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November 25, 2008

Comments

" Republicans like Specter and Snowe and Voinovich and Gregg will vote with Dems only when they feel political pressure to do so from their state constituency. Otherwise, they won’t (which will be most of the time)."

So you don't think that Congressmen ever vote their conscience?

Nope. Honestly I don't.

"So you don't think that Congressmen ever vote their conscience?"

Only Democrats. They're Bipartisan!

So you don't think that Congressmen ever vote their conscience?

I'm sure there are dozens.

seb - the years 2002-06 were pretty formative in this respect. i have no doubt that there were many republicans (particularly in senate) that didn't like anything they were seeing (probably including collins).

but in those years, they did exactly ZERO. the reason, i think, is that their constituents didn't really care or follow much of it. and, more critically, it was better for them to vote within the party. they got to have good committee resources, pork, power, etc. they stopped believing they would ever be in the minority again, so they never really voted their conscience.

look, of course it happens from time to time. but anyone who seriously disagrees with what i said has to provide an answer for gop party line vote 2002-06.

i'm not even saying it's wrong -- i just wish we look at it more clearly. collins is the sum of her votes, not the sum of her talk show host praise.

And that’s why it’s just better to just get rid of those Republicans by voting them out.

You did. His name was Wayne Gilchrest. Congrats! You traded a Republican with plenty of seniority who went against his party quite often, and on things that matter to you for a freshman Democrat who is going to have to walk and talk an awful lot like a Republican to keep the seat in this traditionally red district.


Nope. Honestly I don't.

Once again, I’ll go with Wayne Gilchrest for $100 Alex.

I have it on EXTREMELY good authority that the Senate Republican leadership gives "hall passes" to allow individual R Senators to vote against the President's position. These are just enough so that people can claim to "stand up to Bush" but not enough so that anything goes the way they don't want it to. One exception: they weren't expecting Teddy Kennedy to show up for the health care bill, and gave one hall pass too many.

So you don't think that Congressmen ever vote their conscience?

Who can possibly know what their conscience is?

We do know this. McCain will make a bluster about how America shouldn't torture. But when it comes to a vote to actually ban torture? Not so much.

Voinovich was against John Bolton for Ambassador to the UN, but then changed his mind. He was also against a public integrity office to police members of congress after the Abramoff affair, but promised his committee would look into it after the Justice Department investigation was completed. I guess he got too busy. And of course he was opposed to lowering taxes generally, but was a stand up guy when he voted for them in both 2001 and 2003.

Admittedly, Collins has been better than these two.

Again, know one can know how these people's conscience sways them. We can only compare what they say, with their actual votes.

Of course senators and representatives vote their consciences... but the most important "vote of conscience" is which party they align themselves with. Once that choice has been made, it shouldn't be surprising that they vote with their party on specific pieces of legislation except when local political considerations dictate otherwise.

Here's the clue that this article (and its author) should be mercilessly mocked:

One paragraph down, he calls Norm Coleman a "centrist."

I don't know much about Susan Collins (other than the obvious, that she hasn't accomplished much to mitigate Bushism, and hasn't denounced it especially vociferously). My favorite Broder Republican is always Specter, because he chaired an important committee and was then its ranking member and frequently said all the right things - and then always voted against all the implications of those right things he said. Especially on Habeas, Torture, all that good stuff.

@OCSteve:

Wayne Gilchrest? You mean the Wayne Gilchrest who was unseated in a primary by a Club for Growth-backed challenger and then endorsed the Democratic challenger? That certainly wasn't a case of Democrats targeting faux-moderates; the GOP has only itself to blame for Gilchrest losing that seat.

More generally, I think there is something to be said for the Democrats not working too hard to defeat genuine moderates in the House, especially those whose districts are quite conservative. Though I don't see why Glichrest's seniority matters from the standpoint of anyone not living in his district. But the Senate is different, because every vote matters more, because the terms are longer, so even a one-term Senator is very valuable, and because in most states with moderate Senators I feel it's less likely the next Republican if the Democrats do lose the seat the next time is also likely to be fairly moderate.

