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Health Care Aftermath: A Multiplied Dose of Toxic Partisanship


It's not quite an aftermath yet, as there are a few steps to go. But the shape of the landscape is clear enough - and unsurprising. President Obama, as was easy to forsee, is well on his way to becoming one of the USA's most divisive Presidents.

That a guy who proclaimed himself to be "post-partisan" should take toxic partisanship to heights not seen since the Watergate era... is only surprising to those who wanted to be conned. To believe that the most left-wing senator in the USA, with a congress run by Nancy Pelosi, and a personal history of abdicating the initiative to his party, would be anything other than the divisive figure he has become, was always a fool's expectation.

The rise in partisanship, and rancor, may not even be a bad thing. Obama and "President" Pelosi have been uniformly excellent at exacerbating the USA's most pressing problems, and that has consequences. Dealing with those consequences will require major shifts in America, as is characteristic of Fourth Turning/ Winter generational periods. In that cold environment, clarity of choice is a virtue, and bitter battles to be expected.

In that environment, too, the destruction of 60+ vote and bi-partisan expectations for major reforms may also prove useful. What it will not be, is stabilizing.


So... who would come just behind Obama? I would guess Bush(W), then Clinton... and then maybe Nixon and FDR?

Clearly, the most divisive presidents in my list have come back to back. I don't think it's an accident. And I'm willing to be the next president will claim something akin to "post-partisan".... and will fail dramatically as well. I think "partisanship" is going to be difficult for ANY president in the near future.

Part of the problem is the changing in media... both fracturing of audiences, and the realization that ratings favor smut over in-depth reporting, the addiction to "instant news", as well as the sudden attention given to blogs. Some (like this one) can be informative, others... create partisan misinformation.

Part of the problem is the tenor of the parties, (partly created by the media) where "eviscerating" your opponent is worth more than carefully crafting & compromising on legislation.

As long as this things are true, bi-partisanship will be impossible.

The reaction, then, has to be something other than a pendulum swing to the other side. It must be a genuinely new direction, that has a credible response to the 19th Century social democratic claptrap that this health care bill represents, and so far the Republicans really don't have a clue about how to pitch this. "Remember in November" just doesn't quite cut it. Remember and do what, exactly? Repeal and do what, exactly? How do you define the parameters of fair public policy so that this sort of travesty doesn't just keep happening, and we don't spend the next century just swinging the pendulum wildly back and forth?

It is clear now that we live in a country in which there are two points of view, diametrically opposed, about the very fundamental basis of the State. On the one side is a group which believes that the power of the State should be essentially unlimited, that the government should have the power to do whatever is necessary, and should act for the common good, without regard to charters, procedures or anything else. Essentially, this group believes that the government can do whatever doesn't start a revolution, and by the way let's ban guns while we're at it.

The other group believes that government's powers should be limited, and should be stated up front in a charter which is enforced as written. They may disagree on what the government's powers should be, or the degree of specificity necessary in the charter, but fundamentally they believe that the government's powers are in some way restricted.

These two groups cannot co-exist in the same society, and both get their way, because the objectives of each, the fundamental moral principles of each, are diametrically opposed. And no, these groups do not neatly break down along party lines. Assuming neither side is willing to change their fundametal moral and political principles en masse, it is thus only a matter of time before one of three outcomes occurs: either one side takes power over the other, either destroying them, banishing them, or removing their ability to participate in public discourse in some other way; or one side leaves, either through secession or emigration; or we find a way to come to a common understanding that we can all agree on.

The only peaceful outcome is the last: the first would lead to civil war or tyranny or both, and the second almost certainly would lead to civil war (in fact, that was the situation in the Civil War we already fought). I would prefer the third course, and to that end I think it's time for a new Constitutional Convention. (I guess that tells you which group I'm in.) Barring that, if there's going to be a fight, I want it now, before my sons are old enough to have to be involved.

You might want to ask your co-blogger about being surprised by his divisiveness. What's especially galling about this is that his opponent was someone infamous - much to the consternation of his base - for actual bipartisan accomplishments, and not mere rhetoric. Ditto for his running mate, too.

