Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Right's Corrosive Tribalism Summed Up In One Tweet

Republican strategist Michael Murphy often tends to be one of the rational voices from the right, and has grown perturbed with the Ted Cruz/Tea Party-led tantrum that has paralyzed the nation and now has a gun to the head of the global economy.

Taking a position against the radicals has earned him some new liberal followers on Twitter, but Murphy warns them...

Note, Murphy isn't concerned that the "Stupid Wing" is imperiling the nation.  Murphy is only concerned that the "Stupid Wing" is keeping people with like beliefs from controlling the entire government.

This is emblematic of perhaps the most fundamental difference between American liberals and conservatives:

Liberals want to solve problems, and they see the government as a mechanism for doing so. Oftentimes they overreach, and tinkering with the system ends up exacerbating rather than solving things.  Oftentimes they get it wrong. But at the end of the day, the motivation is to remedy specific issues - inequality of opportunity, rising health care costs and the uninsured, climate change, education, and so on.

Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to view everything first through the twin lenses of ideological purity and tribal victory. Making America healthier, safer and more prosperous for all its citizens are secondary motivations to the validation of the conservative movement and victory for the party that purports to represent it.

Watch a Democratic presidential debate. You won't see candidates volleying over who is more liberal. Yet when you watch a Republican debate, you see open arguments over whether each candidate is conservative enough, with each presenting their ideological bonafides.  Democrats debate who would best work across the aisle and get things done, while Republicans assail one another for being the slightest bit willing to compromise.

There are no watchdog groups on the left rating whether Democrats in Congress are "liberal" enough the way the American Conservative Union rates Republicans.

On the right, ideological purity comes before country. Any policy that is not appropriately conservative is not a policy option at all.

Republicans know full well that the sequester is hurting the economy and costing jobs. They simply don't care.  Anything that shrinks government is good, even if it helps no Americans and hurts millions.   So long as it is conservative, that makes it virtuous... even if it's wholly destructive.

By the same token, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, in moments of accidental honesty, have expressed their true issue with Obamacare: they're not worried that it's going to damage the country.  They're worried that it will actually work and an apparatus that is anathema to their world view will be actively helping people, the same way Medicare and Social Security do.

The fact that Medicare and Social Security have been incredible stabilizers of our economy and enhancers of American quality of life does not make the right wing hate the very concept of social insurance one bit less.

Worse yet, the success of any expansion of government further undermines conservatives' claim that their ideology is what is best for the country.  They, themselves, do not care if their approach is actually better for Americans.  I have yet to see any evidence that Ted Cruz has even a passing interest in improving the American economy or the lives of Americans. His only concern is the triumph of his world view.

But independent voters do care, and at the end of the day even Cruz and Rubio know they still need to sell it.

Read this column from Washington Post neoconservative Jennifer Rubin. It's entirely about the damage done to the GOP and the conservative movement by our current mess and those who engineered it. Health care for the uninsured and bending down the cost curve on health care for the rest of us isn't even on the periphery of Rubin's thoughts. This is the post-policy GOP, crystalized.

The Clinton years should have been an era of political harmony, with falling deficits, soaring employment, and few foreign entanglements.  A pro-business centrist occupied the Oval Office. This should have been a time when things got done in the long term interest of the country.  Instead, the GOP shut down the government simply because Bill Clinton was a Democrat and, in their eyes, that made him an illegitimate leader of the nation.  And one way or another, they would keep him from governing.

Policy, the country... not even part of the equation.

So as we come back to Murphy's tweet about his concern that Ted Cruz and his band of wackjobs are costing the GOP the Senate (not that they're hurting America), we're left with the following conclusion about the tribal right:

If forced to choose between living in a peaceful and prosperous America run by Democrats, or a struggling, declining America run by Republicans... many if not most on the right would choose the latter.

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