I'm going to miss Gordon Smith. He was an exception.

He really was, because he got no real benefit from his case-by-case swerves toward the Democrats, and he didn't expect such a benefit, and he did it anyway. This was not the view of the Democratic Party in Oregon, by whom any break in ranks he announced before an election was an unprincipled lying attempt to mislead voters - and any such decision he announced after an election was political cowardice. Watching it - and being a Democrat - I got a moderating lesson about the "good guys."

(I also got a lesson about Basic Rights Oregon, that has been clanging in my head now with how the No on 8 campaign was handled. Smith didn't support gay marriage, but he supported gays otherwise to a remarkable degree for a Republican - on the merits, and expecting no benefit. He said he expected none, and he was right. He got a snarl, "get back on your own side!", and an accusation of unscrupulous maneuvering to deceive voters that might have been written at Democratic headquarters - perhaps literally might have been. What, no interest in taking allies and spreading your ideas on the Republican side?)

Gordon Smith was frequently a pain in the neck to his Republican colleagues because he frequently thought about questions simply on their merits, and kept raising his yap and his vote about it.

I'm remembering him here to say that publius' observations about the voting behavior of Republican senators are generally correct, and they might be correct in full detail - but they are not axiomatic. Gordon Smith proved that.

I'm going to miss him, because it matters what the remaining Republicans in Congress are like, and just because there are few people, particularly when under pressure to fit a strategy, who do what this Mormon Republican kept doing - which could be called just deliberation ("what do they do in that big dome, Daddy?")...which can in this case be a synonym to integrity.

BP in MN: You’re right of course that Gilchrest lost the R primary and not directly to a Democrat. It wasn’t that simply though. His opponent had some help from Democrats who knew they would stand a better chance if Gilchrest went down in the primary.

In the 1990s, the Republicans learned the power of voting in lockstep and they enforced it. (Think Tom "The Hammer" DeLay.)

Forced conformity is a destructive force that renders the GOP incapable of actual debate. They will need to learn not to silence voices of dissent if they wish to matter as a party again.

@OCSteve -

What BP said.

I totally don't get it (your post that is) - you're in Gilchrest's district, right? Didn't you even wind up voting for Kratovil? (rather than 3rd party - I can't see you voting for Harris - if I have that wrong I apologize).

Now I really like Gilchrest - if he had been my congressman (I should be so lucky) I'd probably vote for him over my pretty decent Democratic sacrificial lamb). But what exactly should I (assuming I was in his district) as a slightly libertarian Dem have done to protect him from those $%@$% at the CFG (the only appropriate words for them violate posting guidelines)? Should we have attacked him more so the CFG would give him more slack (like they used to do with Reps like Shays)?

Please explain.

OCSteve -

Sorry, postings crossed. I did _not_ know that Harris/the CFG had tactical aid from Dems. I agree that tactical behavior like that is one of the worst parts of the sausage, regardless of the party engaging in it. And in the long run I think it's bad for the polity.

You probably already know this, but we've had two great cases of Democratic governors here in CA attacking the moderate Republican in the R primary. Pat Brown attacked the moderate George Christopher (a republican mayor of San Francisco, no less) and got his wish - the more conservative in the general. Ronald somebody.

Gray Davis's tactic of attacking Richard Riordan "worked" in the sense that Davis won the general against Bill Simon. It did not work for the citizens of the state particularly well IMHO (though I guess you argue that Riordan's primary defeat contributed to the long term marginalization of the California Rs, and if that's a prime goal maybe it was worth it; I disagree that it was worth it).

gordon smith didn't do any high-profile breaks until after the '06 election, as i recall. that's the first i heard from him anyway -- his high-profile "get out of iraq" stuff. again, i don't know the exact date, but i think it was after that election

though alex if i'm wrong on that, plz correct. i honestly just don't remember him doing anything pre-06 election.

i would agree generally that he seems like both a good guy and someone who was more willing to vote when it mattered. i guess i'd quibble though about the WHY -- the more cynical me would say he did that b/c he was in a pretty deep blue state

Reading back up the thread: the congrats! that OCSteve gave about Wayne Gilchrest could just as well go for Smith.

