Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Republicanism’s Untimely Fearfulness (comments and replies)

By my standards, my uncharitable posting yesterday on the fearful mood of American Republicans went viral. It generated comments that were both challenging and rhetorical:

"In 2006, they should have been worried. Instead, they were recklessly optimistic and their leadership drove the country into the rocks." I have no doubt that you believe what you are saying, but it would be helpful (for the reader) if you would provide examples of what you are talking about. :)”-Jesse Rebel

“In 2006, Democrats gained a majority in both houses of Congress. Coincidence?”-Unknown

“2005 they _were_ worried, nimrod. McCain and Co. warned of the coming meltdown, and Bawney (sic) Frank and his buds insisted it was no problem and carried on. How do we get this narrative that it was somehow the Republican's fault?”-Unknown

“We won't heal from anything. Obamacare will destroy what's left of the economy and the out of control spending will eventually collide with reality”-Christian

“Is this guy for real?”-Unknown

Jesse asks fairly what were the unaddressed worries of 2006?

ABC/Washington Post found that in 2006 only 20 percent of Republicans feared for the future. I still find this startling. There were plenty of important problems to worry about: the Iraq War was costing a fortune, no resolution was in sight, and it was enfeebling America’s influence everywhere; oil prices where steadily cutting into consumer’s purchasing power; and, of course, the real estate and financial sectors were overheating. Those were just the ones that mattered to Republicans. Others that didn’t—like climate change and declining healthcare coverage for American workers—should have.

It is useless, 20/20 partisan hindsight to insist now that Republican leaders, with the blessing of their supporters, could have taken all necessary and unpopular actions to avert the financial crash and the Great Recession that arrived the following year. Nevertheless, they were doing the driving. They constantly talked down government intervention and talked up the American economy—and it crashed.

References to Barney Frank and other Democrat congressional leaders are beside the point. They didn’t have the votes, inclination, or power to change George Bush’s tax regime; end the war in Iraq; cool oil prices, housing, and stock markets; oras Republicans are wont to doimpeach the President, and fire the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

My intention, however, wasn’t to re-fight the last decade or to argue that Democrats are smarter or that in the spring of 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could have averted the Great Recession. What’s important to recall when Republicans say today that the country is heading for ruin is that their ability to anticipate events is rather shaky.

Christian’s insistence that “nothing is healing” is contradicted every day in the job market, in the auto industry, in the housing industry, and in stock and bond markets and exchange rate reports.

It’s a harmless tautology to say, “uncontrolled spending will eventually collide with reality.” However, it’s not compelling as a forecast.

Let’s lighten up and carry on.

ABC/Washington Post’s poll merely confirms what Machiavelli and every objective historian of politics has witnessed ever since politicians were free to scare other people or puff them up: the ‘ins’ talk differently about the future than the ‘outs.’ The extraordinary 50 percent souring of Republican expectations since 2006 reflects their diminished circumstancesnot America’s.

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