Monday, September 05, 2011

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

From TruthOut courtesy of one of my facebook friends:

It is this broad and ever-widening gulf between the traditional Republicanism of an Eisenhower and the quasi-totalitarian cult of a Michele Bachmann that impelled my departure from Capitol Hill. It is not in my pragmatic nature to make a heroic gesture of self-immolation, or to make lurid revelations of personal martyrdom in the manner of David Brock. And I will leave a more detailed dissection of failed Republican economic policies to my fellow apostate Bruce Bartlett.

I left because I was appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans, like Gadarene swine, to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country's future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them. And, in truth, I left as an act of rational self-interest. Having gutted private-sector pensions and health benefits as a result of their embrace of outsourcing, union busting and "shareholder value," the GOP now thinks it is only fair that public-sector workers give up their pensions and benefits, too. Hence the intensification of the GOP's decades-long campaign of scorn against government workers. Under the circumstances, it is simply safer to be a current retiree rather than a prospective one.

If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren't after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté. They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be "forced" to make "hard choices" - and that doesn't mean repealing those very same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked.

During the week that this piece was written, the debt ceiling fiasco reached its conclusion. The economy was already weak, but the GOP's disgraceful game of chicken roiled the markets even further. Foreigners could hardly believe it: Americans' own crazy political actions were destabilizing the safe-haven status of the dollar. Accordingly, during that same week, over one trillion dollars worth of assets evaporated on financial markets. Russia and China have stepped up their advocating that the dollar be replaced as the global reserve currency - a move as consequential and disastrous for US interests as any that can be imagined.

If Republicans have perfected a new form of politics that is successful electorally at the same time that it unleashes major policy disasters, it means twilight both for the democratic process and America's status as the world's leading power.

More here.

Long excerpt, I know, but it's a long essay. And worth every word.

There's often a certain unseemly sense of triumphalism present whenever anybody hauls out the confessional statements of a former political enemy. I mean, just look at right-wing psycho David Horowitz, who flashes his former radicalism like a born-again gleefully talking about the sex, drugs, and murder of his rejected lifestyle. But all these conservatives coming out lately to blast where the movement is today aren't really the same thing: there is a sadness embedded in their words, a sense of loss and grief for the degradation their lifelong ideological identities have suffered in the post Reagan era.

And it makes me a bit sad, too. Obviously, I'm no conservative, but I used to think of myself as one, and my family and many friends continue to self-identify as conservative. Once upon a time in this country, conservatism was a noble and intellectually sound point of view. I mean, like I said, I don't agree with the overall conservative understanding of human affairs, but it used to be reasonable, a fair balance against liberal excess. Sometimes, conservatism even got it right and the liberals got it wrong. One thing was for sure: back in the day liberals and conservatives alike wanted what was best for the country, and this was acknowledged by both sides. But not anymore.

Anyway, you most definitely should read the entire essay. It's pretty great. What struck me is that the public discourse has been driven so far to the right in the last couple of decades that the article comes off like one of those excruciatingly reasonable essays in the liberal Nation magazine. If things hadn't gone so off-the-rails in this country, liberals and conservatives might actually be able to work together and get some shit done. An alternate reality, I suppose.