I cannot decide whether I dismally agree or vehemently disagree with ravi. I will focus on the part that disagrees. A great part of the work that Democrats ought to do now that they are In - which is not to say what they will do - is to re-introduce deliberation into Congress, with actual time to read bills and so on (and preferably on). The degree to which this is the same thing as lining up with (well, finding it first and then lining up with) a Democratic agenda is very partial and quite unclear... except that it tends to come to seem quite clear, as well as urgently necessary.

It is in fact not the same thing at all. We could have a relatively (and substantially) walleyed Democratic Congress very easily, without changes in procedure.

My basic difference (or opposing reaction) with ravi is on the matter of choosing a party itself: the biggest moral decision a legislator makes. Yes - but it had better not be. An able and valuable person who wants to get into Congress and who we'll say should get into Congress must and should indeed choose a political party so that s/he will be able to get elected using party campaign funds and election machinery. It is a strategic and practical matter. The less it is a moral one, the better, because - if Congress is not to be a dysfunctional echo chamber for the political sales pitches aimed outward, which is so possible it's standard - it is important that s/he be prepared to neglect and actually betray the chosen party in small details and big just as soon as s/he is in, and that s/he actually begin doing so as soon as possible.

This - which in its process rather cavalierly treats not just party allegiance but even necessary party strategy like a Bush-era obsession, I admit - falls under the multiform necessity, post-Bush, of raising the goalposts back to sane levels. Which now must be done as quickly as possible. Yes, the Democrats had to get back in - but now that it has happened, more and other is required. It is the same thing as the joy over competent intellectuality perhaps returning to Washington now that Obama is in. Yes, but it should always have been so, and, as to the significance, lots of smart people have never guaranteed anything, and have wretchedly proved it a number of times.

Publius - Smith's get-out-of-Iraq turnabout was indeed late, late enough to almost certainly not make an exception to your 2006 line. That's true. From what I could tell, it was a painful and unhappy decision. As for your blue-state observation - really a reddish state with a couple of big blue dots - well, one can certainly say that, and the Dems here sure did, but it looked to me like he made his decision when he made his decision and then couldn't and didn't delay. Between the two sides, he probably spun in place as far as public approval of him.

(Was it TOO LATE? Hell yes with clusters, YEARS late, and he said he blamed himself for it. We were all a bit slow to realize the extent of the mishandling... and he was in fact a Republican, slower to mistrust his own side. But I do think that, if the cocoon, or a cocoon had layers extending past him, he deserves credit for seeing through it, and getting out of it, loud. There were a lot of Republican legislators who didn't - or who plugged their ears, sang "Soldier, Ask Not" louder, and said it was all doomsaying. I'm not saying he was perfect; he wasn't. LATE. But he took making the unhappy call seriously, and made it, and didn't muffle it.)

"I have it on EXTREMELY good authority that the Senate Republican leadership gives "hall passes" to allow individual R Senators to vote against the President's position. These are just enough so that people can claim to "stand up to Bush" but not enough so that anything goes the way they don't want it to."

You realize that this is extremely common right? The reason the initial economic bailout failed was because Pelosi gave too many passes for Democrats in the House.

There are all sorts of shady practices in the US legislatures. Improperly labeling them as Republican artifacts is just going to mean that you give a pass when they occur on your side and that will lead to bad legislative outcomes (or that you are using cheap rhetoric on something that doesn't actually bother you).

Yes, Collins is being a whiner. I'm not sure any of the generalizations beyond that are very strong.

Before 2006, though, Smith had gone against his party on stem cell research and Arctic oil drilling (though he did end up voting for drilling because it had been included in the budget reconciliation bill)...