I read a blog post not too long ago on Milton Mayer's They Thought They Were Free, and part of the following passage seems relevant to the attitudes of a lot of Americans today:

My friends wanted Germany purified. They wanted it purified of the politicians, of all the politicians. They wanted a representative leader in place of unrepresentative representatives. And Hitler, the pure man, the antipolitician, was the man, untainted by “politics,” which was only a cloak for corruption…Against “the whole pack,” “the whole kaboodle,” “the whole business,” against all the parliamentary parties, my friends evoked Hitlerism, and Hitlerism overthrew them all…

This was the Bewegung, the movement, that restored my friends and bewitched them. Those Germans who saw it all at the beginning—there were not very many; there never are, I suppose, anywhere—called Hitler the Rattenfänger, the “ratcatcher.” Every American child has read The Pied-Piper of Hamlin. Every German child has read it, too. In German its title is Der Rattenfänger von Hameln


On the one hand, I hope that the partisan atmosphere is charging the citizenry to be less apathetic about politics (and it seems to be) so that we might have the motivation to go a "third direction." On the other hand, I worry what a "third direction" might be.


I agree with the Demosophist in principle. I may or may not agree with him on the particulars. (I mean that seriously-- I just do not know if we will agree if we both state our particular visions.)

If the Republicans want to provide a clear choice to me, and become more appealing to me, though, the best thing they could do is to muzzle the social conservative wing and jettison the social conservative challenging candidates.

Alas, for me, this is not a theoretical statement.

Because, seriously, I'm going to have a very hard time holding my nose and voting for someone I think is a loon on social issues-- and anyone who thinks that the Federal Government needs to be involved in telling gay people that they can or can't marry clearly has different ideas than I do on the notion of "limited government," and "personal responsibility." Limited governent means not deciding peoples' marriages for them, and personal responsibility means letting people actually make choices you disagree with. Certainly, such a person is going to misinterpret my protest vote as actual support for his dying-and-almost-dead social agenda.

Republicans have just as hard a time with that as Democrats, just in different ways. (Does this sound libertarian? Maybe, with a small-L. Did I chastise libertarians before? Yes, but only the rabid type who defend on principle the right to watch people starve. And the libertarians have to stop fronting buffoons like Ron Paul with really dubious pasts and some sort of bizarre attraction to the gold standard.)

Other peoples' mileage may vary.

The other group believes that government's powers should be limited, and should be stated up front in a charter which is enforced as written

Since republicans were arguing for unlimited eavesdropping rules, detentions without trials, and changing the definition of "torture" to better fit the state's intentions... this statement is more than just a little misleading.

Barring that, if there's going to be a fight, I want it now, before my sons are old enough to have to be involved.

Take a quick look at civil wars throughout history. Or just look at any conflict in the last 50 years. If we have another civil war, it's going to be ugly. A lot of people would die, many of them innocent bystanders. This is not something we should rush to "get over with".

1. President Obama, as was easy to forsee, is well on his way to becoming one of the USA's most divisive Presidents. 2. The rise in partisanship, and rancor, may not even be a bad thing.

As to the first point, I don't buy it. Obama has made a genuine effort to obtain bi-partisan engagement in the health care debate, as well as the stimuluous bill. On the other hand, the strategy of the Republican party to block the Democrats from passing any bill whatsoever in order to gain political advantage (ala '94) is uncompromisingly partisan. I think that George W. speech writer David Frum in his recent Waterloo article, linked by others on this site, but studiously ignored here, is on the money. As Frum puts it there:

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994. . . . Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994. . . Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.

As to the second point, Frum makes what I think is a really interesting observation and suggests that the partisanship is driven by, and benefits the political commentariat:

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds. So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished.

What do people think about that? Is there more than a grain of truth? If so, is it a problem? If so, how can we help make things better?

Frum does have more than a grain of truth in there, even if he is part of the commentariat now. I've been saying it for years, to all my friends who would listen (depending on which way they leaned.)

Consrvatives: Krauthammer is not your friend. Rush Limbaugh is not your friend. Glen Beck is not your friend. Ann Coulter is not your friend.

Liberals: Arianna Huffington is not your friend. Markos Moulitsas is not your friend. Matthew Yglesias is not your friend. Ezra Klein is not your friend.

All you have to do is catch these people-- any of these people-- writing about a complex subject that you happen to know something about, enough to have been back and forth on the issues in your own mind, enough to know that the issues really are issues and not just a case of people being obstreperous cranks. Do that, and you'll notice the inevitable glib simplifications that they give things.

They cater to two closely overlapping groups: People who love to believe in their own superior and inevitable correctness, and people who love to be outraged.

