Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Shattered Consensus

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Sometimes, when I'm randomly pondering ideas in my head I think to myself it's hard to square a belief in democracy with a fervent zeal for your particular political party to obtain and remain in power. Many Republican's currently think armegeddon will be wrought upon the earth if a Democrat becomes President in 2008, and most Democrats think we are currently suffering an incarnation of Armegeddon at the hands of the Bush Administration.

Apart from all of the obvious fundamentals that we all, I expect, embrace and adore, what good does it do to have two competing political philosphies undoing each others work before re-implementing their own ideas decade after decade, on and on in some kind of paradoxical loop? Surely this is not the purpose of Democracy...

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In the UK, the past twenty six years have manifested the remarkable phenemona of four successive Conservative terms in office, followed by three Labour terms. The reason behind this is that 1) the respective parties in power both attained a high degree of success in implementing their policies, and 2) their respective opposition parties struggled to drag themselves back from the political extremes on the left and right... where, notoriously, the British electorate rarely dwell.

What good is done for us to simply sway between competing political visions, like this?

Well, for me, I believe it's about progress through consensus. The Conservative party liberalized the British economy dramatically in the early 80's which transformed our society for good and bad. The test of their accomplishment, or of any political accomplishment IMO, is the response the opposition takes to regain support and power, and of course, what it does when it gets into power. Margaret Thatcher's reforms had so many positive benefits that slowly but surely the Labour party was required to reposition its economic vision. The Labour vision remained distinct and unique, with elements of increased taxation, and more gov't activism, but they were suddenly forced to acquire a pragmatic conviction in the positive benefits of free markets domestically, and abroad.

Progress through consensus. The public's recognition of what constitutes progress redefining the electoral landscape.

And now, after three successive election defeats, the British Conservative party is faced with similar choices. They have to somehow reflect the public consensus, while incorporating it into their own ideas. It's an exciting opportunity for an innovative vision of Conservatism in the UK, confronting the widely held negative perceptions that continue to hold them back. The only problem the Conservative party faces is finding the big, bold, brave men and women courageous enough to meet this challenge, and fight for progress... men/women with sufficient charisma and popular appeal. Where is the Tory Tony Blair? They will hopefully find him in the coming months. David Cameron, maybe? We'll have to wait and see.

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Many Republican's can not understand, or simply do not care why, George Bush inspires so much hatred... they wonder why he is such a polarizing charcter, and usually reduce it to the flag bashing treachery of the Liberal left.

It's not, IMHO, because he's from Texas. It's not because he mispeaks in sentences. It's not because he went to war in Iraq. It's not because he lost the popular vote in 2000.

The reason why the US is split so dramatically on the question of George Bush is because he has split the country himself by his style of governance. He has thrown the concept of 'progress through consensus' out the window, and with it, a little piece of what makes everybody, Liberal and Conservative alike, left feeling democratically involved regardless of who the President is.

It's incumbent upon any administration that sincerely has the well being of everyone at heart to take your predecessor's copy book, and read, and learn, and realise what worked, using those ideas and making them better, not simply chucking them all into the trash, saying "ok boys, screw the last lot... now we do it our way."

To me, for Democracy to work, for this not to be an endless loop going back and forth between one political vision and another, our political parties have to retain more humility, they have to not be such rigid ideologues... otherwise what is the point? We have to learn from each other, looking ahead twenty, thirty, forty years into the future.

How do you take a budget surplus into trillion dollar defecits? For all of the many external pressures, the tidy economic management of Rubin, et all, in the 90's should have harboured some lessons for Conservatives... not tax less and spend more, more, more!!! Y'know, the way we all on the left learned from Reagan/Thatcher... the third way and all that stuff. But, for some reason the Bush administration just wanted to make like the 90's never happened.

Sadly, the adept electioneering of Karl Rove, and this administration, which itself incurs a greater societal polarization, has simply afforded George Bush the opportunity to drive an even wider wedge between the left and right. Which, depressingly, was everything he promised not to be in 2000.

I remember when George Bush was interviewed by Tim Russert before the last election, he was asked about why partisanship on the hill had got worse in his time in power, when one of his platforms in 2000 was to bring Democrats and Republicans together. Bush's response was to say that Democrats just haven't wanted to budge, effectively it was all their fault. But, it was he, and not the Democrats in Congress that had abandoned consenus politics.