... You know, I'm feeling a mournful lack of that lively head of steam in supporting the record of a politician who is now out of the business. *smiles* Eh, you already get my take on him, as an example of case-by-case on-the-merits not-wholly-partisan voting that irritated some of his colleagues. (I think one of them was said to believe he was egotistically prima-donnaing - "the scales have to be up to him on everything" sort of thing. If that were true, surely it would be as plausible a source of non-party-lining as virtue...) :o)

Thanks for the insights into former Senator Smith. I don't live in Oregon and didn't really followed tht race except in the most superficial Dems vs, Reps way.

Slight change of subject: it very popular to run primaries so that anyone can vote for anyone, but I don't like it. I think that Dems should only be able to vote for Dems and Reps should only be able to vote for Reps and inds should recognize that not being able to play is a natural consequence of not joining a team.

That way you don't have Dems working to choose the worst Rep and vice versa. Gaming the system.

FWIW.

PS. I wish that Dem wins in Congress had not happened at the expense of the last remaining moderate Republicans. I'm still mourning the loss of Jim Leach of Iowa.

About voting their consciences: I'm sure lots of Republicans do, since their consciences must often line up with their party. When the GOP decides to support DOMA, for instance, I'm sure there are, in fact, homophobic Republicans who are voting as their consciences suggest.

Recent years have only allowed us to see whether moderate Republicans have voted their consciences against their party, since their party has been way right. They have not, in my view, distinguished themselves. Possibly the James Inhofes of the world might do "better" were they up against a party leadership run by Olympia Snowe. I have no way to judge that.

And to OCSteve: I think Democrats should not meddle in primaries, with the possible exception of cases in which one candidate is truly appalling (e.g. a Nazi; the operative principle would be: if X won, that would be a catastrophe, where the fact that someone I disagree with strongly wins does not count as a catastrophe) and we weigh in on the other side, and are willing to switch parties, giving up any say in our own, to do so. Obviously, this was not the situation in the first district.

Bayesian: you're in Gilchrest's district, right? Didn't you even wind up voting for Kratovil? (rather than 3rd party - I can't see you voting for Harris - if I have that wrong I apologize).

No I wouldn’t vote for Harris. I had to re-register as a Republican to be able to vote for Gilchrest in the primary. I voted for Kratovil in the general. Especially after Gilchrest's endorsement… I loved it when he went ballistic:

"We're in this bad place as a country because of the evangelicals, the neocons, the nasty, bitter and mean . . . very clever ideological groups that use money, technology, fear and bigotry to lead people around," he says. "Voting according to your knowledge and experience -- that's out the window. Competence and prudence? Forget it."


I did _not_ know that Harris/the CFG had tactical aid from Dems.

I don’t know how widespread or organized it was, but locally there was little concern by Democratic groups about how to get Kratovil elected, their focus was on how to knock Gilchrest out in the primary. They just hadn’t been able to beat him in 8 elections… They figured Harris would be easy to beat. (They called that one a little close!) I don’t know that any substantial number did anything like changing party affiliation to vote for Harris, but I’m aware of some local Democratic fundraisers where the money did not go to Kratovil. They were certainly after Gilchrest right out of the gate.

"When the GOP decides to support DOMA, for instance, I'm sure there are, in fact, homophobic Republicans who are voting as their consciences suggest."

This is a particularly poor example, as it passed with huge Democratic party support and was signed by a Democratic president. (See also Don't Ask Don't Tell.)

Reading back up the thread: the congrats! that OCSteve gave about Wayne Gilchrest could just as well go for Smith.

At the sheer tactical level there is the difference in the likely ability of the Democrats to retain the seat (ignoring the congresscritter versus senator distinction); before the last election MD-01's PVI was R+10 whereas the state of Oregon was D+3. I read somebody not long ago on thenextright.com defending the decision to primary Gilchrest even at risk of losing the seat on the grounds that Kratovil will be very hard pressed to hold in 2010 and the right wing strategists are willing to give up the seat for one Congress to get rid of a RINO (also, no doubt, pour encourager les autres).

wonkie - I agree about the open primaries in general, mostly for me because they set up new dynamics I'm not sure I understand, and more room for gamesters to do things that I can't anticipate, and meanwhile the actual problem or problems that the change would address is... obscure. It was a proposal here in Oregon in the election, Measure 65. It didn't pass. (Were you thinking of that in Oregon when you raised this?)