You don't keep those audiences by making careful, sober philosophically grounded political arguments. You keep those audiences, and direct their righteous-seeming anger, with red meat.

(As a sidenote, while I don't think Obama is the most divisive president in modern history, I also don't really buy the notion that he made any significant effort for bipartisanship. Saying, "Please vote for my plan that I know you hate," is not bipartisanship. And no, I'm not giving the Republicans a free pass here, either, even though I wouldn't have voted for that thing, either.)

OK, Roland and toc3, we've got it: This week's talking point is Frum good, Tea Partiers bad. Check.

Meanwhile, I think Marcus has it. If the R's want to stand up as the party of limited government, and against leftist nannyism, they are going to have to give up the social conservative nannyism, along with their own big spending.

I say 'give up', but there's very good chance that the R's will be taken over from within by the Tea Party folks, who will dump the big spending RINOs in the party organization. (That would be the Steele, Frum and W wing.) The remaining question is whether they can also leave behind the social nannyism. I'm optimistic based on what I've seen in California, but this place is an outlier, as I'll be the first to admit.

(And I'm not sure that Obama is #1, but I'd put him right up there with Nixon and LBJ, my other 'favorites' for most divisive.)

Clinton was not a divisive President. Driving the opposition crazy does not necessarily equal divisive. He passed major initiatives in conjunction with a Republican congress, and those initiatives have lasted almost 2 decades now. It was, in fact, Clinton who was generally cited as the model, if Obama wanted to keep his promises about post-partisanship. There's a reason for that.

LBJ was also not a divisive President. He, too, passed major legislation with very broad bi-partisan support - most especially the Civil Rights Act. He was undone by the Left within his own party, and presided over a country dividing itself. His contribution to that was minimal, and absolutely non-unique.

Geroge W. Bush was a divisive President in his decisions, but again, note an interesting pattern in Congress re: major initiatives. Iraq War? Bi-partisan vote, large majority. No Child Left Behind? Gave a major role to Ted Kennedy, again a broad bi-partisan vote (until the Democrats were in a better position to repay their owners in the teachers' unions). The Surge was Bush's start to finish... whereupon America won in Iraq, which prevented it from becoming an issue.

Even Reagan, for all his bold vision, had a Democrat-controlled Congress and Senate at all times. Everything he passed required significant numbers of centrist Democrats.

So if we're looking for Obama comparisons, we probably have to look to Nixon for any modern comparison. And that's a poor comparison, since Nixon's main issue was illegality. Nobody has yet shown a similar pattern from Obama, so I'm going to rule out Nixon as a comparison - though we can expect a Nixonian political atmosphere from here on.

As to "Obama has made a genuine effort to obtain bi-partisan engagement in the health care debate, as well as the stimuluous bill."

That is simply untrue. He made the effort he had to make, in order to bring Democrats on side. The Democrats consistently rebuffed Republican initiatives, acted in bad faith, and refused to consider even no-brainers like tort reform, which would have made a health care vote hard for Republicans.

This has been a straight party-line effort from the get-go, led by hard-line ideologues in the Presidency and the Speaker's Chair.

Joe: While this bill was not my ideal bill, most people have noted that it was fairly similar to the Romney bill posted with much republican fanfare.

On that note, I feel fairly skeptical that republicans would have agreed to ANY bill that held sway in the democratic party. You can say that's because democrats are too far to the left, bu they were elected, and so (to use Bush's term) it was their "mandate".

Furthermore, this is what Obama was elected to do (whether or not people realized it). This health care plan/stimulus plan was basically at the forefront of his entire campaign (more or less).

Republicans had their chance, and did nothing to address general healthcare issues (I considered the prescription drug bill a dodge on the more difficult questions).

Roland, before you make a stand on Obama's genuine effort, read this ...

It paints a very different picture, and worse, by going public with this image, they will make cooperative bipartisanship virtually impossible in the near future.

It's gonna be a fistfight. The Democrats will win in the intermediate term, because elections have consequences. But if they're not very, very smart this will wind up cutting strongly against them in a year...


The stench wafting from the party's decay is becoming overwhelming. It is leaderless, void of any philosophy and has turned itself over to the Limbaugh - Tea Party - Palin Reign of Terror.

Yet, aside from Lindsey Graham I have yet to hear a Republican Leader speak out against these people. We have been watching the Party walk in lemming like lock step towards its own destruction for the past 10 years and we are supposed to blame the Democrats for this?

