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Some Of That Soul Searching That We Were Told Was Called For
November 28, 2012 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Bruce Bartlett tells the story of how he lost faith in the Republican Party.
posted by Ipsifendus (162 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
If Republicans had no hope of attracting Latino votes, what other nonwhite group could they attract? Maybe the time had come for them to make a major play for the black vote. I thought that blacks and Latinos were natural political and economic competitors, and I saw in poll data that blacks were receptive to a hardline position on illegal immigration.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Egg Shen at 9:35 AM on November 28, 2012 [20 favorites]


Jesús, que asshole.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:39 AM on November 28, 2012 [20 favorites]


If we don't learn to do a better job playing one demographic against another, we'll never get elected!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:41 AM on November 28, 2012 [41 favorites]


It's an interesting critique from the right, but his collection of Republican bona fides seem to show a man outraged by the fact that the Republican party wasn't invested in the same brand of Ron Paul-slash-supply side economics nonsense that he believes. I mean, I'm sorry that the current Republican Party isn't engaged in precisely the same culture war against the poor that Reagan led, but complaining that one sort of garbage has supplanted another doesn't mean that Reagan-era Republicans were clear-eyed realists while the current group is blinded by ideology.

I suppose the most interesting case he makes is that Republicans have been trapped in an ideological bubble for a while now. But I don't think that changed much. A combination of shifting demographics, a better-run campaign, and a social shift that caused a few key Republican wedge issues to fail lost the last election. Republicans were in a bubble when they won elections, but that bubble was shared by enough Americans to win elections.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:42 AM on November 28, 2012 [17 favorites]


I think it has changed a bit. I mean, Mitt Romney was the best they could do?!
posted by Melismata at 9:46 AM on November 28, 2012


His long-term plan seems to be "I'll write eighty gazillion books. If that doesn't work, I'll write eighty gazillion more." That is not working out well for him. He should rethink it.
posted by tzikeh at 9:47 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. That guy ground his axe a lot.

I feel a little sheepish admitting it, but I kind of thought this was going to be a genuine conversion, "holy crap did I get that wrong!" type story. Guess that doesn't happen in this direction.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:47 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


He is right only in the sense that epistemic closure is in fact a very real problem - for both Republicans and Democrats.

However, he sounds like an ass. "When the Republican Party starts listening to me, then I'll know they're ready!" Not to mention the previously mentioned "Let's get the blacks and Latinos fighting!"
posted by corb at 9:50 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bartlett's tone in this piece is pretty smug considering he spends close to 80% it making excuses for his failing literary career.

He does, however, seem to be leaning in the right direction, i.e. treating the illness of the Republican Party (Soviet Russia-style party-line doublespeak) rather than the symptoms ("We need more blacks!").
posted by Dr. Zachary Smith at 9:53 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


tl; dr version:

I told you so. And people should listen to me! Because I was a true believer! But then I had an intellectual crisis. What I thought was a clever plan was actually irresponsible policy! And the scales fell from my eyes. And as I explained my doubts at great length, I was ignored, de-friended and set adrift, politically and intellectually. SHOCKING! But worst of all, I found myself joined at the hip with PAUL KRUGMAN. My feelings are hurt that because I now speak like a liberal, no Republicans will listen to me, even though I also know they live in a state of epistemic closure (a big ol' bubble). But in the end, me, me, me: "When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery."
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:54 AM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Republicans have been trapped in an ideological bubble for a while now

No, they are trapped in a tactical bubble. The ideology is alive and well as ever. The mega-rich generally are.
posted by DU at 9:54 AM on November 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


Worth it, if only because "For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades."

And pretty much only for that reason.
posted by Slothrup at 9:55 AM on November 28, 2012 [9 favorites]


When I read this, I wanted to know more about his throwaway line about getting a Master's degree out of a Pearl Harbor Truther thesis. Knowing whether he ever rethought that would help a little in recalibrating his bullshit levels (and would also help a little in dientifying who'll give you a Master's for bullshit).
posted by COBRA! at 9:57 AM on November 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


his collection of Republican bona fides seem to show a man outraged by the fact that the Republican party wasn't invested in the same brand of Ron Paul-slash-supply side economics nonsense that he believes.

If you read on, you'll see that he later studied Keynes more closely, decided that the guy was right and we need his ideas as much as we did in the '30s, and now pretty much universally agrees with Paul Krugman about everything these days.

I mean, yeah, it's axe-grindy, but he's clearly a guy willing to listen and change his mind.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:58 AM on November 28, 2012 [23 favorites]


Bartlett's tone in this piece is pretty smug considering he spends close to 80% it making excuses for his failing literary career.

I was about to say. It is truly astonishing the number of coincidences and conspiracies that have caused his books to fail. At no point does he entertain the thought that maybe he just sucks at what he does.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:59 AM on November 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's certainly pathetic that insofar as Republicans are willing to talk about what they need to do to win more support from African-Americans, their solution is never to adopt new policies that will actually help African-Americans. Rather, their plan is just to point out that Lincoln was a Republican and his southern opponents were Democrats.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 9:59 AM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


his collection of Republican bona fides seem to show a man outraged by the fact that the Republican party wasn't invested in the same brand of Ron Paul-slash-supply side economics nonsense that he believes.

This doesn't do his position justice:
After the failure of my race book, I turned my attention again to economics...

After careful research, I came to the annoying conclusion that Keynes had been 100 percent right in the 1930s. Previously, I had thought the opposite. But facts were facts and there was no denying my conclusion. It didn’t affect the argument in my book, which was only about the rise and fall of ideas. The fact that Keynesian ideas were correct as well as popular simply made my thesis stronger.

I finished the book just as the economy was collapsing in the fall of 2008. This created another intellectual crisis for me. Having just finished a careful study of the 1930s, it was immediately obvious to me that the economy was suffering from the very same problem, a lack of aggregate demand. We needed Keynesian policies again, which completely ruined my nice rise-and-fall thesis. Keynesian ideas had arisen from the intellectual grave.

...I even wrote another op-ed for the New York Times in December 2008 advocating a Keynesian cure that holds up very well in light of history. Annoyingly, however, I found myself joined at the hip to Paul Krugman, whose analysis was identical to my own. I had previously viewed Krugman as an intellectual enemy and attacked him rather colorfully in an old column that he still remembers.

For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades.
He apparently now believes at the very least that aggregate demand is a key issue in a recession.
posted by weston at 9:59 AM on November 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


It's an interesting critique from the right, but his collection of Republican bona fides seem to show a man outraged by the fact that the Republican party wasn't invested in the same brand of Ron Paul-slash-supply side economics nonsense that he believes.

It's a long piece. Did you read the bit where he talks about going back to Keynes and discovering he was right, and being chagrinned to find himself ditto-ing Krugman?


Republicans were in a bubble when they won elections, but that bubble was shared by enough Americans to win elections.


Yes and no, I think. A lot of people live in the grey (or purplish) middle. They might not think that Bush and/or Obama were awesome but on the whole they preferred the devil they knew. That's not the same as being in the bubble. There are plenty of people in the bubble, but I don't think the shiftables in the middle ever were. If the Republican ledership continue to seal themselves off in there they'll continue to lose.

It's like the flip side of that famous Lee Attwatter quite about race-baiting --- the reason you have to shift to greater and greater levels of abstraction is that majority opinion has shifted, and you'll lose the majority of you state it openly; therefore you dog whistle and keep the hardcore racists and the squishes. In other words: the old wedge issues framed the old way no longer cut in your favor. You have to get more abstract because you are losing.
posted by Diablevert at 10:00 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's an asshole who's been ostracized by the republicans for not being a bigger asshole but he does get points from me for this:
The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.
posted by octothorpe at 10:00 AM on November 28, 2012 [38 favorites]


a man outraged by the fact that the Republican party wasn't invested in the same brand of Ron Paul-slash-supply side economics nonsense that he believes

Believed.

Read the article again. It describes not one but two evolutionary processes -- the party, away from rationality, and the man, towards it. Notice that he starts talking about how Paul Krugman, a man he admits he used to trash repeatedly, has turned out to be consistently right, and how Keynsian economics has been upheld 100% by recent history.

It's a good piece, and he deserves better than "Christ, what an asshole". Unless you believe, like those on the right, that changing people's hearts and minds is a stupid thing to want, and everyone who disagrees with you is a piece of shit.
posted by Fnarf at 10:03 AM on November 28, 2012 [23 favorites]


I lost faith in the Republican party a long time before he did, back when George H. Bush sold out to the Pat Robertson wing. So I was surprised to find myself in complete agreement with this oblivious man at this point in his piece:

my utter disdain for Bush grew . . . I grew to totally despise the man for his stupidity, cockiness, arrogance, ignorance, and general cluelessness.

I suspect I felt these emotions before he did, though.
posted by bearwife at 10:05 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Guess that doesn't happen in this direction.

Happens in all directions.
posted by BWA at 10:06 AM on November 28, 2012


This seems to be the Roosevelt conspiracy theory he's talking about.

I'm glad he eventually revised his economic position; I did overloook that part, and will credit him for this. That being said, his innocence of the fact that his fellow Republicans would cannibalize him if he bucked the party line is astonishing to me. I wonder of he was so caught up in the party in his youth, when he was a true believer, that he never noticed what happens to people who don't march lockstep?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:07 AM on November 28, 2012


I was shocked beyond belief when it turned out that Bush really wanted a massive, budget-busting new entitlement program after all, apparently to buy himself re-election in 2004

Didn't Romney just accuse Obama of doing the same? I'm legitimately confused why people think they can win elections by telling the public "vote for me, I'll give you less".

Obviously they need to make a legitimate attempt to rebrand if they want to keep book money and speaking fees rolling in. There has got to be a way to jump to the left of the dems, and Bartlett seems to be the man to lead the charge. Keep beating that "dems are the real racists" drum and embrace taxes for the rich. The gravy train will be pulling out of the station in no time at all.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:07 AM on November 28, 2012


I feel bad for him a bit, really. He still seems to hope he'll be welcomed back to the fold once people see he was right. But that's not how human nature works. He'll still be the betrayer who hurt them on their way down. The only thing that really seems to work for people is to go full bore into the other camp, like that dude in the 50s who went from Communist sympathiser to red-baiting alarmist.
posted by Diablevert at 10:08 AM on November 28, 2012


Amen, Fnarf. He seems to be saying: "the Republicans have gone off the deep end, and here are a few reasons why." Who doesn't agree with that?
posted by Melismata at 10:11 AM on November 28, 2012


Even though they didn’t read my Impostor book, voters still absorbed its message.

I . . . I . . . The mind boggles. The pure egotism on display passes far beyond narcissism and into dangerously delusional. No wonder former friends are crossing the street to avoid him. If one of my friends started to believe he was affecting millions of voters despite the fact that none of them had read his books or in fact had any connection to him, I would start to give a wide berth too.

Ths article is more about the nervous breakdown of its author than anything else. Take the political commentary seriously at your own peril.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:12 AM on November 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


I later learned that the order to ignore me extended throughout Rupert Murdoch’s empire. For example, I stopped being quoted in the Wall Street Journal.* Awhile back, a reporter who left the Journal confirmed to me that the paper had given her orders not to mention me. Other dissident conservatives, such as David Frum and Andrew Sullivan, have told me that they are banned from Fox as well. More epistemic closure.

Yet another confirmation that anyone who now relies on the Wall Street Journal for investment advice is a fool-- Rupert Murdoch's fool.
posted by jamjam at 10:13 AM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is truly astonishing the number of coincidences and conspiracies that have caused his books to fail. At no point does he entertain the thought that maybe he just sucks at what he does.

I don't see any claim of coincidence or fantastic conspiracy. His main claim seems to be that he spent most of his life building a personal/professional network among the conservative right. Then, when he started questioning the direction and even some assumptions there, he found that it was closed and tribal enough that none of his thinking was welcome. He's essentially been ostracized, and a network that once buoyed him actively works against him now.

So pretty much the only currency he has to trade on now is whether (a) others accept him as a defector or (b) the Republicans welcome him back as the fool willing to speak the truth.

There's some pretty big obstacles to either happening -- the things that establish his conservative bona fides clearly don't play well here, and the Republican party in its current form doesn't seem to much care about any bona fides other than loyalty to the totems of the day.

