when everything is political, all you need are politicians

March 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

I was reading one of my favorite bloggers this morning, Kevin Drum, and he is talking about how Republicans are just plain better at kneecapping their opponents. I hear this complaint a lot from my lefty friends, usually in the form of how is it that Fox and talk radio have no real analogue on the other side (sorry, NPR doesn’t even come close).  Its something that’s frustrating to me too, but I don’t think copying it is healthy or even possible for someone with a left leaning temperament.  In America today, the Left and Right are just not symmetrical in our thinking.

Republicans are ruthless about politics because all they do is politics. There is nothing behind the curtain.  There is no policy interest apart from winning elections.  The simplest, most reductive ideological bumper sticker babble binds it all together in a way that hurts my head. I have seen Mr Drum say it a few times, and its true…most of the arguments and messaging raised by Republicans these days would never even have occurred to me, either. I submit that it wouldn’t have occurred to Republicans had their daily tactical political needs not required it.  It is all just talking points for the aggrieved in-group, all sound and fury.  It really isn’t meant for me, its directed at the already converted or those genetically predisposed.  Its like overhearing a religious service in a foreign language.

Our political debate is completely asymmetrical.  For example, one side thinks the debate is about unions and budgets while the other couldn’t care less about budgets or deficits; they are getting rid of unions and kneecapping the opposition .  It is a useful means to the singular political end.  Those are two very different kinds of argument and tactic.  Even mainstream Republican thought these days is constructed entirely in service to political utility and ideology is the convenient tool at hand.  If deficits are the key to this singular end, so be it.  Since political calculus is the only math Republicans trust, deficits matter.  Today.  Funny how they didn’t matter from 2001 to 2008.

These games should not even be played on the same field.

I think this is all part of the bigger question “Where does politics end?” For the right, I can’t squint hard enough to see a line. Since there is no actual policy goal and no interest in government,  let alone well-run government,  there is only and always politics.  Objective facts are political if they don’t fit the strategy.  Every personal issue, every far flung backwater country, ever potential threat…it is all grist in the election mill.  With a party not interested in governing,   there is nothing better than an issue to declare war on but be held blameless for failing to achieve any kind of “victory.”    But we end up with a war on science and math, too.

I believe that there is an actual element of temperament involved here, and I think it was discussed on Kevin Drum’s  blog before . The modern American conservative has a habit of assuming that a political opponent must have the exact opposite position of his own, and then argues with that evil opposite position instead of an actual one. Its a whole straw army conscripted to stand in as “the enemy.”  It seems ludicrous to have to spend any time explaining the difference between a Democrat and a Communist, let alone a socialist and a National Socialist, but this is how the game is played to win when your goal is to make your state one big company town.

I’ll have to do a post on what I think DOES matter soon.



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