When is this madness going to end. The performance of the party over the past 14 months has been abysmal, yet no one seems to be willing to point to the reasons why.

"Conservatives: Krauthammer is not your friend. Rush Limbaugh is not your friend. Glen Beck is not your friend. Ann Coulter is not your friend."

The RNC should be handing out t-shirts with these words emblazoned on them. then we may be seeing the light at the end of a long dark tunnel.

Tim, if the Republicans really muzzle the social conservatives, I'd not only vote Republican, I'd give serious thought to formally joining the party.

I know I'm not alone either, at least in general sentiment. I know a lot of people who, over the last five years or so, said they would at least vote for Republicans if they thought the Republicans would stop pushing the social agenda so damn hard.

Conversely, I don't know anyone who has ever gone the other way and said they're happy with the social agenda but vote Democrat because they don't like the Republicans' fiscal policy.

And that trend is only going to deepen over time: see here and here and here. Republicans need to pick a fight they can win.

There's nothing wrong with partisanship. It gives people a choice.

What's really dangerous is when both parties want the same base and agree tacitly to move to the same policies, and those policies are wrong. Then you go down the gurgler with no chance to pick an Option B.

This is the case in America now. (And in too many ways in Australia too.) The "battle" is between the side that wants the government to run everything and make (formerly) traditional morality impractical if not illegal, and that has a base of systematically state-favored insular "minorities"; and the party that has no principled objection to any of the above and would rather woo the base of its opponents than support its own neglected and declining base.

In the health care battle, Obama did what it took to win, and he was right to. It was a revolutionary act, and the country will be transformed. Revolutions don't have to play by ordinary rules. They make their own rules, and it's up to those living in the changed world to adjust.

The Republicans are already signaling that they will not unite to repeal Obamacare, so it's bipartisan enough for practical purposes, isn't it?

Obama was up against the cynical, the spineless and the Stupak.

What was he supposed to do? Give these suckers an even break? Give up the chance to socialize one of the commanding heights of the economy? And in so doing, destroy his own presidency? Why would he do that?

Obama seized supreme state power for a reason, to do something.

Americans voted for socialism when they voted for Obama, just as Al Sharpton said. So they should get it. Or, if they didn't realize that, a voting majority of them proved they were too stupid to manage their own affairs. So the state will manage their affairs for them.

It's a heart-breaker for Americans that knew better, and foreigners that like them and want to see America do well. But the right wing party should have given the voters a better choice, instead of standing for bipartisanship, and implied promises to do things like pick a fight with Russia over Georgia while supporting illegal immigration.


The Slate article suggesting the February 24, 2010 summitt was theater sounds right to me. However, it was theater precisely because it was a foregone conclusion going in that the Republicans would stay united in opposition and hell bent on sinking the legislation. McCain, McConnell, Boenher et al could have called their bluff, but they had no intention of doing so because they felt confident they could sink the bill.

The genuine part of reaching out by Democrats happened a year ago, through the death panel summer, and during the Max Baucus efforts It also happened through the substance of the bill. Even without a single Republican vote, as Frum points out, the genesis of a lot of this bill is in Republican ideas. From a policy standpoint this is a bipartisan bill. It is partisan only in a purely political sense. Any possibility for political bipartisanship died by the time Olympia Snow pulled out in September '09 and the Republican opposition was cast in stone.

Joe # 11:

Joe: Tort reform did make it in the Senate bill as one of those pilot programs. There is $50 million for states to implement it. If Repulicans had engaged in this process, this is one thing for which they may well have garnered support from Obama. [I happen to think that tort reform is an emotional football and not effective policy; but if people want to include it, why not give it a go.]

"From a policy standpoint this is a bipartisan bill."

If there was no truth in that, the Republicans would have united at once to drive for repeal and nothing but.

You can say the same about economy-cracking deficits, bailouts, and all sorts of other things. There's more bipartisanship about it than the right base wants to look straight at.

"There is non-controversial stuff here like the preexisting conditions exclusion and those sorts of things..."
- Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas)


A brief note on the word bipartisan:

I may not be able to give a perfect definition of the word, but, to abuse a phrase, I know when I'm not looking at it. Let me give two hypothetical examples.

Let's say that Congress is considering a bill that would largely do something non-controversial. In this climate, I'm having a hard time figuring out what that would be, but let's say they're voting to overhaul and update the FAA regulation. (A small piece, voting to upgrade radar equipment to GPS based equipment recently sailed through the Senate with something like a 95 to 0 approval. As bipartisan as you can get, although the vote count is not the important part.)