In that light, it makes a lot of sense to me that his books wouldn't sell well.
posted by weston at 10:15 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was glad to see Keynes get mentioned in a positive light for once. But otherwise his sense of smug superiority gets in the way of any point he's trying to make. You don't need to be a genius or economist (or both) to see how spending more and taxing less makes no sense but he would like to believe that it does. And none of his other observations about the shift of the GOP to the lunatic fringe are earthshaking or unique in any way. He has the same tunnel vision he accuses the Republicans of having, it's just pointed in a slightly different direction (for now).
posted by tommasz at 10:15 AM on November 28, 2012


These days real conservatives appeal to both Latinos and Blacks and are usually named Barack Obama. A combination of Keynesian high taxes with aggressive pro-corporate legislation on the economic side, hawkish behavior internationally, and true lassie-faire on the social side, is the future of the right, insofar as it is called the Democratic party.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:24 AM on November 28, 2012 [24 favorites]


As someone who voted for Bob Dole back in the day, this article mirrors my thinking almost exactly, minus the part where I also realized I was 100% dead-wrong about what an abomination the Iraq war was.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:26 AM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


It sounds like unlike many people he's been willing to take off the blinders that led him to some of his previous conclusions and more important let his own personal moral code lead him to the conclusion that what is best for his career (agreeing with the right wing echo chamber) isn't always what's right for the conservative movement in general and certainly not for America.

Yeah it's also laced with an extra helping of personal bitterness at being outcast for daring to suggest that the Emperor has no clothes but I think it's still important for people to stand up for their own beliefs even if I personally disagree with them.

I think what he really needs to focus in on and that he really hints around at is that at the highest echelon there really isn't a belief in conservative ideals in the Republican party leadership. It's all about mobilizing fear based identity politics among the base in an attempt to enrich yourself and your friends. This has been clear since Bush II at the least and doesn't appear to be changing.
posted by vuron at 10:27 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


A combination of Keynesian high taxes with aggressive pro-corporate legislation on the economic side, hawkish behavior internationally, and true lassie-faire on the social side, is the future of the right, insofar as it is called the Democratic party.

That's true, insofar the inevitable realignment for U.S. politics is the party of "I'm socially liberal but fiscally conservative" vs. the populist American equivalent to Christian Democratic parties, an ideology that exists in Continental Europe and Latin America but not so much in the Anglosphere.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:30 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


So this guy is the author of The Title of the Book: The Statement of What the Book is About, And Why You Should Buy It
posted by anazgnos at 10:32 AM on November 28, 2012 [16 favorites]


Looking back, it's difficult for me to remember specifically why I lost faith in the Republican Party. It might have been because my young brain finally grew enough to pass some minimum threshold necessary to support basic cognition.
posted by Flunkie at 10:33 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


true lassie-faire on the social side

Personally, I believe Clinton was more one for socializing with faire lassies than is President Obama, but your point is taken.
posted by dersins at 10:35 AM on November 28, 2012 [15 favorites]


corb: He is right only in the sense that epistemic closure is in fact a very real problem - for both Republicans and Democrats.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no.


I'm almost a straight party ticket Democrat, and I agree with the idea that epistemic closure is a problem on any side of the political spectrum. I might be sympathetic to the argument that it's not quite as bad on the Democrat side, but barely. And only because the Democratic side is a bigger tent with more centrists right now.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:37 AM on November 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


Doh! Why don't we have an edit box on this website!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:38 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


tzikeh: "corb: He is right only in the sense that epistemic closure is in fact a very real problem - for both Republicans and Democrats.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no.
"

Actually - I would argue that your response indicates more of a "yes" than a "no". I'm not one to say that they are of the same strength, but quite frankly, I'm tired of Liberal pretense at being so open to new information when I look and see the same adherence to continued mythologies that they build about themselves. I see tons of misinformed memetic postings designed to mock the opponent using falsities and misinformation, let alone distortions of what their opponents actually believe.

In fact, I would argue that epistemic closure in this case is less about ideology in the sense of political philosophy than it is towards party politics.

I could probably drone on about this and try to break it down (and thus breaking apart my own argument in the process), but I have work to do. So I'll leave it to others to tear it down and make themselves feel better and superior to those unthinking Republicans.
posted by symbioid at 10:42 AM on November 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


If anything the Democrats have too much of a big tent. I often wonder whether the Democratic leadership isn't engaged in an extended bout of rope-a-dope--the Republicans collapsing entirely might lead to the actual left-wing waking up and deciding to vote their conscience again--imagine if the green party started fielding some viable state and local candidates?

Left, for now, just means "left of the failed, poisoned GOP." That coalition won't last forever. Even in this thread you see the different outlooks conflicting.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:46 AM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.

The one thing in the article he has right.
The rest of his diatribe proves the point that the GOP doesn't get it and neither does he.
posted by incandissonance at 10:53 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those who were wrong should be purged and ignored...

But then nobody would be left.
posted by Splunge at 11:03 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be less snarky, I actually do remember what caused me to lose faith in Republicans, although I guess I didn't really have much "faith" in them (or Democrats) before - it's more like when I first started paying enough attention to politics as an older child / young adult, Republicans were already clearly screwy. Iran-Contra was one hell of a fucked-up harebrained scheme.
posted by Flunkie at 11:04 AM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a good piece, and he deserves better than "Christ, what an asshole".

See, for me, his being willing to admit that Paul Krugman is a better economist than Paul Ryan doesn't make up for his deliberate and unapologetic wish to foster racial division as a lever to keep his political party in power.

YMMV.
posted by Egg Shen at 11:04 AM on November 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


Booman: "He was genuinely shocked when he learned that he was being punished for criticizing the Bush administration from the right in the New York Times, but he was even more shocked when he learned that no one on the right bothered to read his column in the New York Times because they were all watching Fox News."

Also, excellent bothsidesdoit !
posted by Eyebeams at 11:05 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a good piece, and he deserves better than "Christ, what an asshole".

If his take-home lesson from Republican losses is to double-down on social divisiveness, as if that's progress along some weird notion of "moderation" that he has in his head, then he's an asshole who really learned nothing at all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:18 AM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


deliberate and unapologetic wish to foster racial division

He's talking tactically about exploiting a wedge issue for political gain, not about planting evidence to start a race war or something. I don't want to be the apologist for this guy, but there's plenty of better reasons to attack him than straw man ones.

I talked myself into believing that Karl Rove was so smart that he had concocted an extremely clever plan—Bush would endorse the new benefit but do nothing to bring competing House and Senate versions of the legislation together.

This kind of wish fulfillment thinking in place of analysis is lazy at best, and more likely dangerous in the sense of useful idiocy.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:19 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's talking tactically about exploiting a wedge issue for political gain, not about planting evidence to start a race war or something. I don't want to be the apologist for this guy, but there's plenty of better reasons to attack him than straw man ones.

How exactly would you exploit that wedge issue? I'm curious if you know of a way that isn't reprehensible in some regard.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:33 AM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


He's talking tactically about exploiting a wedge issue for political gain, not about planting evidence to start a race war or something. I don't want to be the apologist for this guy, but there's plenty of better reasons to attack him than straw man ones.

Fostering racial division is not the same as starting a race war, a phrase only you have used here. Bartlett is explicit in talking about how to use what he saw as hostility to illegal immigrants as a way to gain black voters. It's not "Hmm, how can we meet the needs of the black community?" so much as "Hmm, how can we make blacks hate Latinos enough to stop voting Democrat?"
posted by rtha at 11:34 AM on November 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


He's talking tactically about exploiting a wedge issue for political gain, not about planting evidence to start a race war or something

He's talking about clutching at black voters - since the white voters he prefers are no longer numerous enough to keep him in power - by exploiting their economic fear of Latinos.

In my book, this makes him an asshole.
posted by Egg Shen at 11:37 AM on November 28, 2012 [9 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "It's an interesting critique from the right"

So, Bartlett is a right-wing and Republican hack, but I'd add a strong asterisk next to that statement, because The American Conservative is definitely not a right-wing publication -- their editorial positions are actually somewhat to the left of even some Democrats, and they've been some of the GOP's harshest critics in recent years. Their brand of politics is surprisingly disconnected from any mainstream political movement. I'm no conservative, but I often find myself agreeing with an awful lot of what they publish.

I'm vaguely curious if they gave Bartlett the pulpit just so he could embarrass himself, because hot damn, he doesn't come across well in this piece, and I'm pretty sure that TAC's audience will feel the same way.
posted by schmod at 11:41 AM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I'm going to need to see some evidence of this supposedly equal level of epistemic closure on both sides of the ideological spectrum.

The left has a tendency to keep centrists and apostates around, letting them keep their columnist gigs, cushy think tank sinecures, and committee chairmanships instead of showing them the door the way Republicans do (I am not saying this is a bad thing, merely stating the facts.) Show me a well-funded Democratic party apparatus primarying centrist Democrats out of existence the way the Club for Growth and the Tea Party have done for the GOP. Show me a left-leaning magazine pushing centrists out because they're pro-life or think the welfare state is too big. Will Saletan stays on the masthead at Slate, but Dave Weigel's forced out of the Washington Post not for anything he wrote, but because he's on a listserv that also includes avowed socialists like... Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias??? Or in Congress, witness the number of pro-life Democrats vs.pro-choice Republicans, or the number of Democrats who've voted to cut entitlements versus the number of Republicans who've voted to expand them. These aren't even close contests.

This squashing of dissenting views phenomenon just doesn't exist on the left to the degree that it does on the right, and I think anyone bringing a "both sides do it" perspective should show bring some evidence to the table.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:49 AM on November 28, 2012 [19 favorites]


Just because someone is less wrong than they used to be doesn't mean they aren't an asshole when they say asshole things now.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:49 AM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Looking back, it's difficult for me to remember specifically why I lost faith in the Republican Party. It might have been because my young brain finally grew enough to pass some minimum threshold necessary to support basic cognition.

Pretty much the story of this former College Republican's life. The parties sure were fun, though.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 11:52 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's talking about clutching at black voters - since the white voters he prefers are no longer numerous enough to keep him in power - by exploiting their economic fear of Latinos.

Yeah, that whole bit was fairly appalling and deluded. Not irrational, though. And not necessarily something a more sensible Republican party couldn't exploit in the future. I was at a wonkish event last night that mentioned unemployment among black men where I'm at is running somewhere north of 30 percent. If you're trying to compete for low wage jobs in a market that tough, competition from illegal immigrants isn't a nebulous bogeyman, and if you were deciding on two blank slate candidates on the basis of their immigration positions, you'd likely be inclined to vote for the hardass.

Fortunately for the Democrats, the GOP ain't a blank slate. But I think it points to something that should check democratic triumphalism --- recent victories aren't necessarily a blanket approval among Americans for liberal's favored positions, and an even slightly less insane GOP could quickly return to power.
posted by Diablevert at 11:57 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


There have been many American Conservative critiques of the right that are good, since it's a unique publication, but this one, while interesting, seems to come from less a principled conservative and more an embittered former party hack. This one was better.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:58 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Iran-Contra was one hell of a fucked-up harebrained scheme

Ollie North. His testimony, and the reaction to it on the right, persuaded me utterly and permanently that I wanted nothing to do with any of them ever again for any reason.

The stuff about mistaking Rove is actually pretty standard politics. Letting bills die in committee, particularly in conference between House and Senate, is a standard technique with a long pedigree. Most of what Congress does is exactly this kind of political maneuvering; there really isn't room for high-minded stuff, and never has been.

I think some of you are getting Bartlett wrong on race as well. He's not saying (as so many on the right do) that Republicans can appeal to black voters because they're better for them; he was using the tortuous history of the Democrats and black voters (and, uh, non-voters) as an example of how a party can change, and recommending that change to Republicans. That's why his message was rejected so hard -- no one on the right is interested in hearing anything about change; they're already perfect.

Republicans used to own the black vote, such as it was, once upon a time; then Roosevelt happened, and the Great Migration (blacks got to vote in Northern cities). Even Eisenhower (who could just as easily have run as a Democrat if he had chosen to) got a lot of that vote back; and even Nixon -- yes, Richard Milhous Nixon -- worked hard to make civil rights legislation happen when he was veep and president of the Senate. That work was more about trying to pressure Southern Democrats into nosediving into a fatal filibuster than it was out of concern for anyone's well-being, but that's how politics work. The point is, up until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Democrats never did jack for black Americans aside from some big-city-machine patronage jobs. If the Republicans had brains in their heads, they would be duplicating that maneuver instead of sniffing for any sign of it and then stamping on it.

Bartlett's analysis is pretty sharp, actually.
posted by Fnarf at 12:02 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Show me a well-funded Democratic party apparatus primarying centrist Democrats out of existence the way the Club for Growth and the Tea Party have done for the GOP.

Didn't the DLC do this, except in reverse?

Show me a left-leaning magazine pushing centrists out because they're pro-life or think the welfare state is too big.

I'm fairly certain that the anti-abortion left has very little place in the modern Democratic party. I suppose they're accepted in some limited fashion but don't really have much of a chance to affect party policy or platforms.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:06 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


This squashing of dissenting views phenomenon just doesn't exist on the left to the degree that it does on the right

Of course it does. Find yourself a straight-ticket Democrat, like me for instance, and ask 'em how they feel about Ralph Nader.

