Why it Went the Way it Did

Mkay, wish I was wrong about this thing, but in the end I was right.

US may avert default as Boehner blinks

US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner told Republican lawmakers yesterday he will give President Barack Obama a proposal extending the government’s ability to borrow money through Nov 22 – but only if he agrees to negotiate over ending a partial government shutdown and a longer-term increase in the debt ceiling.

Though the Republican proposal could avert an unprecedented federal default that the Obama administration has warned could occur as early as Oct 17, it would not necessarily bring a quick end to the separate 10-day partial federal shutdown. Mr Obama has insisted that Congress reopen the government without condition.

And here is what I said:

I think the democrats are really nervous right now. They have a lot of spinning to do. They’re pretty good at it, they usually win, and my money is still on them winning this time. They probably don’t have too much to fear.

When there is a shutdown, Republicans pay a higher day-by-day political cost for it than democrats. It was true in 1995, it’s true now, it’s always been true. It doesn’t make any sense, since the Republican message is — at least it’s supposed to be — that we need to pull out of this cul de sac of centralized planning and government-administered everything. And in a rational universe, a “shutdown” would be seen as concrete evidence of exactly that, that this configuration isn’t good for us or for our country, and isn’t sustainable.

Complex and ProfoundBut there are a lot of things anchoring us in this irrational, silly universe. The prevailing viewpoint, both within the Republican party and outside of it, is that Republicans are loathed and cannot generate any sympathy or camaraderie with anyone who isn’t already a loyal Republican, and it’s the fault of those Tea Party types. They need to reject the extreme ideas of those zealots with identifiable ideas, and embrace the “mainstream”; lose the vibrant hues and paint with more pastel. I would say, ordinarily, that the thing they should do is neither accept or reject that theory, but instead put it to a test. Ordinarily. The thing about that, though, is that this has already been tested for the last thirty years or so, through our presidential elections. These “reach-across-the-aisle-and-compromise” types of Republican candidates, lose. Every. Single. Time. Meanwhile, you go back a hundred years give-or-take, and you see it’s rather exceptional for Republicans to lose. So there is a problem for this prevailing viewpoint, and as is usually the case, the problem is reality. The theory doesn’t test well.

The tests say, for Republicans to win, they have to do what political candidates from all parties have to do. They have to do what you and I have to do when we go to job interviews. Answer the question: Why you, and not him?

Well, when you lose, the thing to do is learn. Victory always comes to those who are willing to learn, you know. It may take awhile, but the thing about victory is it’s very often the culmination of lots of past defeats, coupled with learning. So, the Republicans could take the tack of “the public has spoken, now let’s all act like democrats,” but what’s the point? That only makes sense if you’re a politician. It’s like, due to the whim of majority rule, quit bailing water out of the boat, drop the bucket, grab an ax, and help make some new holes in it. Why would you do that? You want to be popular, or do you want to fix a problem?

Submitted for someone with real influence to peruse at their leisure; things the Republicans could address, first, if they wanted to fix the problem. Some of these have been broken for quite some time. But if they aren’t fixed before the next shutdown, I’m going to bet my money on the same outcome and I’m probably going to win that one too.

1. The media “watchdog” is a lap dog. There isn’t a lot that can be done about this, at least, not by Republicans. But, it still might be helpful to examine the reasons why. The media has a tendency to be staffed by progressives in the first place, since it’s appealing to the youthful to say “I’m going to become a journalist and change the world for the better.” That means activist journalism, left-wing by its very nature. Thinking on it a little bit harder and deeper, I think it’s pretty clear to everyone what responsible, unbiased reporting really is — and that’s boring. Nobody wants to be that when they grow up. Nobody wants to deliver the facts to the viewers & readers, so that the viewers and readers can make up their own minds. People like to talk about that a lot, but there aren’t that many who are really delivering on it. And then, you have to think about what news, as a commodity, is actually worth. The media has a vested material interest in lefty governance, because when unemployment is high, crime is rampant and resource allocation planning is centralized, news becomes much more important. Think about what a newspaper costs in Chicago or New York City. What’s the local paper cost in Mayberry, USA, or anyplace out in the “breadbasket” where addresses contain words like “township” and “section”; there is a reason for that. People want whatever they’re selling, to be precious. News people want news to be precious. So they want lefties to be running things. It’s just natural.

