>> Thursday, August 7, 2008
The debate about the effectiveness of Barack Obama’s proposal that we all perform routine auto maintenance was considered by many on the left to be somewhat of a farce. Everything pointed to Obama being correct that that action, performed by enough people, would be more effective than off shore drilling. In contrast, the GOP thought that they saw a potential opportunity here. In fact, they were so excited that many on the left were left perplexed as to why. They were wrong, all the evidence said so. To understand why the GOP thought they had a winner requires that one change your entire world view and think like a Republican. Step one, assume the American people are either stupid or lazy or both.
Stupid and lazy do not necessarily have to go together, but they often seem to. Republicans have made a living since Nixon feeding the American people the easy solution and Americans have been too lazy to question that solution. What the easy solution usually is, is a new technology or decisive action. A one shot breakthrough that solves the problem or greatly reduces it. What makes it easy is not that it is easy to think these up (its actually really hard to find a successful one) but that it requires little or no work on the part of the public at large. The American public has no responsibility to do anything to treat the problem others will do it for them.
The idea that the solutions to our problems comes in single leaps and bounds made by people other than us has taken a deep root. The root is so deep that people feel like they have no ability to influence big problems because the answer is too complex, too big, too hard. Republicans exploit this feeling whenever possible. The situation is so great, they claim, that they need more power, more tools, more leeway to deal with those problems. Their proposed solution using these tools is always a straight cause and effect chain. Easy to understand and horribly oversimplified their solutions are always clean and neat tied up with a bow. Combine the desire to exploit laziness with the need for easily understood yet sexy, flashy, decisive, action and you have the foundation for the GOP. That combination is why the love supply-side solutions.
Think about the way the GOP deals with issues like the War on Drugs. They spray the fields of
The first good thing about off shore drilling from a GOP viewpoint is that it is supported by a vast majority of Americans who don’t seem to really understand it. A combined 83% of Americans believe “federal laws that prohibit increased drilling for oil offshore or in wilderness areas” are contributing to high gas prices. A combined 69% support “increased offshore drilling”. The second thing that the GOP loves is that it is a simple supply side solution. Need more oil? Let us just go drill for some more. This is not something the average person can do. It is a solution out of their hands and it requires that they let the GOP do what is wants to get it done. It seems like a big action in keeping with what people expect solutions to be. Third, it lets their friends and contributors make money. Always a hallmark of GOP policy, the potential use of the public resources to increase the wealth of a few private citizens is present. The expansion of power, cheap political points, making money, it is the perfect solution from a GOP point of view.
The fact that off shore drilling is so perfect, from the GOP point of view, means that attempts to discredit it as a viable solution become about more than just the one policy. That attack is a threat to the entire GOP way of life. Showing that the simple act of properly inflating your tires does more to solve the problem than the big sexy solution makes the GOP uncomfortable. The best hope for the GOP is to destroy the idea before it can take hold. Treating it as a stupid and inadequate solution is how they chose to go about doing that. Creating the meme that Obama proposed inadequate solutions to big problems is a benefit if it works. It reinforces the lightweight attack and could become something on par with Al Gore the exaggerator. Obama not big enough for the challenge.
It is also important to note that energy policy was not the main policy argument of the Democratic Primary. this means that the Dems did not saturate the country with their energy plans and claim that as a primary issue for the election. Towards the end of the primary there was a brief fight over the Gas Tax Holiday but to many it was clear that Clinton had lost and the campaign had already moved beyond real policy debate between the two camps. The Dems spent 15 minutes debating whether the health care plans should contain a mandate or not during a debate in the primary and we have not heard a peep about it since. The relative silence on energy issues has left the Republicans a small opportunity to claim a domestic issue. It appears it is an opportunity they could not seize.
Notice I never mentioned that the GOP thought off shore drilling was a real solution, only the best political one. Steve Benen summarizes nicely why this is
I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday about all of this, and he said I was overly concerned with facts and truths. Republicans win elections because they don’t care — in a case like this, the only thing anyone will remember is the stunt/prop, not the fact that they were blatantly lying and blatantly wrong.
That may very well be. Indeed, it probably points to a vicious cycle — Republicans make up a lie. We point out how insane the lie is, and feel better about being smarter than Republicans. Voters, not knowing better, believe the lie. Satisfied with the reward, Republicans feel encouraged to make up a new lie, which again leads us to point out how insane the lie is….
Obama’s proposal is also indicative of the liberal world view in general. Complex solutions designed to solve complex problems. Liberal solutions are not made up of one component but many that, taken as a whole, do a credible job of solving issues. Think about the way democrats have been criticized for campaigning. They are notorious for presenting ten point plans and policy papers long on detail and short on sexy. The best term is U.B.E., ugly but effective. The plans would have positive impacts but lack sex appeal. If Americans actually start to realize that the liberal way of doing things works, not so sexy and much more complex, then the GOP is screwed. It will not be easy to accomplish this and the liberal success in the Tire Inflation Debate is only a start. The GOP thought they had a winner in the off shore-drilling stunt, the fact that such a seemingly perfect political opportunity went awry will only make them more desperate. Its hard to believe that something that seemed so stupid was actually a victory for the liberal world view.