Where I disagree with you is about independents (and third/etc. parties too?) being apparently quite properly s.o.l. I have no reason to want them to be powerless and irrelevant if they don't sign on with one of the two big parties. What, a penalty for "silliness" or something? (And why shouldn't those two big blurry parties have to contend for the support of those who don't want to join up, by addressing the various ideas that would make them reluctant? Instead of being able to define that stuff as "fringe" because neither of the two big parties has made it a centerpiece?) I'm all for preserving closed primaries, but I do have a different tinkering in mind.

What locks the third parties and independents into marginality is the spoiler effect in plurality/first-past-the-post elections anytime there are three or more choices, under which voting for the candidate you like most can increase the chance that the candidate you like least will win. So, if you like the Greens (or the Constitution Party) and enough people vote for that small party because they prefer it, those votes have been pulled away from the ideologically closest major party and the party you least like may win. So most people don't even consider voting for a third party or even checking if they like its platform. They don't dare. (The open primary idea wouldn't alter this.)

And strategic wrinkles follow. There was a to-do here awhile back when a Democratic attorney general went easy on a Constitution Party candidate about shaving a filing deadline. The Republicans - who had much more intrinsic sympathy with the candidate's views - were furious and tried to get her blocked from the ballot.

The change that I would prefer and recommend - a change to instant-runoff voting (which is in place in Australia), or to (my favorite) Condorcet voting, or to another similar variant - would specifically eliminate the spoiler effect. You could vote for your first choice without making it more likely that the candidate you least like will win, because under any of these systems you would also have given your second choice (and perhaps your third choice and etc.). People would then be free to consider and vote for third-party candidates, or to vote based on their actual views, without having to cancel them and make them invisible for strategic reasons. Third parties and, more important, a fuller range of ideas and discussion would thrive. To this extent I know what this change would do; I don't even think the results I've described are terribly controversial. The main actual reasons to actively oppose these ideas, if they were opposed, would be simply that the two existing Big Parties would no longer automatically own the gameboard.

I hope this qualifies as responsive to the open-primary mention. :o)

I didn't mean to imply that it is silly to be an independent. i meant only that independents have chosen for whatever reason to be independet of the two parties, so why do they get to influence the candidate choices of the parties?

If there is an ideal way to chosen candidates for office, I would love to learn about it. Every method that i know of has its failings. It annoys me to hear people who don't have a party alligence, indeed are vocally distainful of one party or the other, insist that they ahvea "right" to chose the candidate of a party.

yeah, I think I was responding to something I heard about Oregon's system. The system we have here in Washington is a camel and I do not pretend to understand it.

Sebastian: Keep making that point. In fact I'd recommend harping, with drumbeat. No snark at all.

I think Democrats fail to realize just how few hooves they have dug into the sand, as opposed to the hooves they imagine are dug in. By default defining themselves as opposing the Republicans - and spending years in the phantom zone thinking the cure is to Get In - and then doing whatever they think may help in keeping themselves in and the Republicans out... anything can come up showing as realistic art-of-the-possible realpolitik triangulation... nearly anything at all. The Republican Party is not the only party that can drift vacuously gaga to the extent it identifies as Against That Other Party. The manifestations of damage can be different, though.

Yes. Democratic fingerprints were on DOMA and Don't Ask Don't Tell. (And Glenn Greenwald is right about how much of Bush's worst record happened with, and was assisted by, Congressional donkeys responsibly nodding.) If Democrats are to be insisting differently, they need to know the true shape of what they need to be insisting on. Or else, well, people start saying "we've gotta be realistic."