If someone were to add a provision to that bill making it illegal for any airport or airline employees to unionize, well, that would make the bill kinda partisan, right?

Likewise, if someone were to add a provision to that bill making it mandator for all airport and airline employees everywhere (except executive class management, I guess) to be unionized, that would be kinda partisan, too.

So, pointing at one or even many clauses in a bill that have bipartisan support does not make a bill bipartisan in spirit. Pointing at clauses toxic to one side or the other, though, does make it partisan, unless those clauses were bargained in by good faith and the people opposed to them are getting something else by compensation.

And many things in that bill wereWW law are simply toxic to Republicans. I don't have to be a Republican to realize that.

BTW: I love that some republicans have answered Obama's partisanship with by shutting down the government after 2pm. Including hearings on the Afghanistan police force that require military leaders from around the globe.


So if President Romney passes a law with his republican congress on a straight party line vote via reconciliation repealing ObamaCare, but he keeps in the preexisting conditions item, that too will be a bipartisan effort?

What does real bipartisanship look like?

When LBJ wanted to sign a Civil Rights Act, he met with Hubert Humphrey to devise a strategy. He said the key would be the Republican Minority Leader, Everett Dirksen. Dirksen likes to bend the elbow, so Humphrey you need to go out drinking with him as often as you can. Give him whatever he wants to get this bill. Everett can be self-important, so watch out that he don't feel disrespected.

Dirksen essentially wrote the Act, meeting slowly with conservative Republicans from the West and Prairie states, listening to their concerns about limited government, developing laws that emphasized opportunity to succeed and warning about the increasing popular support for more radical changes to society.

Humphrey said he would have kissed Dirksen's @ss on the steps of the Capital to get the Civil Rights Act passed. Humphrey was patient, and probably put up with a lot of crap, but he got it.

You know toc, Tim and Marcus, it always pisses me off when you libertarian types (or whatever kind of "conservatives" you call yourselves) pretend that social conservatives are a bunch of knuckle dragging theocratic fascists, as though people like Robert George, George Weigel, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Mary Eberstadt don't exist or are morons or as though cultural breakdown doesn't have economic and social consequences that do real harm to real people. But in this context it's especially infuriating. It reminds me of nothing so much as the scene in "Life of Bryan" when the two Judean terrorist groups plotting to kidnap Pilate's wife meet under Pilate's home. When they immediately start arguing over whose idea it was to kidnap her, Bryan says "Shouldn't we be fighting the common enemy?" Both groups then turn around and yell, "The Judean People's Front!" To which Bryan replies "No, no, the Romans!" Right now the common enemy is the Democrats. If we're going to save our country from the kinds of policies that failed spectacularly thirty years ago, in fact, those policies on steroids, we're going to have to pull together. We can debate our internal differences after the immediate danger has passed.

When there was a sincere effort to scale down Leviathan during the Reagan years, libertarians did pretty much what they do now:

1. Some of them pitched in, supporting Republicans like Reagan and Kemp.

2. Some of them sat around listening to the great Dr. Ron Paul rave about abolishing the FBI.

3. Some of them joined the Democrats in howling about how Reagan was an imperialist maniac who wanted to blow up the world and force gay people to become Mormons.

Afterward, everyone complained that nothing had been accomplished. Some of them had a right to say it, and some of them didn't.


You know toc, Tim and Marcus, it always pisses me off when you libertarian types (or whatever kind of "conservatives" you call yourselves) pretend that social conservatives are a bunch of knuckle dragging theocratic fascists, as though people like Robert George, George Weigel, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Mary Eberstadt don't exist or are morons or as though cultural breakdown doesn't have economic and social consequences that do real harm to real people.

I'm not even going to pretend I know who those people are, why you're bringing them up, or what their positions on (to pick two) gay marriage and "intelligent design" are. Even a cursory google search is less than helpful, although I gather they're against the former and for teaching the latter in public schools. I could be wrong-- even the Amazon page for Himmelfarb's book on Darwin doesn't really tell me.

I humbly submit that the reason for this-- both my own ignorance and silence, and the difficulty of pinning down their positions on core social conservative issues-- is not so much that I'm pretending anything, as that they're not actually as prominent in public discourse as you're making them out to be.


