Conservatives Depend On Good Government For Their Positions

by: DaveJ

Thu Jul 23, 2009 at 10:52

Lately I have been realizing that modern conservatives very much depend on the benefits of good government to support them as they hold the anti-government positions they espouse.  This first occurred to me when Sarah Palin quit her job as Governor of Alaska.  This was hailed in Republican circles as "brilliant" because conservatives have so little respect for government and governing that it didn't bother them that she was shirking her responsibilities to the state and to the voters that elected her to the office.  But she can get away with this only because Alaska's institutions of government have been built up to the point where the state can survive such neglect by its leadership.  The courts will still function, the bridges will still allow cars and trucks to cross.

George W. Bush's administration was one more example of Republicans getting elected only to scorn the idea of actually governing.  

In California we are living with the results of Republican anti-government governing.  There is a Republican minority here taking advantage of the requirement that all budgets be enacted with a 2/3 vote.  They vote against everything, and refuse to offer up anything they will actually vote for.  To get even one or two Republican legislators to cross over so we can have any budget at all (that budget always entirely on their terms even though they will not vote for it) the Democrats have to offer up non-budget corporate sweeteners like huge tax CUTS for big corporations or waivers to allow offshore oil drilling.  

The Democrats allow this to happen because it is the only way that needed services can be provided. The Republicans play a game of literally denying oxygen tanks to elderly people who will die, literally requiring people to hold their breath until Democrats cave in and cut schools and hand out more perks for the rich and big corporations.

But so far the state has survived - although at a breaking point now - because of the investment made in prior years.  Bridges still allow cars and trucks to cross.  Courts still hear cases.  Water still arrives at faucets and sewage is still flushed away.

DaveJ :: Conservatives Depend On Good Government For Their Positions
They can get away with being against government because the citizens are well-enough governed by the existing government institutions that they can ignore what their legislators are doing and disengage from the process.  Warnings about pending service cutoffs or park closings are seen as attention-seeking efforts to scare the public, politicians once again "crying wolf."  This view is not without merit, because responsible Democratic legislators always cave at the last minute so the oxygen tanks can be delivered.  This scare-and-retreat game has been going on for years and the public it tuned out.  But just as with the economy, one day the consequences of the policies will hit with a vengeance.

To conservatives scorning one's responsibility to govern is a badge of honor.  Actually governing once elected to office is not the point of running for office.  Modern-day Republican Party politics is not about governing, not even a little bit. It is about being against governing.  

Thinking about all of this - Palin, Bush and California - I wondered how it can develop that a political party can actually be against government and governing.  How can they get away with it?

Some time ago I realized that the tax cut policies that started under Reagan depended entirely on the country living off the existing infrastructure built up during the years of good government.  We had roads and bridges and courts and schools in place, so the tax-cutters could just defer needed maintenance and hand the "savings" to the rich as tax cuts.  They could cut back on sending kids to college and the resulting societal damage would not show up for a decade or more.  There were all kinds of things that could be deferred and deferred before the damage became apparent.

The conclusion has to be that it is the very same government they hate and vow to destroy that enables them to hold the positions they hold.  If they were not sitting atop the product of decades of good government, built with high taxes, they could not gain an audience at all.

Imagine a rural farm community in 1800, meeting to determine how to get a road built so the farmers can deliver their yearly harvest to a nearby river-port.  Imagine the conservatives arguing against taxing the townspeople and building the road.  Imagine them arguing against public courts and schools.  Imagine them arguing that the big farm upstream had the "right" to dump hog poop into or just shut off the water supply because they "own" the land it runs across.  

Imagine an expanding city allowing conservatives to argue that it should be up to individuals to contract with private companies competing to bring water to their houses or pipe away their sewage.

Today we still see what happens when the public engages and examines conservative positions and their consequences.  Every time conservative anti-government efforts reach a level that affects the public the voters react in horror and shoot them down.  When Katrina exposed what conservative policies actually mean to real people in real life the public was horrified.  When the economic collapse exposed what conservative policies actually mean to an economy, the public was horrified.

Conservatives depend on good government for their positions, and on trickery to hide the consequences of their positions from the public.

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Another great and insightful post Dave (4.00 / 1)
I hope you will come around from time to time when Chris is back.

So how do we fight this? (4.00 / 1)
Seriously, ideas are welcome.  If we know the problem, why don't we see more ideas for solving it?  Why are ideas that might work shot down?  Is the American left nothing but a bitching-chorus, content to complain about right-wing policies and the damage they cause but unwilling to do anything but gripe about it all?

I have one idea that might work: since we know that when government works, it works very well, and that when it doesn't work, things get BAD, how can we on the left use this knowledge to our advantage?  It's one thing to say we should re-institute the Fairness Doctrine, but that will take years to accomplish and we still need a way to get the message out in an effective manner and against the machinations of an extremely well-moneyed and hostile corporate media establishment that will fight our efforts every step of the way.  This establishment has the support of very well-funded right-wing think tanks, the sole purpose of which is to figure out ways to shape the national dialog and retain control.

Just one or a handful of wealthy stains on the butt-crack of humanity can throw millions of dollars into setting up a think tank, the members of which spend years cooking up ways to convince Americans to vote against their own interests and plot out how to take over government.  By contrast, we on the left have a handful of think tanks, most of which are really just pseudo-liberal and that spend the bulk of their time trying to figure out only how best to marginally tweak the existing system.  Therefore, we have a precious few, poorly-funded progressive organizations with which to shape policy and devise political strategies.  Compounding this problem is the extremely successful efforts of right-wing Democrats and their pseudo-liberal followers in suppressing third parties, which at this point are the last, best means of curtailing the Democrats' right-ward slide.

