The Left’s new narrative?
Personally I think of Steve Benen as a bit of a lightweight when it comes to political analysis. But he can be counted on to faithfully repeat the left’s talking points, or absent that, come up with some off the wall theory (sometimes involving conspiracy) to try to explain and demonize the right. A recent wig out involves a vast conspiracy of right-wingers who want to see the economy stay sickly for political purposes. And it is all because, as he implies, the right-wingers "actively dislike the United States".
NONE DARE CALL IT SABOTAGE…. Consider a thought experiment. Imagine you actively disliked the United States, and wanted to deliberately undermine its economy. What kind of positions would you take to do the most damage?
You might start with rejecting the advice of economists and oppose any kind of stimulus investments. You’d also want to cut spending and take money out of the economy, while blocking funds to states and municipalities, forcing them to lay off more workers. You’d no doubt want to cut off stimulative unemployment benefits, and identify the single most effective jobs program of the last two years (the TANF Emergency Fund) so you could kill it.
You might then take steps to stop the Federal Reserve from trying to lower the unemployment rate. You’d also no doubt want to create massive economic uncertainty by vowing to gut the national health care system, promising to re-write the rules overseeing the financial industry, vowing re-write business regulations in general, considering a government shutdown, and even weighing the possibly of sending the United States into default.
You might want to cover your tracks a bit, and say you have an economic plan that would help — a tax policy that’s already been tried — but you’d do so knowing that such a plan has already proven not to work.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Does any of it sound familiar? In the context you’ve presented it, Mr. Benen – uh, no. It sounds contrived and fanciful – a wish a political hack would love to be true so he could use it to brand the opposition as unpatriotic and evil. Not that it being untrue will stop Mr. Benen from using such implications – this article is proof of that.
But you really have to suspend disbelief and pitch logic out the window to end up where Benen is with this particular piece. Cherry pick things that support your hare-brained thesis, give them a conspiratorial twist and bingo, you’re on your way to branding the opposition with something you’ve wanted to put on them for quite some time.
Benen then brings out some supporting fire:
Budget expert Stan Collender has predicted that Republicans perceive "economic hardship as the path to election glory." Paul Krugman noted in his column yesterday that Republicans "want the economy to stay weak as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House."
Got to love the hard hitting "Republicans "perceive" economic hardship as a path to election glory." Pure unsubstantiated speculation (unsupported by anything credible – certainly not Benen’s conspiracy theory nonsense). Always fun to see a Democratic operative speaking about “Republican perceptions”, something I’m sure he’s absolutely tuned in on.
Certainly the state of the economy has worked to the detriment of the Democrats, but concluding a continuing poor economy is of value to the Republicans completely misses the message of the midterm election. And as Benen demonstrates, as does Krugman for that matter, he missed the message too. Not that anyone should be surprised. The Democratic Congress missed it as well (see lame duck legislative priorities) as did the President.
Benen also turns to Matt Yglesias, a truly objective source, to give his batty theory some legs:
…I know that tangible improvements in the economy are key to Obama’s re-election chances. And Douglas Hibbs knows that it’s key. And senior administration officials know that its key. So is it so unreasonable to think that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner may also know that it’s key? That rank and file Republicans know that it’s key? McConnell has clarified that his key goal in the Senate is to cause Barack Obama to lose in 2012 which if McConnell understands the situation correctly means doing everything in his power to reduce economic growth. Boehner has distanced himself from this theory, but many members of his caucus may agree with McConnell.
Which is just to say that specifically the White House needs to be prepared not just for rough political tactics from the opposition (what else is new?) but for a true worst case scenario of deliberate economic sabotage.
Then it time for the cherry on top – liberal commenter Jonathan Chait:
Establishing motive is always very hard to prove. What’s more, the notion of deliberate sabotage presumes a conscious awareness that doesn’t square with human psychology as I understand it. People are extraordinarily deft at making their principles — not just their stated principles, but their actual principles — comport with their interests. The old Upton Sinclair quote — "It is difficult to make a man understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it" — has a lot of wisdom to it.
I don’t think many Republicans are actually trying to stop legislation that might help the economy recover because they know that a slow economy is their best route to regaining power. I think that when they’re in power, consequences like an economic slowdown or a collapsing industry seem very dire, and policies to prevent this are going to sound compelling. When you’re out of power, arguments against such policies are going to sound more compelling.
Really? Or is it, as has been the case with most of the legislation the 111th Congress has passed or attempted to pass, just abysmally bad law? Occam’s razor, Mr. Chait. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. In the case of the legislation passed by the latest Congress, sometimes crap is just crap.
But back on point, does anyone see what’s going on here? It is "victimhood" time on the left. They will still control the Presidency and the Senate next year, but they’re already setting up the "Republicans are evil and are really in control of the government, so whatever happens isn’t our fault" meme. Benen seems to realize that the current Congress and President have done an awful job with the economy. In fact, other than quickly throwing a few trillion dollars we don’t have at it (and which has seemingly had no measurable positive effect) they’ve ignored it for their ideological agenda items. And, because of that, and the obvious probability that the economy will not be in the shape necessary to give the President and Democrats a leg up in 2012, it is time to start switching the narrative and project the blame on the usual suspects.
And what better way to do that than to start yelling conspiracy theory (well sorta, kinda) and cobbling together disparate facts and fanciful rhetoric into dubious implications for a new narrative?
Premise: The Republicans are evil, only interested in regaining power (one assumes to finally destroy the nation) and will do whatever it takes to secure that power, to include sabotaging the economy. Why? Because they “actively dislike the United States”.
This from a group of people that actively worked for eight long years to sabotage (no conjecture here, the record stands on its own) a Republican Presidency and flat had tantrums if you ever questioned their patriotism or motivation.
But, as they say, that was then and this is now. And now, of course, it’s “different”.