Friday, May 15, 2015

What, Why and How

Dr. Krugman ably explains the "what":
What’s going on here? My best explanation is that we’re witnessing the effects of extreme tribalism. On the modern right, everything is a political litmus test. Anyone who tried to think through the pros and cons of the Iraq war was, by definition, an enemy of President George W. Bush and probably hated America; anyone who questioned whether the Federal Reserve was really debasing the currency was surely an enemy of capitalism and freedom.

It doesn’t matter that the skeptics have been proved right. Simply raising questions about the orthodoxies of the moment leads to excommunication, from which there is no coming back. So the only “experts” left standing are those who made all the approved mistakes. It’s kind of a fraternity of failure: men and women united by a shared history of getting everything wrong, and refusing to admit it. Will they get the chance to add more chapters to their reign of error?
Recently, Salon saw the onetime aide to GOP Rep. Jack Kemp (the party’s 1996 vice presidential nominee) criticizing a piece about a campaign finance reform-oriented GOP presidential candidate from Harvard Law’s Lawrence Lessig. We decided to reach out, and ended up speaking with Bartlett over the phone for about 30 minutes. Our conversation touched on Lessig’s piece, Bartlett’s contrarian view of campaign finance, and why he thinks lobbying is one of the most insidious threats to American government. A condensed and edited transcript of our conversation can be found below.

What element of Professor Lawrence Lessig’s Daily Beast piece on a reform Republican challenging Clinton — which, I should just note, he admitted was fanciful — did you find most unrealistic?

Well, the impression I had [was] that he, like many other people, such as David Brooks, seems to be longing for a moderate Republican savior who they believe is out there somewhere and [will] rescue the Republicans from utter insanity and stupidity. Lessig has this belief … that the only reason this white knight savior hasn’t emerged is because of problems in campaign finance. So he has this scheme for mobilizing the millions of small donors that he, for some reason, believes are out there longing for this White Knight moderate, who can channel an adequate amount of funding to this White Knight. I think that’s just ludicrous; it’s just nonsense.

The reason there isn’t a moderate Republican is because there’s absolutely no demand for such a person in the Republican Party. There is no such person. Even if I were Sheldon Adelson and was willing to throw a billion dollars at such a person, who the heck would it be? The [GOP] bench has no such person on it that you could make into a contender simply by throwing money at them. And one [reason why] is that Lessig, among others, grossly overestimates or misunderstands the problem of money and politics. I don’t believe, personally, that it’s about campaign spending. My much greater concern about money and politics has to do with lobbying, which I think is a much more insidious problem that nobody is focusing on at all.
But thus far, almost no one outside of the walled Coventry of the Liberal blogosphere has taken a real extended swing at explaining the "how".

Because the only reason this obviously deranged zombie waltz does not collapse from its own absurdity -- the only reason Crazy Uncle Liberty is not laughed off the street every time he opens his tea-hole -- is that our elite media is engaged in a vast and public conspiracy to never, ever permit this matter tp be discussed openly and at the "adult table".

The self-deception machinery that keeps Conservatism running is internally self-sustaining, so there really is no point in engaging them: functionally, they are citizens of another country which has sworn eternal hostility to our own.

No, the only way to alter the tragic trajectory of the status quo is to take down the mainstream media. To make it too personally and professionally painful for them to continue to enable the Conservative hate machine. 

Do that and you change the game.

Fail at that and the game is lost.


Steve Rowell said...

Absolutely. Thank you for all your work.

Neo Tuxedo said...

No, the only way to alter the tragic trajectory of the status quo is to take down the mainstream media. To make it too personally and professionally painful for them to continue to enable the Conservative hate machine.

That reminds me of a passage from the famous mega-crossover Undocumented Features, in which the main author's emortal avatar is confronted by a fictional character bent on testing his combat skills:

Cassandra Cain had [...] never fought a samurai before, and the impression she'd gathered of them was that they weren't real martial artists - too dependent on their swords. Take his sword out of the equation and the rest would be simple. [...] She might as well have thought that the key to defeating Batman was to deprive him of the use of his hands - probably accurate, but not really as simple as it sounds.

You've identified the problem and the solution, but in terms of the steps to take, I'm also reminded of the moment in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Deja Q" when Q's suggested solution to the problem of Bre'el IV's moon Klyo falling out of its orbit, delivered in the long-suffering tones of one tired of explaining himself to his inferiors, is "Change the gravitational constant of the universe."

One Fly said...

If the lobbyists were gone the much of the money would go too.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't the center, the problem is people don't want to combat "faith".

We're a nation where "it's what I believe in and my values" is an acceptable substitute for facts. And it's because we love religion so much.

We're not willing to tell this to the bible bangers, we need to start.

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

Geese has a problem with religion?

I have a Q-style "solution" for him.

Invent immortality.

Oh, also invent rejuvenation for the people who are already old when he invents immortality.

Also, get rid of all other forms of suffering.

Anyone who thinks all, or even a majority, of the human species can be persuaded to become Stern Sturdy Stoics, knows even less about human psychology than a creationist knows about human paleontology.

Religions will disappear once human beings no longer suffer and die.

And. Not. One. Nanosecond. Earlier.


Jerry B said...

It's funny because I was thinking about this this morning. The GOP has become the "Existential Party" and by that I mean that everything is life or death with them. Anything outside the orthodoxy of extreme RW, white male, fundamentalist christian, Friedmen laissez faire capitalist dogma threatens the very fabric of all we hold dear and must be crushed out of existence. Aided by a MSM that hasn't the courage to tell their corporate masters to go fuck themselves.

These two things combined are an actual existential threat.

Lawrence said...

I'm going to agree with Geese here. But he is really making the same point as Driftglass. Of course Fox isn't going to swat down the Jade Helm 15 truthers. They get paid to encourage them. But CNN and MSNBC could be calling out the story as "The right is embracing something so delusional it is beyond the pale" instead of "tee hee, look at those wacky Texas people. LOL!" They could be asking John Boehner what the hell is going on with his party. Hey Senator McCain, what have you done to squash this bullshit today? That this does not happen is the real scandal.

trgahan said...

I’d argue that when someone pines for “a moderate Republican savior” what they mean is someone who can achieve the national electoral results of Reagan. Policy-wise they are no different than the guy with the tri-quarter hat and misspelled sign. What Brooks et al. need is someone who can deliver similar victory margins as President Obama did. The mainstream stream media doesn’t want to have to sell another ca. 2000 Supreme Court delivered Republican squeaker. They need some bigger margins to keep the “America rejected Liberalism and is fundamentally Conservative” while the Republican President axes all non-military government spending, privatizes SS and Medicare, starts a war, and outlaws corporate the first 90 days.

Don’t get me wrong, Faux News will screech “America has rejected liberalism!,” “Is the Democratic Party Done?” and talk of voter mandates regardless of the margin. But I think Brooks et al. wants something substantive to bring back the Beltway/Manhattan political attitudes of the 1980’s.