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Remember the old days, when the GOP and Dems advocated different policies? No longer, since the conservatives won.

5 August 2012

Summary:  The evolution from the America-that-once-was to the New America so far occurs without much notice. But it’s apparent if we step back and see the discontinuities in our politics, which foreshadow greater changes to come. Today we look at one such, the Democrats adopting GOP views. The inspiration for this post came from the comment thread to this post.

A new language always reflects a new point of view, and the gradual, unconscious popularization of new words, or of old words used in new ways, is a sure sign of a profound change in people’s articulation of the world. When bishops, a generation after Hobbes’s death, almost naturally spoke the language of the state of nature, contract and rights, it was clear that he had defeated the ecclesiastical authorities, who were no longer able to understand themselves as they once had.

It was henceforward inevitable that the modern archbishops of Canterbury would have no more in common with the ancient ones than does the second Elizabeth with the first.
— From Part Two, Chapter 1 of The Closing of the American Mind by Allen Bloom (1987)

The deepest possible evidence that the Right is winning in America: the Left adopts their reasoning and beliefs. That’s the long-term significance of Obama Administration. They have …

  • expanded the WOT to more nations (eg, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan),
  • greatly expanded the government’s secrecy program, by executive action in effect legislating an Official Secrets Act (except for self-promotional leaks by senior officials),
  • continued an expanded the war on Iran in alliance with Israel (now with assassinations, sabatoge, and sanctions),
  • adopted an economic policy centered on supporting banks (eg, bailouts, protection from regulation),
  • adopted fiscal policy focused on cutting taxes (with some small increases) and cutting spending (eg, advocacy of the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, described by the LA Times as a guide to cutting services for the middle class while protecting the interests of the wealthy).
  • largely adopted the Republican’s health care vision, developed by conservative think-tanks (eg, Heritage), implemented by GOP standard-bearer Romney, applauded by GOP leaders (eg, Newt),
  • please list other examples in the comments

So far the parties differ mostly on social policy — loud disputes usually put only lightly into policy by either side. But that too will change.

.

Americans admire winners, and copy them. The resurgent Republicans have moved the center of the political spectrum to the right, and the Democrats are dragged along. The far left has almost no representation in Congress or senior Executive officials. And the right-wing of the Democratic Party, formerly in the Republican center, now moves into the far right’s zone.

A new motto for a New America:

I am not now that which I have been.
— Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV, Stanza 185 (1818)

Expect to see more articles like this: “Dems Nominate Anti-Gay Conspiracy Theorist for Senate“, Tim Murphy, Mother Jones, 3 August 2012 — Opening:

Mark Clayton believes the federal government is building a massive, four-football-field wide superhighway from Mexico City to Toronto as part of a secret plot to establish a new North American Union that will bring an end to America as we know it. On Thursday, he became the Tennessee Democrats’ nominee for US Senate.

Clayton, an anti-gay-marriage activist and flooring installer with a penchant for fringe conspiracy theories, finished on top of a crowded primary field in the race to take on GOP Sen. Bob Corker this fall. He earned 26 percent of the vote despite raising no money and listing the wrong opponent on his campaign website. The site still reads, “DEDICATED TO THE DEFEAT OF NEO-CONSERVATIVE LAMAR ALEXANDER,” whom Clayton tried to challenge in 2008. (That year, he didn’t earn the Democratic nomination.)

On his issues page, Clayton sounds more like a member of the John Birch Society than a rank-and-file Democrat. He says he’s against national ID cards, the North American Union, and the “NAFTA superhighway,” a nonexistent proposal that’s become a rallying cry in the far-right fever swamps. Elsewhere, he warns of an encroaching “godless new world order” and suggests that Americans who speak out against government policies could some day be placed in “a bone-crushing prison camp similar to the one Alexander Solzhenitsyn was sent or to one of FEMA’s prison camps.” (There are no FEMA prison camps.)

In April 2008, Clayton issued a press release accusing Google of censoring his campaign website on behalf the Chinese government…

For more about this

All things must change
To something new, to something strange.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Kéramos, line 32 (1878)

See the chief chronicler for the evolution of the New America, so unlike the America-that-once-was:

  • Obama the Pioneer“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 4 August 2012 — “The accusation that the President has failed to deliver Change is, in certain key respects, unfair.”

For ample analysis of these years see the FM Reference Page Obama, his administration and policies.

