Monday, January 25, 2010

"Monsters" and "Political Reality"

I should point out that, despite my last post, I have a lot of respect for people like Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and (of course) Paul Krugman. I do believe they have a point, and they're dead-on on a lot of issues.

The problem isn't their perspective. The problem is the extent to which they've gone to defend it. Like practically everybody who finds themselves on the side of the Village—or finds themselves a part of it—they are jettisoning far too much in the name of "political realities". They are not stopping to think about how real those "realities" are, and the extent to which their cases are built on a rickety foundation of assumptions, suppositions, and projection.

They always forget that the rest of America does not think as Washington does. Republicans are forced to remember that because they live in fear of their base. If they forget, they could end up on the business end of a nasty primary challenge. GOP candidates can even lose a general if the SoCons stay home. Dems don't have to worry about either of these possibilities from their always-supportive base, so they end up imprisoned Washington's "political realities".

That is the true basis for that Republican "you study reality, we create it" comment that Dems mocked a while back. The Republican in question was not talking about physical reality. He was talking about those political realities, the ones that people like Matt are always referring to. The Republican use their knowledge of both the Dems and Washington to create the conventional wisdom, and the Democratic lawmakers and hangers-on end up trying to operate within those ever-shifting Republican-built boundaries.

And when they fail, as they so often do, they always blame everybody but themselves. They blame the Republicans, sure, but they mostly blame those who stand outside the "political reality" and try to tell them what's really going on. They don't want to hear it, since they have invested time, energy, and their personal reputation in these "political realities". They build a common defense against the cognitive dissonance between "political reality" and the actual stuff. It happened with Iraq, and it's happening here.

Even this whole "pass the Senate bill" thing has a sense of unreality to it. It boils down to the Dems exploiting the fact that the Senate passed the bill before the new guy could chance to vote against it, and before the public made it clear that the Senate bill was not enough. Both of those, together, make "pass the Senate bill" sleazy at best.

The public will hate it. The Republicans will run against it. The base will walk away. Seats will be lost. So why support it? "Political reality".

The good news is that the Brown victory seems to have helped these guys realize what's truly real. Bernanke's reappointment was "political reality", but it's troubled. Knuckling under to the banks' agenda was "political reality", but Obama looks to be giving Volcker and Warren their heads on that one. Pretending that the Republicans were partners, instead of opponents, was "political reality", but the Dems seem to finally realize what they're up against. Chasing the independent vote while ignoring the core supporters was "political reality", but the Dems are now confronted with proof that young, committed supporters can and will stay home.

So now we have to find new "political realities". With any luck, the Dems will start creating them, instead of just following them. The only way that will happen, though, is if people like Yglesias, Klein and Silver start defending what's right, instead of whatever "reality" they're invested in.

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