Friday, April 30, 2010

You Can't Drink The Kool-Aid If The Well's Run Dry

Conservatives are beginning to recognize that their intellectual well has run dry. Says one:
Every intellectual movement needs to constantly question itself; otherwise it becomes stale. But conservatives have sort of reached a position of intellectual closure. They don’t think there are any new ideas of particular interest to them. Their philosophy is fully formed. The only question is how best to implement conservative ideas in the political debate.
Maybe this is the case and maybe it isn't; I'm not privy to the internal conservative debate, nor do I care to be. But I can say this much: At one time, there was broad agreement across the mainstream political spectrum about the problems facing the country. There may have been disagreement about priorities and obstacles, but the debate was about the means to address the issues.

But starting with the Bush I campaign masterminded by Lee Atwater and continued by Newt Gingrich, Republicans began making matters personal. They impugned the integrity, patriotism, and motives of millions of Americans, polarizing the country in the interests of seizing and keeping power. The right-wing media joined in and created an amen chorus of tender voices such as Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly. Conservatives deliberately courted the anti-intellectual element in the country so far as to make a virtue of ignorance. So, they shouldn't complain that the teabaggers they welcomed into the house have become the face of conservatism.

Moreover, the consensus about the issues facing the country has disappeared. Although the new health care law adopts historically Republican principles, the party has moved so far to the right as to deny the existence of a health care crisis at all. Similarly with climate change, Republicans call it a hoax (why anyone would make a hoax out of climate has never been explained) and offer no conservative solution at all. Banking crisis? What banking crisis? We don't even want to talk about it.

And even when they admit to a problem, doing nothing about it remains the Republican preference. Between the cooperation required between two branches of government and between both houses of a bicameral legislature, competing committees claiming oversight, and a mountain of arcane procedures, it's incredibly difficult for the United States government to pass major legislation. (Health care took 75 years, when you get right down to it). Both parties are masters of delay, and Republicans have flogged and demeaned government for thirty years, ever since Ronald Reagan famously declared it to be the problem and not the solution. Moreover, Republicans have championed the slowness of the process as a civic good, since it prevents the federal government from passing laws willy-nilly.

So it's especially galling when the same week that he refused to introduce climate change legislation because Harry Reid wanted to take up immigration reform first, Republican Lindsay Graham sanctimoniously pronounced the Arizona immigration bill as bad law that reflects "what good people will do" when they have no other choice. He added that immigration reform is "impossible" until the border is "secure" (whatever that means). But would Graham support raising taxes to recruit additional Border Patrol agents and take other security measures? I think we know what the answer to that is.

Immigration reform vexes Republicans because there's really no approach other than one negotiated by the federal government. But the paucity of ideas among conservatives has become so pronounced that all they can do is the blame government inaction and then refuse to take any steps. No wonder the Democrats will move forward on their own. They had to on health care, and had to threaten to financial reform. Why should this be any different? It's not like the Republicans have any ideas of their own...

The New Orleans Ladder is performing a banner job providing links to stories, web sites, and blogs about the  unfolding free-market environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. From what I've read, the Gulf Coast may have to prepare itself for the possibility that the leak cannot be capped and that the ensuing disaster will be greater than the Valdez spill into Prince William Sound. While British Petroleum operated the blown rig, it's beginning to look to as if the most culpable party may be Halliburton. You may have to go back to the British East India Company to identify a single corporation that has had a more malign influence on the world...

Between predatory bankers, rapacious Wall Street traders, the mine disaster in West Virginia, and the oil spill in the Gulf, you'd think that people have had a belly full of an unregulated free market. We'll see...

Thirty Days Out has a complete 1977 concert by the great NOLA funk group The Meters here...

Timothy Noah asks, if the Republicans are riding so high, how come they're running so scared?...

Seattle Seahawk great Walter Jones retired today. The Seahawks retired his number immediately. Beloved in Seattle, Jones will go down in NFL history as one of the great left tackles ever. A quiet, proud man who let his play speak for him, Jones' teammates loved him and rarely missed a chance to tell the world what a great player he was. Mike Holmgren, whose charges included Steve Young and Brett Favre, said that Big Walt was the best offensive player he had coached. A couple years ago at a Seahawks game, I handed my son a pair of binoculars and suggested that he watch #71 in action. "It's like he's not even trying!" And this was a compliment, believe me. Walter Jones, who started 180 consecutive games and surrendered a little over one sack per season, was that dominant.




