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Temperament Wars: Republicans vs Democrats

Politics Democrats Republicans Temperaments 2003

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#1 PurpleTale

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Posted 07 July 2003 - 12:03 PM

NY Times Article

An interesting NY Times Magazine article. Do folks agree with the sentiments and, if so, is it really a problem?

A few strategic quotes:

Quote

The difference between the two parties is not simply ideological. It is also temperamental. For all the talk about the tainted legitimacy of Bush's Supreme Court-inflected victory in the 2000 election, the Democrats have never sought to discredit Bush's presidency. Clinton, on the other hand, won fair and square, but many Republicans treated him as an illegitimate figure from the outset, and from the time of the 1994 election, which brought the Republicans to power in both houses and made Newt Gingrich speaker of the House, the G.O.P. practiced a politics of holy war that culminated in the impeachment proceedings.

Republicans have been bitterly complaining recently about the filibusters Democrats have mounted to block two of the president's nominees to the federal bench. But this obscures the historical facts. During the last six years of Clinton's presidency, the Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee blocked fully one-third of Clinton's nominees to the federal appeals courts. When the Democrats regained control of the Senate in 2001, however, party leaders agreed to rapidly process all but the most controversial candidates in order to fill the vast backlog created by Republican obstruction. The judicial vacancy rate is now lower than it was even in Clinton's first two years, when the Democrats controlled Congress, and the bench is, of course, increasingly Republican and conservative.

Why are the Democrats so much more willing than the Republicans to make political sacrifices in the name of procedural fairness or of good government? Maybe Democrats are just nicer, but a more philosophical view is that liberals are committed to, are in fact bedeviled by, ideals about process that do not much preoccupy conservatives, at least contemporary ones. Liberals put their faith in such content-neutral principles as free speech, due process, participatory democracy. Is that too lofty? Then maybe we should say that today's liberals, unlike today's conservatives, don't believe in any particular set of ends ardently enough to blind themselves to the means they are using to achieve them.

In general I think I agree with the assertion of the article though I don't know that it has anything to do with Democrats being liberal any more than being Democratic means that you are liberal. There are a diverse spectrum of options which are Democrats.

The more serious question is whether it pays to be collaborative and nice? In this day of popular reality programs, maybe that's not what is in vogue? If so that would be a sad state for the USA but I can sure see their point.

Edited by PurpleTale, 07 July 2003 - 12:19 PM.


#2 Delvo

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Posted 07 July 2003 - 11:27 PM

PurpleTale, on Jul 6 2003, 06:59 PM, said:

The difference between the two parties is not simply ideological. It is also temperamental.
Well, this part is true, at least... But he got the DIRECTION entirely backward. It's really amazing; it's like reading an explanation of why the solar system is arranged as a ring-shaped sun with the planets all bunched up in the middle of it. You could almost perfectly replace the two political sides' labels with each other in this article and then you'd get somewhere near reality. And this fact is so obvious that I really can't imagine what's going through his mind writing this alternate-reality stuff. He can't possibly really believe it; that would be like believing that the ground is above our heads and the sky is below our feet. But what's the point of reporting such a hopelessly transparent fabrication?

Quote

For all the talk about the tainted legitimacy of Bush's Supreme Court-inflected victory in the 2000 election, the Democrats have never sought to discredit Bush's presidency.
Typical NYT-BS. That's practically allthey've done since then.

Quote

Clinton, on the other hand, won fair and square, but many Republicans treated him as an illegitimate figure from the outset
Typical NYT-BS; fitness and legitimacy are complete different things, the latter of which was never challenged. The only way to confound the two is to equate them both with simple "attacks", which reveals the personal-issues-are-everything, laws-and-facts-don't-matter mentality he's working with here... while accusing his opponents the Republicans of doing it...

Quote

the Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee blocked fully one-third of Clinton's nominees to the federal appeals courts.
Typical NYT-BS, in more ways than one. Those candidates got voted on, or didn't for various other reasons including running out of time. None of it bore any resemblance to what' happening now.

Quote

When the Democrats regained control of the Senate in 2001
Funny that he mentions that, since it's sorto an example of the opposite of the case he's trying to make: the Democrats didn't take control, they had it handed to them by a Republican who had always voted on their side anyway.