2. Feelings that glorify style over substance, and immediate gratification, carry the greatest currency right now. The expressed thoughts that are attached to these feelings, resonate most surely and most powerfully. Unlike #1 above, this is not a timeless/endless thing, although it might still be outside of the control of anybody who gives a rip. The most likely situation here is that there is something we can do, but the thing to do is wait awhile. It’s a cyclical thing, almost a seasonal thing. The national mood since about 2005 or 2006 can best be expressed as something like, “What’s this ‘debt’ thing, I just want my num nums.” I give that late date because that’s about the time the national elections started going that way, but anyone who was paying attention will immediately realize the elections were just the ignition point of a combustion process that had been building for a long time. There is a certain fascination with Barack Obama giving speeches as a panacea for every little problem that comes along, and it’s having an effect now that it would not have had in the decades previous. No, it’s not all because of racism. Bill Clinton is a white guy, he had this going for him too. It was & is generational. It isn’t the same thing as Kennedy beating Nixon in the television-age because he was more handsome. This is something new. We care about packaging more than we care about substance. Responsible thinking, grown-up thinking, cause-and-effect thinking, delayed gratification; these things resonate in certain communities, but they’ve lost their cachet that they used to have as “sea to shining sea” values. They’re being dampened in ways they used to not be dampened, in ways the “I want it now” thoughts are not being dampened. Think about those democrat accusations against the Republicans in Congress “holding the government hostage”; to those of us who actually think about debt and what it means, who pay a little bit more on the credit card when the balance is higher than we’d like it to be, it was evident how silly and backward that was. Much like a bully calling a non-bully a bully. But it resonated. My point is, that resonance of this backward-accusation was not merely a symptom, it was the problem itself. People are thinking of the credit card — our eyebrows-deep in debt government — the way our kids & wives think about credit cards right before we get really, really worried; as “free” cash. So, you see, the Republicans never really had a chance at this thing. Maybe now the era is coming to an end. Hope so. We’ll see.

3. The democrats work much harder at getting their message out. Credit where it is due. They put a great deal of priority on whether they always get the last word. See, those of us who have to build things that actually work, have this built-in reluctance against making this Priority One. We keep thinking…wait a minute, if you always have to have the last word to make your idea look workable, that’s a sure sign that the idea isn’t workable! Our friends the liberals are not similarly troubled. They seem to understand that they’re dead in the water if they ever fail to have the last word. And where this would cause you or me a whole lot of self-doubt, to them it just raises the adrenaline level. I subscribe to conservative as well as to liberal organizations inclined to send out e-mails about the budget stalemate, to get in their version of what’s going on and what to make of it. Throughout this little tempest, the ratio has not been even close. It’s like fifty, sixty to one. Several times a day I get something from OFA, Media Matters, The New Republic, et al telling me what I’m supposed to think. Where’s the conservative counterpart? Maybe once a week something will trickle in. The tone will be almost apologetic, like junk mail put together by someone who hates junk mail as much as I do. It almost offers to throw itself away for me. To that, you have to add the consideration that when the democrats ask for some trifling amount from each person, like three bucks — and get it from lots and lots of people — that sends a very powerful message. As a politician or a pollster or a pundit, you have to treat that like the three-dollar-donor knew what the progressive movement is really all about, even if there are a lot of signs that this might not be the case. What to do? This is probably the easiest one to fix. When you suck at something, stop sucking. When your leadership sucks at something, replace them.

4. People don’t identify the GOP with the abrogation of an undesirable status quo. Practically no one thinks this country is on the “right track.” Furthermore, from talking to the people who think we’re heading in the wrong direction, the feeling is strong. The anger is palpable. Even among the politically uninvolved, it’s still often the first thing on their minds when they wake up in the morning, and the last thought they have before drifting off at night. Clearly, there is a heady geyser of energy erupting here that the Republicans are failing to capture. We’re in Barack Obama’s America, but when something is wrong with it, somehow Barack Obama achieves much better results in His effort to portray Himself as the Washington-outsider riding in on a white horse to fix it all, than His opposition does. These are, aggravatingly, problems directly linked to His own policies. This is immediately evident to anyone who’s been paying attention. But the people paying attention are not the ones responding to the polls. This one, like #3, is easily fixed. Just ratchet down this rhetoric about “coming together” and “common goals” and “reaching agreement at the table” and so forth. Stop pretending Republicans and democrats want the same things. It isn’t true. And when it’s repeated ad infinitum, the way people hear it is yeah, Republicans and democrats working together to screw me over. Can’t blame them for that, can you. They’re taking something that doesn’t have any truth in it, and trying to make it true; there is some truth in this interpretation. We have a 17 trillion dollar public debt now, the legacy of Republicans and democrats “coming together to find ways of doing things together” and so forth. Just because you’re going forward doesn’t mean you’re heading to a good place.

There is a bright spot to all this. The #2 problem, with the shallow thinking, it is probably the common-cause of the other three problems. I’m very sure this one can be waited out. There’s nothing else that can be done about it. But the waiting will probably work, since it always has. People are always about as superficial as they figure they can afford to be, and what’s happening right now is the country is learning it can’t be that superficial. It will have to do some growing-up, like it did in 1968 and 1980.

It’s the Stein Rule. Whatever can’t go on forever, won’t.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Rotten Chestnuts.

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