If I'm right, and their positions are what I think they are, then you're missing the point. These are losing issues for the Republicans. You are not, and never will, gain any significant traction on them. Indeed, the links I posted show pretty conclusively that, for gay marriage, you've been losing ground and will continue to lose ground as young people continue to get older and make even more young people. You're losing ground on that one within your own party. (Meaning, especially, I know perfectly well that not every Republican buys the social conservatism angle-- they just hold their noses.)

On the other hand, if I'm wrong, if some or all of those people are champions of gay rights and have no truck with "intelligent design," then I find myself overjoyed! And my advice would be, get those people, or their more charismatic devotees, to greater prominence in the Republican party! And get your candidates to listen!

they're not actually as prominent in public discourse as you're making them out to be

Unlike that famous Republican who said, "I'm opposed to any kind of health care reform, because I want to watch poor sick people die in the street."

I will admit I am as ignorant of these people as Marcus, but I don't think that is relevant to anything I have posted in this thread.

As a Republican, I would like to win once in a while, which is becoming more elusive, IMO, as time goes on, due to a number of things that I have mentioned: Divisive Rovian Politics, naive and delusional NeoCon dreams of "Might Makes Right/Moral use of Power" empire building, etc.

That being said, I don't believe the path to victory and majority status runs through the Social Conservative Neighborhood. Nor, as I see it, does:
- The attempted purging from the Party of RINOs,
- The excoriation of a Former Secretary of State/Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a life long commitment to service to his country by a bunch of loudmouths and blowhards who have probably never been in a fist fight to defend anything, much less their "principles"
- The embracing of an embarrassingly obsequious stance taken by elected Republicans with regard to, amongst others, a certain Ego-maniacal Talk Radio Host and an certain emotionally disturbed Television Host that produce conspiracy theories some complete with chalk drawings on a daily basis.

I would simply like the party to have a philosophy that:
- Proclaims Fiscal Conservatism as its bedrock.
- Focuses on pro-business and pro-growth policies
- Has much less focus on the social and religious beliefs of its members.
- Does not pursue a Wilsonian, Polyanna-ish, Nation Building Foreign Policy. Something like we last saw under Bush the Elder.

Right now the party is devoid of a philosophy and as long as they are, IMO, it will continue to whither. Every Republican should take this defeat on healthcare and think of how much worse they will feel when we suffer another defeat in the fall. And that defeat is certain unless someone in the leadership starts using their brains and not getting their talking points from the the media parasites that are now feeding off the party.

If that makes me a Libertarian than fine. I think it is the perfect description of a Conservative Republican

I have been shocked by the extent to which Republicans and Democrats seem to be living in two different realities, that touch each other only at a few isolated points. After about a year of very infrequent visits to WoC, perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised by how much this same thing has infected discussion here, but my memories might have gotten rose-colored.

The goals and methods imputed to Democrats by Republicans are pretty much unrecognizable from my side (Democratic). I have every reason to believe that some of the things asserted about Republicans by Democrats might be unrecognizable, as well (for example, [31]).

It was tempting to try to explain the Democratic position, slowly and more clearly, but that's been done plenty of times, and it hasn't helped noticeably. Let me try something else.

As a scientist, I know that disagreements are the stuff that scientific progress is made from. If two serious scientists who disagree can formulate their positions as competing hypotheses, then they may be able to agree about what sort of evidence will agree or disagree with each of their hypotheses. If they are fortunate, an experiment can be designed whose result will refute at least one (possibly both) of their hypotheses. This is a big win.

The ability to do this includes (a) the ability to carry on a civil and productive discussion in spite of substantive disagreements, and (b) the willingness to admit that your hypothesis is wrong if the evidence goes against you. While this latter experience can be disappointing and annoying, going back to the drawing board is a good way to come up with a far better hypothesis the next time.

The payoff for operating this way has been the unprecedented productivity of science, technology, and the economy over the past several centuries. Can we apply similar principles to discussions of policy?

Is it possible for people with seriously different opinions about policy to discuss their differences with respect for each other, and with respect for some shared reality that each can test their positions against?

What I hear in these discussions is each side constructing a boogeyman to stand for the opposing position, and then arguing against that boogeyman. I don't think that Republicans are actually hoping to see the poor dying in the streets, or that Democrats are actually hoping for the almighty power of the State to crush all individual initiative. Contrary to what you may have heard.

Possibly those outcomes are unintended consequences of policies that seem like a good idea for other reasons. Well-intentioned people can make mistakes, and mistakes can be corrected. But not by accusing the opposition of deliberate genocide or tyranny.

