BUT... I've certainly leaned pretty heavily over the years on the trope that the Republicans band together whilst the Democrats mostly bicker amongst themselves. That the Right votes (and thinks) in lockstep whilst the diversity of opinion on the Left - while idealistic and admirable - often times sabotages their ability to govern. And that's BEFORE you get someone who's as allergic to hard negotiation as Obama is.
And this article really challenges that trope. I mean, sure, me and a few of my fellow bloggers might criticize Obama (and/or Clinton) but I'm an engineer - a man of SCIENCE. Can this really be quantified? What does it say about this that idea that there are many historic examples of the OPPOSITE being true: that the Right is all disjointed and the Left are the ones that close ranks?
Well... I ain't ready to buy that just yet, but some reconciliation is obviously in order.
So I'm going to go through the examples one by one, starting with Reagan. I think that's the best place to start, because any discussion of MODERN Conservatism and Liberalism, or for that matter Democrats and Republicans really can only be traced back as far as Reagan, maybe Carter. You go back much farther and the parties just look too different form what they are today for these comparisons to be relevant. (In Nixon's day, there were still Conservative Democrats - mostly Southerners - and still some Socially Liberal, Libertarian Republicans. And while that all started to change in the 1960's with the Civil Rights Act (Johnson was right about losing the South, but he was being wildly optimistic that it would ONLY be 'for a generation!') it was finally beginning to cement itself during the Reagan Years. I would say the last nail in the coffin was 1994 and the Gingrich-led Congress, but they were certainly polishing the wood for it, so to speak, during the Reagan years.
Now Hoeft mentions how Reagan had his critics. He mentions the hard Right, because Reagan DID raise taxes several times. (Not something that's really associated with his legacy, but true all the same.) He also had his critics all over the map because of what was the first of what would eventually be twelve years of deficits that were insane in any time that wasn't a full blown World War. But in the end, as Dick Cheney so *ahem* eloquently put it: Reagan showed us that deficits don't matter. (Yeah, unless there's a Democrat in the White House, huh, Dick?) And whatever Right-Wing critics he had on tax policy, he pretty much silenced them in 1987, by lowering the top-tier tax rate to 28% - almost as low as what a median income earner was paying just the year before, while leaving the upper-middle class bracket at 33%. That's right - for three years we actually had a REGRESSIVE taxation system, for the only time in the history of the Federal Income Tax. And given Reagan's historic landslide in 1984, I would hardly say that these critics of the now iconic Republican were really all that significant. Or critical.
And besides... While Reagan might not have always enjoyed the full support of his party (though I question how often this really translated into "No" Votes) he was the one who STARTED the trend. What was his greatest legacy?
"Do not speak ill of your fellow Republican."
Party loyalty was the at very heart of the man's philosophy and is perhaps his most significant and lasting legacy. If the Right learned ANYTHING form the Reagan years (and given the Bush'43 years, I have my doubts) it was this.
So... Fast forward to 1992, and the Republican Primary and incumbent President George H.W. Bush (whom I consider to be the best or 2nd best Republican since Teddy Roosevelt) facing the music from the likes of Pat Buchanan and the Christian Coalition. Look... I don't mean to dismiss the destructive influence that this combination of bigotry and fanaticism has had on the Republican Party. Starting with Jerry Fallwell, then Pat Robertson and now James Dobson (and others) the Christian Right has been destroy the Republican Party for DECADES now. But if you are going to look at George H.W. Bush's loss in 1992, and try to figure out what happened, the elephant in the room can be summed up in two simple lines:
"It's the economy, stupid!" ~Bill Clinton
"Read my lips: No new taxes!" ~George H.W. Bush
That's it. That's all you need to know. George Bush was an INCUMBENT. Any nonsense from the likes of Buchanan or any others are inconsequential next to those two, simple lines. There was a recession. And while it's kind of stupid to blame a recession solely on the President, it's not as dumb if he just raised taxes (after basically saying he wouldn't.) As for the "read my lips" quote? Well, at least the Right is consistent, I'll give them that. Juts like Al Gore never claimed to have invented the Internet* Bush'41 never said he wouldn't RAISE taxes. He just wouldn't create any NEW ONES. Well... I can certainly see how that could have been misinterpreted. Al Gore's statement... not so much.*
*it's off-topic, but read the end comment.
And at the end of the day, it's not like the Christian Coalition went and voted Democrat, nor did Buchanan really represent a serious primary challenge: Bush trounced him by over three to one in the popular voter and won every single State. Buchanan represented no more than a symbolic (and possibly egotistic) challenge. So... I'm sorry. It's pure and utter bullshit to say that a lack of PARTY LOYALTY cost Bush the '92 election. He went back on a "Read my lips" pledge, and was in a recession, running against a charismatic candidate who constantly reminded people of it.
