Monday, November 14, 2016

Prescription For Staying Out Of Power

Steve M. quotes Stephen Carter, who has written for Bloomberg View

But whether or not the president-elect does what he should, the lesson for liberals is that they have to get serious again -- not just about winning elections but also about taking opposition as a mark of an energetic politics rather than the Manichean manipulations of the forces of evil. The mark of a healthy democracy is the preference for argument rather than invective. Those are the roots the left must reclaim. True, we live in an era when serious debate isn’t much valued. Perhaps a Democratic Party that spends a few years out of power can find its way back by reminding all of us how it is done.

If so, that would be breaking the mold of recent years.  The GOP held down its losses in the House of Representatives, improbably maintained control of the Senate, and won a presidential race which the left, mainstream media, and even the Republican Party itself believed highly unlikely unless it became friendlier to hispanics.  You might have noticed that it didn't. Steve M. rhetorically asks

And you do know that the victorious Republican presidential candidate this year was Donald Trump, don't you, Professor? Someone who portrayed his opponent as (in your words) a "force of evil" throughout his campaign? Someone whose campaign was fifteen straight months of invective? And you realize that in four straight elections -- in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016 -- Republicans have vowed to "take our country back" from Democrats, as if Democrats are usurpers rather than fellow citizens who've won elections?

Carter wrote

What I hope happens ... is that liberals of the present day rediscover the virtues of the ascendant liberalism of the 1950s through the 1970s that Democrats seem to want to emulate. These virtues included a toleration for disagreement, an effort to avoid reducing complex issues to applause lines, and a fundamental humility as they went about governing. This doesn’t mean the old-style liberals didn’t believe, earnestly, that they were right on the issues. But they accepted that their nation was a diverse place, that their opponents were entitled to their say, that government should not try to do everything at once, and that policy should be made in a way that could create a working consensus.

Appropriately incensed, SM responds

Professor, you do know that the Democratic nominee this year was Hillary Clinton, don't you? A woman who's always been eager to reach across the aisle? A woman who avidly pursued Republican votes throughout the general-election campaign? A woman who bragged about many endorsements from Republicans?

In the good old days, liberals accepted "that their opponents were entitled to their say... and that policy should be made in a way that could create a working consensus.  That sounds a lot like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which proved unpopular and has been an albatross for Democratic congressional candidates and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Matt Grossman and David A.  Hopkins note

As many frustrated Democrats pointed out, the ACA was far from the exercise in single-payer socialized medicine implied by Republican critics. In fact, the law's structure is striking for the many ways in which it attempts to avoid conservative accusations of "big government" liberalism.

Republicans favor federalism over nationalization. The ACA creates state-based insurance exchanges and uses state Medicaid partnerships to deliver services.

Republicans favor private sector implementation over increasing government bureaucracy. The ACA delivers benefits mainly through private insurance companies.

Republicans favor free market incentives. The ACA uses internet-based shopping marketplaces, which allows consumers to compare prices and requires insurers to compete for their business.

The GOP was remade by and for the Tea Party, which encouraged extremist polictics and a confrontational approach, attacked the Republican establishment, and laid the groundwork for the Trump candidacy.  Health care reform was famoulsy one of the movement's original targets and despite its (modest) success has been an albatross around the neck of congressional candidates and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Spurred by Tea Party activism, the Republican Party became "ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unmoved by convetnional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."  And extremely successful.

Now Stephen Carter and others want liberals to play nice and recognize diversity of opinion. If  they do so, they may have the satisfaction of always having the adult in the room, pointing the way to consensus opinion and compromise, giving them a warm feeling all over when they subsequently get their heads handed to them again.

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