Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

The bears-and-sneakers theory of democracy

bearinwater.JPGDave Weigel has a good piece looking at how the conservative reformers who predicted a long wilderness for Republicans unless they changed their core message in this or that direction are reacting to the party's 2010 resurgence. "It now appears that the GOP is about to win without tapping into any of that stuff. The conservative movement's smart set, the people who liberals considered serious critics who could remake the right, really had nothing to do with the Republican Party's great comeback."

This happens a lot, of course. Liberals will remember the post-2004 meltdown in Democratic circles. The party had to move right on national security, on economics, on "family values." You couldn't be the party of less war and more tolerance and win the heartland. Four years later, Indiana went for an antiwar, African American liberal with the middle name "Hussein." In a two-party system, you don't need people to like you to win. You just need them to like the other guys less. Think of it as the bears-and-sneakers theory of democracy.

Which isn't to say that the conservative reformers were wrong. At the end of the day, politics is about more than winning elections. The Republican Party remains in intellectual tatters. Its main two policy ideas -- extending the Bush tax cuts and repealing health-care reform -- will make its main policy concern -- the debt -- much, much worse. It has no answer for our economic moment, for inequality, for the health-care system (Mitt Romney used to have one, but then Democrats took it), for the deficit. You don't need good ideas to win. But you do need them to govern.

Photo credit: M. Spencer Green/AP.

By Ezra Klein  | October 6, 2010; 9:47 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Democrats don't know how much they've gotten done
Next: Only 9% of America's companies are innovating

Comments

"an antiwar, African American liberal with the middle name "Hussein.""

Well, you're right about the middle name and his race, not so right about liberal and antiwar. Thanks for peddling myths, though.

Posted by: redscott1904 | October 6, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

"You don't need good ideas to win. But you do need them to govern."

Which is why the Democrats are about to be thrown out on their arses.

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 6, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

"But you do need them to govern."


If your idea is that the government needs to toe the line with Democratic special interests, sure.


Of course, a lot of things operate better on their own accord.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 6, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Long-term, the GOP is still in trouble. They can't dust themselves off and pretend it's 2003 and more than Larry Summers & Timothy Geithner can re-inflate the housing bubble. Times have changed. Once the Repubs take the house and propose only a tax cut and begin investigating Barack Obama's birth certificate, the Dems will re-awaken. Plus, as those pro-Obama 18-to-29 year-olds get older and more settled and begin voting more regularly, Dems will enjoy majorities for a long time.

Posted by: klautsack | October 6, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

"Long-term, the GOP is still in trouble. They can't dust themselves off and pretend it's 2003 and more than Larry Summers & Timothy Geithner can re-inflate the housing bubble. Times have changed. Once the Repubs take the house and propose only a tax cut and begin investigating Barack Obama's birth certificate, the Dems will re-awaken. Plus, as those pro-Obama 18-to-29 year-olds get older and more settled and begin voting more regularly, Dems will enjoy majorities for a long time."


That depends on the job situation over the next 2 years.

Obama tried to pay us young people back by giving them a taste of Daddy's health insurance, but that only lasts so long.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 6, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I agree that "anti-war" isn't exactly accurate to President Obama. Even in the campaign he pledge to refocus the military efforts on Afghanistan, which is what he did but is clearly not anti-war. He did, however run against the war party, which in 2008 is what the Republicans seemed like to a lot of people.

bgmma50, as the post below shows, most people, let alone informed Dems, know what's been accomplished in this Congress outside of a few buzz words like "death panel!" Dems are going to lose because the economy is recovering slower than we'd like. And even if the Dem's ideas are less than optimal for governing, that doesn't change the fact that the Republicans still don't have any serious ideas at all.

Posted by: MosBen | October 6, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

"bgmma50, as the post below shows, most people, let alone informed Dems, know what's been accomplished in this Congress outside of a few buzz words like "death panel!" Dems are going to lose because the economy is recovering slower than we'd like. And even if the Dem's ideas are less than optimal for governing, that doesn't change the fact that the Republicans still don't have any serious ideas at all. "


That's hardly true at all.