The difference is that Democrats are currently shunning the extreme side, the left side that is away from the center, while the Republicans are embracing their most extreme elements and shunning the center. This is part of the reason the center has shifted so far.

You won't find too many Democrats asking for large increases in the anti-poverty welfare state anymore (as opposed to the old-person welfare state). You won't find too many Democrats talking about how we need to bring back the New Deal and the Great Society. You won't even find too many Democrats saying things like "deficits don't matter". They used to.
posted by Fnarf at 12:08 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Egg Shen: "He's talking about clutching at black voters - since the white voters he prefers are no longer numerous enough to keep him in power - by exploiting their economic fear of Latinos.

In my book, this makes him an asshole.
"

I do think Bartlett's an asshole, but I might be willing to give him a slight pass on this one. I think he was trying to suggest that there are a number of conservative issues that resonante very strongly with Black voters. If the GOP isn't going to back down on any of its values, they're going to need to find some kind of wedge to gain traction with

Now, the specific example he gave was a pretty bad one, but I think you would find that the African American electorate sides with the Republican party on quite a few social issues. The DC city government demonstrates fairly well that black voters will elect conservatives (including unabashed racists like Marion Barry) as long as they don't have an (R) next to their name.

Nixon's Southern strategy basically cemented that Bartlett's tactic of pointing out the Republicans' and Democrats' history will never work. Whatever the distant past might have been, the GOP's racist policies of the past 40 years are indelible to any current voters. On the other hand, a conservative third-party could appeal to a lot of minority audiences if it didn't have the Republican name attached to it.

If the Republicans want to attract minority audiences, they're going to need to give up big chunks of their core ideology, and even bigger chunks if they don't want to also piss off another minority group in the process. These things will inevitably decrease their (currently widespread) appeal to white voters, which they really want to avoid. I'm not sure that they want to start a race war -- I just don't see how they're going to maintain their identity without doing it.

To regain popularity, the Republican party only has bad options. Their current platform is a very delicate house of cards, and I'm not sure that Fox News will be able to adequately rewrite history to keep the whole thing from falling to the ground.
posted by schmod at 12:12 PM on November 28, 2012


MonkeyToes: liever! But then I had an intellectual crisis. What I thought was a clever plan was actually irresponsible policy! And the scales fell from my eyes. And as I explained my doubts at great length, I was ignored, de-friended and set adrift, politically and intellectually. SHOCKING! But worst of all, I found myself joined at the hip with PAUL KRUGMAN. My feelings are hurt that because I now spe
Ahhh... He's an "independent™".
posted by IAmBroom at 12:21 PM on November 28, 2012


Didn't the DLC do this, except in reverse?
...
Of course it does. Find yourself a straight-ticket Democrat, like me for instance, and ask 'em how they feel about Ralph Nader.
...
You won't find too many Democrats asking for large increases in the anti-poverty welfare state anymore (as opposed to the old-person welfare state). You won't find too many Democrats talking about how we need to bring back the New Deal and the Great Society. You won't even find too many Democrats saying things like "deficits don't matter". They used to.
Yeah, but you guys would both admit this isn't the same thing, right? The point of epistemic closure is that you're closing yourself to ideas from "the other side", and pushing leftists out in favor of centrist is by definition adopting those views from the other side and making them part of your orthodoxy. I know not all issues line up neatly on the left-right spectrum and yadda yadda, but I don't think you can compare the two phenomena, and even if you do, I think it's a cinch to make the case that there's more room for lefty progressives in the blue tent than there is for centrists in the red tent (76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, for instance.)
I'm fairly certain that the anti-abortion left has very little place in the modern Democratic party. I suppose they're accepted in some limited fashion but don't really have much of a chance to affect party policy or platforms.
Bart Stupak is on line 1 for you. With some help from fellow pro-life Democrats, he hijacked Obamacare for several months over non-existent federal funding for abortion. It is true that many pro-life Democrats end up losing their seats to pro-life Republicans, but just because they lost their seat doesn't mean they no longer exist, or renounce their pro-life stances.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:22 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


tonycpsu: "pro-life Democrats" "pro-life Republicans"

Please do not fall victim to the Overton shift. It's "pro-coat-hanger".
posted by notsnot at 12:27 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I considered using "forced pregnancy", but I didn't want to look like I was editorializing. I lament the fact that the GOP always wins the Frank Luntz terminology wars, but too often if you deviate from those terms, you get yelled at for being an angry hippie.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:30 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was inclined to argue that comparison of epistemic closure on the left to that on the right was ridiculous. But judging how this site has reacted to a former hardcore Reaganite FULLY EMBRACING the most liberal economic policy in mainstream American discourse, I dunno.

Bartlett isn't saying that republicans should continue to screw black people while also courting them. He wants to EXPAND spending and social programs. He honestly wants to help them, frankly, more than the president (if judged by his actions) does.
posted by mellow seas at 12:32 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


It mystifies me that the issue of how to deal with the alien population is so fucking core to the Republican party, because as minorities go, I really can't see another so largely Republican in mood as the Latino population of this country. Largely Catholic, so anti-abortion. Many know close friends or family members who made it without much help from social services (since they are harder to obtain without citizenship or a greencard), so they have shown a tendency to lean anti-welfare. Heck, even the insane attempts to mix church & state are appealing, since they're of the generally-correct religion.

Blacks are going to be harder to move pro-Republican. Women are harder still, since so many R policies are openly or inherently anti-women's rights. Asians don't form a big enough bloc, and Jews are the most indelibly Democrat of all.

Basically, I'm amazed that they actually are putting idealism over victory. Whoops, gotta stop talking out loud. They might overhear and win a race or two.

I SURE HOPE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY STAYS ITS COURSE ON THOSE PESKY ILLEGAL ALIENS!
posted by IAmBroom at 12:34 PM on November 28, 2012


Yeah, but you guys would both admit this isn't the same thing, right? The point of epistemic closure is that you're closing yourself to ideas from "the other side", and pushing leftists out in favor of centrist is by definition adopting those views from the other side and making them part of your orthodoxy.

Which leftists do you think open themselves to ideas from "the other side"?

I run in some fairly lefty circles. And there are some things you're Just Not Allowed to say, some sources you're Just Not Allowed to read. Supporting strong gun rights is a pretty big one in the Northeast. Supporting deficit reduction is another. Reading or watching Fox News. Sometimes, even Fraternizing with the Enemy - going to a Republican function or meeting with political workers from the other side. It's absolutely a trench warfare mentality.
posted by corb at 12:36 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


If the Republicans want to attract minority audiences, they're going to need to give up big chunks of their core ideology

It's those damn Southerners again. and non-Southerners who think like them. The Democrats used to have to deal with this contradiction, and it was just as fragile then as it is now. The liberals (both D and R) used to have to work with the fact that the Southerners would decamp and vote with the conservative Republicans if there was any hint of moderation on their big issue. That's why nothing happened on race for eighty years after Reconstruction. After 1964, they became the Republican's problem.

Republicans need to face up to the fact that there is not an African-American over the age of six who doesn't know that "state's rights" means "nigger". And increasingly it's become apparent that "smaller government" means "bigger government, but for me, not you", and not just to African-Americans.

Fortunately, because I am a Democrat, I don't think there's a chance in hell that Republicans ever overcome the fundamental distrust that black and Latino voters have for them. They just can't help themselves; it's like expecting them to stop saying stupid things about rape.
posted by Fnarf at 12:37 PM on November 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm fairly certain that the anti-abortion left has very little place in the modern Democratic party.

Tell that to Jim Langevin, one of the two congressional reps from RI. (the one who isn't the son of a mob lawyer. Why do we get the bozo reps? Even primary fights are bozo vs. bozo. Can we have Patches back? I'll take a pill-head over a right-to-lifer and a lying hack.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:39 PM on November 28, 2012


And there are some things you're Just Not Allowed to say, some sources you're Just Not Allowed to read. Supporting strong gun rights is a pretty big one in the Northeast. Supporting deficit reduction is another.

wat?

While I have come around, reluctantly, to the idea that we need to improve gun legislation, I'm in the minority of my Democrat buddies, most of whom have gone to the gun range for recreation at least once in the past year. And everyone is for deficit reduction except, apparently, the Bush Administration, who decided to whoop it up when times were good instead of paying down the debt.

Democrats want to reduce the deficit by increasing taxes on the wealthy, close tax loopholes and sweetheart deals while reducing corporate tax rates, remove corporate welfare for profitable companies including petroleum exploration and agribusiness, dramatically reduce military spending through reduction in force (RIF) and base closures, invest in infrastructure, R&D and education.

So, in short, while you may run in circles, it's not with anyone on "the left" who isn't made of straw.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:58 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm fairly certain that the anti-abortion left has very little place in the modern Democratic party.

My state just re-elected a pro-life Democrat to the US Senate.
posted by octothorpe at 12:59 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Supporting strong gun rights is a pretty big one in the Northeast.

Unless PA is no long part of the Northeast, you're full of it on that one. 3/4s of a million hunters went out into the woods this week to bag Bambi.
posted by octothorpe at 1:03 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I run in some fairly lefty circles. And there are some things you're Just Not Allowed to say, some sources you're Just Not Allowed to read. Supporting strong gun rights is a pretty big one in the Northeast.

Howard Dean was endorsed by the NRA multiple times back when he was the (Democrat) governor of VT.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:06 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


corb, you're already moving the goalposts. Adding the "in the Northeast" qualifier is a a blatant attempt to minimize the very significant heterodoxy on gun control in the Democratic party nationwide. Of course there are regional factors that change the ideological makeup in different states, but I will say that my own Northeast state of Pennsylvania has a long history of pro-gun Democrats, and though most of them got gerrymandered out of existence, that doesn't mean they don't exist. Any anti-gun consensus that exists in the Northeast among Democrats is not due to them being more anti-gun, it's due to the pro-gun ones being beaten in elections by pro-gun Republicans. The views haven't changed, the holders of the seats have, and to suggest that this is because anti-gun Democrats squelch pro-gun Democratic views is totally baseless.

Your other gambit, asking me to select "leftists" instead of "Democrats" or even "liberals" who are open to the ideas on the other side, is so loaded that I can barely bring myself to respond to it. Yes, those on the more extreme side are by definition less persuadable and less willing to listen to the other side, but the whole point is that there are more centrist Democrats who do listen to the other side, and adopt the views of the other side, than there are centrist Republicans who do the same.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:07 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


BTW, what lefty circles do you run in, corb? I know you live in a blue state and have made vague references to being socially liberal, but what distinguishes you from a garden variety capital-L Libertarian?
posted by tonycpsu at 1:08 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The difference is that Democrats are currently shunning the extreme side, the left side that is away from the center, while the Republicans are embracing their most extreme elements and shunning the center. This is part of the reason the center has shifted so far.

In other words, the difference is that Republicans reject criticism from the left, while Democrats reject criticism from the left.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:09 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've been enjoying The American Conservative a lot lately and have even read a few things by Mr. Bartlett that I appreciated (i.e. this piece) but this article is so self-absorbed that it's cringe-worthy.
posted by jeffen at 1:10 PM on November 28, 2012


corb: "I run in some fairly lefty circles. And there are some things you're Just Not Allowed to say, some sources you're Just Not Allowed to read. Supporting strong gun rights is a pretty big one in the Northeast. Supporting deficit reduction is another. Reading or watching Fox News. Sometimes, even Fraternizing with the Enemy - going to a Republican function or meeting with political workers from the other side. It's absolutely a trench warfare mentality."

I know staunch democrats and staunch progressives who do each of these things. I know zero democrats and zero progressives who would disqualify anyone simply on the basis of any of those things, though I know plenty of people who would disagree with you about them.

I mean come on, deficit reduction is Something You're Just Not Allowed To Say among progressives? What planet are you on? Who are these people you know, and in what circles are they running? I wish I could be diplomatic, but I just do not believe you.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:10 PM on November 28, 2012 [9 favorites]


Just to note--the comments on the article are quite good, with greater range and depth than the MF comments to date.
posted by hexatron at 1:13 PM on November 28, 2012


Man I'm all for personal growth and evolution and changing your beliefs and behavior when evidence suggests you're doing it wrong, but jeez what a whiny and self-serving screed that was. Like, no one listened to the sage advice in my book, man! Maybe I should, like, write another book!