"When the GOP decides to support DOMA, for instance, I'm sure there are, in fact, homophobic Republicans who are voting as their consciences suggest."

This is a particularly poor example, as it passed with huge Democratic party support and was signed by a Democratic president. (See also Don't Ask Don't Tell.)

That comment is a complete non sequitur, since hilzoy's comment had nothing to do with how DOMA passed, but instead was setup for the second paragraph, to wit, "Recent years have only allowed us to see whether moderate Republicans have voted their consciences against their party, since their party has been way right. They have not, in my view, distinguished themselves. "

By my count, you've used "Democrats do it, too," at least twice in this particular thread. That argument only gets you so far, Sebastian. Eventually you actually have to defend your own party.

I didn't mean to imply that it is silly to be an independent. i meant only that independents have chosen for whatever reason to be independet of the two parties, so why do they get to influence the candidate choices of the parties?

Why do the two parties get to collude with the debate commission to systematically exclude third parties from the larger political picture? If the independents are, practically speaking, going to be given a limited slate of people for whom to vote, they should have SOME say over who is on that slate.

By my count, you've used "Democrats do it, too," at least twice in this particular thread. That argument only gets you so far, Sebastian. Eventually you actually have to defend your own party.

Phil, you're exactly right about what hilzoy was doing. But about Sebastian? I hope you were just speaking from a moment of grouchiness.

The point of all this hullabaloo between the parties and in society over time is that certain criteria, certain ideas, etc. should in fact end up prevailing and secure. Support for a party, and the strategic and substantial involvements that that entails, are some part of that effort, a subcategory of it. And pointing out where one raft is not the other - and certainly pointing out where it has not been the other, and the limits to which it may ever be the other - are part of maintaining clarity and direction.

I take it that Sebastian cares about the issues he mentioned. He was pointing out in regard to "passes" that it is a general practice that is bad and that we should be ready to oppose generally. (Getting that point made is "how far it gets you".) Why would his not having been centrally defending his party just then be an error, or be just irritating?

Is he supposed to forget looking at details and things of concern and turn to the matter of defending the party exclusively - a party that may not fix those things, and that would certainly shelve fixing them or disengage from any hint of fixing them if the winds were wrong, and that in the past has made them worse when advantageous?

Somewhere in these comment threads, I forget where, someone said recently, "If you want five opinions, ask three liberals." That's our strength. Potentially. Should Sebastian have bothered me by what he said enough for it to weigh for me against the value of that? I don't see why.

I'd say the Democratic Party - my party - can take its lumps, except for the ones it actually doesn't deserve.

Seb: yeah; I was just looking for an example where I felt reasonably certain that conservative Republicans did in fact believe in what they voted for, and that wasn't abortion. I didn't mean to imply that it was a Republican-only measure. I wish it had been. Actually, I wish it had gotten no votes from either party.

Also, there's something I've wanted to say, but couldn't find an appropriate spot for, so what the hell: I completely regret not posting about prop 8 before the election. I didn't do it because of cross-posting at the Monthly: their non-profit status apparently depends on our not endorsing any candidate, and I had written in to ask: are endorsements on initiatives OK or not?, and never got an answer. (I mean, they wrote: oh, we don't know, we'll look it up, but didn't follow up.)

Anyways: what I obviously should have done was write a post here but not there. But for whatever stupid reason, I didn't think of that in time.

In any case, I apologize for that. I should have done it.

In the last comment, I forgot to say: the problem was that I couldn't think of anything to say about Prop 8 that wouldn't have been an endorsement. To me, it's a matter of basic decency and justice; writing about it without taking a position would have been beyond bizarre.

//Alex: "Somewhere in these comment threads, I forget where, someone said recently, 'If you want five opinions, ask three liberals.'"//

Hadn't seen that before, but it's a good one.

---

hilzoy: "To me, it's a matter of basic decency and justice; writing about it without taking a position would have been beyond bizarre."

Which shows not only your common sense but your core decency.