Quote

party leaders agreed to rapidly process all but the most controversial candidates in order to fill the vast backlog created by Republican obstruction.
This is one of the most gargantuine lies I've heard in years. It defies not only the facts of what's happened, but even the words of the politicians he's praising, who have openly sworn to fight as long and hard as necessary, using any and all tricks necessary, to prevent even VOTING on ANY AND ALL nominees this President sends them. And as for "all but the most controversial"... after trying hard for a long time to come up with something to claim was controversial about the first couple, they gave up and now THEY aren't even trying to claim that there's anything really wrong with them; that's basicly admitting that they're only opposing them because Bush nominated them and they'll do ANYTHING to get at Bush... even over a Clinton re-nominee that there simply hadn't been the time to review before... which the author undoubtedly includes among his "Republican obstruction" examples.

Quote

Why are the Democrats so much more willing than the Republicans to make political sacrifices in the name of procedural fairness or of good government? Maybe Democrats are just nicer, but a more philosophical view is that liberals are committed to, are in fact bedeviled by, ideals about process that do not much preoccupy conservatives, at least contemporary ones. Liberals put their faith in such content-neutral principles as free speech, due process, participatory democracy.
Wow. Just wow. The oppositeness from anything even vaguely resembling reality is just... wow.

This guy has to know the real pattern of practically EVERY other legislative action: Republicans are constantly backing down to Democrats, even when they technically have more power than them. He can't possibly really think otherwise; a mind that detached from reality or just plain non-functional wouldn't be sane enough to hold his job and write English. But, again, I am left trying to imagine what in the world the point is in tossing off SUCH a pack of unmitigated BS. Nobody who's going to believe him needs to be told this stuff, because such beliefs have never been remotely reality-based in the first place. Maybe he's just counting on his readers being spectacularly unaware of real government proceedings that have gone on in the last few decades.

Quote

The more serious question is whether it pays to be collaborative and nice?
Sometimes it can, sometimes not. One situation in which it can't is when you have all the power and can be fairly assured of not losing it. The Democrats had been in that situation for so long that they forgot how to act when that's not the case, so now that they're not in such a position anymore, their tactics haven't changed yet and they're just doing more and more and more of the same old stuff that always worked before (including this article, since there's no use in pretending this guy is anything other than a Democrat party shill). Only it doesn't now, which only makes their position shakier. They have little to fear though; the Republicans will come to their rescue. They have been stuck in a perpetual loser mode and have yet to develop a spine to stand up for themselves. Every gain that crowd of wussies makes is despite their own efforts to cripple themselves.

Edited by Delvo, 07 July 2003 - 11:27 PM.


#3 AnneZo

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 04:02 AM

PurpleTale, on Jul 7 2003, 12:59 AM, said:

The difference between the two parties is not simply ideological. It is also temperamental.
Maybe Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus?  :)

Seriously. It's necessary, as always, to consider the question of each party's leadership apart from the members of the party, who tend (on both sides) to be less single-minded.

Each party is a conglomeration of miscellaneous, sometimes conflicting, interests. When elections are coming up (as they always are), party leaders try to pick and choose which of those different "interests" they think they can push through successfully, both in terms of getting candidates elected and in getting legislation through afterwards. When I speak of "Republicans" below, I'm talking about the leadership unless I specify otherwise.

(digression)

Right now, if anyone cares about my views :) I see the Republicans riding the "Reality TV" wave, harping on sex, violence, and OTT rhetoric to capture the attention-deficit younger voters and try to insure the future of their party.

IMO, the Republicans were on more solid ground when they stayed away from their Christian Coalition members and didn't put their repressive morality and regressive social policies front and center in their platform. It's a sad truth that most people in the country find the economy mind-bogglingly complex, leaving them easy prey for campaign slogans that tarred Democrats as "tax-and-spend" maniacs and praised Republican policies as "fiscal responsibility." (Add in a couple of "let the voter keep their money" slogans and you've captured the economically challenged.) I'm not sure why they abandoned this approach unless it was that they were aware that their fiscal policies were about to alienate a lot of that same economically challenged voter base.

The Republican leadership's recent jump to the right in an attempt to woo the "angry white male" vote is a mistake. Their new approach provides catchy sound-bites for the evening news and makes sensational headlines, so the media faithfully reports the Administration's truth-twisting talking points. The old adage, "no news is bad news" is true in PR, you know. What candidates fight for is name recognition. If people know your name, they vote for you. (I refuse to get side-tracked on a rant about how idiotic many voter are.

