Wednesday, March 30, 2005

 

Measuring "success" depends on what you want to succeed at

Matt Yglesias lays it all out, but then misses the Big Point that's waiting right there in front of him.
It's really not the case that the Goldwater Republicans "didn't try to become Democrats" after losing in 1964. Goldwater ran on a platform of eliminating Social Security, opposing the Civil Rights Act, opposing the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, and opposing a federal role in education finance. By the time Ronald Reagan brought the conservative movement to power in 1981 he had abandoned all of those planks and also had to accept the existence of the EPA and various other innovations of the 1970s. What he did once in power was basically scale back to some extent programs that didn't even exist when Goldwater ran.

The Bush administration, obviously, has returned to Social Security phase-out, but this looks more like an instance of the right shooting itself in the foot than deploying its infrastructure to good effect. He's expanded Medicare, and needed to accept various expansions of Medicaid, the creation of SCHIP, and other Clinton-era boosts in public-sector health care. The environment is less well-regulated than it was in 2000, but much better protected than it was in 1993. The federal government spends more money than ever on public schools for poor kids. I don't mean to overstate my case here; obviously the right has made progress on other fronts. But I feel like the case is so regularly overstated in the other direction that this point is worth making over and over again. Assuming that liberals don't just want to build an infrastructure so that Democrats can govern in corrupt, power-for-power's-sake, GOP style there are real limits to how much you want to imitate their methods. The past 30 years of right-wing infrastructure have served the financial interests of their financiers very, very, very well but they've achieved remarkably little in terms of advancing core ideological principles.
Bingo. Exactly. 100% correct. "The past 30 years of right-wing infrastructure have served the financial interests of their financiers very, very, very well." And when you realize that's exactly what "the past 30 years of right-wing infrastructure" were supposed to serve, then you understand that they have not "achieved remarkably little" - they've achieved exactly what they wanted to achieve.

"Advancing core ideological principles" is not the ends - it's the means - to a far greater ends - holding on to power for its own sake - and getting very very rich. As long as they keep blaming liberals and Democrats for everything and keeping their constituents baying for blood (but never quite getting it), they can pretend to "advance core ideological principles" - while getting richer and richer and richer. The wealthy corporate campaign contributors who bought and paid for Bush II wouldn't have it any other way.

Please don't miss this point. It's the very essence of modern "conservatism."
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