Over the following months we will see a philisophical, cultural, and political war explode over Bush's next Supreme Court Nominee. It will be divisive, brutal, perhaps violent, and ultimately tragic.

...and, it will be all the fault of this administration.

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13 comments:

Storm Trooper said...

Damn...you are a "genius".

Storm Trooper said...

Just attempting to attract comments. Thanks dude!

Graham said...

Thanks Superman :)

Anonymous said...

You make some very good points. I too think that the oppositional political stances of the parties keeps real work from being done.

InsaneHippie said...

One good thing about two strong opposition parties is that there will hopefully be gridlock and major changes to the country will be kept back.

The Left was deadset against Ronald Reagan, the Republicans were against Bill Clinton, Carter, LBJ, etc... This is nothing new and to place the blame soely on GWB is rediculous. It takes two to tango. GWB spent lots of time in his first term to play friendly with the Dems and that got him NOTHING.

When the Dems controlled Congress and FDR during the 1930's America became more socialistic than ever before in history. The Social Security joke and the New Deal's massive public works programs.

While GWB and the Republicans were in office the Real ID bill has passed, the Patriot Act (which lots of it I agree with, but almost no one in Congress actually read the bill.). But GWB and the Republicans thankfully got the horrible Assault Weapon Ban repealed, and crime has gone down around the country.

Your post was good up until you got to the "Let's blame everything in the world on President Bush because many on the Left are sore losers." The Left hates GWB more than they like their own party, just like the Arabs in the Palestinean area. And the Dems will follow their Bush and Republican hatred all the way to obscurity, and I will love seeing it.

Many on the Right couldn't stand Bill Clinton's policies and his actions in office, but it didn't devolve into hatred, I'm glad he's out of office and I don't have to see his face anymore. Us on the Right didn't have endless "Stop Clinton" marches through the streets, and we put our energy into developing a real opposition to him. But I don't expect that kind of thinking from the Left not with Howard "Republicans are evil" the Scream Dean at the helm of the ship.

Jack said...

Hi... your blog is so good

Matt Hurley said...

Graham: "The reason why the US is split so dramatically on the question of George Bush is because he has split the country himself by his style of governance. He has thrown the concept of 'progress through consensus' out the window, and with it, a little piece of what makes everybody, Liberal and Conservative alike, left feeling democratically involved regardless of who the President is."

My response: Actually, Graham, President Bush tried it once your way. For example: He invited Teddy Kennedy, the hero of Chappaquiddick, to essentially write the No Child Left Behind legislation. What did it get him? Nothing. I don't think it was Bush who left consensus leadership behind, but rather the Democrat minority who decided they weren't going to contribute to any administration successes.

Just my two cents worth...

Graham said...

Thanks Jack :)

IH,

I think George Bush's efforts to play friendly with Democrats aren't really what consensus politics are about, or at least not what I was describing. Consensus politics is about allowing your own approach, on a fundamental level, to be informed by the successes, and ideas of your opponents. It's a long term thing, and I guess a progressive ideal.

The Bush Administration's economic policy has been a complete reversal of all the principles that contributed to the prosperity of the 90's. And on a larger level, that policy simply doesn't make any sense w/ spending so much, the financial reality of the wars that have been fought, and are continuing to be fought... and yet an insistence, without any possibility of compromise, to forge ahead with such broad sweeping tax cuts.

Tax Cuts that form part of an economic ideology, that they, and they alone, can re-generate consumer spending, investment, etc... trickle down economics that often negate the power the government has to take an active role in helping train, re-educate, get people into jobs etc... there was no smart strategic vision.. I loved that Clinton wanted to uplift people and not just wait for wealth to wind its way down to the bottom.

In terms of the other legislative accomplishments of the Bush Administration it's hard, because they are so few and far between. I still struggle, in so many ways to grasp what Bush's domestic policy amounts to, and his debate performance on those issues was awful. What would Bush's term in office have been defined by if 9/11 never happened?

Generally speaking this Administation is immovable in it's positioning on a whole range of issues. Compared to Clinton IMO, who worked a lot closer (of course because he had to) to find a consensus with the Republican Congress.

It's not about the left hating Bush. The left will always hate the right, and vice versa. I was talking about the country as a whole. My breadth of political knowledge isn't that great, but, I'm trying to remember when the country was as evenly split in electoral terms. I guess 1960. But, this has been for two consecutive elections... and it's all so bitter and divisive.