Posts about change (yes, it was obvious from the beginning):

  1. “Don’t Let Barack Obama Break Your Heart” by Tom Engelhardt, 21 November 2008
  2. Obama’s national security team: I hope you didn’t really believe in change?, 26 November 2008
  3. Obama supporters mugged by reality (and learn not to believe in change!), 9 December 2008
  4. Change you should not have believed in, 10 February 2009
  5. Quote of the Day, 20 May 2009 — Connect the dots between Bush and Obama to see the nice picture.
  6. Stratfor looks at Obama’s foreign policy, sees Bush’s foreign policy, 30 August 2009
  7. Motto for the Obama administration: “The more things change, …”, 5 September 2009
  8. Change, the promise and the reality, 11 October 2009
  9. Another bold action by the radical leftists of Team Obama, 9 September 2010

The most obvious and important continuity among US presidents:

You can receive updates to the themes discussed here via Twitter @FabiusMaximus01.

“Change generally pleases the rich.”
— Horace, Carmina, III. 29. 13 (23 BC)

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. 5 August 2012 6:14 am

    “The conservatives won” is not quite correct. These labels tend to become caricatures. More accurate to say something like “the Neocons won,” “the Statists won,” or “the Bush Republicans won.”

    There is actually a continuing war on the right wing between the classical conservatives and Big Government types. You can see it in all three of the right’s traditional coalition members–National Defense Conservatives, Fiscal Conservatives, and Social Conservatives.

    In national defense it expresses itself as the Goldwater-Buchanan-Paul keep-your-powder-dry neo-isolationists vs. the Bush (W and HW) Empire builders. On the economic side, it’s the Free Marketeers, Tea Party and Anti-Feds, vs. the Banksters and Big Business Buddies. On the social side, it’s the Authoritarians (Anti-Abortion, Anti-Illegal Immigration, Anti Gay Marriage) vs. the Limited Gov’t Classical Libertarians and GOP Social Moderates.

    Obama is a Statist, as was W, the Big Government Republican. And Obama talks the Social Liberal talk, but what’s with the trashing of the 4th Amendment and continuing Drug war? Yes, there’s not much difference in policy.

    So the Control Freaks in D.C. won. But a lot of conservatives would tell you that there’s nothing “conservative” about Leviathan.

    Like

    • 5 August 2012 2:25 pm

      “’The conservatives won’ is not quite correct. … But a lot of conservatives would tell you that there’s nothing ‘conservative’ about Leviathan.”

      Political junkies like to argue about who is a “real” liberal-conservative-libertarian. Endlessly, since the meaning of these words changes over time.

      Since our political teams don’t wear uniforms, we give them labels. What label you prefer does not change the hard facts of who won.

      The map is not the territory. The name is not the thing it describes.

      Like

  2. Thomas More permalink
    6 August 2012 12:33 am

    One small point: no such word as “henceforward” exists in the English language. The word Bloom was thinking of was “thenceforward.”

    Yet another example of the catastrophic decline of basic competence among editors in the publishing industry.

    Like

  3. Thomas More permalink
    6 August 2012 3:37 am

    “There is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”
    — Benjamin Franklin, text written to be delivered to the constitutional convention as a delegate in 1787 (he was too ill to speak himself).

    Like

    • 6 August 2012 3:50 am

      Very relevant. The Founders believed that a Republic could last only so long as the love of liberty and willness to accept the burden of self-government animated the American people.

      I wonder what’d they say if they could see us now? A nation of 300 millions frantically shedding our rights in fear of a few terrorists.

      Like

  4. Ajax44 permalink
    6 August 2012 12:06 pm

    He can say that all he wants, but here’s what has happened in the modern party system:
    – The Republican Party says we need to cut spending and cut regulation.
    – The Democratic Party says we need to increase spending and increase regulation.
    – Under both parties, spending and regulation have increased.

    “adopted an economic policy centered on supporting banks (eg, bailouts, protection from regulation)”
    – It was the most conservative members of Congress who opposed both the bailouts AND the policies that led to “too big to fail.”

    “adopted fiscal policy focused on cutting taxes (with some small increases) and cutting spending (eg, advocacy of the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, described by the LA Times as a guide to cutting services for the middle class while protecting the interests of the wealthy).”
    This would be a valid point were it not for a few issues:
    — Obamacare included many tax increases, and not just related to the mandate.
    — Obama is always talking about raising taxes on the rich. The Republicans (or at least, conservative Republicans) want to keep taxes low on everyone, and cut spending.
    — Most importantly, Simpson-Bowles was embraced by the Republicans and ignored by Obama. In this point, Fabius is simply getting the facts wrong.

