Monday, December 31, 2007

The Grand Canyon

If anyone says there’s no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, take a look at this chart and see for yourself the cavernous difference between the candidates on every issue, from health care to abortion to immigration to Iraq.

As Paul Krugman notes,

On one side, the Democrats are all promising to get out of Iraq and offering strongly progressive policies on taxes, health care and the environment. That’s understandable: the public hates the war, and public opinion seems to be running in a progressive direction.

What seems harder to understand is what’s happening on the other side — the degree to which almost all the Republicans have chosen to align themselves closely with the unpopular policies of an unpopular president. And I’m not just talking about their continuing enthusiasm for the Iraq war. The G.O.P. candidates are equally supportive of Bush economic policies.

Why would politicians support Bushonomics? After all, the public is very unhappy with the state of the economy, for good reason. The “Bush boom,” such as it was, bypassed most Americans — median family income, adjusted for inflation, has stagnated in the Bush years, and so have the real earnings of the typical worker. Meanwhile, insecurity has increased, with a declining fraction of Americans receiving health insurance from their employers.

And things seem likely to get worse as the election approaches. For a few years, the economy was at least creating jobs at a respectable pace — but as the housing slump and the associated credit crunch accelerate and spill over to the rest of the economy, most analysts expect employment to weaken, too.

All in all, it’s an economic and political environment in which you’d expect Republican politicians, as a sheer matter of calculation, to look for ways to distance themselves from the current administration’s economic policies and record — say, by expressing some concern about rising income gaps and the fraying social safety net.

In other words, the Republicans are basically saying, “I’m not George W. Bush, but I stand by everything he’s done and stands for.” If that isn’t an invitation to a massive slaughter at the polls next November, I can’t imagine one worse, unless, of course, Mitt Romney gets caught with a live boy in his bed. (Heck, given his flip-flopping on every issue, that wouldn’t be a surprise. It would gross me out, yes, but not surprise me.) On every issue that the Bush administration has espoused — tax cuts increase revenue, private health care is better than the alternative (we’ll always have emergency rooms), invading a country spreads freedom, a women’s uterus belongs to the state, education is all about standardized tests, and the Constitution means exactly what the vice president and the unitary executive say it means — they have not only gotten it exactly wrong, but they have done it so spectacularly wrong at every move that one hundred years from know, historians will look back on this decade and wonder what exactly led us down this path.

The Republican field, to a man, acts as if the past seven years has not happened. They are all running as if they have all gone through some temporal distortion and it is December 1999 (I’m surprised that Fred Thompson hasn’t put out position paper on how to deal with Y2K). They’re gearing up to run against the Clinton administration, and proposing the exact same shit that George W. Bush came up with. To be fair, they are hoping to run against the Clinton administration in the person of Hillary Clinton, but compared to the Bush administration, those eight years of towering economic growth, budget surpluses, a responsive infrastructure (vide FEMA under James Lee Witt vs. Brownie), and a cogent foreign policy where our allies could be counted on more than just one digit were pretty damn good. If the cost of that was Bill Clinton getting a blow job in the Oval Office and watching the Republicans make complete fools of themselves with their pompous outrage and hypocrisy, I say it was worth it.

What is perhaps the most perplexing element is that the Republicans are seemingly unaware of the fact that the majority of the country has moved to the left of not just them but even some in the Democratic Party. Many of the people who say they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton are doing it based on her record of supporting moderate stances and her votes in favor of the war with Iraq. The majority of Americans are more in line with the views of those candidates like Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich who want the troops out of Iraq immediately, and many are more in favor of the universal health care plan as espoused by John Edwards than the compromise private/public smörgåsbord proposed by Hillary Clinton. As for issues such as abortion, gay rights, and immigration, the majority of Americans in both parties are far more aligned with the Democrats than the Republicans. Yet the GOP tromps on, alienating as many people as possible — including women, gays, and Hispanics — all so that they can somehow “rescue” America from the morass that their party cheerfully led us into under the delusion of “compassionate conservatism” and neocon wet dreams of world domination.

It would be nice to imagine that there would be a candidate or a platform that could somehow unite the two parties…assuming that they share the common goal of doing what’s best for the nation and not for their party. Mr. Krugman does not hold out much hope.

There’s a fantasy, widely held inside the Beltway, that men and women of good will from both parties can be brought together to hammer out bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems.

If such a thing were possible, Mr. McCain, Mr. Romney and Mr. Giuliani — a self-proclaimed maverick, the former governor of a liberal state and the former mayor of an equally liberal city — would seem like the kind of men Democrats could deal with. (O.K., maybe not Mr. Giuliani.) In fact, however, it’s not possible, not given the nature of today’s Republican Party, which has turned men like Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney into hard-line ideologues. On economics, and on much else, there is no common ground between the parties.

And when one of the parties refuses to even acknowledge that they might be a tad responsible for the great divide, I don’t hold out much hope, either.