One line stuck out of Harry Reid's brilliant, largely-uncovered speech
Republicans run good campaigns, but when it comes to actually governing and protecting Americans, they have a record of incompetence.
This is an excellent start on the way to telling the truth about the Republican brand. But I say Reid needs to go one step further, to say that which all of us have seen objectively:
Conservatism is dead.
Americans of all parties and ideologies killed socialism as a viable political system through an onslaught of demonization of the objective corruption and incompetence of socialist regimes throughout the world. Whether this has more to do with dictators like Stalin and less to do with the system is immaterial. We pointed out over and over again the failure of planned market economies to provide for its people, the desperation with which citizens in these countries lived their lives, and reasoned that the problem not lie with the particular practitioners, but the system itself. We continue to do this (while demonizing the leaders at the same time) with North Korea and Cuba. The end result of all of this was to make socialism a dirty word. As Kurt Vonnegut said on NPR a couple days ago:
Of course, socialism is a bad word now. But it wasn't so long ago that the stock market crashed, in 1929, and capitalism wasn't looking so good.
I'm not advocating for the end of capitalism. It's the peculiar brand of American conservatism we see running our country into the ground today that I come to bury.A Government Unresponsive to the Needs of Its Citizens
Many had a notion of this during the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, which is ongoing and still woeful. One of the stated goals of conservatism is to shrink the size of the federal government, to (as one leader famously put it
) "get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Well, congratulations. You're pretty much there. We now know that the government had a 48-hour head start
on the disaster, and they still couldn't marshal the resources. Is that because of the cronies running the system, or the SYSTEM ITSELF?
The slow-motion, public health crisis Medicare Katrina
reveals another side of the conservative failure. Conservatism seeks to reward business in the belief that a prosperous business sector will trickle down to everybody else. They are wary of big government programs, and think that if those programs are put in the hands of private companies, the magic of the free market will create efficiencies and correct mistakes. This way of thinking has created a situation where old people are begging in the streets for their medicine, where pharmacists are digging into their own pockets to pay for treatments for dying patients, where confusion reigns and the entire process is unbelievably inefficient. Is the problem with the head of Medicare, or with THE SYSTEM ITSELF?
The Abramoff scandal (you know him, he's that Republican felon that personally gave a couple hundred thousand dollars to Republicans) is part of the conservative system. Pay-to-play on K Street means that, if you work hard, you too can afford to have the government you desire. There are barriers to entry for those without the means to petition their leaders for redress of grievances. This is perfectly logical from a conservative standpoint. The experts in the various fields of study have more of a stake and more knowledge about that which the government attempts to legislate. Furthermore, conservatism believes that there shouldn't be any regulations on business, they stifle competition and innovation. They don't want to police the Congress because they DON'T BELIEVE IN IT.
We see how the recent mining disasters had at least something to do with lax federal oversight.
On last week's Meet the Press, Paul Begala mentioned his father's favorite excerpt
from his new book:
And it was interesting—he picked up on something that I’d forgotten was in the book, he said, ‘The thing that troubles me most’—and this is a guy who voted for Ronald Reagan and spent his career in the oil business in Texas, he’s no liberal—he said, ‘What bothers me the most was that President Bush hired a lobbyist from the mining industry to be the number two guy in the Interior Department.’ And that he says, in the book, he says, ‘My goal is to turn out the lights on the mine safety agency.’
Those are the stated goals of this conservative movement. Little or no regulation, shrinking government, no social safety net, every man for himself. And there are real-world implications of all of this that compel the answer: "This doesn't work."
This is very important. Self-proclaimed moderates and independents respond very strongly to brand identity. Republicans have spent 40 years branding Democrats as weak, soft, radical, you name it. The name has come to brand conservatism for what it is. Dead. Unworkable. A failure. Success in the 2006 elections depends on hammering this point, stronger than we have so far.
Also on Meet the Press, Russert actually deserved a kudo or two for nailing Mary Matalin on precisely this point:
MR. RUSSERT: Well, let’s talk about that, because that’s an important point. In the Wall Street Journal, which is hardly an organ for the Democratic Party, wrote this, “When Republicans took control of the purse strings in 1995, the federal budget was $1.5 trillion dollars. It’s now $2.55 trillion dollars, or $5 million dollars a minute. And the latest Treasury data reveal that fiscal 2005 federal outlays grew by another $179 billion dollars, an 8 percent increase, and more than twice the rate of inflation.” And then they added this to the editorial, “The smell of bacon.” In ‘95, when Republicans captured both houses of Congress, there were 1439 earmarked projects, the special projects you talked about, they cost $10 billion dollars. Ten years later, nearly 14,000 specific earmarked projects by individuals congressmen and senators, $27 billion dollars. Republicans control both houses of Congress.
Matalin blubbered and spattered "B-B-But the Democrats" but she knew she was beat. Conservatives don't hold to their ideals for exactly one simple reason: their ideals don't work. They're also not popular. But mainly, they don't work. And we need to say this loudly and proudly.