I agree with you about Dean. Kerry was what you describe... a credible opposition, on all types of issues. Yes, he lost... but he was credible and taken seriously by the majority of people... even though they didn't vote for him. The Democrats should be representing themselves with credible voices... which is why I like Biden so much... not Pelosi and Dean.

The Democrats have their part to play in people's frustrations for sure.

Hey Matt,

I disagree... I think Bush paid the left lipservice. I also think his platform from the beginning has been harshly ideological and dogmatic. And, it's more than the Democrats in congress... it's having an open mind, it's about being accessible to the people... how often is Bush publicly challenged on his ideas... how many times has he stood before the Press, or taken difficult interviews. He had a difficult experience on Meet The Press and I think his team decided that was going to be it. It's about considering events, and past successes... not simply being so dead set on "it's my way or the high way." The Bush administration has alienated a lot of centrist minded people... or appealed to them on a visceral level.

I think they've divided people. I don't blame them for everything... what is everything anyway... but, I do think they're ultimately responsible for the current political climate... the Democrats sure as hell haven't helped... but is it really their job, as the Minority party in the Senate and House to lead????

Matt Hurley said...

And yet, he won re-election. And unless you are one of those DIEBOL! conspiracy theorists, that has to count for something. If you are one of those people, nothing I can say will change your mind about it.

The Democrats have been losing and losing and losing. If I were still a Democrat, I'd be pretty ticked off too. But I realized a long time ago, that the far left had hijacked the party and left. But that's a whole other argument.

Want to know what is responsible for whatever divisiveness is in the current political climate here in America, check out the obstructionism happening in Congress by the minority party. Check out their tactics. Watch what happens with the Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court...I predict that we will see the same shrill voices on the left side of the aisle making the same ridiculous claims. Heck, Sen. Schumer had decided he was "going to war" over the nominee before he even knew who the nominee was going to be... He's a real united, not a diveder, man...

Graham said...

FYI, I'm absolutely not one of those people. Bush won both elections fair and square. I said earlier in another post that reading into the popular vote in an election that isn't based around PR is a flawed strategy. Who knows by what greater margin Bush might have carried his safe states if the electorate in those regions knew their vote was decisively competitive. Bush, and the Republican's deserve every position in public office that they've won.

My point was more that they are fiercely dogmatic ideologues, and I think something about the modern demands of democracy is lost if you govern that way.

I think the initiative lies with the President the majority party in the senate, and majority party in the house. I think it's crazy to blame it all on the Democratic party considering the current power your party wields. George Bush could have influenced this, and I don't see how you could suggest otherwise.

I also wasn't just talking about Congress. Let's face it, the average American couldn't care less about the goings on in Congress, they're not even engaged with it...

... and yet, oddly enough cosidering you lay blame at the feet of Congressional Democrats... the bitterness and divisivness amongst the country as a whole is identical to that of Congress. The only consistent variable in this equation... the only consistent political presence in the lives of Americans, and politicians in congress... is the presence of this Administration.

Matt Hurley said...

Graham,

Thank you for not being one of those conspiracy theorist idiots that I usually deal with in the blogosphere...that is SO refreshing...you have no idea.

My point about Democrat obstructionism is that elections are supposed to have consequences. When you win one, you're supposed to be able to enact the agenda that you campaigned on and won with...conversely, when you lose, you're supposed to realize that you lost.

I'm not saying that the Democrats should just roll over and let teh Republicans do whatever they want. I am saying that the Republicans deserve the opportunity to do what they were elected to do. My biggest problem with the Democrat obstructionism is that when they get in the way, it isn't because they have a better idea...they just want to get in the way of progress.

insanehippie said...

Graham: "Consensus politics is about allowing your own approach, on a fundamental level, to be informed by the successes, and ideas of your opponents. It's a long term thing, and I guess a progressive ideal."
Your version of consensus politics seems more like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. That would be like President Bush narrowly willing the 2000 election, only to give up his leadership position on big bills to Ted Kennedy... Oh wait! That *IS* what GWB did on the Dem's hated "No Child Left Behind Act", which was written and sponsored by Ted Kennedy as Matt Hurley said. And it bit him in the backside. It is not the duty of the winner to bend over backwards for the loser. Would Al Gore have given a leadership role in the big Education spending bill to the Republican Leader, if the roles were reversed? No. And Al Gore would have NO reason to do so.
President Bush tried that whole "govern from the center" way, and it didn't work at all. It only alienated his conservative base, and annoyed the Democrats.


