Thursday, October 14, 2010

Teh Stoopid - It Burns!

I don't think it's a big secret that I am not impressed with the "Tea Party" "movement".

From its rhetoric to its heroes, this camorra has always seemed to me to be nothing more than the more gooberist elements of the Republican Right whose desire not to pay taxes for anything while continuing to fund everything they enjoy (killing Muslims, subsidies for "small farmers", that sort of thing) exceeds even the fairly fantastic complacency of the less-unhinged elements of the GOP.

But this is really idiotic - GOP candidate and Tea Party flavor-of-the-week Christine O'Donnell;
"Well if you remember when we were fighting the Soviets over there in Afghanistan in the '80s and '90s, we did not finish the job, so now we have a responsibility to finish the job and if you are gonna make these politically correct statements that it's costing us too much money, you are threatening the security of our homeland."
Before we can have any sort of sensible discussion about our Little Wars in central Asia and the Middle East we need to have, at the very least, a grown-up understanding about What They Are and What They Are Not. And one thing - the most central thing - they ARE NOT is about the "security of our homeland".

The Taliban, including all its permutations, is not and never will be an existential threat to the continental U.S., Hawaii, Guam, the U.S.V.I. or anything else underneath our starry flag. Ain't now, never was, won't be, until the moment the Taliban High Seas Fleet hoves into view off the Virgina Capes or the Taliban Air Force pounds San Francisco flat (though given their philosophical differences O'Donnell would probably give the Talibs the City by the Bay...).

I'm not saying that there is NO argument for pursuing a conventional war on the Asian mainland or in the Middle East. But I am saying that if you try to halt the argument by saying that making a cost-benefit analysis of fighting cabinet wars is the equivalent of surrender then you're not arguing seriously, and, in fact, your credibility as a particpant in the entire discussion is in serious jeopardy.

I think that the Bush years have badly damaged the GOP and that is a problem, because the United States does need a party to speak for the political, economic, and social conservatives. But these Tea Partiers are starting to move - have moved - beyond the sort of crony-capitalist, national-security-state-Washington-Rules sort of intellectual poverty that dominated the GOP after two terms of Dubyism into real tinfoil hat territory. And if they come to dominate the party we as a nation are in real trouble; first because they will shift the national conversation WAY over towards Teh Crazy, and second, because their insistence in the political purity of their positions makes them ever less unlikely to accept compromise than when Karl Rove used the term to mean "bend the Democrats over and show them who runs things in D.C.".

I wish I could retire this term but, shit...WASF


  1. Chief,

    There was a time when I'd say, "let them win; then, when they wreck it all, the people who voted them in must pick up the pieces."

    With the gobsmacked crazy people, I'm not so sure this is a good strategery. Over at Driftglass, we are well warned.

    Yes, WASF.


  2. Chief,
    Juan Cole did a nice essay a few arts ago bout Palin and the crazy Terrorists and eyeranieans-to wit-she's worswe than them because she will enforce her worldview upon us, just as they would.
    EXCEPT they don't have a matches chance in a wind storm to do so.

  3. Serving Patriot, the problem is that we just tried it, and it didn't work.


    I won't comment much on foreign domestic politics, but I cannot resist the impression that a true multi-party system with a centre party would defuse the situation. The two-party system follows the theory that the centre divides in regard to how many people agree, but in practice it#s relevant how many people vote. That's where the extremists come into play; this whole "energize the base" mobilization thing that's more easily done with extreme statements than with boring rational ones.

    A third -centre- party would add an alternative for those who reject extremism and thus force the left & right parties to keep their rhetoric moderate.

    A multi-party system can also play into the hands of extremists, of course - but that requires an altogether different situation.

    The "citizens united" judgement should have reminded everyone that electoral law reform is a job for the legislative itself, you cannot rely on the judiciary to repair the mess.

  5. Sven,

    The main problem is that the two parties are increasingly programmatic and don't represent "big tent" coalitions like they used to. This is especially true of the GOP which is in the midst of a civil war. Party affiliation is dropping across the board and the are significant sections of the population that aren't represented by either party, such as people who are social liberals and economic conservatives. I'm not sure how this is going to end, but it's increasingly difficult to find a candidate to for.

  6. Andy: And let's put this in perspective. The "big tents" were a historical anomaly. The coalition of political and social liberals, the working classes, and the Southern Democrats was destined to come apart once the New Deal was no longer a constant reminder of the hosing those groups got from the GOP between 1860 and 1929. The is actually a sadder case, since it has more or less voluntarily chosen to embrace the religious conservatives and the Tea Party whackjobs and drive the RINOs (largely Andy's "social liberals and economic conservatives") out of the party.

    I think the problem is exascerbated by the Federal system, where the head of government is also the head of state. Our chief executive system has grown to depend on a majority in Congress; coalition or minority government would be a mess.

    Add to that the effect of the immense amounts of money and influence - I'd suggest that the "Citizens United" wasn't a sign that judicial reform is impossible but that the effect of political influence (wealthy contributors buy Republicans who appoint justices that issue judgements that support the interests of wealthy contributors); if anything, tossing this to the Congress would have been worse, given its record on lobbying and funding.

    And don't get me started on the effective "supermajority" system in place in the Senate.


    Anyway, hopefully these train wrecks of Know-Nothing candidates will go doen in flames this November. God knows what will happen if they actually manage to get their hands on the levers of power in DC.

  7. Sven

    Since the President is elected independent of the Congress, and can readily veto legislation, our form of government does not lend itself well to coalitions. Further, since neither house of Congress can be dissolved if a coalition falls apart, there isn't the "parliamentary form of government" glue to help hold coalitions together.

    In short, we are currently going through all this madness with a lot of help from the constitutional design of our federal government.

  8. Al: I'd go beyond that and say that right now the physical design of our government is making things more difficult.

    Specifically the current supermajority requirement to pass anything in the Senate has made this supposedly deliberative body into - as Rick Moranis might say - a huge unmoving slorg. The ability of the minority party to prevent the majority from governing, providing the majority is Democratic (who lack the stupidity and ruthlessness of their opponents across the aisle), is moving the country towards becoming ungovernable. Just look at the fiscal situation; the expenditures are rising, always rising, as nobody wants to push away from the table whilst there's a hope of getting any lucre out of the federal tit, and the collections are falling as everybody and their brother finagles tax break after tax break, believing in their hearts that those iniquitous taxes are owed by...everyone BUT them.

    And the potential leaders who try and tell We the People that this is not sustainable? They are either swiftly defeated at the ballot box or ignored and sidelined in Washington.

    I tend to agree with Andy that the only way this ends - the only hope of breaking out of this cycle - is a monumental crash. But I'm NOT as optimistic as Andy that the results will be a reinvigoration of U.S. democracy. I think it's just as likely that we'll get an early Roman Empire; the trappings of the Senate and the People but the reality of an oligarchy (which IMO we're already in, or near) or a "soft" dictatorship.