Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Opposition Party Myth

Republican rhetoric to the contrary, everyone agrees that the stimulus bill will stimulate the economy.  There can't be one Republican who seriously wants their state or local government to send back the money.  They'll spend any stimulus funds they get.  They'll apply for any government contracts that come up.  They'll accept any benefits that get doled out to them.  They might pretend to disagree with the theory behind it, but all the same, they all know this money is good and will improve things for them.  Sure, they might believe that tax cuts help more, but they still believe that the stimulus will improve their local economy.

And so any opposition Republicans make is purely political strategy.  The rightwing talkers keep telling them that they need to oppose it or they'll suffer politically.  And as I've explained repeatedly, this is an idiotic strategy.  The only people who gain power from this are the few Republicans who break ranks and rightwing talkers like Limbaugh and O'Reilly who require divisiveness to keep their rabid fans tuning-in.

Because as I pointed out in that last post, Republican politicians are just sidelining themselves using the same "obstructionist" strategy they always tried to use on us.  They clearly understand that this is a losing position, yet Limbaugh won't let them have any other.  As Carpetbagger points out, Arlon Specter says that many of his colleagues wanted to join him, but realized that doing so would make their Republican primaries hard to win.  And so they went against their better judgment because Limbaugh gave them no other choice.

Of course, the solution to that would have been for these politicians to stop lying about the stimulus and explain that it's a good idea.  Which, as I already mentioned, everyone already agrees with.  But that'd require them to face-off against Limbaugh and the other talkers, who clearly are more influential with the base.  So Limbaugh is essentially holding the Republican Party hostage, solely for the benefit of his ratings.  

For as much as Congressional Republicans are in a power struggle, it's entirely against Limbaugh and his ilk; and they're clearly losing.  And because of that, Congressional Repubs have forfeited the power struggle against Obama.

Destroying Democracy

And so it bugs me to read Atrios and Carpetbagger suggest that this is how things are supposed to work because Republicans are the "opposition" party.  Because that's not how democracy is supposed to work.  Democracy isn't the tyranny of the majority.  It's not about picking the most popular leaders.  It's not about one party ruling while the other party jeers from the sideline.  It's about giving a voice to the people.  All the people.  Not just the ones who won.  

And even if your candidate loses, you're supposed to feel positive, because you had a voice in how your life is governed.  Republicans were wrong for imagining that victory means having the losers "suck it" until the next election.  Democracy is a full-time system, not just an event that happens on Election Day.  The presidency isn't a four-year dictatorship and Obama doesn't just represent Democrats.  In theory, Obama should take into account all Americans, and while it's impossible for him to satisfy them all, he needs to at least demonstrate that he hears them and is also representing their interests.  Similarly, all politicians should consider all their constituents, not just the ones who voted for them.  To do otherwise would be anti-democratic.

But Limbaugh doesn't want that to happen.  He doesn't want his fans to think Obama is listening to them.  He wants them to feel powerless against Obama and that Limbaugh is the only outlet of power they have.  And that means he has to make Republican politicians powerless.  He doesn't want them making the stimulus bill better, or any other Democratic bill better.  He wants them to abstain completely.  If they're not working to make the bills better, they might as well not even be in Congress.  

So effectively, the people these congressmen represent don't have representatives in Congress.  No one is sticking up for them but Limbaugh.  Limbaugh is the only voice they have.  They have been effectively disenfranchised.  And that's the way the Limbaughs want it.  Republicans aren't functioning as an opposition party.  They're a non-existent party, which doesn't function at all.

Purpose of Democracy

And that completely subverts the entire purpose of democracy.  Again, democracy isn't about picking leaders.  It's about giving people an ownership stake in the government.  And by doing so, they will stay within the governmental system and use the tools it provides to better control their lives.  And the alternative is for them to go outside the system, remain angry, and do shit like blow up federal buildings and attend survivalist training camps.  People do those things because they see government as the enemy, because it doesn't represent them.

And that's exactly what Limbaugh wants, though I doubt he wants it go that far.  But it will.  It did in the 90's and it will now.  And democracy is meant to prevent that.  Sure, democracy will give us bad leaders and foolish policies.  It will frustrate and anger you, because you know what needs to be done; if only those fool politicians would obey you.  But again, it's not about you, or your policies, or your leaders.  It's about giving power to the people.  That's the entire purpose of democracy.

And hey, this isn't our fault.  It's not our job to ensure that Republican voters have a voice.  And if Republicans insist on remaining impotent and voiceless, there's nothing we can do to stop that.  But all the same, this is bad for us.  This is not how democracy is supposed to work.  Society benefits when the Timothy McVeighs feel they are being listened to.  Terrorism and crime is what people choose when they feel the system isn't working for them.  It's to our benefit that as many people as possible stay within the system.

This isn't about winning elections so we can impose our policies on America.  It's about building a healthier society.  Sure, sidelining Republicans might give us better healthcare policies and regulations, but that's a minor benefit if they're blowing up our cities.  No, we don't have much of a choice in this, but we shouldn't act as if this is how things should work.


TRUTH101 said...

I don't know how involved in party politics you are Doc, but as an admitted partisan, I won't have any problem if Rahm and President Obama punish republicans that bashed and voted against the stimulus. There have to be consequences. And the republicans are more concerned that Rush Limbaugh says nice things about them than what's good for the Country and even their own districts .We've been on this partisan road since Reagan. To think republicans will all of a sudden embrace working together is past wishful.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Truth, I'm all about party politics. Good policy is nice, but boring. I'm really only into the gamesmanship. But we've got to keep more in sight here than payback. Payback feels nice, but gets you nothing. We need to rout these people, and we won't get that if all we're interested in scoring cheap political points. That's what Republicans do and it didn't work for them either.

As for what to do now, there are natural consequences to all this. The primary "punishment" is what they did to themselves. Republicans seriously miscalculated on all this and all we have to do is remind people that they voted against the stimulus. Seriously, for as much as many Dems gnashed their teeth at what happened, this was for the best. It was good that Republicans sidelined themselves. The Republicans who hurt us the most were the three moderates we needed in the Senate. The ones who wouldn't talk to us got nothing and had no real influence over the policy.

We're much better off if Republicans refuse to negotiate than if they use their power to water down our policies. And it was necessary for them to reject us first. Like it or not, good guys always have to wait to be punched first, or they're not good guys. And the more Republicans are convinced that they need to abstain from talking to Obama, the better. He's popular, they're not. The wind's to our backs and it's in their faces. There's no reason to score cheap political points when it looks like we've already won the game.

And as a reminder, Reagan worked with Democrats. He raised taxes more than he cut them. He saved Social Security by raising taxes. He visited Moscow and befriended them. Reagan openly negotiated with the Soviets. These people are nothing like Reagan. All of this hyper-partisanship began after Bush Sr. lost. And just so you know, I used to be a Republican until shortly after Clinton took office. I've never looked back since.

TRUTH101 said...

WE most likely agree on 98% of the issues Doc. It's just been my experience that short and simple has more effect on voters than long, in depth and academic. I love reading your stuff Doc. But most of the voters where I'm from, and I suspect most places, don't get past the second sentence before dropping a nice letter in the trash can.

And I love good payback. Part of that is good governing. If Rahm and Obama can keep the Congressional Dems focused on good government payback will go hand in hand with it.