Okay, phew. So it is done. Journalists call the Health Care Bill "epochal and transforming"... even though it merely (and gradually) tweaks what remains by far the most capitalistic and least "socialist" system in the industrial world. Despite armageddon rhetoric, watch how quickly (I give it 4 years) Republicans will come to accept this status quo as motherhood and apple pie, as untouchable and sacred as Medicare and Social Security.
Just look at how they now view "don't ask don't tell." A dozen years ago, the standard Republican cant pictured DADT as purely Satanic, a plot to destroy the US military. Now, it is the established thing, to be defended, like all sacred traditions. Never let it be said that conservatives are inflexible.
This flexibility is displayed by their current ire toward a Health Care Bill that is, in fact, basically the same as one that the same Republican's proposed as an alternative to the Clinton health care plan in 1993.
OK, nothing too contrarian there. It's widely recognized that the recent health care reform bill was quite conservative, and indeed based on past Republican proposals (Mitt Romney's health care bill in Massachusetts, conservative think-tanks, and Republican proposals during the Clinton administration, when they were trying to scuttle health care reform then, too).
Liberal ideas were jettisoned in the hope of getting Republican support (and conservative Democratic support, since the Democratic Party includes a broad spectrum of political philosophies). Really, Democrats have been so eager to negotiate that they've been abandoning their own positions unilaterally. But Republicans simply won't negotiate, because the party is determined to see that this Congress and this Administration fail at everything they attempt, no matter what it might be.
But Brin soon moves on to more "counter-intuitive" facts:
Lest we forget -- George W. Bush and the GOP Congress passed Medicare Part D, an expansion of federal entitlement largesse that was easily as large as Obama's. Though with one crucial difference. The Democrats' new Health Insurance Bill was designed to add nothing to the federal deficit. In fact, it is revenue neutral and even promises some black ink. The Republicans' Medicare B entitlement, in contrast, passed without a scintilla of provision for how to fund it. It simply said "bill our grandkids."
Of course, it is ironic how often facts run blatantly and diametrically opposite to common wisdom. Take the absolute truth that Republicans talk a lot about being tough on illegal immigration... while their presidents always savagely cut border enforcement. (Reagan and both Bushes did it.) In contrast, Democratic presidents talk about immigrant rights and take care of immigrant kids... but they also double the active manpower of the Border Patrol. (Clinton did it and so has Obama.) It's an easily demonstrable fact that creates mind-blowing cognitive dissonance in dogmatists; try it some time! Then have fun figuring out why the parties act this way!
The list of counter-intuitive facts goes on and on. For example, all US Army brigades were "combat ready" under Clinton and none were under Bush. Or take the fact that democrats inarguably "do" capitalism far better than republicans. The statistics -- on economic health, GDP growth, small business startups, market competition, budget balancing, de-regulation and dozens of other solid metrics -- make this abundantly clear; even though doctrinal delusion makes us ignore it.
When it comes to border enforcement, I suspect that the Republican Party wants illegal immigration. Partly, that's because businesses want it (it helps keep wages down). But more importantly, it's a hot-button issue for the party faithful. Keep the right-wing base riled up about the horrible menace of illegal immigration (this is really common here in Nebraska), and they'll work, vote, and donate as needed, without paying much attention to other things the GOP is doing. Well, irrational fear has served Republican politicians very well, so why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs? If they ended illegal immigration, they'd just have to find some other way to scare voters.
Anyway, according to Brin, this isn't a matter of a left-right divide, but rather of a "bipolar" American electorate. Democrats represent the manic side, always wanting to do something, while Republicans represent the depressive side. (Well, it's an unusual way of looking at Washington, isn't it? I'll continue with his examples on the next page.)
1) Starting when they took over Congress in 1995, amid promises of diligent reform, the Republican members of Congress have proved to be the laziest clade of legislators in US history. While pouring forth invective against big government, abortion and what-not, they actually submitted fewer bills, held fewer hearings or votes, heard less testimony and met fewer hours than any other Congress in a hundred years. While serving up lip-service to the social conservative ground troops, they actually only roused themselves to concerted action when it came to one issue... arranging tax cuts for the rich.
That they did diligently, in good times and bad, during peace and war. Even going so far as to try hard to "privatize" Social Security... thrusting a hundred million new purchasers into the stock market at its peak. Purchasers who would have lost trillions buying from then-owners at top prices. But, aside from this one priority, for the most part, the GOP lawmakers just sat around and grumbled and cussed and did nothing, even when they held all of the levers of power, every branch of government, and had clearly stated goals.