(/digression)

The perceived "temperament" differences cited in the article are largely the result of the Republican leaders reassessing "business as usual" in the 80s putting in some long, hard years consolidating their hold on their party's elected officials. Recent media references to the "Republican Machine" aren't far off.  They're organized nowadays in a way that Democrats aren't and probably never will be. (Liberals are, after all, concerned with personal freedom in a way that Republicans, regardless of campaign slogans, aren't.) The Republican leadership has tried to force their Congressional members into a solid voting bloc and, by and large, they've been successful.

(digression)

However, and this is an important point, is the Republican leadership has not traditionally been as obstructionist as the article suggests. The judicial nomination-blocking problem during the Clinton Administration was an anomaly and, as the article states, can only be even tangentially understood in the context of the deranged Clinton-hating at that time. Historically, both parties have tended to block the occasional judicial nominee. This has always been a good thing since it largely acts to keep extremists (of either persuasion) off the bench.

The current blocking going on in Congress is a result of the nomination of right-wing activists. What the right-wing defenders never say, and never want you to focus on :) is, as this article points out, the many, many, many Bush nominees who have sailed effortlessly through the system. Nor does the right want to admit that, due to the aforementioned Clinton-hating, huge numbers of judicial nominees were blocked during the Clinton Administration. (Remember this when you hear about how clogged our federal courts are, okay?  A lack of, you know, judges contributes significantly to such clogging.)

(/digression)

For the record, our political system encourages, in fact demands the bipartisan cooperation that the Republicans have abandoned. The Republicans are taking advantage of their current, temporary majority to ride roughshod over the Democrats and try to force through some of their (the Republicans) pet projects, but in the process they're alienating not only the Dems but the moderates of the Republican party.

And, as we know, what goes around, comes around. Regardless of how cooperative Dems are "temperamentally," those in Washington and in the party leadership aren't going to be feeling very bipartisan the next time they're in the majority and I promise you'll hear the Republicans screaming ten seconds before they're hurt when the time comes.

(digression)

Like the impeachment moves against Clinton, and as I've said before, the Republicans open these huge cans o'worms with no apparent thought of consequences.

They're short-sighted. They'll do anything to win "the battle" and that causes them to lose sight of "the war."  
Right now they're relying upon emotional jingoism to try and rally support around them and in some cases, with certain types of voters, it's working.

(I do find myself wondering how many people were led down the primrose path of hate by the combined efforts of the Republican leadership and the irresponsible press during the Clinton years until today they find that they have so much invested in Democrats being "the bad guys" that no matter what this Administration does, these people feel bound to support them. But that's a different topic and I'm no expert on psychology.)

Where was I?  Oh. Yeah. However, as Bush's falling approval ratings show, these tactics are working less now than they did last month, and they're working a lot less today than they did in, say, January. The Republicans' tactics aren't sustainable.  A hundred thousand, two hundred thousand, three hundred thousand, half a million, a million...as the unemployment numbers skyrocket, a lot of previously Republican voters are finding themselves disenchanted.

As for the Republican leadership, well, as they increasingly allow their party's identity to be defined by hatemongers and outright liars (in that aforementioned attempt to woo younger viewers with "Reality TV" style headlines) they're going to alienate more and more of their actual voter base. The number of people who are going to listen to, and believe, the idiocies of people like Limbaugh and Savage is small but the amount of bad press generated by these people, and the number of moderate, sensible people turned off by the Republican party's affiliation with such people, is substantial.

(/digression)

The Democrats aren't "historically" the party of compromise and bipartisanship, they're just looking awfully good that way because of the temper tantrums thrown by the Republicans in the 90s and the way the same folks are behaving today.

The important point is not, I think, whether "in the end" it "pays to play nice." The important  point is that bipartisanship is the way our government works. It allows things to work smoothly, continuously, and with a certain consistency that allows citizens to plan (and lead) their lives in security.  The Republicans have been trying to trash that bipartisanship for over a decade now and what they're going to leave behind is nothing but chaos unless the Democratic leadership grits their teeth and rises above "politics" to think of the country's long-term good.

Fortunately for us all :D the Democrats are, in fact, the party most likely to do that.



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