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Friday, April 27, 2012

Well, maybe Romney is the better choice. . . .


NPR just published a study that demonstrates that the Republican Party is the most conservative it has been for over 100 years.  Because of that there seems to be little possibility of compromise on large issues related to governance, e.g. the debt and the possibility of raising additional revenue through increase in taxation among the wealthy, immigration reform that provides the possibility for naturalization for long term contributing residents, overcoming high medical costs through a national insurance plan, increased investment in alternative energy policies, reduced tax loop holes for agribusiness and oil companies, reducing the influence of money in elections and lobbying, preserving the programs of New Deal, War on Poverty, and Civil Rights. 

If Obama wins the presidential election, there will be more gridlock by Republicans who have announced that their highest priority is to get rid of him, even over solving problems for the nation.  (See Robert Draper book.)

It makes me wonder if it would be better for the nation if Romney won. I won't vote for him because I refuse to reward obstructionism. However, I still wonder if a more centrist Romney (if he could swing back from his stated "extreme conservatism") could get more done because he could corral the conservative dogmatic true believers. 

I look at Nixon's China initiative. A Democrat could not have done that because the Republicans had blocked all such efforts as "being soft on communism." Nixon was also able to get the Environmental Protection Act passed to create the agency that now rabid neo-conservatives want to destroy and blame Democrats for. Reagan of course was able to "quit and run" in Lebanon (something no Democrat could have done for fear of being seen as weak). Reagan was also able to raise taxes, as was GHW Bush, and so make possible the surpluses under Clinton. LBJ was able to overpower the conservative southern Democrats to get the Civil Rights Bill passed as well as the War on Poverty. I very much doubt if conservative southern democrats would have let Kennedy do that. And as LBJ predicted, it led to the demise of the Democratic Party in the South. 

And yet GW Bush, one of the beneficiaries of the Republican takeover of the conservative South, led the country to its worse recession since the great depression, to two wars, and to a huge deficit mainly by pushing the "ownership society" and deregulation of the financial institutions (started under Clinton); and, instead of raising revenues to pay for the wars and other pet projects, he pushed through huge tax decreases for the wealthy. So instead of using his conservative credentials to seek some balance, as did Nixon, Reagan, and his father before him, he allowed neo-conservatives free reign to destroy the balance before him.

Once the recession hit, Bush used the government, including the 700 billion TARP bailout funds and the central bank, to spend huge amounts on saving financial institutions and their insurers, but again without at all considering the revenue side of the equation. Obama supported this policy to keep from another great depression, then, once president, did push through some regulatory controls, and some investments in old and new industry, but in general has been able to do little to change fundamental inequitable structures as he had promised and we had hoped. Although he did do what was necessary to keep the US from going into a 1930s level depression.  In this atmosphere, when politicians are more concerned with their outmoded beliefs and principles (especially free-market fundamentalism) than the welfare of the nation, it seems unlikely that much will change and more gridlock will occur. There seems to be no leadership strong enough to forge a majoritarian strategy. I doubt Obama can since that is not a priority of the so-called loyal opposition. It only takes 40% to block Senate action.

But to select Romney at this time I think would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.  It might move to some compromise and cooperation in the short term; but it would keep America on the path that has led to the stark divisions in the US and to American decline.  It is strange that as we departed from our vacation in Belize, our driver to the airport saw it this way; but many Americans, whose message has been framed by radio commentators and TV ads, cannot. Republicans say we are waging "class war." Would that we were and the 99% could see it!

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