Dan Quayle didn't help matters much either.
OK, now... Fast forward again to Bill Clinton, 1998.
After six years of compiling a largely Republican record: NAFTA, DADT, DOMA, '96 Telecom Monopoly Bill, Repeal of Glass-Steagal, and a 38.6% top-tier tax rate (remember, from 1982 to 1986, under Reagan no less, it was 50%!); one could certainly make the case that Liberals were fed up with him and his "new Democrat" paradigm. Aside from Bryer and Ginsberg? I can't think of a single, bona fide Liberal thing the man did. Of course, that's not why I hated him then. I was a Conservative then, and still at a "William" level of Right Wing brainwashing, thanks in equal parts to Rush Limbaugh and growing up in the family I did and the times that I did. What can I say? As a CHILD? Reagan was my hero. (I sent him a get-well card when he got shot. He sent me back a letter. That was a pretty deal to a then seven-year old!) (Even though I know he didn't actually write it himself!) But... I'm grown up now, and so I know better. Now? I hate Clinton for the right (not the Right's) reasons.
So how does one explain how we all "rallied" around Clinton during the impeachment proceedings? Where were all his Liberal Critics then? Why didn't we join with Newt Gingrich, in the hunt for justice... Sorry... I can't even type that with a strait face. Rallying around Bill Clinton during his impeachment had NOTHING to do with Bill Clinton, and EVERYTHING to do with NEWT GINGRICH! I mean, come on... So the guy was bullshit President. That doesn't mean we're going to sit back while some Right-Wing, jack-booted, cocksucker like Newt Gingrich REMOVES A POPULARLY ELECTED PRESIDENT FROM OFFICE over something as inconsequential as a blow-job from an intern! (And before any doofuses out there tell me it was about lying about it, let me ask you something: How do you feel about the fact that Gingrich him self was having an affair at the time? And did you feel the same about incoming speaker Bob Livingston? Who that mean old Larry Flynt at Hustler magazine "forced" to resign as incoming Speaker over HIS affair? It was a bullshit impeachment, and you know it, so don't waste our time!) What was on display in 1998 was not support for Bill Clinton so much as a backlash against Gingrich and his hyper-partisan, Republican-led witch hunt of Clinton. It wasn't a defense of the DEMOCRATS so much as it was a defense of DEMOCRACY. The Republicans couldn't win fairly in '96, so they were going to ruin him.
Funny how history repeats itself, huh? You'd think Barry would have known the types of people he was dealing before he took the job. Shame that.
So fast forward again (over eight years of a President who WAS NOT popularly elected, and who the press - that's ALL of the press - cheer-led for as he exploded the deficits, startled illegal, unnecessary and unfunded wars and happily chipped away at our civil liberties) to our "savior" (the Right's words, not ours) Barack Obama. So... HOW do I explain why so many Liberals (including your's truly, for longer than most) stuck with him for SO long? Thought a health care bill that resembled Gingrich's c.1993 before the Republicans even took first crack at it. Through a stimulus bill that was trimmed down to a size that would satisfy the very people who's leader stated as his 'top ptriority' making [Obama] a one-term President. Through replacing two reliable Liberal votes on the Supreme Court with two moderates - thus moving the Court farther to the Right. WHY have we stuck with him? Why are there so many still do?
Well, I see two things, really. In the early days, say... early 2009 though about mid 2010? I think there was a lot of... confusion. Obama suddenly didn't sound a whole lot like the guy we had all voted for. That's not normally surprising, most candidates don't live up their rhetoric, but Obama was elected on a large part BECAUSE of that rhetoric! And give HUGE majorities! In BOTH HOUSES! And, pretty much just like Clinton, he took that Liberal mandate and ran right to the Center with, quite possibly overshooting the mark. And... well.. I figure a lot of people didn't even notice at first. And once they did, couldn't figure out what to make of it. And Obama had MUCH larger majorities than Clinton had. (And also squandered.)
And then there was the Right. See... I also think that a lot of the image people had of Obama as this extremely Liberal guy came from the Right. I pretty much knew I was voting for a moderate because I recognized the Right's blathering as pure horseshit and listened to what Obama had to say. The quintessential example of this was when Obama said, [PP] "If we have actionable intelligence that Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan, I would consider military incursions into Pakistan in order to capture him." Within a day this very rational position became "Obama wants to OVERTHROW Musharraf!" (That was our "great ally" Musharraf, BTW, who's country Bin laden WAS actually hiding in the entire time!) And within a day of THAT, I'm getting emails from my Conservative friends saying how Obama wants to NUKE Pakistan! Seriously! And they BELIEVED this! And even after PROVED to them that this was an idiotically absurd interpretation of the man's words, they're response was STILL be best summed up by my friend, Mike, who said, "Yeah, OK, but still... Strange dude."
