September 22, 2013

"They want power to cut taxes, eliminate regulations, take government down except for what they like."

That's Bill Clinton, criticizing Republicans, and — accidentally — describing what should happen in American democracy.

Take government down sounds destructive, but when you add except for what they like, the alarmism dissipates. Why shouldn't we always, in a democracy, be figuring out what we like and withdrawing our support for everything else? Otherwise, the idea would need to be that we must always retain everything that we already have, because we already have it. That seems to be a definition of conservativism.

In context, Clinton's remark is about how difficult it is for liberals who must add new things for government to do. That's hard, he's saying, when the conservatives are trying to subtract. Then the liberals have to expend effort trying to preserve all the things government has already gotten involved in, when it would be so much nicer to talk to people about the next thing government could do.

27 comments:

Drago said...

Shorter Clinton: It's terrible when the unwashed masses want to reclaim power over their "betters".

somefeller said...

Conservatives don't want to subtract government in general. As their record has shown, they are quite happy with big government that works for their constituencies, like protecting farm subsidies, making sure defense contractors are well-fed and of course doing what they can to hassle GLBT people and other minorities when the opportunity arises. Plus, they want to make sure the Feds keep their dang gubmint hands off of their Medicare.

Ann Althouse said...

"Conservatives don't want to subtract government in general. As their record has shown..."

You've chosen your set of people to put under the label "conservatives," which is, as you continue, the basis for your argument that these people are not "conservatives."

That strikes me as incoherent.

Clinton is purporting to describe members of the Republican Party. It is a knowable fact who's a Republican.

You're introducing a term and assuming a definition. That is, you're making an argument without a foundation.

As a criticism of establishment Republicans, what you say is fine.

But let's separately have the conversation about what is conservative.

Ann Althouse said...

That may sound pedantic, but it's really very pragmatically political.

The Republicans who actually have roles on the public stage are (mostly) not very appealing characters. Who wants to be one of them?

But "conservative" could mean something that a modern, intelligent, informed American might want to be. It's important to get to that, unless you love the idea of Democrats running things (in which case merging "conservative" with the Republicans on the scene today is an good strategy).

Sam L. said...

Mah pore heyart just buhleeds fer 'im.

somefeller said...

Conservative is as conservative does. Let's look at the political record of people who call themselves conservatives or who are voted into office by people who call themselves conservatives and judge accordingly. To do otherwise is naive. We're talking about a political movement, not a literary genre.

If conservatives want to claim that true conservatism has never been tried and that the people have failed the movement (where have I heard that before?), that's their prerogative. That doesn't mean I have to take their rhetoric seriously.

betamax3000 said...

Re: "Otherwise, the idea would need to be that we must always retain everything that we already have, because we already have it. That seems to be a definition of conservativism."

Viewed Through the Prism of "Logan's Run" This Presents a Conservative Quandary. The World of This Future Seems To Be What We Would Currently View as Progressive:

• Everyone Uses High-Speed Rail to Get Everywhere.

• No Discernible Class Distinctions: Everyone Seems to Work According to his Ability, Receiving According to his Need.

• Euthanasia is Accepted and Encouraged, if By Encouraged You Also Mean Government Enforced.

• There Is No Slut-Shaming.

• Living in Domes Probably Ameliorates Global Warming, Maybe.

Thus, A Conservative in This Context Would Want "retain everything that we already have, because we already have it."

Maybe Smaller Government Might Be a Better Way to Go.

As an Aside, The Above Thinking Would Mean That in the Context of "The Planet of the Apes" a Conservative Would Want to Retain the Status Quo of Ape Superiority.

Of Course, the Gorilla / Orangutan / Chimpanzee Tribal Thinking in the Film Exhibited a Subtext of the Political Spectrum and Group Dynamics. Still: No Civil Rights for Humans.

The Seventies are Coming.

Conservatism, Then: Keep Your Paws Off Me, You Damned Dirty Government.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Conservative is as conservative does.