So why don't the few progressive institutions pool their resources and join into one?  Each single-issue organization would represent a branch of the policy tree, devising strategies for getting its goals accomplished, which would then be incorporated into the overall policy platform.  Similarly, any institutions set up to shape and take control of the national dialog could be blended into the larger organization, with its efforts directed toward promoting the agenda in the court of public opinion.  The most arduous task in this last part will be in training speakers on how to confront and demolish right-wing talking points; the left has been trained for decades on the finer points of losing arguments through meek capitulation and acceptance of right-wing lies as merely "equally-valid," alternative points of view - when it should be counter-attacking and calling lies exactly what they are.

Still, this idea (if it hasn't been proposed before) is worth trying, constantly learning from mistakes, until we get a truly progressive think tank system that can not only counter the right-wingers' system but thoroughly defeat it.  What ideas do you have for how we might accomplish such a thing?

if Obama were willing, (0.00 / 0)
The fairness doctrine could be restored with the stroke of a pen. It was revoked by a FCC regulatory decision, not by law.  

Though I don't think doing so would be the panacea people think it would be in todays new media environment.  

[ Parent ]
We can't rely on Obama. (0.00 / 0)
The decision to revoke the Fairness Doctrine may have been an executive one, but Congress is the body responsible for making laws and ensuring that the executive branch enforces them.  Therefore, any efforts to restore the Fairness Doctrine (among other things) have to be carried out from the angle of forcing Congress to action.  In the meantime, we still need a way to join the disparate progressive groups into a single, larger, better funded cohesive unit.

[ Parent ]
Fairness Doctrine (4.00 / 1)
What's funny is that under Reagan, then Bush, then Clinton Congress did try to restore the Fairness Doctrine and had majorities.  It was vetoed then filibustered.

THIS Congress, with big Democratic majorities, is too cowed to try.


Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: dcjohnson

[ Parent ]
Hell, they wouldn't even have to do that (4.00 / 1)
Just make the FCC chief commit to it during the confirmation hearings.  That's not even really fillibusterable.

[ Parent ]
Precisely. (0.00 / 0)
The odds are even slimmer that the fairness Doctrine can be restored, so that leaves us with trying to get our proverbial feet in the door without it.  What ideas exist for uniting the various progressive groups into a cohesive, effective unit?

[ Parent ]
we need politics (4.00 / 1)
without a countervailing political force that will make a point of calling out this seed-corn-eating, it's hard to see what would change it - up to the point of disaster, that is. which is a tad late.

(none of this is news i would guess)

that means organizational political power, yes. money and volunteers and such.

it also requires candidates, and i don't really know but it seems like this is the current bottleneck. maybe it's because there's no path to a political career outside of the existing establishment, which is either buying into the same mentality, or doesn't want to cause a fuss? i know people here have talked about the barriers to finding primary opponents - how going against the local party leadership can damage your long term prospects and such.

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

[ Parent ]
If that's the case, then leave the party and go with another one. (0.00 / 0)
This isn't rocket science.  If the Democrats won't represent us anymore, why should we put up with them?  Why continue giving them our support when they give nothing in return, and actually work against us if we dare cause a fuss by opposing their precious right-wing candidates?  I say walk away, get into (or form) another political party that is genuinely progressive, and pursue a smart strategy of running in areas where Democrats don't even bother running for office.  Given the choice between truly progressive candidates and hard-right politicians, it seems more people prefer the lefties - which is why both major parties work so hard to shut third parties out.  I'm willing to bet that if enough disenfranchised voters, the ones who support neither major party, knew they had other options, they'd gladly vote for the candidates who represent them.  At some point, we have to stop being afraid of what the local Democratic Party bosses will do to us if we oppose their candidates or run against them.  We know what they do when we bend over for them: screw us over some more.  Why put up with that?

[ Parent ]
because there isn't another option (0.00 / 0)
Why hasn't the Green Party made any progress?

[ Parent ]
Oh yes there are other options. (0.00 / 0)
You simply refuse to even consider them.  If you're not willing to do something about the Democratic Party, if all you're content to do is go the failed primary route (which isn't yielding results) and then shut up and support the same right-wingers - all the while complaining about what they do to America, then you're really not serious about reform; you are, instead, part of the problem.

The Green Party hasn't made progress for two reasons: Neither of the major political parties wants other organizations in the arena, and so they work very actively (and successfully) to suppress competitors.  The Greens suffer from poor organization and bad electoral strategies.  Me, I prefer the Progressive Party for its ability to organize at the local and state levels to win public office.  Its members seem to have employed very smart electoral strategies, which is why it has gotten results where the Greens haven't.

The bottom line in all this is that you have to be willing to dump both major parties and organize around another one if you're to have any real hope of affecting the Democrats' overall political ideology.  You have to have a fall-back plan in the event a primary fails.  It serves the left no purpose to have Democrats in office who govern or legislate like Republicans.

[ Parent ]
we need money and mass media (0.00 / 0)
What sustains conservative politicians is

- tons of corporate money
- total monopoly of talk radio -- you don't know an opposing viewpoint exists if all you hear is Rush Limbaugh and the completely deranged lunatics to the right of him
- partial monopoly over cable network news

It's not like the gops have ever had first-rate politicians from the standpoint of personality, aside from Reagan.

If we had 1/10th the air time of conservative viewpoints, we'd be making real progress. It took them 40 years to build the conservative empire. The modern progressive movement has been around for about 5 years.

We can't push a new meme, and, even though they're stuck in old-world media, they can. It's that simple. We lose until we get that infrastructure in place.

[ Parent ]

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