Although it is a bit surprising to learn that even the people near the top of the Republican power structure actively avoid dissenting / reality-based voices, including the NY Times. So it was not a total loss, this read, but Mr. Bartlett could work on his tone a bit. Shorter version:

jeffen: "I've been enjoying The American Conservative a lot lately and have even read a few things by Mr. Bartlett that I appreciated (i.e. this piece) but this article is so self-absorbed that it's cringe-worthy."
posted by Mister_A at 1:15 PM on November 28, 2012


How the numbers shifted against gun control
Take, for instance, a measure to allow visitors to national parks and wildlife refuges to carry guns. It was attached to a bill to tighten regulation of credit card issuers in 2009. President Barack Obama signed the measure into law.

On the decisive vote in the House, the tally was 279-147. In all, 105 Democrats, including Giffords, Peterson and Walz, voted for it. Only two Republican voted against the measure: Mike Castle of Delaware, who was defeated in his bid for the GOP Senate nomination last year by (the ultimately unelected) Christine O'Donnell, and Mark Kirk, now the Republican senator from Illinois.

...

In all, the NRA contributed to 54 Democratic House candidates in 2010. Half of them won, including Donnelly, Altmire, and Walz, all of whom survived close races.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:18 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Indeed, one of the things that is most insufferable about modern Republicans is that they hold insane beliefs about "liberulls" even in the face of dissent. Guns, for instance. "You can have my guns when you pry them from mah cold dead fingers", says they. "Yes, I know, I'm not really interested in your guns", says me. "You can't take away mah rights" says he. "Yes, I know, the Supreme Court agrees" says me. "You cain't HAVE UM, goddammit" says he. "Yes, I know, I'm not trying to take them" says me. "Why cain't you git it through your thick skull that you cain't take mah guns???" says he. "I'm not". "Yes, you are". "No, really, it's a settled issue" "Obama is comin' for um, but ah'm ready for him".

You can't argue with a person like that. You can't discuss the issue. You're better off trying to fist-fight a door.
posted by Fnarf at 1:18 PM on November 28, 2012 [19 favorites]


(But in conservative bass-ackwardsness, the comments on the article are arranged newest-to-oldest, so if you start reading them from the top, there are lots of comments like 'MrFoo makes a good point/is a total jerk', but MrFoo's comment has scrolled off the list into MORE-land.)
At least the text is written left-to-right.
posted by hexatron at 1:21 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, it's pretty crazy that text starts on the left, amirite? It should start on the right! The other way is communiss!
posted by Mister_A at 1:28 PM on November 28, 2012


The point is, up until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Democrats never did jack for black Americans aside from some big-city-machine patronage jobs.

Truman integrated the military in 1948; at that year's Democratic National Convention the party added platform plank in response to Hubert Humphrey's call to "get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights." In response the Dixiecrats split from the party and won Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina (plus one electoral vote in Tennessee) in the presidential election. Many of the Dixiecrats migrated to the Republican party as the Democrats slowly began embracing civil rights.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:38 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man, it's pretty crazy that text starts on the left, amirite? It should start on the right! The other way is communiss!

It's okay as long as it moves to the right!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:41 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course it does. Find yourself a straight-ticket Democrat, like me for instance, and ask 'em how they feel about Ralph Nader.

The difference is that Democrats are currently shunning the extreme side, the left side that is away from the center, while the Republicans are embracing their most extreme elements and shunning the center. This is part of the reason the center has shifted so far.

You won't find too many Democrats asking for large increases in the anti-poverty welfare state anymore (as opposed to the old-person welfare state). You won't find too many Democrats talking about how we need to bring back the New Deal and the Great Society. You won't even find too many Democrats saying things like "deficits don't matter". They used to.

Fnarf

I think you're missing a key difference, which some commenters here have expressed. Despite what corb (utterly incorrectly) says, Democrats do tolerate a lot of dissenting opinions and you can easily find many examples of this. The key difference is that Republicans seem to have absolutely zero tolerance for dissent. If you have a different idea, you're not just gone you're the Enemy now as well. Democrats may be pissed at Nader, but that's for what some think he did in the 2000 election. It's not based on his ideas, which are shared by a large part of the Democrats. The other ideas you list are perhaps less in vogue, but speaking about them doesn't mean automatic expulsion and shunning.

For the modern Republican party it's not enough to be able to hold your nose and vote for someone you might not agree totally with; you can't even have any dissenting ideas at all or you're gone. There really isn't anything like this with the Democrats.

That's not to say there aren't problems among those on the American left, but this "they're both the same" idea (which I am not accusing you of espousing) is utterly wrong.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:43 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


the party added platform plank

Platform planks never did anything for anybody. While Humphrey's commitment to civil rights was admirable, and rock-solid, it didn't translate into anything concrete until 1964. There was a civil rights bill, starting in the House, every single year from, I think, 1947 to 1963, and every single one of them was shut down by Southern Democrats in the Senate, if it made it that far. The number of Senate liberals typically hovered around 12 to 17, and they never did figure out how to get or wield power. Total accomplishment: zero.

There was one tiny exception, the 1957 bill, which was so watered-down and stripped of meaning that it didn't accomplish anything; its only provision was the right to vote, but the requirement that violators receive a jury trial, which in the South meant an all-white jury trial, meant that no voting was to be allowed. White juries in the South refused to convict whites of murdering blacks, even with a confession in hand; there was no chance they would convict anyone of blocking votes. Voting participation by black Southerners decreased after the 1957 bill was passed. Total accomplishment: zero.

I'll grant you Truman integrating the military. That was a significant step, and it was by a Democrat. Of course, when those black soldiers came back home, they were still likely to be beaten, shot or lynched if they stepped out of line, while ordinary citizens watched and laughed.
posted by Fnarf at 1:51 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean come on, deficit reduction is Something You're Just Not Allowed To Say among progressives? What planet are you on? Who are these people you know, and in what circles are they running? I wish I could be diplomatic, but I just do not believe you.

Deficit reduction by way of reducing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is something you're not allowed to say among progressives or Dems, yes. Or, for example, I would defy you to try being a progressive who didn't think Zimmerman deserved to be jailed. Or a progressive who openly refused the goals of Occupy.

Honestly, the fact that the very suggestion that Democrats /might/ engage in any kind of bubble-creating is met with such scorn is in itself, illuminating.

I'd ask the people on this thread who think that there is no Democratic bubble to ask yourselves the following questions. You don't even have to tell me, or anyone else here, but just be honest with yourselves.

1. When was the last time you read conservative media or books, or watched conservative movies or television shows, voluntarily, with an open mind, rather than just looking for something to hate?

2. How many strong conservatives are on your friends lists on social media that aren't relatives or co-workers?

3. When was the last time you bothered to ask yourself, when you disagreed with something a politician or person was doing or saying, "Assuming that they are a decent human being, why do they believe this?"
posted by corb at 2:00 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


corb, I feel like you're making arguments against people who aren't here.

Honestly, the fact that the very suggestion that Democrats /might/ engage in any kind of bubble-creating is met with such scorn is in itself, illuminating.

Not a single person here has said that the "the very suggestion that Democrats /might/ engage in any kind of bubble-creating" is worthy of scorn. Everyone has said that it happens. What others and myself have said is that it is nowhere near the same degree.

Deficit reduction by way of reducing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is something you're not allowed to say among progressives or Dems, yes. Or, for example, I would defy you to try being a progressive who didn't think Zimmerman deserved to be jailed. Or a progressive who openly refused the goals of Occupy.

I'd have to ask you, I suppose, what you mean by "progressive" because at some point, yes, there are things that a "progressive" wouldn't agree with by definition.

For example, some of my friends are extremely liberal and support the Democrats but are worried about the way social programs are structured and funded. But this is because they are worried that the programs aren't working as well as they could or should. Are you talking about advocating reduction to "Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security" solely for the purpose of reducing the deficit? I would say that is by definition not a progressive position at all so of course no one who calls themselves advocates it. I can't imagine someone saying, "I know people desperately need these programs but the deficit is just so big, so slash it".

I do in fact know progressives who have serious questions about the Zimmerman incident; I will not take your offer to try and become them as the surgery seems difficult and expensive.

I would have to ask what you consider to be the "goals of Occupy" first before I can comment on whether you can call yourself a progressive and oppose them.

I suspect that you identify yourself as a libertarian (using the American definition) and so are worried about things like a large deficit and large government programs and the implicit hostility to "Occupy". I suspect that you might call yourself "socially liberal but fiscally conservative" but don't feel comfortable among self-identified progressives because they reject your economic review. I'm not sure if this is an instance of a progressive "bubble" or such ideas not being compatible with what's generally though of as "progressive".
posted by Sangermaine at 2:20 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


corb, I really think you might need to surround yourself with a different type of Democratic or progressive circle. Because as you describe it, I'm seriously unsure where you're coming from. Of the examples you list, 2 out of 3 (the possibility of reducing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and openly refusing the goals of Occupy) are DEFINITELY questions that many Dems would argue. (I mean, for Christ's sake, Bill Clinton is still seen as a leader of the party -- doesn't that say a lot? Obama and the DLC aren't really that different.) Like I'd say 30% at least. As far as progressives, it would still probably be 10-15%. (As far as thinking Zimmerman deserving to be jailed, I'm not going to argue that shooting somebody in the street and being arrested for it until a court of law decides differently isn't something that liberals and conservatives shouldn't be able to agree with.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:22 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


When was the last time you read conservative media or books, or watched conservative movies or television shows

The conservative movement is no longer capable of producing a thoughtful book. Media? If you mean TV, right-wing TV is complete and utter wall-to-wall bullshit. Movies? What does "conservative movie" even mean?

In order to be "open", a mind has to be functioning. Very little of what goes on on the right engages a functioning mind. That's the whole point of this discussion.

But yeah, I read the Wall Street Journal from time to time. I know what guys like Krauthammer and Will are saying (i.e., delusional bullshit). I read the Telegraph and the Economist out of Britain. The Economist in particular used to be almost the house organ of conscientious conservatism, pro-business model. They endorsed Obama this year, and in 2008. Huh.

Republicans aren't conservative. DEMOCRATS are conservative, for the most part; Republicans come in various combinations of stupid, crazy, bigoted, and dishonest, but not conservative. There are no conservative ideas in the Republican party anymore. There are no ideas there period. Neither Romney nor Ryan were "conservative" in any meaningful sense; they're just liars.

"Strong conservatives" in the modern usage means "blockheaded racist jackasses who don't even understand their own positions". Hearing a "strong conservative" talk about debt, for instance, or "socialism", is enough to make a thinking person want to punch a wall.

This isn't a bubble, this is just plain facts.

On the Democratic side, I attack stupidity on the left all the time. I had almost no patience for Occupy. Going back a decade, I thought the WTO protesters should have all been drowned in buckets of piss. I think corporations are for the most part pretty swell. "Progressive" is a word that I am usually pretty uninterested in, and I stoutly deny that it is synonymous with "Democrat".
posted by Fnarf at 2:24 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Deficit reduction by way of reducing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is something you're not allowed to say among progressives or Dems, yes.

The very fact that you say this suggests you aren't following your own later advice about paying attention to what the other side is saying. Obama was criticized during the campaign for reducing Medicare by $716 billion. Plenty of Democrats, especially those in the Midwest and South, are on record supporting Simpson-Bowles and indicating their support for entitlement cuts. And then there's David Plouffe, Obama's senior advisor, speaking a couple days ago about the upcoming fiscal cliff talks:
Plouffe added that while the White House wants to engage in comprehensive tax reform, they know they must also "carefully" address the "chief drivers of our deficit": Medicare and Medicaid.
I eagerly await your first attempt to provide evidence to the contrary.

Honestly, the fact that the very suggestion that Democrats /might/ engage in any kind of bubble-creating is met with such scorn is in itself, illuminating.

Some Democrats try, but it's pointless. Air America went out of business. MSNBC, often incorrectly cited as the other side of the Fox News coin, has three hours of Joe Scarborough. Show me any institution, media or otherwise, that controls the messaging of the Democratic party to the extent that Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and Rupert Murdoch do on the right. The American left just isn't homogeneous enough to have a bubble of any comparable strength or reach to that of the American right.

Still waiting for your response to the gun control discussion, BTW.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:26 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Deficit reduction by way of reducing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is something you're not allowed to say among progressives or Dems, yes.

Ohhh...you mean deliberately underfunding Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and then slashing them under the guise of "deficit reduction." No, you're right, you won't find many progressives who will advocate that.

I would defy you to try being a progressive who didn't think Zimmerman deserved to be jailed.

I would defy you to try being considered a reasonable person of any political stripe who didn't think Zimmerman deserved to be jailed. There's gun rights, and then there's straight-up rule of law.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:28 PM on November 28, 2012


As a lefty, I read right blogs all the time: National Review, Red State, Ace of Spaces, Legal Insurrection, Gateway Pundit. I'll admit that sometimes its just for LOLs but I like to know what people are thinking. I don't watch FOX but I don't watch a whole lot of TV news in general.
posted by octothorpe at 2:28 PM on November 28, 2012


Corb, do you have suggestions for well-written conservative media? I read a ton of libertarian-leaning economics blogs, but I haven't found much on the conservative side.