Firing lots of education workers and reforming pensions are very serious ideas.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 6, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

"You don't need good ideas to win. But you do need them to govern."

And that would be a problem for them, if in fact they were interested in governing, but as they make it abundantly clear, they are not. (Leader-in-waiting Boehner admitted it right out last week: "We're not going to be any different than we've always been." ) They are interested in getting government out of the way of the consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of their (short sighted) corporate keepers, who will then reward them when they get out of office (or, to the greatest extent possible, while they are still in it.)

Unfortunately for the Democrats, the memes that are deployed in support of this position (get government off your back, its your money, etc.) play much better with the mythology (as opposed to the reality) of the 'American Dream'. So Democratic wins ususally come only after a major Republican screw up and/or when the Republican alternative is so manifestly unsuitable that he/she negates the attractiveness of the myth being peddled. Both of these factors were at play in 2010, and it looks like at least the second (an unsuitable Republican candidate) will obtain in 2012.

Posted by: guesswhosue | October 6, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

krazen1211 -
"That depends on the job situation over the next 2 years."

Ah, yes. But now it's the Republicans' turn to think of a way out of the mess they created. One thing is certain - 90's style witch hunts will neither turn the economy around nor endear the Republicans to the voters. Dog catches car.

Posted by: klautsack | October 6, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"Ah, yes. But now it's the Republicans' turn to think of a way out of the mess they created. One thing is certain - 90's style witch hunts will neither turn the economy around nor endear the Republicans to the voters. Dog catches car."

No, but they might simply get lucky like Clinton did.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 6, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Besides, more importantly, Obama will still be president, and Harry Reid or one of the other guys will still run the Senate.

If things are going well, in 2012, voters will likely just keep what they have, which is of course what happened in 1996, 2000, and 2004, or 1984 if you want an example of split control being maintained.

Speaker John Boehner might stay as speaker John Boehner, witch hunts or not.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 6, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

krazen1211-

I'm not totally opposed to a Boehner-Obama government. But this only works if he and other Republicans are serious. I think the judgment is still very much out on that one. Obama can do a lot with the Executive Branch and he can more easily advocate for truly Liberal/Progressive positions if he knows they will be tempered by the Congress anyhow. Having those kinds of discussions would be much healthier for our country than "Death Panels!!!"

Posted by: klautsack | October 6, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Barack moved his Senatorial seat from Illinois to Indiana?

Posted by: stimb | October 6, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are just a bad sequel to a movie that already flopped. Americans are fools if they think putting Republicans back in charge is going to result in any different policies than the ones that brought you 2 failed wars, massive debt, a growing poverty class and the 2008 Financial Crisis.

Posted by: AxelDC | October 7, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

"Obama tried to pay us young people back by giving them a taste of Daddy's health insurance, but that only lasts so long."

Um, I'm 50, and I've never seen anything like that sort of health insurance until just a few years ago when the Massachusetts legislature worked with Mitt Romney to bring it into existence.

You might want to read up a bit more on American history than you appear to have.

Posted by: akaoddjob | October 7, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I find Ezra's assessment of today's GOP perfect.

They have NOTHING to offer except further damage.

Posted by: akaoddjob | October 7, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Read Prof. Stephen Hill's book, "Fixing Elections", which is all about the failures of winner-take-all electoral systems.

Most of the problems the press laments in US politics are just normal and predictable outcomes of such a flawed, archaic approach to democracy.

If you want the government represent the will of Americans, you need to remove the many barriers between the people and public policy.

http://www.fixingelections.com/

Posted by: AxelDC | October 7, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Read Prof. Stephen Hill's book, "Fixing Elections", which is all about the failures of winner-take-all electoral systems.

Most of the problems the press laments in US politics are just normal and predictable outcomes of such a flawed, archaic approach to democracy.

If you want the government represent the will of Americans, you need to remove the many barriers between the people and public policy.

http://www.fixingelections.com/

Posted by: AxelDC | October 7, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company