P.S. hilzoy: Knowing your love for blogs, before I went to bed last night, I read a very good back-of-the-book essay in the current issue of "Time" by Michael Kinsley on their power and, he contends in a light manner, ever-more overabundance. I liked his concluding thought, something along the lines that the best blogs (I'd include this one, of course) combine the immediacy and intimacy of talking and the eloquence of good writing. Too lazy to link it right now, especially after my wife just called me upstairs (when I log on to comment after work I forget any hunger pains and ignore dinner covered up on the stove until I'm done). Good night.


"By my count, you've used "Democrats do it, too," at least twice in this particular thread. That argument only gets you so far, Sebastian. Eventually you actually have to defend your own party."

By my count you don't understand my comment at all if you think that I'm defending Republicans at all or that I feel the need to defend them on DOMA or whatever.

I don't think you've made a fair reading of my comment, and I'll leave it to the other readers on this blog to judge the correctness of that.

Just a quick point on Gordon Smith, he campaigned against drilling in ANWAR in 2002 and when he was the deciding vote he toed the line, not a profile in courage. Smith pretended to be bipartisan but he did precious little to show it, I cannot remember a single time he broke ranks on anything of substance.

Also on Smith, he actively threw his weight behind the anti-marriage constitutional amendment here in Oregon in 2004. He was politically dead to any decent person after that.

And he was never any great shakes as a faux moderate. Certainly not any better than Collins.

"When the GOP decides to support DOMA, for instance, I'm sure there are, in fact, homophobic Republicans who are voting as their consciences suggest."
This is a particularly poor example, as it passed with huge Democratic party support and was signed by a Democratic president. (See also Don't Ask Don't Tell.)

Um, how is this an argument against the assertion that Congresspeople don't vote their conscience unless it's politically favourable?

It isn't. It is an argument against the idea that specifically Republican Congresspeople don't vote their conscience unless it is politically favorable.

A huge problem with this post is it completely buys into the 'vote Democratic' this or 'vote Republican' that as if votes existed to further parties rather than the good of the country. (And indeed many Democrats and Republicans seem to see it that way, which is awful). But I don't see any reason why we should buy into that.

Tribalism instead of analysis just gets us in trouble. That isn't a 'Republican' trait. That is a human trait. This post is a tribalist post. I think that noticing tribalist responses in the tribe you aren't in, while engaging in rhetoric which suggests you believe it is stronger in the other tribe than in your own, ends up causing huge analytical errors when it comes time to have a moment of conscience with your own team.

Examples of largely tribal responses of important political issues that would be better served without tribalism:

Gerrymandering. It is a really bad practice. No one should get to choose to create 'safe districts' for elected officials. This is always a hot button issue for the party out of power (I remember when Republicans rightly complained about it). The second your tribe is firmly in power, the party abandons that. The only time real reform in this area happens is when the tribes are about 50/50 and afraid they might lose the redistricting election. This is ridiculous.

Deficit spending/budget debt--seems vastly important when you are out of power, much less so when thinking about budgets restricts your own tribe's action. The only good news on this one is that budget hawks tend to take a few years to flip-flop on that one so sometimes when the tribes shift we get some serious budget looks. An egregious recent example is Krugman. After four years of saying that one of the worst things possible was the state of the national debt, literally one week after Democrats took Congress in 2006 he had already turned almost 180 degrees. 'Budget concerns are ruining the country if they block your ideas, no big deal if they would block mine' isn't good analysis of how important budgetary concerns really are. (Either they are damaging at a certain level in certain economic conditions or they aren't.)

Filibusters--it is almost whiplash inducing watching the tribes go back and forth depending on who is in power. 2000 Republicans filibuster bad, Democrats filibuster good. Post Jeffords defection--Republicans filibuster good, Democrats filibuster bad. 2002, Democrats filibuster good, Republicans filibuster bad. 2006, Repbulicans filibuster good, Democrats filibuster bad. And I'm pretty sure there were a couple of changes of that right in the middle.

