Fire, BAA-AD!

Really good piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today on the state of US politics today, although I do have some criticism. A couple key paragraphs are below. You can see the charts in his piece, but they basically show a couple cases where Democrats have stayed pretty consistent over the years, while Republicans have radically changed.

It also explains how Trump was able to tramp all over traditional conservative ideology in the primaries and still emerge victorious. He understood when no else did that loyalty to that ideology was an inch deep among the GOP base, and that the true unifying force was resentment. Even now, with the incompetence of the Trump administration on full display, and after a clear betrayal of his anti-elitist campaign promises, he retains significant conservative support based on his unrivaled ability to outrage liberals. He is proving once again that people will vote even against their own self-interest as long as their resentments are validated and appeased.

And on and on it goes. When you marvel at Republican inability to formulate coherent policy on health care, on Syria and the Middle East or any other issue, I again refer you to the charts above. For decades now, the centerpole of conservative thought has been to oppose liberal thought. As a result, when put in a position to enact policies of their own, they have none. It’s like a drunk who has spent all night leaning against a lamppost for support. Take away the lamppost, and he collapses.

My primary criticism with this piece is that it’s initially framed as a look at the “growing divide” in US politics. This is of course a refrain you hear a lot, but I don’t think it’s right. When people talk of the political divide in America today, that always implies some kind of equal division— as if for every step Republicans take to the right Democrats are also taking a step to the left. Look at those charts, though. Wherever Democrats stand on the left/right scale, they are more or less holding steady. Republicans, on the other hand, are lurching further and further away.

There’s also an offhand reference in the article to “a media culture that conservatives find increasingly antagonistic and dismissive, and often, I’ll admit, for very good reason.” (emphasis added) This seems to imply that conservatives are justified in their resentment of the media, as if their own behavior has had no role in driving the antagonism they claim to see.

Let me put it this way— with the rise of Trump, you will sometimes find references to “principled Republicans.” John McCain occasionally plays one of these on TV, at least in the sense that most people think of when they use that phrase. However, based on the continuing support of Trump by the Republican party, the only principle they have is “GOP good! Democrats bad!” I guess it fits on a bumper sticker, so they have that going for them.