As for the other two questions -- as it turns out, there are liberals who grow up in tiny farming towns too. We went to church and drove tractors and still turned out bucking the trend. And some of us move to the east coast and manage to stay friends with our conservative friends because both sides remain open-minded and respectful. The idea that all liberals come from large cities or the coasts is such a weird assumption.
posted by snickerdoodle at 2:33 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


there are liberals who grow up in tiny farming towns too

George McGovern was a senator from Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the Corn Palace. Lyndon Johnson, admittedly no liberal but the architect of the ONLY successful liberal legislation between Roosevelt and today, was from a farm and ranch town in the hill country of Texas. Tiny Sheridan County, Montana, the "Red Corner" in the northeast of the state, was run by honest-to-God communists in the 20s and 30s. Progressivism was a largely rural movement, led by farmer organizations such as the Grange, who fought for farm collectivism, coops, agricultural education, rural mail delivery, rural electrification, women's suffrage, and, er, temperance.
posted by Fnarf at 2:51 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Corb, do you have suggestions for well-written conservative media? I read a ton of libertarian-leaning economics blogs, but I haven't found much on the conservative side.

I remember a few years ago, there was an ombudsman column in the Boston Globe. At the time, the Globe (of course) had an editorial supporting gay marriage, which resulted in many letters to the editor. The letters that were selected for publication, readers complained, were too one-sided; there were no letters that were against gay marriage.

The problem, the ombudsman said, was that the Globe only prints letters to the editor that are thoughtful and intelligent, but there weren't any such letters to be found. So they went to the resident conservative columnist, Jeff Jacoby, and asked him, so do you perchance have any letters that are both well-written and against gay marriage? No, sorry, said Mr. Jacoby.
posted by Melismata at 2:54 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, but you guys would both admit this isn't the same thing, right? The point of epistemic closure is that you're closing yourself to ideas from "the other side"

tonycpsu, what are the top five ideas the Republicans hold right now that you think they have right and Democrats have wrong?
posted by Drinky Die at 3:03 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


snickerdoodle: "as it turns out, there are liberals who grow up in tiny farming towns too"

There used to be prominent big-city Rockefeller Republicans, too. These days the GOP base just calls them RINOs.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:03 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Indeed, one of the things that is most insufferable about modern Republicans is that they hold insane beliefs about "liberulls" even in the face of dissent. Guns, for instance. "You can have my guns when you pry them from mah cold dead fingers", says they. "Yes, I know, I'm not really interested in your guns", says me. "You can't take away mah rights" says he. "Yes, I know, the Supreme Court agrees" says me. "You cain't HAVE UM, goddammit" says he. "Yes, I know, I'm not trying to take them" says me. "Why cain't you git it through your thick skull that you cain't take mah guns???" says he. "I'm not". "Yes, you are". "No, really, it's a settled issue" "Obama is comin' for um, but ah'm ready for him".

You can't argue with a person like that. You can't discuss the issue. You're better off trying to fist-fight a door.


Obama said in a nationally televised debate that he supports renewing the assault weapons ban.

I do recognize that it isn't going to happen, but it's not like they are pulling this stuff out of nowhere. It was long a major issue in the Democratic party. How many years after the Republicans decide to go pro-choice in rhetoric will you be confident enough to not fear a Republican Supreme Court nominee on that issue?
posted by Drinky Die at 3:10 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


tonycpsu, what are the top five ideas the Republicans hold right now that you think they have right and Democrats have wrong?

This is a total non-sequitur, because being open to ideas isn't the same as adopting those ideas as one's own. You should instead be asking me whether I've considered their ideas, understand them, and why I agree or disagree with them.

The modern GOP really doesn't have a lot for me to love. At one time, there was some overlap between my ideas and those of the GOP of old, but the party moved away from me as I moved away from it. Earlier in my life, I was more hawkish on foreign policy, less tolerant of illegal immigration, and supported the death penalty. I also supported things like Clinton's welfare reform, which was a GOP idea even if Clinton did sign it into law. I voted for Arlen Specter when he was a moderate Republican, and later in life when he was a moderate Democrat.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:16 PM on November 28, 2012


I don't think it's at all a non-sequitur. Republicans would answer exactly the same way.

"I openly considered every one of the liberal ideas, and literally all of them are not better than mine. I am not epistemicly closed."
posted by Drinky Die at 3:20 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always confuse Bruce Bartlett with Bruce Barton.
posted by Jahaza at 3:21 PM on November 28, 2012


Drinky Die: "I don't think it's at all a non-sequitur. Republicans would answer exactly the same way.

"I openly considered every one of the liberal ideas, and literally all of them are not better than mine. I am not epistemicly closed."
"

If those Republicans truly understand the issues, I don't see why they would be wrong to say that. Epistemic closure is a symptom of what arguments one exposes oneself to and takes seriously, not a function of what beliefs they hold.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:22 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


A symptom I have noticed is being totally unaware of epistemic closure and thinking one came to the conclusion that their side is always more right in a fair and balanced manner. If someone seriously can't throw a bone to the opponents on having even a couple better ideas, that is pretty clearly not a very open point of view.

Nobody has a true, complete understanding of much of our politics. It is all far too large and complex a system. If you are taking a truly open view, you will not come to the conclusion that one side is more right on every single idea you have encountered.

Nobody can really get inside the head of an individual and see how open they are, but we can ask them to give us their conclusions on the issues.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:35 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


A symptom I have noticed is being totally unaware of epistemic closure and thinking one came to the conclusion that their side is always more right in a fair and balanced manner. If someone seriously can't throw a bone to the opponents on having even a couple better ideas, that is pretty clearly not a very open point of view.
OK, but I already gave you several instances where I used to agree with the GOP, but their positions went to the right and mine went to the left. As I learned new things (by looking outside the bubble) I saw that my positions were built on shaky assumptions about how the world works, and at the same time, the GOP moved right. Were I closed to outside facts, my ideology would have stayed where it was.

There's another thing going on here that makes these kinds of questions inappropriate when assessing the relative epistemic closure of the two parties. As Mann and Ornstein say in It's Even Worse Than It Looks:
Second, while both parties participate in tribal warfare, both sides are not equally culpable. The political system faces what the authors call “asymmetric polarization,” with the Republican Party implacably refusing to allow anything that might help the Democrats politically, no matter the cost.
Ornstein is an AEI fellow and a conservative in good standing, so the call is coming from inside the house on that one. This asymmetric polarization means that asking an average liberal where they overlap with today's GOP is a taller order than asking an average conservative where they overlap with today's Democrats, because there's no moderate Republican base for lefty types to find common ground with, whereas there are plenty of moderate Democrats for Republicans to agree with on some issues. Olympia Snowe's leaving the Senate for this very reason. Rock-solid Republicans like Mike Castle and Bob Bennett were pushed out by Tea Party types. No such phenomenon exists on the left to any measurable degree.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:46 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


If someone seriously can't throw a bone to the opponents on having even a couple better ideas, that is pretty clearly not a very open point of view.

The problem with this is that "the other side" IS over here with us. All or almost all of the standard conservative arguments are part of the Democratic canon now. All they have left over there is lies and bullshit.

I'm sorry, but believing that the earth is only 5,000 years old is not "conservative", it's just bullshit.

Believing that you can reduce the deficit by slashing revenues and increasing spending isn't conservative; it's bullshit.

Believing that lazy welfare cheats are the reason the budget is out of balance, when in fact lazy welfare cheats are responsible for perhaps 0.01% of spending, isn't conservative, it's stupid and dishonest.

Believing that Obama has raised taxes through the roof, when he has in fact lowered them across the board, isn't conservative, it's bullshit.

Rational people can disagree on whether abortion is wrong or not. But when someone says "legitimate rape victims have a way of shutting that whole thing down", that's not conservative, it's loonie tunes.
posted by Fnarf at 3:55 PM on November 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


The problem with this is that "the other side" IS over here with us. All or almost all of the standard conservative arguments are part of the Democratic canon now.

Ya, this. Welfare reform? Clinton did it. Free trade? Took that idea too. Charter schools/education reform? Hi, Race to the Top. I'm pretty sure they'll take Romney's deduction cap idea too.

It's hard to claim that both sides have a similar bubble when you only see the ideas flowing one way.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:09 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


1. When was the last time you read conservative media or books, or watched conservative movies or television shows, voluntarily, with an open mind, rather than just looking for something to hate?

You may have a stronger case for epistemic closure of the left to conservative media on a political thread not dedicated to reading and discussing an article from The American Conservative.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:10 PM on November 28, 2012 [15 favorites]


There's another fallacy in this, in addition to Fnarf's excellent point about both parties moving rightward.

If someone seriously can't throw a bone to the opponents on having even a couple better ideas, that is pretty clearly not a very open point of view.

Let's say for the sake of argument that there are a dozen or so major issues up for debate between the two parties in any given election, and that each issue is logically independent from the others. Flipping a coin twelve times and getting heads every time would a rare event, but certainly not an impossibility as you are suggesting.

In reality, though, what is actually happening is a coin flip on a few major guiding philosophies of the party ideologies -- role of government (bigger, smaller), foreign policy (hawkish, dovish), social issues (permissive or restrictive) with most of the issues deriving from those philosophies. There are exceptions, of course -- there are some folks who are pro gay marriage but anti-abortion, and there are some people who believe in a bigger federal budget for education but a smaller one for entitlements, etc. But these are comparatively rare, not just among elected representatives but among voters as well.

Furthermore, there are smaller but still significant interdependencies between those three or four guiding philosophies of each side of the spectrum. There are socially conservative people who want to shrink welfare programs and social liberals who want a larger welfare state, but not as many as there are social liberals who want a larger welfare state or social conservatives who want a smaller state.

So, even before you consider the rightward lurch of both parties in the last 20-30 years, your theory is already busted, because you're effectively saying you can't flip a coin three times and get heads, something that would happen to one in eight people even if the merits of both parties' positions were equal.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:26 PM on November 28, 2012


I can not get enough of these "The Republicans have been wrong for years and they're screwed for more years unless they become moderate".

Literally, I'm going to have build a mental space in my brain where I can vomit out the previous articles, just to ingest more of them.

So bloated!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:35 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Random events like coin flips have nothing to do with any of this. The guiding philosophies and details of policy are not randomly determined.

Even adopting the position of the other side is not absolutely a sign of a lack of closure. Many Democrats changed on things like gun control and a Republican style healthcare plan not because they are necessarily good ideas, but because it was politically pragmatic to do so. Republicans do that sort of thing too and support social spending and bailouts at times.

I don't think some of the Democrats who defended Obama's more conservative anti-gay marriage views were open to them, it was simply pragmatic at the time. They defended his new, correct, views just as hard. I saw the shift happen overnight.

You can list off every bad thing Republicans have done, and I could list back plenty of bad things Democrats have done or said. I don't think we can reasonably disagree there are plenty of examples for both parties.

You can tell me the Republican/Democratic party is only recently full of only worse ideas, but I think most partisans from either side would have said the same thing in the past before Democrats decided to adopt more Republican views and Republicans increased social spending and bailouts under Bush.

This isn't something you see happening at the time. I really think it's to the benefit of Democrats to step away from being closed and to engage in true self-examination to see what will be the next position they will have to shift on when it becomes necessary.

This is not a "truth is always in the middle" point of view I'm talking about. Democrats are more often right and a bit less inflexible. However, if you are at the point where even naming a few places where Democrats don't have better ideas is a major issue for you it is a sign that inflexibility is setting you up for a surprise in the future. Don't take the same paths that led to Republicans being out of touch.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:22 PM on November 28, 2012


1. When was the last time you read conservative media or books, or watched conservative movies or television shows, voluntarily, with an open mind, rather than just looking for something to hate?

Currently I'm reading a lot of the National Review and the Daily Caller, with a bit of Red State & Town Hall thrown in. My wife keeps me updated on Drudge headlines. I like the Next Right when it was around. Reason has some good articles from time to time.

Mother Jones, Kos, The Progressive are nice, but sometimes sound too shrill in town for me to consistently follow. Talking Points Memo is good, along with the Daily Beast and Andrew Sullivan's The Dish. The BBC and Al Jazeera English are good for getting perspectives from outside the US. Google News is a good aggregator for headlines and individual articles will often grab my attention.

My wife and I are lifelong Democrats but can see a lot of merit of conservative ideas, such as small government. So can a lot (but not all) of our overwhelmingly Democratic friends. We're all big on compromise on most issues.