2) Since World War II, Democrats have done more DE-regulating of government control over economic sectors than Republicans... with the sole exception of the financial industry, where it was the GOP who insisted that most supervision be removed, with clear results. Sound counter-intuitive? Aren't liberals inherently Regulators and government-loving meddlers? But again, facts inconveniently defy stereotypes. It was the Dems who eliminated the powerful Interstate Commerce Commission, the Civil Aeronautics Board and many other "captured" regulatory agencies that had kept regulated prices high and stymied competition. Not the lefty thing to do. But certainly the manic, busy thing.
I've got three comments to make about that. First, just think about what a fix people would be in today if the Republicans had succeeded in privatizing Social Security - just before the biggest stock market crash since the 1930's! Whatever you think about the Democrats, you've got to thank them for stopping that, don't you think? Well, there were still a few moderate Republicans around then, too, I know (now, way too "liberal" for the extremists in control of the GOP).
Second, note that the Republicans controlled all three branches of the federal government for years, without even a serious attempt at making abortion illegal. They worked hard to cut taxes on the rich, but they couldn't be bothered to address a matter dear to their Christian fundamentalist base. Why not? Well, it's pretty simple, don't you think? Right now, they've got a bunch of one-issue voters tied firmly to the GOP. If abortion were no longer an issue, some of those voters would start to look at other Republican policies. The party certainly wouldn't want that!
No, if Republicans just give lip-service to the "pro-life" movement, the party can depend on their votes, depend on their donations, and depend on the fact that anti-abortion activists won't complain too much about anything else the GOP wants to do (like giving tax cuts to the rich or deregulating the banking industry).
And third, despite all the political ranting about "socialism," the Democratic Party is basically very moderate. The left has relatively little power in the party, and the conservative members of the party have a lot more power than their numbers might suggest. Besides, "liberal" is hardly "leftist," not these days.
As the GOP has become captured by its far-right fringe, moving the whole party into extremist territory, the Democrats have steadily moved into the vacuum in the political center. And as they've done so, they've adopted conservative policies of the past (back when "conservative" didn't mean "loony wing-nut"). It seems odd that, as the "socialist" rhetoric has increased, reality has actually moved in the opposite direction, with Democrats actually becoming more conservative.
In many ways, in fact, they're more conservative than I'd prefer. (But political labels like "liberal" and "conservative" don't seem to be very useful these days. Why are tax cuts for the rich "conservative" and upholding fundamental principles of our Constitution, like the separation of church and state, "liberal"?)
Anyway, that's about all I wanted to say here. But I want to excerpt another part of David Brin's post about a different, though related, subject:
Who wants culture war? Who promotes it, as the best way to divide and weaken America?
“Saudi billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal held meetings this week with Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch to discuss investments, including "future potential alliance with News Corp., the statement said about a deal that would see News Corp. Talal, expanding his ownership, plans to buy 10% of the existing shares in the company (The parent company of Fox) could be completed this month.”
Actually, it goes both ways. Rupert Murdoch is buying 10% of Prince Talal’s media group... and Talal is not the only Saudi or rich Arab owning big chunks of Fox. By some estimates, the total owned by Middle Eastern interests may be as high as 20+%
Is it possible to ponder a hypothesis? That the messages that seem aimed at tearing America apart are deliberately spread by interests who want exactly that?
And note that eight years of George W. Bush have left us with a Supreme Court packed with far-right ideologues. One of their decisions, overturning precedent on a 5-4 vote (almost everything important is decided 5-4 these days), has let corporations contribute to political campaigns (as if corporations didn't have enough power already!). But corporations are multi-national. They may be based in the U.S., but ownership - and control - is another story.
We don't let foreigners vote in American elections, but now we're going to let foreigners influence corporate donations to political campaigns? And what about Fox "News," that right-wing propaganda outlet masquerading as a news station? They've been relentless in tearing apart the political fabric of our nation. It's bad enough when Americans do that, but don't we care about foreign political influence in America (often state-controlled or at least from the same people who have the political power in their own country)?
Specifically, when it comes to Saudi Arabia, they've got a vested interest in keeping America from developing an alternative energy policy, energy conservation, or any other effective attempt at weaning ourselves off foreign oil. They're also an ultra-right-wing Muslim country, with an interest in keeping America aligned with their social issues, too. Saudi Arabia has plenty of power in America already. Don't we care if they're pushing policies on Fox News or owning other "American" corporations contributing to political campaigns? This is madness.