Why there is no Republican Bill Clinton
September 7, 2012 2 Comments
Loved this post by Jon Bernstein. Just going to quote extensively:
Look, here’s the thing. GOPer Steve Schmidt said tonight (and I’m sure plenty of others did too) that ““I wish to God as a Republican we had someone on our side who had the ability to do that.” But you know what? It’s not just luck that Democrats have a Bill Clinton and Republicans don’t. Granted, political talent could show up for either party. But a Republican these days couldn’t do what Clinton did tonight, because Republican gatekeepers and, probably, Republican audiences don’t want that kind of thing.
It’s not that there are no solid, factual, arguments for the policies Republicans prefer. There certainly are! But a politician who tried to stick to those would be competing with the Glenn Becks of the party, and the Rush Limbaughs, and the Newt Gingriches, and the “facts” that those party leaders constantly trot out. Democrats, to be sure, have to compete with some fringe voices who have a dubious grasp of facts and policy, but for whatever reason those voices are kept on the fringe. That’s just not the case for Republicans.
It’s not always been that way. But that’s how it is now.
And so Paul Ryan gets a reputation as a substantive Republican…while repeating the most nutty myths about budgets and health care reform (yes, a David Obey would or a Henry Waxman will give a very partisan interpretation of contested facts; how often do they just make stuff up?). And so Republicans celebrate the policy ignorance of a Herman Cain or a Sarah Palin. And so Republicans don’t even bother forcing George W. Bush to show he knows anything about policy or government before they nominate him; to the contrary, they argue that he’s a better president because he’s not bogged down by all of that stuff and can better govern from his instincts.
You’re not going to get a Bill Clinton if your party gives no incentives at all for a smart youngster to try to become that sort of politician. Truth is, a Republican who really knew policy well enough to make the arguments Clinton made tonight would have to hide it.
Yep, yep, yep. Sadly, one of the great asymmetries right now is that only one of our political party truly takes policy seriously (i.e., actually getting into the nuts and bolts of it and not just using it for rhetoric and electoral advantage). The country would be much better off if Republicans who treated policy seriously were not run out of town on a rail by Tea Party types or cast off as David Frum-like apostates. But, alas, that is indeed our current state of affairs. We’re always going to have two parties in this country and for the forseeable future I’m mostly going to disagree with Republicans. But how nice if I could actually disagree with people who accepted a common set of facts about the state of the world and cared about those facts and getting policies right.