[politics] I’d call it disillusionment, but I was already cynical before

Geithner and his little tax problem. Daschle and his slightly larger tax problem. Killefer and her very stupid tax problem..

Come on Democrats, you guys are supposed to be better than Republicans. I don’t have, as once put it, a hate-on for conservatives. I have a hate-on for hypocrites. Hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty and sheer old fashion self-delusion have been the stock in trade of the GOP all my adult life. (I came of age, politically, during the Moral Majority’s ascendancy, and watched Ronald Reagan run up the then-largest deficits in history while claiming the mantle of fiscal responsibility. ’nuff said there.)

Apparently my quite tepid faith in the Democrats is being repaid with destructive silliness in the vein of the entitlements of wealth. “Only little people pay taxes” seems to apply to the party which is not my party of choice, but my party of default. You don’t match greed with greed, and you don’t match hypocrisy with hypocrisy.

Confidential to Democrats in America: We didn’t throw the bums out just for the sake of having a new set of bums.

8 thoughts on “[politics] I’d call it disillusionment, but I was already cynical before

  1. Whereas I do have a hate-on for conservatism, and I don’t mind saying so. I’ll go even further and say that you should too.

    “Hypocrisy” is a failing found in all varieties of people. Whereas conservatism (as defined in modern American political discourse–we’re not talking about Edmund Burke) is a set of policy prescriptions which invariably lead to moral, cultural, and material catastrophe.

    It’s a good thing that Daschle withdrew, and it’s an even better thing that Obama’s take on it is “I screwed up.” But making sure the government contains only angels isn’t the most important thing on the agenda. Making sure we stop killing and torturing innocents, making sure people stop dying because they don’t have health insurance, and making sure we don’t pursue economic policies that will leave us destitute … these are slightly more important.

    Every time I hear a liberal say something insufferably high-minded like “I don’t have a hate-on for conservatives. I have a hate-on for hypocrites”, I think, “yeah, that’s why we lose all the time.” Would it fucking kill you to once in a while notice that liberal policy ideas lead to less death and misery than conservative policy ideas? That politics is more than just a preening contest of personal virtue?

    (Persons who read the above as any kind of special pleading for tax evaders will be mocked.)

    1. Jay says:

      Nope, wouldn’t kill me at all. It’s not like I’m going to switch off politically, or walk away from what I believe in. I’m just feeling very frustrated by the high visible, highly avoidable unforced errors which undermine credibility and pointlessly siphon off political capital. These are supposed to be the good guys, but they’re coming off as business as usual. I *expect* this kind of behavior from Republicans, I’d like to see better under Obama.

  2. I think that if we’d been following Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first 100 days in anything like the minute-by-minute, all-media-surround detail with which we’re following Obama’s, we’d see a similar number of “unforced errors”. And yet from a longer perspective, we see that as a heroic period of progressive reform.

    Indeed, in electoral politics, all actually-effective progressive leaders make compromises that aggravate and madden their most devoted followers.

    I’m absolutely not in favor of refraining from criticizing Obama. I’m the author of a mid-2007 Making Light post entitled, ahem, “Barack Obama Can Kiss My Ass.” (Although I will also point out, again, that he seems to have a decent record of admitting his mistakes and learning from them.) I’m arguing, rather, with the larger attitude you’re articulating. When you say things like “I don’t have a hate-on for conservatives, I have a hate-on for hypocrites,” when you rank purity over policy as an end in itself, as if it would be okay to drive the country all the way to the right just so long as the people at the wheel weren’t hypocrites…you are making a destructive mistake.

    Like all liberals and progressives I have a streak of goo-goo–I want transparent processes, open decision-making, and strong obstacles to the power of money to trump everything else. But that’s not the only goddamn thing to care about. Evil political leaders can be personally virtuous. Terrible policies can be implemented by leaders who are hypocrisy-free. When right-wing blood-and-soil movements achieve power, it’s often because people start saying “Gosh, I don’t necessarily agree with everything they say, but you gotta admit, they’re not hypocrites.” And, conversely, Lyndon B. Johnson can pass the Civil Rights Act.

    What we should want isn’t a TV show where every day’s political events have a satisfying conclusion in which Our Team is always clearly the good guys. What we should want is universal health care. And non-insane foreign policy. And climate-change mitigation. And fairly-administered rule of law. And a bunch of other things. The reason Obama is well-advised to keep it clean is that it’s probably the smart political play in the current environment. But the output to look for isn’t a warm feeling when we gaze upon our elected leaders. The outputs to look for are prosperity, justice, healing, and peace.

  3. Matt Staggs says:

    Patrick,
    It seems to me that what you’re doing is more of the usual black vs.white and good vs. evil dichotomy crap that for some reason a few people are absolutely blind to if they’re talking about their own beliefs rather than somebody else’s. Like you, I swing left about 99% most of the time, but I refuse to demonize those who hold different views from my own, nor am I going to indulge in seeing those that hold my own beliefs as being perfectly enlightened superbeings incapable of error.
    You’d be the first guy in line raising hell about the Republicans if they pulled the same thing that Obama did, but now that your guy is in power you’re belittling anyone who dares to call attention to this troubling incident as being small-minded or myopic.
    Hell, I voted for Obama. I love the guy, but part of being a responsible citizen is calling our leaders out when they do this sort of thing.

  4. MorganJLocke says:

    This withdrawal highlights a very important shift, I think. Ezra Klein points out that Daschle’s lapses are pretty modest, especially in context of the past eight years… but our ethical standards have shifted. Thanks in large part to Obama’s campaign promise to eliminate corruption.

    Let’s just make sure that Republicans get held to the same standard Democrats do. What I’m fed up with is the IOIYAAR effect.

  5. Kai Jones says:

    The problem isn’t the individuals in any party who have failed to properly file taxes. The problem is the tax code, which is so complicated and contradictory that it’s more common to get it right than to get it wrong.

    *My* problem with the politicians right now is that I am not noticing a widespread attempt to reform the tax code so these kinds of minor issues stop preventing otherwise-worthy people’s public service.

  6. Al Franken apparently doesn’t like paying his taxes, either.

    Just sayin’.

    As for PNH’s rant on conservativism in modern times, it seems to me that what separates modern liberals from modern conservatives, is not the goals per se, but the paths both ideologies see as the best paths to reaching those goals.

    I think it’s also worth noting that a big reason why the Republicans lost badly in 2008 is because so many of their otherwise solid base voters are not just a little upset that the “party of fiscal conservativism” has abjectly abandoned any pretense of being fiscally stingy at all. And now it’s one spendy party versus another spendy party, and some people are wondering if ANYBODY in Washington D.C. even understands basic economics, and that you can’t just keep spending money that isn’t there.

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