep the Tea Party followers out of the conservative movement as he did with the Birchers.  Barry Goldwater was so repulsed by the direction that he saw the conservative movement moving that he considered himself a liberal in his later years. If Ronald Reagan were still alive and alert I suspect he would do the same.

I think this also comes down to the importance of environment impacting on possible biological factors. While other factors are at play, there are two main characteristics of today’s conservative movement which makes them more likely to reject facts. First, the conservative movement consists of alliances which have a vested interest in ignoring facts. This ranges from the religious right to those being duped into denying science change to support the interests of the petroleum industry.

Secondly, today’s American conservative movement has a propaganda machine which might be powerful than has ever been seen in human history, with the ability to get conservatives to internalize and spread beliefs which are totally irrational. Fox has been far more successful in promoting misinformation than the propaganda machines of Hitler or Stalin.  In many ways the American conservative movement is far closer to the authoritarian movements of the 20th century than to any beliefs held in the past by Americans. Unlike Hitler and Stalin, the conservative movement does not need to eliminate the trappings of democracy when they can fool their followers into thinking that they are promoting freedom and  limited government. Orwell certainly saw this coming.

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