WaPo's Jonathan Bernstein notes that for 20 years congressional Democrats have played the shrewd incrementalists--grandly strategic, principled dreamers who thrust and fall back, but not all the way, thereby achieving something of their original goal. He cites the 1990s' State Children’s Health Insurance Program in lieu of President Clinton's national healthcare rubble: "they looked for a way to improve actual, rather than symbolic, health care, and found an area in which they could work productively with Republicans."
There is a shorthand word for this. Politics. And that old art, argues Bernstein,
is open to Republicans today: Find common ground, and get some of what you want, even if you can’t get it all. But that works only if you have real, substantive goals that you actually care about. More and more, it appears that many Republicans simply care much more about symbolic stands rather than substantive policy.
By "symbolic stands" I assume Bernstein is loosely referring to Republican ideology, yet that's where things get increasingly tricky. Just what, now, is it?
A mere five years ago Republican ideology was essentially a sick hybrid of neoconservatism and deregulatory, supply-sided crackpotism--resulting, not unexpectedly, in catastrophic conflict, soaring debt and a pancaking economy--which, though diseased, was at least somewhat consistent.
Today, opposition to everything congressional Democrats say and obstruction of everything President Obama attempts no doubt exemplify Republicanism, but opposition and obstruction aren't an ideology. Yesterday's neoconservatism is a shambles--muscularism reduced to Dick Cheney's evil sneer and John McCain's galloping senility--and contemporary Republican economics is just about anyone's guess. It chiefly struts as a principled opponent of debt, yet in practice opposes every known fiscal efficacy in slaying it. This leaves the sole consistency of deregulatory madness. Anarchy, anyone?
That's a tough sell. And as a "symbolic stand," it's more of a last one. Yet Republicans can't even close ranks on that. Tonight we'll hear two divergent presentations of modern Republicanism, which in itself pretty much defines the party: a creaking, cracking mass of incoherence.