    His post is a very good indictment of the GOP, not the Democratic Party. At its best, the Democratic Party is supporting more government, and the GOP is supporting less; therefore, the Bush years were a huge disappointment–and Republicans throughout the country will tell you that. One of the tragedies of the Bush years is that is allows people like Obama to run against the irresponsible, big-spending ways of the Bush administration, as he advocates for more spending.

    Using Fabius’s line of argument, I would expect him to come to the conclusion that the Tea Party is a breath of fresh air, because the GOP finally has a grassroots movement dedicated to smaller government. Tea partiers are arguably the most free market-supporting sector of the population that is organized under one political banner. They call themselves conservative, but they oppose many of the policies that Fabius calls “conservative.” One of these definitions is wrong.

    Like

    • 6 August 2012 1:12 pm

      I don’t believe much of this is correct. Partisan boilerplate in the US seldom is, as the true believers take refuge in myth (political reality is so disappointing in America).

      (1) Federal spending
      Obama has long advocated cutting government spending, and been a strong advocate of the Simpson-Bowles plan.
      Over a longer time horizon — watching what they do, not what they say — the largest policy changes increasing the deficit were under GOP administrations. The only balanced budget was by Clinton.
      Looking ahead, the various GOP budget proposals are forecast by independent experts to result in massive deficits — as their tax cuts offset spending cuts.

      (2) Bank bailouts
      Due to the GOP’s policy of “the worse, the better” — opposing almost everything the Obama Administration proposes — we can only speculate as to actual GOP policies once in office. Both past behavior and their enthusastic support for bankers suggests that they’d be very bank friendly.

      (3) Taxes
      Nobody has proposed a realistic method to balance the budget without tax increases as part of the equation. GOP proposals are, if to be taken seriously, in effect plans to financially wreck the Republic.

      (4) “His post is a very good indictment of the GOP, not the Democratic Party”

      You miss the point. It’s not an indictment of anyone. You can consider these policies as good or bad, whatever you please. The point is that the parties have converged in terms of policies. This has been accompanied by an increased in fierce rhetoric. The parties still need to distinguish themselves from each other, least the flock wander (or people see they’re offering an echo, not a choice). So their foes become not wrong, but deamons. Evil in human form. Bush Jr was Hitler (although most Dems applaud when Obama takes similar actions). Obama is an foreigner, secret Moslem, atheiest, socialist, anarchist!

      (5) “the Democratic Party is supporting more government, and the GOP is supporting less”

      That’s not even remotely true. The GOP supports the on-going massive increase in the military and homeland security apparatus — expensive government in its purest form. They also support a wide range of programs helping corporations — including the massive programs for agricorps called “farm support”.

      (6) “the irresponsible, big-spending ways of the Bush administration”

      As mentioned above, that’s a feature — not a bug — of the GOP. The anti-spending rhetoric gets them into office; then the spending and tax cuts send the deficit skyrocketing. It’s worked for them since 1980.

      (7) “the Tea Party is a breath of fresh air, because the GOP finally has a grassroots movement dedicated to smaller government.”

      That would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. They’re dupes, shock troops for the extreme right wing. They’re the exact equivalents of the leftist Dems who put Obama into office. The results of a Romney win will be the same.

      (8) “arguably the most free market-supporting sector of the population that is organized under one political banner.”

      Evidence? For example, replacing their socialized medicine (ie, medicare, tricare, veterans care) with private health care?

      Like

    • Don permalink
      7 August 2012 8:44 pm

      “Obama has long advocated cutting government spending”

      “…watching what they do, not what they say”

      How can you contradict yourself in just so few lines. Obama has not yet cut a single dime!

      Like

    • 7 August 2012 10:22 pm

      This can be seen in two ways. Neither is a contradiction.

      (1). No US leadership team (2 year teams of Congress and a President) have cut spending since Hoover (and I don’t know from memory if he did, excluding the Veterans bonus passed over GI’s veto) — other than from ending wars. Yet many (most?) promised cuts (Reagan on a big scale). So they are all hypocrites.

      Or they are faithful representatives, since there is no clear majority among Americans for cutting any particular major spending? Defense, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans, and interest payments all have large majorities supporting them. Excluding those there’s not much left to cut.

      The big savings the public wants is cutting foreign aid. Polls show that people’s estimates of this are insanely large (ESP among Tea Party members, who seem to prefer leaders that lie to them), although in fact it’s a fraction of 1% of spending. Also, a big chunk of that goes to Isreal (and Egypt, buying peace for Israel) — which I suspect is quite popular.

      So who are the hypocrites?

      (2). The second perspective is a narrower one. Obama has not cut spending since we’re still in a downturn (unemployment >8%), and he’s not eager to repeat our mistake of 1937 (as Europe is doing now, and the results so far are ugly).

