Battlepanda: Incoherence of Republicans: Feature, not bug.


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Incoherence of Republicans: Feature, not bug.

Don't try and appease the American people. Don't try and pander to their policy preferences. Don't try and guess at what direction they really want America to take deep in their hearts...because they, themselves do not know.

Jacob Weisburg of Slate makes the point rather harshly, but well.
Anybody who says you can't have it both ways clearly hasn't been spending much time reading opinion polls lately. One year ago, 59 percent of the American public liked the stimulus plan, according to Gallup. A few months later, with the economy still deeply mired in recession, a majority of the same size said Obama was spending too much money on it. There's nothing wrong with changing your mind, of course, but opinion polls over the last year reflect something altogether more troubling: a country that simultaneously demands and rejects action on unemployment, deficits, health care, climate change, and a whole host of other major problems. Sixty percent of Americans want stricter regulations of financial institutions. But nearly the same proportion says we're suffering from too much regulation on business. That kind of illogic—or, if you prefer, susceptibility to rhetorical manipulation—is what locks the status quo in place.

At the root of this kind of self-contradiction is our historical, nationally characterological ambivalence about government. We want Washington and the states to fix all of our problems now. At the same time, we want government to shrink, spend less, and reduce our taxes. We dislike government in the abstract: According to CNN, 67 percent of people favor balancing the budget even when the country is in a recession or a war, which is madness. But we love government in the particular: Even larger majorities oppose the kind of spending cuts that would reduce projected deficits, let alone eliminate them. Nearly half the public wants to cancel the Obama stimulus, and a strong majority doesn't want another round of it. But 80-plus percent of people want to extend unemployment benefits and to spend more money on roads and bridges. There's another term for that stuff: more stimulus spending.

With all this in the background, Weisburg warns ominously that the politicians who will thrive are those who can best "call for the impossible with a straight face." Like Scott Brown, the newly-minted senator of Massachusetts, someone who wants to call himself a deficit hawk while pushing tax cuts.

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