All right then. What are conservatives actually doing to further this unspecified governmental hassling of GLBT people and other minorities?

Paul Zrimsek said...

For that matter, what are liberals actually doing to attack farm subsidies and starve defense contractors? It's certainly not a conservative who's been firing off all those expensive drones!

Real American said...

"They want power to raise taxes, increase regulations, build government up except for what they don't like [the military]."

/fixed

cubanbob said...

somefeller said...
Conservatives don't want to subtract government in general. As their record has shown, they are quite happy with big government that works for their constituencies, like protecting farm subsidies, making sure defense contractors are well-fed and of course doing what they can to hassle GLBT people and other minorities when the opportunity arises. Plus, they want to make sure the Feds keep their dang gubmint hands off of their Medicare.

9/22/13, 9:36 AM

I'm not in favor of subsidies but if we are going to have them better to have too much food and a extra-capable military rather than welfare slugs and lefty NGO slugs.

cubanbob said...

Ann Althouse said...
That may sound pedantic, but it's really very pragmatically political.

The Republicans who actually have roles on the public stage are (mostly) not very appealing characters. Who wants to be one of them?

But "conservative" could mean something that a modern, intelligent, informed American might want to be. It's important to get to that, unless you love the idea of Democrats running things (in which case merging "conservative" with the Republicans on the scene today is an good strategy).

9/22/13, 9:44 AM

What you are referring to is the genuine grassroots movement maligned by the left-The TEA Party. Which is no friend of the Beltway Republicans.

Edward Lunny said...

Well, gee, there slick, maybe those of us whom are responsible, who work, earn, and pay our way. Are tired of moral-less asshats like yourself stealing that for which we have worked and earned so that you can use it to buy the votes of a bunch of lazy, shiftless airwasters all while you line your pockets , your wife's pockets, and those of your friends while ignoring all of those same regulations and laws.
We are tired of unethical idiots like you and your wife excusing yourselves and blaming others for the deaths of others that you and she are directly responsible for. Again, disregarding those laws and regulations you purport to be so concerned about.
When you use the government to excuse and exclude yourself from responsibility, the government is worthless.
So, slick, bugger off and take the ignorant cow you married with you.

Hagar said...

I am a bit confused by "somefeller's" arguments. I thought farm subsidies were s staple of Democrat policies going back to FDR, and are supposed to protect and preserve the small farmers and "family farms?
(Have not quite turned out that way, but then what Democrat policies have ever turned out to do what was promised?)

And defense contractors (General Electric, General Motors, General Dynamics, and on and on) are all unionized aren't they? And their unions lobby heavily to ensure that they are indeed "fell fed"?

chuck said...

Bill Clinton did find a new thing for government to do: cause housing bubbles. That was a bit of genius, it got Obama elected and allowed him to run up the debt and strangle the economy with pettifogging regulations. Let's hear it for Clinton.

David said...

In present day America, the left is the reactionary party (nothing must change) and the right is the radical party (we need to pull everything down and start over).

Big Mike said...

Wild Willy Clinton has perfectly described the Democrat party. Always looking for the next thing to pass, never concerned about the impacts of what they have already passed. Never concerned whether a program has outlived its usefulness and needs to be cancelled or refocused. Never concerned about whether a program like ethanol in gasoline leaves poor people malnourished.

It must be fun to be a liberal. All shiny new things all the time. Never any effort put into actually making things work for the citizenry, only showy new legislation for the limousine liberals of San Francisco, Madison, and the Upper West Side to go "ooh" and "ah" over.

When things get bad enough the citizens elect the "Daddy Party" to come in and fix things -- the election of Reagan, the election of Dubya, and the election of Scott Walker in Wisconsin -- and the liberals spend eight years or so fussing about how unfair it all is.

Steven said...