The problem is that the current Republican party is a group of power mad assholes who are behaving in fucking insane ways. They, and their hard line stance, are the problem at this point in US politics. They need to get their act together and work for the country, not their own power mad party reasons.

2. How many strong conservatives are on your friends lists on social media that aren't relatives or co-workers?

None, because most of the Republican party is a group of power mad assholes who are behaving in fucking insane ways. Yes, being a member of the GOP doesn't equate with being conservative, but considering that the GOP has chased away or thrown out of power seemingly every moderate conservative, not much point in following them. The inmates are running that particular asylum/party.

3. When was the last time you bothered to ask yourself, when you disagreed with something a politician or person was doing or saying, "Assuming that they are a decent human being, why do they believe this?"

All the damn time, but it gets tiring dealing with people who want to legislate other people's lives and choices. That is not American.

I remain a strong believer that general conservative and liberal ideas aren't that far apart and can live side by side even when disagreeing. But the current GOP is a bunch of...well you know. The Democrats aren't perfect, but currently they're a helluva lot better for the country than the Republicans are.

Here's the thing, when I've talked to many Republicans, they are good people, who definitely care about others and are often active volunteers in a church and are quick to donate to charity or those in an emergency situation.

But.

They often have some deep prejudice against some group of people:
"All the muslims are trying to kill us."
"All of 'them' are living off my tax dollars with their lazy ass welfare"
"Goddamn welfare queens are living off caviar and lobster"
"The blacks only voted for Obama 'cause he's black."
"Goddamn government is always trying to tell me what to do."
"Goddamn gays are always try to shove that shit in my face."
"We need to take our country back!"
"Goodamn liberals took prayer outta schools and look where it got us."

Someone is always against them or trying to take something from them. They can believe whatever they want, but at some point irrationality falls apart.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:27 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I get all the conservative thinking I need from Ted Nugent.
posted by telstar at 5:32 PM on November 28, 2012


That road to Damascus sure is long.
posted by wuwei at 6:00 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


How exactly would you exploit that wedge issue? I'm curious if you know of a way that isn't reprehensible in some regard.

If I were a strategist for the GOP? I'd get a bunch of legal immigrants to talk about how illegal immigration is hurting their job prospects. I'd find hard working people who were in the professional class in their home countries, but who have to work 2-3 jobs as cabbies, warehouse packers, custodians, landscapers, etc... and I'd have them talk about their dreams for their kids and themselves and how hard it is when you have to compete for work against someone getting paid under the table. I'd make it less about race and more about some nebulous concept like putting in your dues.

I would target those messages at specific racial demographics, and make them more about lost opportunities than about fear of what's different. I think this is where the Republicans screw up. They try so hard to tap into fear that they wind up creating hate. Even my Aunt, veteran of 1000 boycotts and lifetime Democrat gets upset about illegal immigration, partly because she helped girls from Africa fight to get here legally. She feels like it's unfair to make them jump through hoops and then turn around and not enforce the rules against illegals. I'm not claiming that the Republicans are any better than Democrats on this issue, but that doesn't mean they couldn't potentially use it as a wedge.

Is that reprehensible? I guess it could be, but I think it depends on how you ran the campaign.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:45 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't see any claim of coincidence or fantastic conspiracy.

His book on Bush tanked big time. I'm pretty sure his mother didn't read it. Shortly thereafter an organization that makes its money drawing eyeballs stops returning his calls.

Explanation A: Those in charge are so outraged by the summary on the back of the book that the very top member of the organization blackballs him personally.

Explanation B: He's a pundit who was last relevant in the 1980's and attracts only slightly fewer viewers than he does readers.

When considering these explanations, remember that this is a man who believes that the fact that Americans still blame George Bush for the current economy can be traced back to a book no one read in 2006.


Book on race:
So I wrote Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past. Unfortunately, it was published the day Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses.

Yes, I can see where a book on race and the democratic party would be completely untopical and unread at that point. That's definitely why it tanked. Definitely.

Frankly, I'm glad to see that he's back on the pundit horse. It's something he seems to do well and he certainly has the requisite ego. He should probably stop writing books though.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:07 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have a question regarding taxes and economics (and is related to Bruce Bartlett so this is somewhat on topic):

During the election season, I was listening to a radio interview with Bruce, who was making the conservative case for re-electing the President, and he was asked about his support of the proposed repeal of the Bush tax cuts. Specifically he was asked how he could support raising taxes when he had been part of the economic team in the first Reagan term which had lowered taxes.

His response was: "It doesn't make sense to keep taxes artificially low now since tax cuts won't help the economy in the current situation. In the early 80's, inflation was so high that our tax cuts provided a serious boost to the economy."

My knowledge of economics is limited enough that I don't know how to evaluate his claim. Was Bartlett correct? Or is he just putting a positive spin on his old job and his old boss?
posted by honestcoyote at 8:25 PM on November 28, 2012


Drinky Die: "Random events like coin flips have nothing to do with any of this. The guiding philosophies and details of policy are not randomly determined. "

Right, but the argument you were making is essentially probabilistic in nature. I wasn't using coin flips to suggest that any one person's position is random, but to approximate a distribution of opinions on a set of binary issues across a large population. The point is that the issues have correlations between them, so it's totally possible, and not at all uncommon for people to, irrespective of the merits of each party's policies, (a) be open to new ideas but also (b) come to conclusions that match up with one party or another virtually 100% of the time.

Even adopting the position of the other side is not absolutely a sign of a lack of closure. Many Democrats changed on things like gun control and a Republican style healthcare plan not because they are necessarily good ideas, but because it was politically pragmatic to do so. Republicans do that sort of thing too and support social spending and bailouts at times.

I don't think some of the Democrats who defended Obama's more conservative anti-gay marriage views were open to them, it was simply pragmatic at the time. They defended his new, correct, views just as hard. I saw the shift happen overnight.


Sure, panderers gonna pander, and there are going to be followers who buy into the pandering. Still, there is a big difference between praising a politician for political opportunism that furthers long-term policy goal and praising them for the pandering itself. For instance, I want single payer healthcare, but I praised Obama (and continue to praise him) for getting what was available given President Ben Nelson's veto power. Does that mean I'm okay with PPACA as an end state? No. But does PPACA represent where I want to be on healthcare compared to the pre-PPACA status quo or the GOP alternatives? Absolutely.

You can list off every bad thing Republicans have done, and I could list back plenty of bad things Democrats have done or said. I don't think we can reasonably disagree there are plenty of examples for both parties.

Wait, we're talking specific Democrats now and not consensus Democratic policies? Because I can sure as shit fire off an arsenal of dumb-ass positions and awful things Democrats have said. But your original question was are there policies on which I would choose the Republican consensus over the Democratic consensus. That's a much higher bar to clear.

You can tell me the Republican/Democratic party is only recently full of only worse ideas, but I think most partisans from either side would have said the same thing in the past before Democrats decided to adopt more Republican views and Republicans increased social spending and bailouts under Bush.

ProTip: the parties don't differ on bailouts, and they differ on social spending only in rhetoric, not in action. Bailouts are a symptom of lemon socialism, which both parties support pretty much equally. The Tea party might have had some origin in opposition to bailouts, but the mainstream GOP was all about saving the banksters. And on social spending, the GOP knows their base is the Hoveround set, so they're not ever going to dick with Medicare and Social Security (remember when GWB tried?), and if they did cut Medicaid and welfare, they'd just redirect it to Medicare and Social Security.

This is not a "truth is always in the middle" point of view I'm talking about. Democrats are more often right and a bit less inflexible. However, if you are at the point where even naming a few places where Democrats don't have better ideas is a major issue for you it is a sign that inflexibility is setting you up for a surprise in the future. Don't take the same paths that led to Republicans being out of touch.

Yeah, you're just wrong about this, and you have no idea what path I've taken. Where do you think Republicans are better, by the way? And I'm talking actual positions backed by meaningful votes, not slogans.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:28 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


1. When was the last time you read conservative media or books, or watched conservative movies or television shows, voluntarily, with an open mind, rather than just looking for something to hate?

2. How many strong conservatives are on your friends lists on social media that aren't relatives or co-workers?

3. When was the last time you bothered to ask yourself, when you disagreed with something a politician or person was doing or saying, "Assuming that they are a decent human being, why do they believe this?"


It's precisely because I regularly do stuff like this (I'd phrase #3 differently, but mean something similar), because I have friends who are libertarians and Republicans whose ideas sometimes make sense to me, that I'm so astonished and dismayed by the "bubble" disparity. There are differences in principles and values that I can respect and where we can have fruitful discussions about our differences. But the list of things they've "learned" from their media that is just plain false is really dismaying and I really can't find a similar list on the left.

During the election, Democrats were always up in arms about stuff Republicans actually said while Republicans were upset about stuff FOX News falsely attributed to Democrats or claimed they were secretly planning.

I've been kind of paranoid about it. Is my bubble really so tight I can't even see a hint that it's there? Am I spending way too much time on MetaFilter? I don't think so. I think there's a real difference between Republicans and Democrats.

Am I wrong? Does anyone have a list of the top 10 things lots of Democrats believe that are demonstrably false?
posted by straight at 9:31 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


honestcoyote: " My knowledge of economics is limited enough that I don't know how to evaluate his claim. Was Bartlett correct? Or is he just putting a positive spin on his old job and his old boss?"

Bartlett goes into this in greater detail here. The key thing is that the scale of the tax cut or increase and the inflation rate are just two variables, you also have the Fed's interest rate, the unemployment rate, how the taxes are distributed, etc. Modern Keynesians see most tax cuts as stimulative, but not nearly as stimulative as increased spending on welfare programs, infrastructure, etc. and at some point, the multiplier effect of the tax cut has to be balanced against what that revenue would have done if the taxes weren't cut -- would it go to pay down the debt? Put people to work building roads and bridges? etc. There's no one right answer, but I think Bartlett's case for the about face is pretty persuasive.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:00 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


My knowledge of economics is limited enough that I don't know how to evaluate his claim.

You have just accurately described the entire study of economics.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:35 PM on November 28, 2012


With high wage inflation and fixed marginal tax rates and brackets, taxes are essentially rising in real terms, which is contractionary, especially where it affects those on lower incomes. The effect is less severe for higher incomes, where people are more inclined to save in any case, but there again higher inflation discourages saving, and so lowering taxes even on high income earners is likely to encourage more growth when inflation is higher. In a low-inflation, high-debt environment it encourages more saving/deleveraging than spending. So I'm guessing this was kind of the point he'd be making
posted by moorooka at 11:44 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here is where I debunk Keynesian economics. It's simply the Democratic analogue to Republican trickle-down theory - both are delusionary economic systems that are beautiful in theory but completely fail in practice because they don't take a realistic view of human nature.

Ultimately, it's kind of ironic that Bruce Bartlett's "conversion" involved him switching from a belief in Trickle-Down economics to Keynesian economics. That's like a kid saying "I renounce my belief in Santa Claus. From now on, I will only acknowledge the one true bringer of gifts - the Easter Bunny!"
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:33 AM on November 29, 2012


I'm fairly certain that the anti-abortion left has very little place in the modern Democratic party.

The second most powerful Democrat in the country is anti-abortion.
posted by Eyebeams at 7:17 AM on November 29, 2012


wolfdreams01: "Here is where I debunk Keynesian economics."

Or at least you tried to. One only has to look back to the Clinton administration to find a time when politicians saw a growing economy and had the courage to do the Keynesian counter-cyclical thing on spending and taxes. From 1993-2001, spending as a percentage of GDP went down significantly, and taxes as a percentage of GDP went up significantly.

It can be done, and, really, it doesn't take as much courage as you suggest.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:33 AM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Bill Clinton (who is my personal hero) is the exception that proved the rule, in that he is one of the rare politicians charismatic enough to convince the normally-stupid public to follow sensible policies. Hell, he's probably charismatic enough that he could punch somebody in the stomach and convince them it was for their own good. But that success is not so much a tribute to Keynesian economics as it is a tribute to Bill Clinton. Any economic policy can work if you have a capable leader at the helm to compensate for its failing. For example, even something as insane as trickle-down economics worked pretty well for a time - but only under Reagan. Most politicians are nowhere near Clinton's level of competence, and thus will not be able to get the public to accept the cutbacks that he did. A sensible economic system should understand and allow for this level of mediocrity. Keynesian economics does not - it assumes a government that is capable and willing of forcing the public to accept cutbacks during times of economic prosperity.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:15 AM on November 29, 2012


Keynes wasn't very particular about which side of the ledger did the counter-cyclical work. Increasing taxes and reducing spending during boom times are both appropriate Keynesian interventions, and there are other examples outside of the Clinton years where taxes were raised during good times to avoid overheating the economy, e.g. in the early to mid 1950s and the mid to late 1960s. Reagan also increased taxes in a strong economy, and though he didn't sell it as a counter-cyclical intervention, it still undermines your theory that nobody (other than Clinton with his magical persuasion powers) can raise taxes in a good economy.

