Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Opposition Party

There's been enormous comment about the House Republicans' unanimous vote against the stimulus package. Most of the comment has been about whether or not Obama's promises of "bipartisanship" will yield fruit and whether the Republicans in the House will gain anything from this strategy. But it's hardly a strategy; strategy implies a choice. The House vote is more an expression of the remaining House Republican's basic political nature.

The vote against the stimulus bill is very easy to understand: modern American "conservatism," movement conservatism, has never been a philosophy for governing. It has always been, from its very beginning, fundamentally a philosophy of opposition. Which part of "standing athwart history, shouting 'No!'" sounds like a plan to govern? That the modern Republican party actually became the governing party until recently was only an unfortunate accident, and since they chose not to alter their approach to suit their responsibilities, that accident led to horrible damage.

The partisans who had no interest in governance when they were charged with governing, who are philosophically opposed to the idea of government itself, aren't going to become more pragmatic or responsible now that they have returned to their comfortable, natural role in the opposition. In fact, they've been freed from unwelcome burden of actually compromising their principles with reality. They couldn't be happier. And their playbook is now very short, very simple, and very familiar.

The ideological conservatives not going to cooperate with President Obama's efforts of bipartisanship. They are not going to compromise their principles simply because the nation is facing a crisis, and they are not going to offer realistic solutions to America's problems; all of that is the governing party's problem. It isn't pretty. It isn't healthy. But from this point on, none of it should be a surprise.

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