Graham also said:
"The Bush Administration's economic policy has been a complete reversal of all the principles that contributed to the prosperity of the 90's."
What gov't policies contributed to the economic prosperities of the 1990's? Was it Clinton's large tax hikes, blatantly ignoring terrorist attacks over and over, governmental gridlock, or was it possibly just maybe, the technology boom of cheaper cell phones, the internet, email and better productivity? Hmmm. I'll take my guess on number two.
Clinton's eight years were smooth sailing economy-wise due to MAJOR technology advances, and government growth was kept decently in check (compared to GWB's non-military spending this time around) since there was a Dem President and a truly Republican controlled Congress which kept its word on curbing growth? Government governs best when it governs least. Bill Clinton didn't have any major worldwide events that he wasn't able to sweep under the rug, unlike Reagan, Bush 41, and George W Bush since Clinton had an adoring newsmedia at his beck and call.

"Tax Cuts that form part of an economic ideology, that they, and they alone, can re-generate consumer spending, investment, etc... trickle down economics"
Black and hispanic home ownership is the highest it ever has been in US History. The unemployment rate for GWB's second term follow the same pattern as Bill Clinton's second term. The only difference is that Bill Clinton didn't have to fight a major war during his term. Tax cuts have worked great when John F Kennedy used them, and Ronald Reagan, and now George W Bush. If you didn't like your tax cuts, feel free to pay the same rates you did during Bill Clinton's terms, if it makes you feel better, be my guest.

Graham said: "In terms of the other legislative accomplishments of the Bush Administration it's hard, because they are so few and far between. I still struggle, in so many ways to grasp what Bush's domestic policy amounts to, and his debate performance on those issues was awful. What would Bush's term in office have been defined by if 9/11 never happened?"
GWB isn't a good debate person we all know that one, and if it wasn't for 9-11 he would've been a mediocre modern President just like Ford, Clinton, LBJ, Carter and Bush 41. The same could have been said about John F Kennedy, if he wasn't shot, most people most likely couldn't name anything he did. He was the first President to say that we have to go into Vietnam to fight against Communism (while somehow Nixon always gets the blame), and to get a man on the moon.


Graham: "Generally speaking this Administation is immovable in it's positioning on a whole range of issues. Compared to Clinton IMO, who worked a lot closer (of course because he had to) to find a consensus with the Republican Congress."
President Bush's policies don't change for the sole reason that he and his party won control of the Federal government. Why should he have to give up party control just so people like you can complain about GWB not giving in to Dems. Wouldn't you have been pissed of Bill Clinton gave in to Republicans during the first two years of his first term, when the Dems ran everything? Sure you would. Stop expecting Republicans to give in to Dems if you don't wnat Dems to give in to Republicans.


Graham: "It's not about the left hating Bush. The left will always hate the right, and vice versa. I was talking about the country as a whole. My breadth of political knowledge isn't that great, but, I'm trying to remember when the country was as evenly split in electoral terms. I guess 1960. But, this has been for two consecutive elections... and it's all so bitter and divisive."
I wouldn't hate the left, except that for four years all they did was personally attack GWB, call him a liar, constantly drag their feet on their constitutional duties of the House and Senate, blocking judicial appointments, filibustering everything. There's a reason why your side is losing.

Republicans didn't go anywhere near this far during the Clinton years, The GOP opposed Clinton, but they dind't filibuster everything Clinton sent, they didn't call him a liar on a personal basis, the GOP went after him on policies and that's why the GOP won the Legislature, by way of policies not personal hatred. Thankfully the Left is losing more and more with every election! :-)


Graham: "Kerry,,, Yes, he lost... but he was credible and taken seriously by the majority of people... even though they didn't vote for him."
How can you say that a majority of people took Kerry seriously, even if they didn't vote for him? If they liked him that much they would've voted for them. Unless you think the people are "stupid" enough to vote for an "idiot" like President Bush in 2004.

-Jesse

Graham said...

