Several years ago, I had an epiphany: the core of conservatism is identity politics, not ideology or issues. Oh, sure, there are ideological differences between conservatives and liberals, but those differences are substantially smaller than the gaps between who they vote for, as I discussed in my Dec, 2007 diary, “Collapsing The Ideological Overlap: The Gulf Between Issues and Candidates”. But if that’s so, you might ask, why say that it’s conservatives who are responsible for the gap? The reason is simple: conservatives are more likely to hold liberal policy positions and more likely to vote for candidates opposed to what they say they believe…
[Paul shows how in issue after issue, Republicans awkwardly- or not- flip flop heinously in order to oppose Obama]
On issue after issue, Obama naively believed that incorporating GOP ideas into his initial proposals-and systematically excluding ideas strongly supported by his base, so as not to make Republicans mad-was a sure-fired way to foster a spirit of bipartisanship. On issue after issue he was wrong… for a very simple reason: When push comes to shove, conservatives don’t care about policy, they only really care about identity-and winning. Indeed, for conservatives, identity is winning, since conservatism is all about maintaining social hierarchy, elite rule, and conventional morality that keeps the lower orders in line, and virtuous conservatives on top.
For conservatives, a liberal proposing conservative ideas is simply acknowledging the natural order of things-and if he really acknowledges the natural order of things, then he ought to acknowledge that conservatives should be running the show. So, if he doesn’t acknowledge that, then he’s not really serious–indeed, he’s downright deceitful, and everything Glen Beck says is true. He’s really a socialist fascist Nazi out to destroy America.
In psychological terms, it’s very simple: The more he moves towards them, the more he threatens their identities as not-him, and the more hysterically they have to oppose him. It’s a strategy doomed to failure from the start.
This isn’t really that surprising, right? Conservative inconsistency on a host of issues (you want to cut the deficit but want to increase military funding/wars? you want to cut the deficit but want to destroy the most cost-effective measure of reducing health care costs? you are pro-life and pro-war but pro-economy of death?) is pretty well demonstrated, but what’s essential is what drives much of the inconsistency- the absolutely pathological need to oppose one’s enemies, who happen to be remarkably more consistent and reality-based.
This is why (or one reason anyway- that our government is wholly unrepresentative of the people it governs, due to voter disenfranchisement, is another biggy), despite the fact that the welfare state has enormous support across lines of ideological self-identification and spending cuts for social spending are deeply unpopular, deficit hysteria (mostly among the political class, I see few normal people and good economists giving a rats ass about the deficit when we’re in the midst of 10% unemployment and 20% unemployment/underemployment- which beeteedubs, exacerbates long-term deficit) notwithstanding, we see absolute gridlock on jobs and social services, even as huge numbers of Americans suffer under the Conservative nightmare (see also, as well as- you know what, just read this). Conservative politicians misrepresent the actual beliefs of the people they ‘represent’ because they are driven not by actual policy interest, but by narrow self-interest alone.
That’s not to say we’re not driven by it too. We are. I just happen to have a broader view of self-interest in which it’s impossible to hope for security for oneself if others are left in insecurity. That’s just dumb.
But this is why ‘bipartisanship’ as it’s conceived right now is doomed to fail, because bipartisanship is wholly at odds with Conservative ideology- “Fuck you”.