      Let’s step back and look at the GOP proposals.

      What would the GOP do? We don’t know, since they have opposed almost every domestic initiative Obama has taken — following their exlicitly stated “our #1 goal is defeating Obama” — that apparently taking priority over the national interest.

      As we see in the Romney team’s recent economic proposal, that even means opposing things the GOP did and said during the Bush jr administration and early 2009. High marks for consistentency in pursuit of their #1 goal!

      The clearest statement of intended GOP policy is the Ryan budget proposal, to return Federal government spending/GDP to that of pre-New Deal. That w/b cutting on a grand scale. As I and others said at the time (link available on request), the plan’s details implied massive unilateral disarming. Say hello to our new Marine Corps of 25,000! Say goodbye to our status as a great power — let alone a superpower.

      Like

  5. 6 August 2012 1:46 pm

    More evidence of political convergence, to the Right.

    The Conservative Brookings Institute“, FireDogLake, 5 August 2012 — Opening:

    The Brookings Institute was once a bastion of liberal thought, so much so that it was hard to find a reference to it that didn’t begin with “The Liberal Brookings Institute”. Its scholars were top-notch exponents of liberal values, and its reports and studies were widely reviewed and accepted. It was so important that when the conservative movement to control public discourse got underway, it was the model for the American Enterprise Institute, an openly neo-conservative, not to say, Paleolithic, perch for right-wing loyalists waiting for government positions.

    Now, though, it has become the Alan Colmes of think-tanks, fake liberals who meekly accept conservative mythology on every major point, but says we should at least think of the misery we are causing. Here’s an example.

    Like

  6. Bluestocking permalink
    6 August 2012 4:06 pm

    Of course, this begs the question of who’s really in charge in this country. We all know that the people as a whole should be in charge, and they might be in charge if they ever got around to waking up and realizing that the Republic that they claim to hold so dear is slowly but steadily eroding beneath their feet (for which they are themselves partly to blame, even though this has not been the result of deliberate or even conscious effort on their part) — and yet it seems clear that the people are increasingly not the ones who are really making the decisions, not even through their elected proxies.

    In the 2008 election, a greater percentage of the American people — those who bothered to vote, at least — made it clear that they wanted to see a change from the conservative policies of George W. Bush (although Bush was most definitely not a conservative when it came to government spending for matters most dear to neoconservative hearts, namely war and military might). This was evidenced not only by the election of President Obama — who they were encouraged to believe was a moderate if not a progressive — but also by the number of Democrats whom they chose to send to Congress, ostensibly resulting in a Democratic majority in both houses.

    If the people truly wanted a continuation of conservative — or more specifically and accurately, neoconservative — policy, then why didn’t McCain win the 2008 election, when you remove the poor choice of running mate from the equation? (McCain is not really the maverick that many people seem determined to portray him as being — an image from which even he has sometimes tried to distance himself. On those occasions when McCain has been in open disagreement with other members of his party, it has often been in the aftermath of a recently-won election when he was no longer in fear of losing votes and/or financial support.)

    Why did the people choose to give even more power to the Democrats in Congress than they had in 2006, with the result that the Democrats took control of both houses? Yet the signs suggest that even though there have been changes, many if not most of these have actually gone in the opposite direction from that which the voters seemed to say they wanted. (This is why I tend to see the midterm elections of 2010 as being less of a repudiation of the policies of Obama — despite how they were packaged in the media — and more the result of frustration over the way in which the country still seemed to be moving in the wrong direction, to the point that I think many voters out of sheer desperation sought any port in the storm and latched onto anyone who positioned themselves as being different from the typical political insider — hence the election of several freshman Congresscritters who are considered members of the Tea Party.) So what gives?

    If the people as a whole are not in charge (and it seems fairly clear that they’re not, given that numerous polls indicate a majority of the American people favor policies which are largely being ignored or dismissed in Washington)…then who is? This is a question we need to find an answer to if we’re going to save the Republic — assuming, of course, that the people as a whole still want to save it (which might be debatable) and are willing to do what they have to do in order to save it (if that’s still possible)

    Like

    • 6 August 2012 11:55 pm

      While I agree with much of this, I don’t see why the question of “who’s in charge” is difficult to answer.

      “We all know that the people as a whole should be in charge, and they might be in charge if they ever got around to waking up”

      If we choose to snooze, then other people will run the Republic. That’s life. We can complain — which does nothing — or act. Either way we bear the responsibility for the outcome. That’s IMO what self-rule means. If it doesn’t mean that, I doubt it has any substantial meaning.

      Like

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