William Bell sings "You Don't Miss Your Water" with help from Marvell Thomas on piano:

8 comments:

Foxessa said...

OF COURSE *&^%$#@* HALLIBURTON!

It's driving me crazy. It's just like after Katrina. The consciousness here on the street of anything going on down in Gulf that is a catastrophe is zero. It's all about shopping and eating at stupid tables on sidewalks overrun with rats.

Love, C.

Roy said...

Why am I not at all surprised to learn that Haliburton may very well be responsible for what looks to become the country's worst environmental disaster? Do these guys actually do decent work sometime, or is all their work shoddy?

Isn't it in the very nature of conservatism to not have new ideas at all, much less run out of them? I always thought it was the conservative's "job" in society to say no to anything new. Although you're right, it used to be part of the process, a sort of natural counterbalance when discussing the issues at hand, and since Lee Atwater and Newt things have gotten totally out of balance.

Great video with William Bell and Marvell Thomas!

Rastamick61 said...

This posting title sounds like a song Hunter would have written for BoB weir and Jerry garcia to sing ! I had the same reaction when I heard the slipshoddery of Halliburton has branched out from serving our guys rotten food and ice cubes with corpse fluids in them and now they are destroying the gulf of mexico. If a college kid wrote this Halliburton script for a fiction class it'd be rejected as trite and unbelievable. We know better though...

K. said...

C: People out here have been slow to grasp it as well, and this is an environmentally aware part of the country. I'm guessing that BP's early efforts to hide the magnitude of the leak has contributed to the apathy.

Roy: I thought the same about conservative ideology until I read this book about the history of health care reform. If the New Deal accomplished anything, it was to establish government as a player in the economy. As health care reform played out, conservatives became so concerned about the possibility of a single-system that they developed alternatives based on a government-market partnership. As we know, this prevailed. And if the right wasn't so blinded by hatred for Barack Obama, they'd recognize that.

Which gets to my point: At one time, conservatives agreed with liberals that there was a problem with health care access. The debate was over how much government involvement (and note that I say "how much" and not "whether") was needed to address the problem, not whether there was a problem at all. Politically and personally (with each president), there was much more going on, but ideologically that's what it came down to from the 50s right through Bush II. This time around, though, the Republican response was so lame as to deny that there was an issue at all.

Rasta: The second that I read the H word, all became clear. And Little Dick Cheney counts them as a success story on his resume.

K. said...

I recently had a brief exchange with a conservative on another blog. He responded to a point I made with "You lie," then explained why he thought I was wrong.

He truly did not grasp that there might be a distinction between the two. The identification of conservatism with Truth was so complete that to disagree with it was to lie.

The guy seemed smart enough, but exemplified what can happen when intelligence is not amplified by critical or analytical skills. In short, zero intellectual ability. I see that all over the blogosphere, too: A reliance on ideological certitude reinforced by talking points. Big deal.

K. said...

BTW, Rasta, this Deadhead can't think of a higher compliment than to have his blog title compared to a Robert Hunter song! Jerry Lives!

Nance said...

On Lindsay Graham: He only looks good as compared to the rest of South Carolina...and I live here. You're right not to jump on the Graham bandwagon. "Sanctimonious" is perfect for him. Add mealy-mouthed. Self-righteous. Slippery.

On Republican solutions: I heard a Tea Party-ite describe the foundation of their ideology as 1) lower taxes, 2) less government, and 3) free market solutions. If that's the Tea Party, then they've swallowed and been swallowed by the Republican Party. Those three elements comprise the whole of Republican solutions. All the rest that I've heard from Republicans are various iterations of taboo, superstition, and religion...best I can tell.

Gosh, did that sound bitter?

K. said...

It's the flagrant hypocrisy that gets me. Graham knows he get away with garbage like that because no one will call him on it. He must hold his supporters in complete contempt. The sad part is, it's probably merited.

Geez, the baggers sure were silent when the Republicans were blocking Wall St. reform, weren't they? They hate Wall St, but they also hate Obama. It's like competing hatreds worked on them like an elephant tranquilizer.