Friday, September 07, 2012

The Last Tea Party Election

David Brooks laments that

The country that exists is not on the right track. It has a completely dysfunctional political system. What was there in this speech [of Obama's at the Democratic Convention] that will make us think the next few years will be any different? America will only be governable again if there is a leader who breaks the mold and reframes the debate. Romney is unlikely to do that, and Obama’s speech didn’t offer much either.

I am more optimistic than David Brooks that our political system will soon recover some balance.

There are many legitimate interests in a complex society, some of which are in conflict. Working out these conflicts requires compromise.  These compromises will, of necessity, not please most people in every detail.  But most people can see that compromise is necessary. Politics requires the ability to compromise. If you are not willing to compromise, if you see compromise as weakness or treason, then you should not get involved in politics.

The main reason our political system is so dysfunctional right now is the Tea Party movement. They reject compromise on principal.  They want contradictory things - smaller government for people they disapprove of, without any reduction of government for themselves. They attack their political enemies, and they attack their political allies - that is, normal Republican politicians - even harder if they don't toe the line.

The Tea Party is a Know-Nothing movement, of a kind that periodically appears in American politics. And the history of Know-Nothing movements convinces me that they are self-limiting.  They typically last about three electoral cycles.  2012 is the third Tea Party cycle. If the Democrats win, the Tea Party will start to get disheartened with politics - their normal attitude - and return to their previous grudging support of the establishment Republicans or political quietude. If the Republicans win, the Tea Party will turn on them even greater disillusionment for not being able to deliver big government for good people, no government for bad people, and all at no cost.

And when the Tea Party is gone, the regular politicians of both parties will be able to work with one another.  They will not completely end partisan politics and some mutual obstruction.  But the Party of NO will be able to become, once again, the party of Let's Make a Deal.  And the normal, fairly functional politics of American government can resume.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Republicans and Democrats on the Immigrant Story

Both the Republican and Democratic conventions have been full of immigrant stories, or "up-from-nothing" stories.

I have noticed, though, an important difference in what they emphasize.

The Republican versions emphasize how hard the immigrant (family, usually) worked to build up their business on their own. This is in keeping with the convention's theme, "We Built It."

The Democratic versions emphasize how hard the immigrant (family, usually) worked to succeed in this country, with the help of the public schools, college loans, GI Bill, small business loans, and now health insurance - not to mention the larger structure of honest government that did not take arbitrarily in the first place.  The "land of opportunity" has that opportunity because it is guaranteed by the people's institutions, and the entire infrastructure of opportunity to which we all contribute. This version is in keeping the less formal convention theme of equal opportunity "for all."