(These examples were intended to sound non-controversially absurd to reasonable people on both sides. If I have misjudged my readership, then perhaps it's already too late!)

I am not very interested in the Democrats. I have said that I am a National League fan and they play American League Baseball.

Some people like American League Baseball, with its designated hitter and not having the pitcher go to bat, but for the National League fan, it only dumbs down the game and takes 90 percent of the strategy and 99 percent of the drama out of the game, because it rids the game of the tough choices that a manager has to make concerning the use of his personnel.

I don't dislike American League fans, I just feel they are deluding themselves into thinking the game they are watching is baseball at its fullest, rather than an inferior dumbed down version.

That is pretty much how I feel about Democrats.

I also realize that the AL quite often wins the World Series. I don't like that, so I take the "wait till next year approach"

From this point of view, I look at my Republican team and I see them being angry, which they should be, since they are presently the baseball equivalent of a last place club.

They had a glorious past full of star players but now seem to have deteriorated to the point that the players they have are either "talkers", making empty threats on how they are "going to perform" or "blame shifters" pointing fingers at umpires, bad luck, unfair rulings, etc., in order to hide their own glaring failures and lack of talent.

They take solace in the support of hack writers an sportscasters, but don't yet seem to want to take on what is necessary to change their present lot, a searing exercise of self examination and self criticism that leads to taking responsibility for its present shortcomings.

So, though I agree with you whole heartedly that good policy is the product of vigorous debate, I doubt that you will see much of that until the Republican Party develops a new leadership wins a few election Cycles. The Party now seems to lack the self confidence to address its problems and to take responsibilities for its failures, much like the Democrats behaved during their "Great Interregnum" the period between Johnson and Clinton.

I might be surprised, but the extended period of self destruction the party is experiencing, doesn't look like it is going to end soon, especially when you see decent people being driven from the party.

When there was a sincere effort to scale down Leviathan during the Reagan years . . .
[Glen Wishard, #28]

Sorry, Glen, the evidence doesn't support that claim. There was certainly a sincere effort to cut taxes, particularly on the upper brackets. This was probably motivated by a sincere belief that this would stimulate the economy and reduce the deficit and hence the national debt, but that's not what happened.

This may have been a well-intentioned bet on a "tax less, spend more, borrow more" policy that didn't work out. But it certainly wasn't a "sincere effort to scale down Leviathan."

(Incidentally, the site has lots of good numbers, with citations. Some readers may feel that this site is partisan, because it has little patience with positions that conflict with the numbers. But so far, the numbers seem solid. If you disagree, please provide evidence that casts quantitative doubt on the numbers. Don't just complain that you don't like the conclusions.)

Please note in my post above, that the word evidence is a link to the evidence I am referring to, which is

I noticed that the link highlighting is not particularly visible on my screen.

The people I mentioned above in #27 are intellectual social conservatives. Robert P. George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton. He is a well known conservative (social as well as political) who writes for New Atlantis and other publications. He also wrote a book called "Clash of Orthodoxies," the thesis of which is that the dispute between social conservatives and social liberals or libertarians is not one of "theocrats" opposed to people who want to "leave people alone" or people who want to "impose their morality on others" versus those who "want to let people choose their own morality." It is a clash between two distinct world views. The liberals are attempting to impose their own morality no less and perhaps more than the conservatives they attack. He is opposed to abortion and gay marriage and makes compelling philosophical arguments for those positions. The others I mentioned are writers who publish frequently in the more intellectual conservative outlets like First Things, New Atlantis, and Policy Review. They too would be pro-life, anti-gay marriage (or rather pro-traditional marriage), and otherwise culturally traditionalist. Their views on "intelligent design" are more Catholic than Fundamentalist Protestant. They do not reject the knowledge gained by our God-given reason, but they maintain that it is compatible with traditional theism. My point was that social conservatives can and do number extremely intelligent and thoughtful people among them and can and do make compelling philosophical arguments for their positions. To contemptuously dismiss them as you tend to do does a disservice to conservatism, political debate in general, and to the Republican party. By the way, I do agree that those ideological purists who stayed home in 2008 or even voted for Obama because McCain wasn't ideologically pure enough for them were acting like morons and deserve what they got in Obama. The country as a whole, though, deserves better. If you start acting like those purists, rejecting conservatives who disagree with you, the country is really f****d.

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