They Supported The Troops, Before They Didn’t

In another one of those little moments that shows just how far from orthodoxy the minority GOP has fallen, the Republican House caucus threatens, plausibly, to vote against a bill funding America’s continued presence in Afghanistan, unless the administration excises non-defense spending (“socialism”).

Lest we forget, Democrats, too, have used defense bills as battlegrounds for larger economic issues: Senate Democrats nearly canned a Bush administration-backed $87 billion war spending bill in favor of an identical bill, to be funded by reversing Bush’s most irresponsible upper-class redistributive tax cuts, but fell just short.

And we payed for it. The distinction between voting against a funding mechanism and voting against the funding itself is tough to draw for a bored public, and eminently spinnable. One such fight functionally ended Senator Kerry (D-MA)’s run in 2004. It’s the stuff Republican dreams are made of: a chance to oversimplify a debate, excise nuance, gloss over irresponsible tax cuts, and make Democrats look weak, all at once!

We could do the same if Obama’s bill comes to a vote, and Republicans stonewall it. The difference between our parties? We won’t. But we probably should.


  1. Sorry to be an annoying pedant but “our parties”? When exactly did you take ownership of “your party”? I think the problem you described and the language you used doing it highlights a bigger problem. The us versus them mentality of US politics. It is all about whether you are with the Red Team or the Blue Team. Nobody seems to care what is the best way to govern only if “their team” wins.

    I am beginning to wonder how may voters in the US actually change their vote each election. I suspect less than a few hundred thousands votes actually determine the outcome of the Presidential elections because 99% of the people voting aren’t ever going to vote the other way. Just as a Yankees fan will never support the Red Socks (or is the White Socks their rival?).

    You don’t need bipartisanship as much as you need swinging voters. That will draw the parties to a more neutral ground.

    1. I do think we overidentify with parties, and I can’t claim to be immune from it. But I don’t think that focus comes at the exclusion of an interest in the best way to govern.

    2. I don’t have a specific quote, but I seem to remember the analyses during the 2008 election mentioned about 30% swing voting independents.

    3. I’m going to agree with Pi on that point. This comment jumped out at me:

      “We could do the same if Obama’s bill comes to a vote, and Republicans stonewall it. The difference between our parties? We won’t.”

      It reminded me of myself circa 2003 or so. Completely in the tank for my party of choice. The truth is both parties really suck right now. The GOP resistance to unemployment benefits last week was just stupid and made me ashamed. The lack of concern over jobs from the Left is equally depressing.

      There ARE good things going on in Washington right now, but you have to look for them. Liberals and conservatives alike should be shouting Arne Duncan’s name from the rooftops and major props to the President for supporting him. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of stories like this.

      If things don’t change soon I think incumbants of both parties might want to have their resumes updated in November.

      And also, please allow me to issue yet another plea for this blog to stop being a Republican attack blog and start being a celebration of good policy. Most people love a happy story.

      1. I gotta say, Mike, you seem a lot more in the tank for the GOP than you did a year or so ago when I first “met” you. Maybe it’s because of your growing distaste for Ames’ own partisanship, but in the last 6 or so months I feel like a bot could’ve been written to handle your comment posting here. Call it ContraAmes2000 or some such…

        That being said, I agree completely that Ames is also stuck in a rut carrying water for Democrats. Interesting that he posts about the Left sticking to its principles rather than playing politics – why aren’t they screaming about Obama essentially giving us the 3rd Bush term on civil liberties, the prosecution of the war, etc…? Blerg all around.

        1. Clearly you haven’t been reading my blog anymore John. I suppose this is because of your reduced opinion of me as previously stated. If you had you will find plenty of non-partisan posts over there on a variety of subjects.

          Ames is a partisan blogger and I think he’s pretty okay with that. You will note though that I have asked him dozens of times to stop the Republican bashing and start promoting a positive agenda. This would mean, y’know, letting liberal ideas stand on their own merits.