In the eleven or so boom/bust cycles we've had since 1945, I count at least three where explicitly counter-cyclical spending cuts and/or tax increases were used, and at least two more where there were significant tax increases in good economic times sold for other purposes (reducing the deficit, correcting imbalances in the tax code, etc.) Here's the paper I'm using -- the big table classifies the tax cuts/hikes according to whether they were designed to be counter-cyclical, deficit-reducing, etc.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your rebuttal to my argument is... a 95-page paper?!?

Well, kudos for your willingness to go into detailed analysis, but it's going to take me some time to read it thoroughly enough to either a) acknowledge its validity or b) find the flaws in its reasoning. Let's put a cap in this side-convo for a while and I'll get back to you via MeMail once I've had a chance to read through this.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:59 AM on November 29, 2012


OK, I'll admit that your nearly self-refuting comparison of the dominant school of economic thought in the last 80 years to the Easter Bunny probably doesn't require such a thorough treatment. I only cited the Romer/Romer paper to show that I'm not substituting my own judgement for which tax cuts were explicitly counter-cyclical and which just happened to occur during boom times. It's by no means the core of my argument.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:12 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, I'll admit that your nearly self-refuting comparison of the dominant school of economic thought in the last 80 years to the Easter Bunny probably doesn't require such a thorough treatment.

Tonycpsu, I didn't have a 401k until the market collapsed a few years ago. I kept all my money in a money market account. The idea that a 401k was guaranteed money was "the dominant school of economic thought" and in fact people thought I was crazy, until the recession hit and I invested that loose cash in stock that had hit rock-bottom.

Before that, everybody's idea of a smart investment was buying a house. I was encouraged multiple times to do so, but did not.

In short, I've made a decent amount of money simply based on the principle that human stupidity is so widespread that it is consistently and reliably bankable. When Jim Cramer passionately says "buy," I know it's time to sell - not because of any in-depth analysis, but simply because he's a goddamn idiot, and generally when an idiot gives advice, it's a good idea to do the opposite. My best friend is a multimillionaire based on a similar approach. Telling me something is the "dominant school of economic thought" is thus not a strong selling point for your argument. After all, if economists had legitimate talent, wouldn't they have used it to get fabulously wealthy? An economist who hasn't made a lot of money through their own independent investments is like an obese personal trainer - I would reconsider taking their advice.

This is not to say that your paper doesn't have validity, just that I'd like to have the chance to analyze it myself, without worrying about what the "dominant school of economic thought" says. As Forktine pointed out in her comment about the advice mefites gave regarding higher education, the "dominant school of thought" among the public is usually widespread ignorance. And even when it's not, is there any harm in an independent analysis? Like I said, I'll read your paper thoroughly over the next month, and follow up with you through MeMail.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:25 AM on November 29, 2012


Your alternative to the wisdom of crowds is just the stupidity of crowds, which I find unconvincing. We're not talking about day-traders or people who bought into the hype about the stock market never going down, we're talking about economic policy makers. I'm totally unconvinced that your "bet against Jim Cramer" strategy is a sound strategy. It sounds good because Jim Cramer is stupid, and the opposite of stupid is smart, but in reality, the opposite of a stupid bet with Jim Cramer is just a stupid bet against Jim Cramer. Without knowing the fundamentals of the investment, you're better off betting 22 black at your nearest casino.

Likewise, betting against Keynesianism because "people are stupid, and people think Keynesianism works, therefore Keynesianism doesn't work" is also terrible logic. Keynesianism isn't popular because it's a fad, it's popular because it's worked more often than it's failed. It is backed by proven economic theory and tested in real world conditions. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution to any economic calamity, and there are other schools of thought, but nobody's come up with anything better.

If your counter to modern Keynesian economics is just mindless contrarianism and a baseless assertion that politicians other than Bill Clinton can't ever make tough choices during boom times, then I don't think we're going to have a very productive discussion. But I do appreciate your willingness to engage, and will happily continue our discussion over MeMail.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:51 AM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, "assume crowds are stupid, and do the opposite" isn't the entirety of my economic advice - it's just a good starting point. Beyond that point, obviously it's important to back up hypotheses with independent research.

It would be nice if you could cut me some slack here - you've cited a 95-page paper to make your point, whereas I'm trying to condense mine into just a few paragraphs. Obviously that will result in my argument losing a certain degree of nuance.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:02 PM on November 29, 2012


I'm happy to cut you slack, but you have to admit comparing modern Keynesians to believers in the Easter Bunny is pretty provocative. I think someone making that kind of statement has a responsibility to counter with their own economic theory, otherwise it's sort of a cheap shot.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:17 PM on November 29, 2012


OK, that's a fair point. I apologize for that comparison, although I still think they're pretty misguided.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:35 PM on November 29, 2012


So, let me get this straight. The "debunking" of Keynesian economics is agreement that the Keynesian analysis is correct followed by an unsubstantiated claim that Keynesian policies are politically unfeasible. And here I was thinking that Keynesian economics was a body of models and claims about how the economy really works, regardless of whether any politician believes it.

Keynesian economic models might be wrong nonetheless. But it is not a debunking of those models to say that (some) politicians don't believe them.

Analogy: Climate scientists produce models of climate that say humans are responsible for global warming. One does not "debunk" a climate science model by pointing out (even if correct) that political action on the basis of the models is unlikely or even impossible.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 2:31 PM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Analogy: Climate scientists produce models of climate that say humans are responsible for global warming. One does not "debunk" a climate science model by pointing out (even if correct) that political action on the basis of the models is unlikely or even impossible.

I don't think that a valid analogy, and here's why. If a climate scientist proposes ten actions to solve the environmental crisis, and you attempt to implement all ten - but only end up implementing half of those proposals due to political interference - then at least you haven't damaged the environment. You may not have achieved as much good as you hope, but your efforts have still resulted in something positive.

With Keynesian economics, the reverse is true - the two parts of the Keynesian cycle are inextricably tied together. Implementing the "spend" side of a Keynesian model without also implementing the "cutback" side results in bloated budgets, excess waste, and a deficit that is ever spiraling out of control. In the long run, a partial implementation of the Keynesian model results in more damage than if you had simply done nothing at all. Therefore, I think it's grossly irresponsible to advocate for a Keynesian economic system unless we have some mechanism in place (which we don't) to ensure that the entire Keynesian cycle - including cutbacks - is carried out to full completion.

As for whether my claims are substantiated, it seems pretty self-evident to me that making tax increases and cutting back government services during a prosperous economy is not the best way for a politician seeking reelection to gather votes. That's why in a good economy, nobody ever runs for office under the "I will raise taxes and fire people to maintain fiscal responsibility" platform. :-)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:34 PM on November 29, 2012


You're missing the point of the analogy, and hence, you're missing the point altogether. You're treating Keynesianism as a political position. But it's not a political position. It's an account (or family of accounts) of how the economy works. Maybe you're right that it would be irresponsible to advocate for the implementation of policy recommendations that are based on Keynesian economic theory: for the reason that more harm than good would be done by implementing the recommended policies only half-way. But pointing that out is in no way a debunking of Keynesian economic theory, even if the claim were correct. If it were true, your claim would be a sad fact about human rationality and human political systems. But it would say absolutely nothing about whether the economic theory was a correct account of how the economy actually works.

Now, I'm willing to be convinced that humans are irrational in the way you describe. And so, I'm willing to be convinced that I should stop advocating for policies based on Keynesian economic theory. However, when you say that your political claim is "self-evident" you are just begging the question. I don't think the claim self-evident. I think it's false. Labeling a contentious claim as self-evident is not an effective way to convince people who disagree with you.

I would like you to try to convince me. Hence, I would like you to (try to) substantiate your claim about the political reality by appealing to something other than your naked intuition that no politician can be elected on a "raise taxes and cut spending" platform.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 7:24 PM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Jonathan Livengood: "your naked intuition that no politician can be elected on a "raise taxes and cut spending" platform"

I could swear that's happened before -- I remember it like it was three weeks ago.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:38 PM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


As for the other two questions -- as it turns out, there are liberals who grow up in tiny farming towns too. We went to church and drove tractors and still turned out bucking the trend. And some of us move to the east coast and manage to stay friends with our conservative friends because both sides remain open-minded and respectful. The idea that all liberals come from large cities or the coasts is such a weird assumption.

You know, honestly, I think that these sorts of people are where the only talking can come from - Republicans who have grown up in large cities, and Democrats who have grown up in more rural settings - because they're by and large, the only people who I think really can see all sides. In this very thread, you have people saying they don't have a single conservative friend. I think I certainly know conservatives who don't have a single liberal friend, too, and that stuff is poison.

Most of the attitude I've been finding frustrating is actually large-city/coastal liberals who don't have that experience - in particular, old friends of mine who have never left New York City or only left for weekend vacations, and I'm the most conservative friend they have - and I'm not that conservative. I may appear one on Metafilter, but I'd argue that's largely because of the skew.
posted by corb at 7:38 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could swear that's happened before -- I remember it like it was three weeks ago.

You're misquoting me. If you'll reread my comment, you'll notice I said that couldn't happen "in a good economy" - and I put deliberate emphasis on good. Or are you trying to say that we're in a good economy right now? Because I think most people would disagree with that.

You're treating Keynesianism as a political position. But it's not a political position. It's an account (or family of accounts) of how the economy works.

Well, yes - I don't see any discrepancy here. Keynesianism is a political position because it's used to set economic policy. The fact that it also happens to be an economic theory is besides the point. I'm not arguing in any way that the theoretical Keynesian economic principles are wrong. In an abstract system where one of the following two conditions holds true: 1) All citizens are rational actors, 2) Irrational citizens have no influence over policy - in those situations, then Keynesian economics would work perfectly. But that's not at all my argument. My argument is that this abstract system does not exist in any democratic society, and therefore trying to implement policy based on the Keynesian model is likely to do more damage than simply taking no action at all.

So sure, if you want to split hairs about my definition, I'm not actually debunking Keynesianism itself, I'm simply debunking its utility as a tool by which to chart economic policy. I guess I could have specified that better, but one of my personality quirks is that I absolutely don't care about abstract theories in the slightest - the only thing I care about is how well they work in the real world. So the idea of people who care about abstract theories rather than implementation of said theories is utterly baffling to me, because I can't conceive of any reason for somebody to care about abstract ideas that are useless in practice. And when you think about it, why should we care about those things? I think it's silly to focus on whether an economic policy could hypothetically fix the economy in a perfect abstract model system - it's much more important to determine whether that fix would work in the real world. Don't you agree?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:15 PM on November 29, 2012


corb: "I'm not that conservative. I may appear one on Metafilter, but I'd argue that's largely because of the skew."

Right, the skew. MetaFilter is just lousy with people who think it's okay to set aside some federal funds to teach kids how to share, refuse to acknowledge the Obama administration's repeated incursions on Second Amendment rights, don't equate the actions of William Tecumseh Sherman with those of the Marines at Haditha, and don't understand that the Civil War could have been avoided if the North had just sent the South a big check to cover the costs of losing their slave labor.

Only a bunch of pinkos could not see the wisdom of these common sense positions.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:27 PM on November 29, 2012


wolfdreams01: " You're misquoting me. If you'll reread my comment, you'll notice I said that couldn't happen "in a good economy" - and I put deliberate emphasis on good. Or are you trying to say that we're in a good economy right now? Because I think most people would disagree with that."

I was actually responding to Jonathan Livengood's post, so if you think you've been misquoted, your beef is with him, not me. I was just pointing out that Obama ran on the exact platform he cited -- raising taxes and cutting spending.

Granted, cutting spending right now is not at all Keynesian, and I would love to see him increase spending on high-multiplier items like cash assistance to the poor, food stamps, infrastructure projects, etc.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:31 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd settle for enough belief in the Keynesian model that we didn't get reckless spending and tax cuts in the middle of an economic boom, thus magnifying the business cycle. It's like putting the pedal to the metal right before driving off a cliff.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:56 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Paul Krugman: Bruce Bartlett Is A Mensch
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:17 AM on November 30, 2012


Keynesianism is a political position because it's used to set economic policy.

But by that logic, climate science is a political position because it's used to set environmental policy; medical science is a political position because it's used to set health policy; math and physics are political positions because they're used to set policies at NASA, NOAA, and so forth; social sciences like social psychology and education research are political positions because they are used to set education policy; etc.

I don't think this is splitting hairs in the slightest. Only confusion results from conflating scientific investigations into how the world works with political policies.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 3:56 PM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's silly to focus on whether an economic policy could hypothetically fix the economy in a perfect abstract model system - it's much more important to determine whether that fix would work in the real world. Don't you agree?