Now... What role does all this play? Well... Consider the average American voter. They get inspired by his lofty rhetoric, and here the Right demonize him with every epithet they can muster. He comes into office, seems to capitulate to the Right on just about every key issue, and they... KEEP ON demonizing him with every epithet they can muster. So let's go back to that relatively mild-mannered voter, and now woefully misinformed voter. Sure... there are those on the Left who say he's going too far to the Right, but... If that were true why does the Right seem madder than ever at him?
Well... simple answer: They're bat shit fucking insane, that's why!
And that's really been the trend since at least the Clinton years: As the Republicans have pulled farther and farther to the Right, the Democrats have responded by moving to the right. And as the Democrats have compromised by moving to the Right, the Republicans have responded by moving EVEN FARTHER to the Right!
And at this point? Any real Liberal who's still supporting Obama as a Candidate or the Democrats as a Party are doing so for any of the following reasons: Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, John Beohner, Mitch McConnel, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Donald Trump... The list goes on, but I think the point is clear. It not so much as the lesser of two evils, so much as voting for the person or party who would compromise with the evil and voting for the actual evil. At this point the Republicans are so far gone, that NEWT GINGRICH, one of the least popular Speakers of the House in American History, is their LEADING CANDIDATE!
And no, I DO NOT hope he gets the nom, because as much as I believe he would getter utterly TROUNCED in the general, I remember 2000 and the Rehnquist Court appointing our next President, and I will not chance that.
I hope Romney gets the nom. He's the only who's not completely insane, completely moronic or both.
And I hope there is a Primary Challenger to Obama, even if it's just a symbolic one, like Pat Buchanan in '92. If there is? They already have my vote, right now, just to send Barry a message. But I'll still vote for Obama in '12 in the general and, if he loses, I will personally kick the ass of every Liberal who stayed home. Our next President will likely named Ginsburg's successor, and possibly (remote, but still...) Scalia's or Kennedy's. Do you really want that job to be done by Newt Gingrich?!
And THAT'S why I don;t think you can measure our "loyalty" in votes. Because the alternative REALLY IS that much worse.
Anyway, for what it's worth, that my take on the whole thing. And I'm keeping my stance that the Dem's remain the Big-Tent and the Pub's the group-thinkers.
*OK... Al Gore. The Internet. Here's EXACTLY what he said, in his interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer:
During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.Couple of things...
First of all, Blitzer didn't challenge him on the point. At all. He didn't seem to think this claim was all that remarkable at the time. Liberal Bias? Hardly. More like: IT WAS ACTUALLY TRUE. How did Gore do this? Well, for a start, there was the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, commonly known as the "Gore Bill." This laid the legislative groundwork for the the National Information Infrastructure, which serves as the foundation of what we now know as the Internet.
Was his statement even misleading or an exaggeration? Well, I think Snopes gives the best take on that question:
If President Eisenhower had said in the mid 1960's that he, while President, "created" the Interstate Highway system, we would not have seen dozens of editorial lampooning him for claiming that he "invented" the concept of highways, or implying the he personally went out and dug ditches across the country to help build the roadway. Everyone would have understood that Ike meant he was a driving force behind the legislation that created the highway system, and this was the very same concept that Al Gore was expressing about himself with his Internet statement.If you believe he said it, or doubt the veracity of what was actually said, then you simply do not have a basic understanding of the facts. Because all of the guys that YOU THINK "invented" the Internet? Like pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn? Note that, "as far back as the 1970s, Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship [...] the Internet, as we know it today, was not deployed until 1983. When the Internet was still in the early stages of its deployment, Congressman Gore provided intellectual leadership by helping create the vision of the potential benefits of high speed computing and communication."
And making Al Gore's ACCURATE CLAIM into a joke? Makes you sound about as stupid as drawing a picture of Ike with a hard-hat and a shovel - and meaning it as mockery - would do. If you're reading this? You and I both owe a lot of that that to AL GORE. To believe anything else is to swallow the lies that Fox news, and Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter told you because they KNEW that Bush would be trounced if the public ever came to grips with just how much Gore had accomplished - the FUCKING INTERNET for fuck's sake!!! - versus how little Bush had. (Trading Sammy Sosa for Harold Baines and Fred Marique?! What an idiot!!!) So clearly a different narrative had to be told. They're paid propagandists, who preach to the greedy and the gullible. Nothing more.