          As for my comments, maybe you are right. Ames really has no conservative readership other than myself so yeah, I end up carrying the water for the conservative talking points. What I will say though is that I don’t defend conservative positions simply out of party loyalty. If I take a position opposing Ames, it’s because I believe that personally.

          1. Actually I stopped reading your blog because, while it’s well-written, when you started talking about local stuff it didn’t really have any relevance to my life and I only have so many hours in a day. No offense.

            As for no other conservative readers, you’re certainly the only vocal one who sticks around. I actually still relate to the progressive conservatism that you used to espouse. I don’t argue it much around here because it’s gotten very echo chamber-y and, again, there’s only so many hours in the day.

            One last thing, though, relating to personal beliefs (and I apologize in advance if I’ve conflated your posts with someone else’s) – at one point awhile back you (I think) posted a political epiphany of sorts on your blog, wherein you concluded that politics is a realist’s sport and if you’re going to debate it you’ve got to follow a very partisan line to advance political agendas – to do otherwise is to engage in dorm-room BS that isn’t productive. (I tried to find it in your archives but it looks like your older posts are lost to time…) Assuming for the moment that I’ve got the right guy, you may have been right but it undermines any difference-drawing between you and Ames.

            1. I think what you are refering to is several posts where I rejected the idea that the correct policy answers always lie in the center and in that sense, partisans should not feel ashamed to fight for their ideas if those are ideas are sound. And that’s the exact point I am making. Ames is a smart guy and surely he understands and could point out the positive aspects of liberal policy. Unfortunately he spends more time atacking what he perceives as a bad ideas on the Right. It usually comes across as, “Let me show you this terrible Republican idea and let you draw the conclusion that the un-explained liberal alternative is fantastic.” I just don’t hear him talking much about liberal policy at all.

              1. I agree on the point (that you’ve made several times) that he spends a lot of time banging on Republicans. At the risk of some armchair psychoanalysis, I suspect it’s because there’s less to be proud of in this administration than he might like.

                As for the posts I may or may not be remembering, I don’t feel like that was the thrust I took away from reading them at the time, but clearly my recollection is too dim to try and stand on it.

                1. While we are psycho-analyzing our host, let me advance another theory: Ames isn’t a policy blogger, he’s a political blogger and maybe I (we) are confusing the two. Personally, I like to discuss policy which is why at my blog you see headings like rural policy, education policy, etc. I think Ames likes to talk about the political process. He likes slamming the other guy and trying to make a case for winning elections. In that sense, like a god politician, it doesn’t benefit his cause to get into the nuts & bolts of policy. He’s rather cover the political discussion surrounding it.

      2. John, I actually think (and thought pre-election) that the policies Obama’s maintained make sense. The drawdown in Iraq isn’t happening fast enough for me, but Afghanistan is still must-win; FISA reform was reasonable and much overdue (although the retroactive immunity was sucky); Bagram was expected and also necessary; and I’ve seen exactly as much first-term progress on gay rights as I ever expected. I’m quite happy!

        1. *blink*

          Bagram is necessary? Gitmo remaining open is necessary? Execution orders on American citizens who haven’t been convicted of anything are necessary?

          Afghanistan isn’t must-win unless our egos are now tied to national security. A state that harbors terrorists is not good, but it’s also NOT RARE. In news far more related than people seem to care to admit, we can’t say so much as “boo” to the Isrealis, still, officially proving that there’s literally nothing they could do of which we’d disapprove.

          Meanwhile on less sexy fronts, this administration is as much a shill for the RIAA/MPAA as those organizations could hope for. They back the telecom immunity for federal crimes (we’re at war, after all). Blerg cetera, blerg cetera…

          My own progressivism trumped my conservatism when I voted Obama, thinking (I still believe rightly) that the nation needed to repudiate the Bush years. Jesu Christi was I fooled…

  2. Also: “We won’t. But we probably should.”

    You want to win come November, don’t you? Go for it.

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