Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Wednesday, November 26, 2003  

All right, I'm a dirty, rotten liar. Not only did I not manage to stay away from politics, but here I am posting again. It began innocently: I just stopped by Site Meter to see what the hits were looking like (I don't know about other bloggers, but I'm drawn irresistably to see who's coming by the blog), and then I noticed a fair amount of traffic from Nathan Newman's site. Another innocent click (I'm on the slippery slope now) and I see that he's posted a response to my response to his post yesterday. (Clear?) So here we are.

Emma joins in disputing the idea that the Medicare bill is anything good for progressives, citing the popular E.J. Dionne essay a lot of folks are linking to. She sees the loss on the bill as being "about kicking the prone body of the Democrats in the head."

...As for the politics, passing a shitty bill is worse for the GOP than if the Dems had defeated it. If the Dems had defeated it, Bush could have said, "Well, I tried to fulfill my promise to give seniors a drug benefit, but the obstructions Dems stopped me." Now, Bush has full responsibility for the details of the bill and seniors won't be happy. They'll recognize that the trillions of dollars in tax cuts meant they only had this pathetic benefit available.

Nathan's point is perfectly reasonable, as is the analysis he links to by Liberal Oasis. But the reason I'm not ultimately convinced by it is the same reason I'm in a grim mood today--I think the rules have changed. Time and again, Republicans have shown they'll pass legislation that will damage the country and be wildly unpopular so long as it solidifies their position in power. Tax cuts that benefit their donors, regressive legislation that damages workers, the environment, and free trade but benefits PACs and corporate donors, a cynical war that plays a political role and benefits private contractors long connected to the White House (and who are, of course, donors): none of it makes sense by the old calculation of poll-based victory. But they don't care about popularity.

In every case, they go ahead with the legislation and worry about spinning it to the public later--this is effective for two reasons: 1) the scope of the deception (that is, the real reason for the action) is unthinkably large and dark for most Americans to accept, 2) the cost hasn't come due yet. In most cases, the legislation is set to phase in after the 2004 election. Political benefit now, expense later. Meanwhile, the GOP spin machine has been reasonably successful at turning say, a massive, dangerous giveaway to industrial polluters into the "Clear Skies" initiative.

So the question arises--what are they up to? And here we come to my "kicking in the head" theory. I believe the GOP, currently guided by revolutionary ideologues, is trying to turn momentary, fluctuating political advantage into permanant dominance. Their assault seeks to control the critical points of rule: the media, judiciary, campaign finance, markets, foreign policy, and federal programs (homeland security, education, medicare). At the same time, they have systematically targeted areas of opposition strength: the environment, labor, social programs, and the Democratic Party.

I was shaken by the Medicare success because it struck so deeply at the Dems and showed them to be so poorly organized. (If Nathan and the Liberal Oasis are right, that this doesn't cause retribution and in-fighting among Dems but does among the GOP, I'll eat some crow--happily.) Because of the success of the GOP spin machine, voter malaise, and the phasing of the Medicare Bill, I expect it to principally profit Republicans. They will have stolen a major issue from the Dems, managed to further gild their corporate donors' bank accounts, and paid no penalty by next November. When the bill does come due, I worry that Republicans will have successfully created such an impressive bulwark of K Street influence, corporate money, and political might that it won't matter anyway.

But of course, I'm in a grim and hopeless mood, and that's probably a good enough reason not to have blogged today. I'll cut my losses and quit babbling now.

posted by Jeff | 11:34 AM |
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