Monday, February 15, 2010

Articles: the quandary of partisanship

Due to a personal crisis I haven't had much time or enthusiasm for writing. I hope to do some soon.

In the meantime, I did read two good articles last week in Time magazine. One was by David Frum in which he discussed the possibility of moderation coming back to the Republican party. An excerpt:
“Yes, when unemployment exceeds 10%, the GOP can elect a Senator in Massachusetts. But what happens when the economy returns to more normal conditions? The Republicans' recent electoral successes do not overcome 20 years of GOP difficulty appealing to women, young people and the college-educated. It wins elections by accumulating a huge supermajority in one demographic: whites, especially white men, who are not poor but who have not finished college. That's a big slice of America, but it's a shrinking slice.”

“Members of this new miniwave of moderate Republicans support national defense, are eager to cut other federal spending and are hostile to Democratic attempts to reregulate the economy. But these newcomers also understand that the health care status quo is unsustainable. They seek a middle way on abortion and gay rights. They want to protect the environment. And they eschew the inflammatory rhetoric of the tea parties and town halls. We don't even have a name for this kind of Republican. In the 1980s, we called them Gypsy Moths, after a pest prevalent in the Northeast. But this new strain is not found only in the Northeast, and it is not a pest. It represents the best home for a center-right politics of the future.”

The second was by Joe Klein about President Obama dealing with the obstructionism of the GOP. An excerpt:
“In Baltimore, the House Republicans seemed hurt that the President wasn't listening to their "new" ideas. Unfortunately, most of these have the sophistication of policy seminars run by high school Libertarian clubs. One of their leading intellectual lights, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has offered a Medicare reform proposal that should kill any chance he has of winning higher office: he would privatize Medicare and deliver unto the elderly vouchers that would gradually lose much of their value. This would save a boatload of money, of course ... but one wonders whether the party that gave the world "death panels" would stand behind such an all-out assault on the financial security of the nation's most devout voters.”

“This is quite sad. I've been a fan of a great many Republican policy initiatives in the past. I supported the Republican universal health care plan in 1993 (which Obama's current proposal resembles). I've supported lots of Republican urban-policy ideas, especially when it comes to education. I think the realism deployed overseas by Presidents like Eisenhower, Nixon (except for Vietnam) and Bush the Elder is the wisest foreign policy on offer. But the current Republican Party is about none of these. It is about tactical political gain to the exclusion of all else.”

Also, a good article in Newsweek by Jacob Weisberg putting much of the blame for our current hyper-partisanship crisis — us, the voters. An excerpt:
“Some say that the public is in an angry, populist, tea-partying mood. But a lot more people are watching American Idol than Glenn Beck, and our collective illogic is mostly passive rather than militant. The better explanation is that the public lives in Candyland, where government can tackle the big problems and get out of the way at the same time. In this respect, the whole country is becoming more and more like California, where the state's bonds have dropped to an A- rating (the same level as Libya's) thanks to a referendum system that allows the people to be even more irresponsible than their elected representatives. We like the idea of sacrifices and hard choices in theory. When was the last time we made one?”

“I don't mean to suggest that honesty vs. dishonesty is what divides the two parties. Increasingly, the crucial distinction is between the minority of serious politicians on either side who are prepared to speak frankly about our choices and the majority who indulge the public's delusions. I would put President Obama and his economic team in the first category, along with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Republicans are more indulgent of the public's unrealism in general, but Democrats have spent years fostering their own kinds of denial. Where Republicans encourage myths about taxes, spending, and climate change, Democrats tend to stoke our fantasies about the sustainability of entitlement spending and the cost of social programs.”

Much of this is nothing that anyone wants to face, but much of it are hard truths that we're all going to have to.

No comments: