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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Nothing left to do

by digby

I wish I knew why the GOP has suddenly gone kamikaze on this Ryan plan, but I guess I don't care. They've been so close to the edge of insanity for so long now that it's a good thing for the country if they self-immolate before they are able to somehow seize total power again.

But it really can't be overstated just how self-destructive this attack on Medicare really is, on so many levels. It's bad on the politics and on the merits, of course. But ask yourself why a political party would spend many, many millions of dollars to spread a message that a very popular program among their most valuable constituency is in danger from their opponents as the Republicans did last November, --- and then allow their opponents to piggyback on it immediately and turn it back on them?

Political messaging is like an annoying jingle. Even if you hate it (and I think we all hate most of them) you absorb it over time and many people eventually come to see it as simple conventional wisdom. In fact, sadly, that accounts for much of our fellow citizens' political eduction. When a party spends many millions selling a message, it's an investment. That's why I'm so gobsmacked that the GOP has been so cloddish and inept with this one. It made sense for them to demagogue health care by using the Medicare cuts --- their only growing constituency at the moment is among those over 60. But it was a change for them requiring some commitment and finesse. After all, they have historically been enemies of Medicare and haven't built up any trust among the public. So logic said that they would have to keep Medicare and Social Security off the table and plan a much longer term strategy to convince seniors that they were their party. It was always going to be a delicate bit of political chicanery, but what choice did they have? They are in a terrible demographic bind.

So why would they spend millions to persuade seniors that they would protect them from the horrible Democrats who had, without warning, decided to abandon them and then drop Ryan's dystopian plan from hell and allow the Democrats to build on it? Even after serious blowback from the public they have persisted -- Newties little ritual humiliation tour last week is just the latest example. (I suppose that could be because they are afraid of Newt having the winning message in the primaries and the last thing they want is for him to be the nomination. But I doubt it.)

No, they are all in on this Ryan Plan and they aren't backing away. Which means that the Democrats can ride this thing all the way to 2012. After all, they have more than sixty years of credibility on the issue to back them up. Indeed, the Republicans have actually managed to stiffen the Dems' spines on protecting Social Security and Medicare and may have finally taken them off the table for the time being with their ineptitude. What a mistake.

Perhaps the Republicans had to go completely over the cliff before they could realize they have become too extreme even for a nation that has developed a tremendous appetite for right wing fantasy and corporate advertising. It's a good thing for the country if they shoot the moon and lose very big. But it's dangerous too. You never know what might happen and if they get validated again in 2012 as they did in 2010, we have a major, major problem on our hands.

But right now, it's looking as if the GOP has made a catastrophic political miscalculation with Ryan. This alleged bellwether in NY-26 is showing that Medicare is killing the Republican and the Tea party in a race they were winning until a week ago. Here's Dave Weigel:

One reason for Hochul's surge: In the wake of the killing of OBL, Barack Obama's approval in the district has bumped up to 48 percent. That's about as much support as he won in 2008. Another, bigger reason: Medicare. A full 21 percent of voters say Medicare's their top issue, and Hochul leads by 29 points with those voters. Another source of strength for Democrats: Among voters who don't have jobs, Hochul leads by 7 points.

Right. And jobs. It's so easy to forget about that since nobody's talking about it.

I had assumed everyone would be. Indeed, a few months ago, here's what GOP psychostrategist Alex Castellanos predicted:
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Priority No. 1 for the Republicans is going to be an agenda for jobs and growth, and that's what they're going to try to put, I think, on the table.

BLITZER: Does that mean repealing the health-care law?

CASTELLANOS: I think the health-care law is going to be part of that, but it's not going to be, I think, what you see on day one. We don't want to fall in the same traps, I think, the Democrats did, which is they spent the year they should have been talking about the economy talking about health care. We don't want to flip that problem on its head, but...

BORGER: But they are going to...


CASTELLANOS: ... smarter than...

BORGER: They are -- they're going to call for the repeal of health care.

CASTELLANOS: Sure, they're going to call for the repeal of health care. And it's going to be a big vote.

BORGER: The job-killing health-care bill.


CASTELLANOS: And it will pass the House and it won't pass the Senate, and then there will probably be a series of test votes throughout the year, repealing the parts that you don't want to keep, keep the parts that work. Veterans, things likes that. Deductibility.

But it's really going to be who gets to keep the focus on the economy, on jobs and growth. But first, whether it's the president or John Boehner, the first one to put something on the table called a strategy for jobs and growth and how we're going to compete with China is going to win.

I don't think anyone with any sense thought they'd go with budget slashing and deficit reduction, abstractions in a world filled with real problems. It will likely have a salutary effect on the long term goal of crippling government. (After all, the Democrats seem to be willing to do some serious cutting themselves --- and tax hikes are still considered something akin to child molestation.) But the political damage for the Republicans, in both the long and short term, could be severe.

I think we're seeing the decadence and delusion of the end stages of a successful political movement. They pretty much fulfilled the corporate wish list. The only things they haven't accomplished are the looney wingnut agenda items, which until now they've managed to keep at arms length, only giving little bits when necessary to keep the rubes on board. Maybe they just have nothing left to do.