You know, if there was any Republican presidency in history that resulted in fewer pages of final regulations in the Federal Register, I might believe all the "eliminate regulations" talk. As it is, all the talk seems merely to be a deliberate lie by both halves of the ruling duopoly intended merely to distract the American people from reality.

gk1 said...

Its funny to me the democrats have had the run of the board since 2009 and things are becoming worse economically, yet they think they have earned the right to keep their policies in place. Like the Brezhnev doctrine, they think it outrageous that there would ever be a roll back of any kind.

Hagar said...

Liberal is as liberal does. Let's look at the political record of people who call themselves liberals or who are voted into office by people who call themselves liberals and judge accordingly. To do otherwise is naive. We're talking about a political movement, not a literary genre.

(How do you do "strikethrough" on this blog?)

Unknown said...

Let's look at the political record of people who call themselves conservatives or who are voted into office by people who call themselves conservatives and judge accordingly

Scott Walker. Reduced government spending. Reduced government regulations.

Rick Perry. Reduced government spending. Grew the economy via being business friendly.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Let's be clear. There are TWO (at least) spectra to which the labels "Liberal" and "Conservative" are applied: fiscal issues and personal freedom/responsibility.

The <a href="http://www.nolanchart.com/survey.php>Nolan Chart<'a> will clarify.

The Republican Party of the late 20th Century is "Conservative" on both axes.

The Democratic Party of the late 20th Century is "Liberal" on both axes.

The Libertarian Party favors government which is fiscally conservative (balanced budget) but socially liberal (less government involvement in personal issues).

somefeller said...

Rick Perry. Reduced government spending. Grew the economy via being business friendly.

Laughable example. Just Google terms like Texas Enterprise Fund to see how small-government he is. Texas has always been business-friendly regardless of party) note that Houston and Austin are Democratic cities and both have boomed during the past decade) and it doesn't take a a lot of effort to have prosperity in a state that sits atop a lot of oil and gas during the past decade. But yes, Tea Party conservatives in Texas have sought to undermine state infrastructure and education investments, though the business community has been somewhat able to stop them.

Actually, Rick Perry is the very model of a modern major-conservative. He's a cronyist, anti-intellectual, gay-baiting lout who won't be missed when he leaves office, except by those who made a profit from his administration.

The Godfather said...

I have to take issue with your statement, Prof. Althouse, that "Republicans who actually have roles on the public stage are (mostly) not very appealing characters." Not that I want to defend the "appeal" of Republican officeholders; God forbid! Only that the same thing can be said, with equal truth, about Democrats who actually have roles on the public stage. Chuck Shumer, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, etc., etc., etc. Not a very appealing crowd.

I don't think the lack of appeal is a partisan characteristic. I think it's the nature of people who go into politics as a profession in our society. Obviously other societies attracted different kinds of people into politics: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. We can't change that (we get the occasional Eisenhower or Reagan, but they seem to be flukes). So what we need to do is accept that we will be governed by second-raters and put them on a short leash. That's the conservative position. I support the Republican party because they are less likely than the Democrats to turn the government off the leash -- not because the Republican politicians are better people.

Kirk Parker said...

"In context, Clinton's remark is about how difficult it is for liberals who must add new things for government to do."

Oh, if only that were true! Instead, the last half-century clearly demonstrates that one reliable road to political success is to promise the voters free sh*t at someone else's expense.

Andy Freeman said...

> it doesn't take a a lot of effort to have prosperity in a state that sits atop a lot of oil and gas during the past decade.

You mean like CA, which has more proven reserves plus a far more favorable environment for agriculture?

Yes, CA has more oil and gas (Monterey formation alone, much of which can be drilled on-shore), but we're not doing anything with it.

Of course, CA isn't shutting down its agriculture sector - it has outsourced that to the feds, driven mostly by CA's representatives.

jamescbennett said...

"CA isn't shutting down its agriculture sector"

You obviously haven't driven through the central valley recently. It's like the dust bowl since sacramento shut off the water.