May 18, 2004

Triangulation, Republican Style

Ezra Klein is on a roll. This time he takes on the odd fact that Republicans can't campaign in national elections on what they believe in--they have to campaign by pretending that they are Democrats who wear cowboy boots:

Pandagon: Imposter Progressives: ...Bush... is a bad Republican pretending to be a liberal for the cameras. So what does that mean? Well, since he has the full support of his party on all his initiatives it means that the Republicans have ceded the ground on virtually every important issue that the US Government deals with. Let that sink in for a moment. Republicans are getting elected by promising to protect the environment, strengthen entitlement programs, conduct humanitarian interventions, back Democratic security initiatives, and support public schools. They are getting elected by pretending to be Democrats, albeit Democrats who wear cowboy boots. They have nothing left.

Sure, they can drag their feet and do bad jobs of making liberal bills, but they have lost all the arguments.... [T]he public is not only used to, but thinks there’s a bipartisan consensus on, environmental protection, entitlement programs, and pretty much everything else liberals want to do.... Republican intransigence... the public punishes Congressional Republicans for blocking the nationally agreed -upon agenda... Republicans... a hollowed out shell, supporting the other side’s agenda... losing on all the guns they stick to (the public doesn’t support tax cuts that bust the budget, drilling in Alaska, or unilateralism abroad; remember, tolerance is different than support). So mourn our forests, stamp your foot at pollution, but don’t fret too much – the Republicans are sitting atop a house of cards and the wind is beginning to blow.

Are we sure he's too young to drink?

Posted by DeLong at May 18, 2004 09:09 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post

This is an old column, right?

Posted by: Sujal Shah on May 18, 2004 09:27 PM


Cheery and all, but every time I open the paper and read about the actual policy decisions being made I get depressed again. Sure, the GOP is campaigning as liberals in cowboy boots, but they're ruling as more-than-usually evil oligarchs in patent leather.

Ezra's thesis will comfort me when the voters start reacting to policies rather than to campaigns.

Posted by: wcw on May 18, 2004 09:36 PM


What happened to the theory that they're deliberately bankrupting the government again so that in 5-20 years they can say "In an ideal world we wouldn't do this, but for fiscal reasons we're going to have to reduce entitlements".

Posted by: Zizka on May 18, 2004 09:42 PM


Zizka - how is that incompatible with what Ezra said? It seems like they go hand in hand.

Posted by: mb on May 18, 2004 10:41 PM


Klein cites several issues specifically, but doesn't even mention the most obvious one, abortion. Or the second most obvious, affirmative action. And as much as R's may have to triangulate on foreign policy (to keep voters happy), it's still less than the D's. (What is the whole "Iraq distracted us from the hunt for AQ in Afghanistan/Pakistan" line of criticism but an ornate chunk of triangulation?).

Posted by: Joe Mealyus on May 18, 2004 11:12 PM


"Republicans are getting elected by promising to ... conduct humanitarian interventions...."

I wish. Like candidates are going to be talking about their policy re the Sudan this fall? I think this is wishful thinking on Klein's part.

Bosnia was a one-shot deal where the Serbs screwed up by not killing their enemies quickly enough so the world could safely ignore it....

Posted by: Joe Mealyus on May 18, 2004 11:20 PM


If he's old enough to hold a draft card, and possibly get himself killed in service to his country, he's old enough to drink.

Posted by: Mike on May 19, 2004 07:38 AM


Posted by: Adrian Spidle on May 19, 2004 08:18 AM


I first noticed this at Bush's second State of the Union speech. He promised money for AIDS in Africa; to fight discrimination; to build entitlements. Sure, these were all programs that he'd slashed a month earlier, or wouldn't ever fund--but he promised like a liberal. It was astounding.

Posted by: Dan on May 19, 2004 09:05 AM


Are we sure he's too young to drink? I'm not sure about Ezra, but I think he is actually about 40 and he has been using a disguise very effectively. This guy never ceases to amaze me and his total grasp of the issues is stunning. I AM 40 and he blows me away.

Posted by: Patti on May 19, 2004 10:34 AM


The analysis is fine and all, but it misses the point that these Republicans he is describing, whom "the public punishes...for blocking the nationally agreed-upon agenda," are in control of both houses of Congress, the White House and the majority of state houses. So the public is punishing them on a selective basis, in the polls, but so far not at the polls. Until this situation changes, the analysis may be correct, but it is not analysis of the core political situation in the US. It is a speculative view (the bit about cards and wind and all), one which may prove right, may not.

Posted by: K Harris on May 19, 2004 04:50 PM


Looks like MovableType is double pinging your trackback. Sorry about that. Feel free to delete the first ping from me, at least.

Posted by: paperwight on May 19, 2004 05:37 PM


I am increasingly perplexed by this whole phenomenon.

The Republican Party consists of at least three organs: the "leadership", including the RNC, the elected officeholders and their campaign staff; the propaganda machine, a.k.a hate radio; and the grassroots. The leadership is the leftmost of these and the grassroots are the rightmost.

The propaganda machine is constantly pushing the grassroots further to the right but, at the same time, it has to retain at least a point of contact with the leadership--a challenge that is getting constantly more difficult. If the leadership, which specifies the official public Party line, were to abandon the fudging and straddling that you point out, and come flat out with the real Party positions, full-strength, they would make the propaganda job much easier and I think they would reap a huge dividend of enthusiasm from the grassroots.

As it is, the grassroots are going to have to jump over the leadership at some point, and that will rise to entirely new levels of ugliness.

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