Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Moving Targets

Every time we start looking at "Why did Democrats lose?' stories, we have to account for the fact that their policies are generally more popular and Clinton won a shit-ton more votes. Trump's share of the popular vote is roughly the same as Michael Dukakis's.

The other liability the Democrats labor under - and this is perhaps the biggest issue - is that creating policies is harder than attacking them.  Criticism is so much easier than governing.

And there is no better example of this than Obamacare.  As Jon Chait has cataloged for the past seven years, the GOP has been launching attacks against Obamacare that are factually untrue.  When that criticism is proven to be untrue, they simply repeat a slightly different criticism or create an entirely new one.  They constantly create a series of moving targets that are not contingent on ever being right in prior occasions.

In debating Trump with my father - and he's a NeverTrump guy - he has said, why judge him before he does anything.  But the point of judging him before he does things, is to test your hypotheses against future performance.  I believe a trade war with Mexico and China will create massive inflation in consumer goods, while leading to job losses in the short run.  Supply chains will be ruined; markets will be disrupted.  But I'm willing to test that hypothesis against whatever does happen.

Now, Trump being Trump, maybe he never engages in those trade wars, but it does seem to be the one issue he cares about.  Plus, I can predict that the GOP Congress will punch a massive hole in the debt with extraordinarily regressive tax cuts.  Again, if - for the first time ever - supply side economics really does create enough growth to bridge the gaps created by tax cuts, then I will stand corrected.

What I won't do is engage in the constant moving targets exercise that Republicans do constantly.  If the trade war doesn't create inflation in consumer goods, I won't shift my criticism to being that the trade war empowered China.  To be clear, I think the trade war will empower China, and that is another criticism.  But I will own my mistakes when they occur.

That puts me, and other Democrats, at a structural disadvantage in the political arena.  And given the rank ignorance of the body politic, that's an issue.  Trump will tout numbers that are false or misleading and our stupid media will pass those along, saying "opinions differ on whether these numbers are false."

But being the party of grown-ups and being the party of proper governance comes with a burden.  The question is how we transfer that weakness into a strength working within a system that doesn't care about truth.

Any suggestions?

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