I'm also pretty sure we are about to witness an enormous flip-flop on the proper role of the Senate role in 'advise and consent' for judges.

All of these things are important political concepts which would be well served by having good ground rules. None of them get that treatment because we let tribalism rule.

After four years of saying that one of the worst things possible was the state of the national debt, literally one week after Democrats took Congress in 2006 he had already turned almost 180 degrees. 'Budget concerns are ruining the country if they block your ideas, no big deal if they would block mine' isn't good analysis of how important budgetary concerns really are. (Either they are damaging at a certain level in certain economic conditions or they aren't.)

I'm not trying to play gotcha, but do you have a cite for that? I ask because the reflexive rejection of points that Krugman makes in the blogosphere seems to fit quite well in your definition of tribalism.

Krugman cite

Thanks Sebastian. But I think you are misreading that column.

In a saner political environment, the economic logic behind Rubinomics would have been compelling...But the realities of American politics ensured that it was all for naught.

This seems to be less a reversal on Krugman's part and more an agreement with your point about tribalism.

The reversal is 6 years of saying that deficits are horrific for our economy and that we have to stop them. Then less than a month after Democrats come to power in Congress suddenly deficits really aren't quite that bad for our economy so long as we can do what I want.

Krugman seems to be acting out of tribalism--deficits are ruinous if I need to argue against what you want to spend money on, but the exact same level of deficit is tolerable if the money is spent on what he wants.

Sebastian is playing the part of Lucy with the football. Cut the deficit, democrats! We won't run it back up once we get back in power! We promise! For real this time!

Sebastian, no one trusts republicans. Not now.

Not ever again.

Krugman tells the truth. You don't like it when he does that. That's about you, not about him.

Well, I don't think that Sebastian himself is going to run up the deficit, but now_what's point is basically the same as mine. I know that you have this violent hatred of things you see as hypocrisy and a lot of the kerfluffles that erupt here are tu quoque battles where the argumentation of 'you say you hate hypocrisy, but you are being hypocritical' is used. (I think that there actually needs to be a bit of hypocrisy, a sort of white lies that are necessary for social interaction) But in this case, I do think that Krugman makes it clear when he says

And the lesson of the last six years is that the Democrats shouldn’t spend political capital trying to bring the deficit down.

The column is from 2006, when it wasn't clear that the political tide had actually turned. I'd be interested to see how Sebastian would propose that tribalism be addressed within the system. It seems that complaints of tribalism for this are more like demands that Democrats disarm themselves unilaterally.

So the deficit is according to Krugman an ENORMOUS problem that Republicans aren't going to fix and the Democrats shouldn't fix because Republicans won't fix it?

O-K.

As I understand it (and Krugman) the deficit is not the most urgent problem now and that trying to get the deficit under control now without regard for the current situation would make things worse. The deficit is a long term problem, the current crisis is (hopefully) only if not dealt with immediately. Obama's statements point into the same direction. Just applied Keynesianism imo. I think we should postpone indictements of hypocrisy against both until after we see how the situation develops and how they react to it.

An egregious recent example is Krugman. After four years of saying that one of the worst things possible was the state of the national debt, literally one week after Democrats took Congress in 2006 he had already turned almost 180 degrees.

I think I've read quite a large proportion of Krugman's output over the last 20 years or thereabouts and I can't recall his ever saying that "one of the worst things possible was the state of the national debt" - even saying it once, never mind saying it repeatedly over four years.

OTOH it only took me a few seconds to find an example of Krugman saying that concern about the debt is exagerated. In Peddling Prosperity he says of Ronald Reagan: "the debt he left us is a modest drag on our economy, not a crippling burden."

It isn't. It is an argument against the idea that specifically Republican Congresspeople don't vote their conscience unless it is politically favorable.

Who made that argument, such that you saw a need to counter it?

That is Krugman's position on the deficit NOW because we are in a recession. That makes economic sense under his own terms (and just about everyones).

That was most certainly NOT the case in 2006 when he wrote the article I cited.

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