But there's a confusion here as well, related to the conflation of scientific investigation with political positions. If Keynesian economic theory is true or close to true -- as you admit -- then if you were to implement policies based on that theory, it would work in the real world. That's what it means for the theory to be true or close to true. Your objection is that for political reasons, we cannot implement all of the recommendations that come from the theory.

Imagine for the moment that you know what range of political policies are actually implementable. And you want to estimate the real-world effects of implementing them. Then what you want is a true or nearly true model of how the world works. If Keynesian economic theory is basically correct, then it is that theory that will tell you what will happen under sub-optimal policies, as well as telling you what will happen under optimal policies.

It might be that we should aim for economic policy that Keynesian theory says is less than optimal but that we think is the best policy among those policies that are politically feasible. But in order to figure out which feasible policies are optimal, we still want to rely on a theory that tells us the truth about how the economy works.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 4:10 PM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


more Krugman: Notes on Epistemic Closure
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:32 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The nightmare (free market) scenario the GOP faces: THEY’RE A VERY BAD INVESTMENT
posted by homunculus at 5:17 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


But there's a confusion here as well, related to the conflation of scientific investigation with political positions. If Keynesian economic theory is true or close to true -- as you admit -- then if you were to implement policies based on that theory, it would work in the real world. That's what it means for the theory to be true or close to true. Your objection is that for political reasons, we cannot implement all of the recommendations that come from the theory.

Right, exactly. And as a logical consequence - because the theory only has good results when the recommendations derived from it are implemented fully, and disastrous results when the implementation is incomplete - we should stop attempting to implement it, based on the extremely low probability of successfully implementing those recommendations in full.

Imagine for the moment that you know what range of political policies are actually implementable. And you want to estimate the real-world effects of implementing them. Then what you want is a true or nearly true model of how the world works. If Keynesian economic theory is basically correct, then it is that theory that will tell you what will happen under sub-optimal policies, as well as telling you what will happen under optimal policies.

It might be that we should aim for economic policy that Keynesian theory says is less than optimal but that we think is the best policy among those policies that are politically feasible. But in order to figure out which feasible policies are optimal, we still want to rely on a theory that tells us the truth about how the economy works.


BINGO. This times 1000. I am so glad that we are finally on the same page. Yes, we need to use Keynesian economics as an analytical tool - but without attempting to implement policy based on pure Keynesian theory. And the best way to do that is to start a dialogue where we acknowledge the strengths of Keynesian economics but also its fundamental weaknesses.

However, you seem not to realize how revolutionary what you just said is, or how much resistance you will meet if you try to start a discussion in those terms. You see, although you may want to think of Keynesian economics purely as an abstract theory, whether you like it or not it is inextricably tied up in politics. Just as supply-side economics is an article of faith with Republicans (since it gives them an excuse to do what they want, which is lower taxes on the rich), Keynesian economics is an article of faith with Democrats (since it gives them an excuse to do what they want, which is spend money on more social programs). Once you start shooting at their sacred cow, a lot of alledgedly rational people are going to get very stubborn and refuse to listen to reason.

You, me, and Tonycpsu all seem like relatively logical people. Even though we may have different prescriptions on the economy, we all can agree on some fundamental points. We all can agree that implementing the spend side of Keynesian theory without the painful cutback side would be very bad. I think our primary difference lies in our view of human nature. Tonycpsu seems to have enough faith in humanity's sense of fiscal responsibility to believe that politicians will follow Keynesian prescription in full, even the parts that are difficult and require sacrifice. I think that human beings are generally short-sighted and greedy and they will put off the painful part of the prescription indefinitely, because let's face it, if fiscal responsibility was in human nature, why are we up against such a monumental deficit crisis? As for you, I don't know what your take on human nature is. What do you think?

And as long as I'm asking questions, why am I the only Mefite to have pointed out this glaringly obvious flaw in Keynesian economics? (Am I? I tried doing a search and couldn't find anything) I mean, most social constructs that rely on the better angels of human nature (like Marxism, for example) have inevitably proven unstable and self-destructive. So it seems pretty obvious that a system which inherently relies on human beings to make painful sacrifices out of a sense of personal responsibility has "bad idea" written all over it, and at the very least has some pretty big problems that require thorough analysis. So why is it that we three are the only ones willing to take an honest look at the flaws in it? After all, Mefites aren't stupid. I don't think they're exceptionally intelligent either (as some claim) but they're at least as smart and rational as anybody else. My conclusion is that it's political in nature. Metafilter skews heavily liberal, and since Keynesian economics is inextricably affiliated with the Democratic party, there is a deliberate blindness to its inherent flaws.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:26 PM on December 1, 2012


we should stop attempting to implement it, based on the extremely low probability of successfully implementing those recommendations in full
...
Tonycpsu seems to have enough faith in humanity's sense of fiscal responsibility to believe that politicians will follow Keynesian prescription in full, even the parts that are difficult and require sacrifice.

This is where I remind you that you have not come even close to making a convincing case that politicians don't raise taxes or lower spending during good economic times. I know you said you're going to read the Romer/Romer paper and yadda yadda, but in the time it took you to write this comment, you surely could have at least skimmed it.

I think it's really poor form to make a provocative statement with no supporting evidence, receive a rebuttal with evidence that undermines your provocative statement, then continue posting as if this is a metaphysical discussion about human nature instead of, you know, verifiable facts about legislation that was passed and signed into law.

If you're too busy to read the paper or whatever, I'd settle for an affirmative case for your original position that Presidents/Congresses don't do Keynesianism during booms. You keep saying these things as if they're established fact, but they're not. There are several more falsehoods, generalizations, and fact-free assertions in your comment, but I'm not going to bother rebutting those unless you can back up your original point that all of this is built on.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:13 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well Tonycpsu, you're also arguing as though you had already won your case... as if all I need to do is "casually skim" this paper and the truth will be made clear. Whereas in fact, you know any decent analysis requires not just verifying the content but also determining what relevant facts were left out of the content: a much longer task.

But sure, I'm willing to put this convo on hold and reprise it later once I've made a full reading, if you're willing to show some forbearance as well and not act as if my long lack of response indicates that I'm lacking one. Dumping a ton of data on somebody else for them to sort through should not be an automatic argument-winner. I don't believe in doing half-assed analysis - if I do it, I'm going to ensure I take the time to do it right.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:15 AM on December 2, 2012


Like I said, you didn't have to rebut my rebuttal -- you could have simply presented your own data showing that the major premise of your supposed debunking of Keynesian economics has been true at any single time in our history. Saying "it's human nature" or "politicians don't like to do hard things" (I'm paraphrasing) doesn't cut it.

All I'm asking for is a shred of evidence for your premise before you go on acting as if we've all somehow reached agreement and taken your unsupported claims at face value. Because that's what I see you doing when you call this an "obvious flaw", and compare it to, of all things, supply-side theory, which simply doesn't have anywhere near the successful track record Keynesian economics does. You come off like you're trying to preach religion to a bunch of agnostics rather than making a factual case using economic theory to support it.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:56 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bartlett was on Up With Chris Hayes this morning, and though the discussion got a bit heated a couple of times, I thought it was interesting to have an ex supply-sider and a current supply-sider on the same panel, along with a couple more progressive/Keynesian types.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:41 AM on December 2, 2012


The Economist: Republicans blaming Mitt Romney for losing the public are actually having an argument about their own party
Thoughtful Republicans know that their party base is crammed full of people, some of them out-and-out tea party types, some not, for whom the 47 per cent comments were catnip. Lots of the activists or partisans who turned up to Republican campaign events were very angry indeed about redistribution and welfare, and convinced that America had been rotted from within by a vast expansion of welfare, paid for by ever-rising taxes (and never mind that the overall tax burden is broadly lower now than a generation ago)...
There is a case to be made that the 2012 election was lost by Republicans during the presidential primaries, precisely because candidates had to push the buttons of those sorts of activists. Locked into angry, sour rhetoric about a country being wrecked by the feckless, the Republicans ended up looking like angry men who more or less resented the extension of the franchise beyond white male property-owners.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:01 AM on December 4, 2012


Republicans Are Running Scared - From Each Other - "In 2014, knock-down, drag-out primaries could jeopardize what should be a good year for GOP Senate candidates."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:48 AM on December 6, 2012


The Conservative Crisis - "The GOP's only hope is to offer a real alternative after the inevitable overreach of liberal government."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:13 AM on December 11, 2012


3 'Sorta-Kinda Conservatives' That Paul Krugman Carefully Listens To
posted by homunculus at 10:08 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tonycpsu, I'm still going through this paper (I'm at about page 60 now). It's very well-researched and I'm impressed with the quality of the research. Thanks for sharing this.

However, a significant problem that I see with using these paper to support your argument is that the data is only peripherally related to the point you're trying to make. The paper does does indeed do a very good job of charting tax increases and decreases to show that they roughly match, but completely fails to show the government's deficit spending during those time periods. To a simple mind (not that I am accusing you of being simple, it's just that most other people are painfully stupid when it comes to analysis of this kind of thing), if the government calls for a tax reduction of $5b at one point and then later passes a similar tax increase of $5b, then that appears to be a satisfactory application of Keynesian economics where tax increases match spending. However, you and I are better than that - we both know that by itself, this data is actually completely meaningless since the government could have increased the deficit to spend an additional $10b or even $50b, making this supposed "Keynesian balancing act" an illusion. (In fact, it's very likely that they did exactly that.) This paper only shows revenue changes without showing spending changes because it utterly neglects to factor in deficit spending. Without any data on deficit spending during this period, we have no way of knowing whether tax increases truly counteract spending in a countercyclical way. So all those pages and pages of quantitative data (while accurate) are completely meaningless since there is no way to correlate them to true government spending. Am I wrong here? It's a long paper, so if there is a section on deficit spending that I missed, please feel free to point it out. However, if not, I think you should acknowledge that without any numerical data on the deficit throughout this period, this paper does not reflect anything at all about whether these tax increases correctly balance spending. (However, the fact that we have such a huge deficit today strongly implies that they do not.) Therefore, the only parts of the paper that are relevant are the detailed discussions of the tax findings, and without accurate figures of spending vs taxes, they are only useful as anecdata.

Looking at the case-by-case studies, I also see a few examples that seem to support my view of human nature. For example, look at the Tax Reduction act of 1975. It was explicitly intended to be countercyclical, with the tax cut being temporary, but look what actually happened. Of course, when it came time to take the painful step of raising taxes, that did not happen. Obviously anecdata isn't valid and I'm not going to build my case on that, but it shows just one excellent example of how politicians generally don't have the political will to force the American public to take its medicine and force revenue to match spending. If they did, why would we have such a large deficit now?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:02 AM on December 24, 2012


The Romer paper does talk about what motivated each piece of tax legislation, i.e. to offset spending, to reduce the deficit, etc. and it also discusses the spending increases/decreases that were part of those pieces of legislation. You are correct that it does not attempt to measure spending programs that were introduced in other pieces of legislation, however, I pointed you in that direction upthread with charts of federal spending and taxes as a percentage of GDP, which you could have used to measure the number of times countercyclical spending and taxation were done accurately enough for the purposes of disproving your "nobody except Clinton had the balls to do Keynesianism until the music stopped" statement.

Since you haven't tried to connect those dots yourself, I created this chart showing expenditures and receipts as a percentage of GDP on the same graph to make it easier. A 100% ideal application of Keynesian economics would mean that red (spending) goes up and green (taxation) goes down in the shaded regions, with the opposite (red goes down, green goes up) in between them. (This gets a bit fuzzy, since you can be outside the shaded recession area but still not have a healthy enough economy to begin increasing taxes and cutting spending, (e.g. right now) but it's close enough for this discussion.)

So let's take a look. We could just eyeball the graph, but I wanted as accurate a look as possible, so I pulled the source data into Excel. What I've found is that, of 23 distinct intervals in the graph (12 "booms" and 11 "busts"), Keynesian spending was correctly applied 18 times, and Keynesian tax policy was correctly applied 21 times. In boom times (the times you said politicians always increase spending) spending as a percentage of GDP went down 9 out of 12 times, and taxes as a percentage of GDP went up 10 out of 12 times.

Now, my measure of "correctness" only takes into account whether expenditures and receipts went in the right direction, not how large those changes were, but you didn't make an argument that we don't do enough Keynesianism, you said that spending actually increases when times are good, and this just isn't true. If you'd like to crunch the numbers yourself to make a case that our policymakers don't cut spending or raise taxes enough to fit the scale of the problem, then I'm happy to hear your case, but at this point, I think it's fair to say that your debunking has been debunked.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:02 PM on December 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


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