Hey Jesse,

Thanks for taking the time to write this. I'll try and address all of your points from my perspective:

- I do believe Kerry was taken seriously by his own party and the majority of undecideds. Just because you vote for someone else doesn't mean you don't consider his opponent credible. In the case of the Democratic party, in the world re-defined by 9/11 it seemed unlikely that can Democratic candidate could be taken seriously in 2002. John Kerry's showing at the last election was more than respectable IMO, and for that the Democratic party should be very grateful

- I wasn't talking about hating the left. I was talking about the people in between who have been driven apart by the turmoil between political parties. I also think you're wrong to place blame entirely on the doorstep of congressional democrats. As I said in a previous post, the United States has grown bitterly divided culturally, and it's ludicrous to suggest that is because of democrats in the house and senate. When the vast majority of those divided aren't even engaged with congressional affairs.

-Naturally I disagree with you with the way Republicans treated Clinton. But, fundamentally, Clinton's platform reached out to people, it didn't herde them into entrenched party politics. It's was Clinton's method of governance that was less ideological, and based more on practical reasoning that influenced this different climate in congress. And yet, George Bush considered the climate back then so divisive he made it part of his platform in 2000 to make a change. And, I guess, according to you, working with Ted Kennedy didn't work out so he gave up on that. That's real follow through right there, Jesse.

-I think the sense amongst Democrats in congress is George Bush is governing as if he won by a landslide. He won 51% to 48% and they have a right to make their voices heard in congress when Republican's expect to irrevocably pursue an extreme agenda.

-About why should GWB's policies change, I agree with you. He's under no obligation. The Republican's won, they can do whatever they please. That's kind of point. I still retain the right to criticize their choices, to abuse their Presidential and Congressional victories to govern as if nobody but them exists. This is important because the Clinton years were successful, and the policies that contributed to those successes in, as I elaborated upon in my original post, need to be taken seriously if consensus democratic politics is going to mean anything. I hate to break it to you but there will be a Democratic President again, there will be Democratic control in congress, and I do not doubt that there will be very little of this administration's legacy left behind, unlike Ronald Reagan, who took a stagnant failing economy and rejuvinated it... George W has instead taken an stable, growing economy, and unneccesarily threatened it with ideological impractical economics.

-I'm not complaining about the tax cuts, I hope, in such a predictable way. I'm complaining about cutting taxes when a war is being fought, and spending is rising at a faster pace than it has for well over a decade. I'm talking about not basing econmic policy on what practically seems to make sense, but, instead on an economic ideology. You can mention a few statistics, but as the majority of society waits for something to trickle down... the basic reality is that there is a void of stability, and security that breeds sustained growth in the US economy. There is also a vacuum of vision and imagination to address the deep seated issues arising out of our evolving society and changing world. This however, is more a critique on the Bush administration than directly relevant to my point on consensus politics.

-The part about JFK, and what he did, I'm sorry, is hard to swallow. Just try preventing nuclear war during the Cuban Missle crisis and the beginning crucial steps towards civil rights for two easy, astonishing accomplishments in our time. Clinton was not a mediocre president, by any stretch of the imagination. The nation he governed was a far more securely prosperous, growing, and uplifted one in purely domestic terms than Reagan, who was indeed, a great man, and a great President. Getting into what I think about the Clinton administration will take ages... look out for a post of mine about my thoughts and you'll be able to smack me around on it and stuff :).

-It's funny how every single accomplishment is because of Republicans or the market, and every single negative contribution to society is because of Democrats in your assessment of things. I don't dismiss the specifics you relate in terms of the tech boom mattered, and mattered significantly. I don't dismiss that Republican control in congress helped restrict governement spending. But, I do believe that Clinton's economic vision, and comprehensive attempts on behalf of all people to recognize the changing face of industry, and provide dexterous methods of re-training, and welfare to work... as well as Robert Rubin's brilliance... also helped things along quite nicely. My point all along has been that not feeling the need to hide, or run from your opponents achievments as a political party is the only way a Democracy can really serve the people. And, I feel that this attitude of yours, that all Democratic influence is bad, is perhaps part of this problem.

-And like I said, the idea that Ted Kennedy, a real centrist politician if ever there was one, and by no means representative of all Democratic congressman and women... the idea that No Child Left Behind abdicated Bush's responsibility to lead, as he suggested he would, in bringing people together, is frankly giving Bush a very, very, very easy ride indeed.

Thanks for the responses Jesse. I thoroughly enjoyed reading everything you had to say :)