Kindred spirits

Daniel Larison has a post up that talks about how Mitt Romney will screw over conservatives that settle for him. Which he will, I suppose, although I’m betting his economic policies will still be regressive as and quite plutocrat-friendly. The social policies, though, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mitt’s a lot more milquetoast than the fire-breathers would prefer. Larison concludes:

Bush assumed that he could take conservatives for granted, and he could, which is what he proceeded to do. Bush presented himself as a conservative while arguably governing farther to the left than anyone, including his father, in the previous thirty years. Most conservatives accepted the act, and largely ignored the substance. If there’s one thing we know about Romney, it is that he is quite capable of pretending to be conservative without being one. He may govern that way for as long as he believes it is advantageous, but there is nothing to stop him from keeping up the pretense of conservatism while enacting policies that are nothing of the kind.

Yup. Because that’s the way that politics works. For this reason, and yes I’m aware that a huge part of politics is tribalism and hating the Other, it nevertheless surprises me that there isn’t more of a kinship between liberals and conservatives, even if it’s a very grudging one. Obviously, there are huge differences in policy prescripitions between those two groups, but they have the same experience each election. Social conservatives reeeeeally want abortion to be banned, or at least heavily controlled, so they vote for Republicans. Do Republicans ever make real efforts to ban abortion? Well, yes, in terms of defunding Planned Parenthood and the personhood amendments, but it’s never as far as conservatives want.

Similarly, liberals throw in each year for Democrats, who kinda sorta creep towards policies that liberals want, but never do as much as the passionate activists desire. See the recent health care legislation and financial legislation for examples of this dynamic on the left.

In terms of practicality, the reason that the parties do this, and Larison writes this out, is pretty simple: because they can. Arch-lefties like me are far more animated by opposition and contempt for Republican policies than love, joy and respect for Democratic policies. And this is the same for conservatives, too. Are any of the carnival barkers or intellectual pundits enthralled with the current crop of candidates? Far from it. But they’ll grit their teeth and get in line for those candidates when the time comes, because the alternative is so much worse.

The two parties know this. No matter how much Obama has screwed the pooch on drones, foreign policy adventurism and in his stance towards the banks, what am I  gonna do? Vote for Mitt Romney’s insanely regressive economic program? Vote for Michele Bachmann’s divinely-inspired Jeebus parade?

And with conservatives, it’s the same thing. Even if they get Romney, which I think is the most likely outcome, what are they gonna do? Erick son of Erick and Rush may not like the World’s Foremost Flip-Flopper™ but dyou think they’re gonna pull the lever for the Islamosexual Kenyan socialist usurper? Not on your life. This was basically what happened in 2008 with McCain, and despite some hemming and hawing, the right fell in line.

I guess it’s worth pointing out too that there’s a section of the electorate on both sides that are willing to break with the nominated candidates, but that portion of the electorate remains relatively small and inconsequential except for that time in 2000 when they caused Bush to be elected and changed the course of history for the worse. But, for the most part, people fall in line.

In light of these similar experiences, it surprises me there isn’t more of a grudging sense of solidarity among the left and right wings, given that policies are never up to what we want and our parties don’t really give a shit what we think because we have no other option. But we’ve all been taught to hate for quite a long time. So I’m not holding my breath waiting for this brotherhood to materialize.


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