Monday, December 05, 2011

The Shrill One Is Shrill

I consider Paul Krugman a national treasure. A recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics, Mr. Krugman has a regular column with the New York Times. His columns are frequently about economics, but just as frequently about politics as informed by economics. His latest effort falls into the latter category, and he takes no prisoners.

Think about what it takes to be a viable Republican candidate today. You have to denounce Big Government and high taxes without alienating the older voters who were the key to G.O.P. victories last year — and who, even as they declare their hatred of government, will balk at any hint of cuts to Social Security and Medicare (death panels!).

And you also have to denounce President Obama, who enacted a Republican-designed health reform and killed Osama bin Laden, as a radical socialist who is undermining American security.

So what kind of politician can meet these basic G.O.P. requirements? There are only two ways to make the cut: to be totally cynical or to be totally clueless.
[Emphasis added]

Mitt Romney is Krugman's example of the cynical politician. He notes that the Republican voter is perfectly aware of that cynicism: after all, the Massachusetts health care plan enacted while Romney was governor is pretty much the basis for what conservatives call "Obama-care." Yet Romney denies that and claims that the ACA represents a huge government intrusion into the lives of Americans. He knows that the budget deficit will not go away without cutting defense spending, yet he urges we continue stuffing hefty morsels into that insatiable maw. This isn't flip-flopping, it's pandering and the GOP's base knows it.

Krugman relegates the rest of the current candidates to the "clueless" category, and after listening to several of the debates I would have to agree. How else would you describe Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and, yes, even Newt Gingrich, a man Krugman suggests actually believes what he is saying while he is saying it.

So, what happens next? Krugman paints a bleak picture:

The larger point, however, is that whoever finally gets the Republican nomination will be a deeply flawed candidate. And these flaws won’t be an accident, the result of bad luck regarding who chose to make a run this time around; the fact that the party is committed to demonstrably false beliefs means that only fakers or the befuddled can get through the selection process.

Of course, given the terrible economic picture and the tendency of voters to blame whoever holds the White House for bad times, even a deeply flawed G.O.P. nominee might very well win the presidency. But then what?

Here's where Paul Krugman and I have a minor point of disagreement. I don't think the party rulers really expect to win, nor do they necessarily want to. I think that just like 2008 the GOP figures it will lose and is willing to burn a few pesky Republican candidates, the ones who insist that it's their "turn" to lead the party, rather than risk a loss by a really viable standard bearer like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie. Besides, the conservatives have gotten all they've wanted from the current occupant of the White House. If the party works it right, the Senate will fall into Republican hands, thereby ensuring conservative gains for the next four to twelve years.

Libby Spencer has yet a different scenario She thinks a brokered convention will tap Christie as a unifying candidate. I have to admit that this also is plausible.

But regardless of who's right, the 99% are in for a really rocky road.



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