What’s Wrong With Running a Generic Democratic Campaign? (On the Failure of Utopianism Masquerading as Pragmatism)

Ezra Klein notes the following about the Obama administration’s declaration that it will veto any legislation that cuts Medicare and that doesn’t contain tax hikes on the wealthy (good for them by the way. At least on the tax hikes part):

It was a far cry from the special election in May, when Democrat Kathy Hochul picked up a Republican-leaning seat by hammering her opponent’s support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare-slashing budget.

The White House could have been hammering that message since the day the House Republican Conference passed Ryan’s budget. They didn’t. The truth is, they didn’t want to. The president doesn’t think of himself as that kind of Democrat. He believes that there are sensible cuts that can be made to both Medicare and Social Security. He would like to win by governing effectively, by cutting deals with the other party, by making Washington work. He doesn’t want to run a generic Democratic campaign hammering Republicans for being willing to cut Medicare even as they cut taxes on the rich.

As a generic Democrat myself, I would like it very much if he ran a generic Democratic campaign hammering Republicans for being willing to cut Medicare even as they cut taxes on the rich. Because that’s really bad policy, and people need to know that Republicans want to do that. If you believe that, on occasion, people vote based on policy stands and not cultural tribalism (note: I did say on occasion), then this is precisely what any politician should be doing. And if the price of making ‘Washington work’ is further weakening those who have nothing left to give, then I’ll oppose that too*.

But if Klein is correct about how the Obama administration approaches the ideal political situation, then, despite claims of pragmatism, they are hopelessly utopian and naive.

The Soviets learned this the hard way: there is no New Man. You’re not going to change the way Washington works, until you change the way people work.

That would be a very long term project, to say the least.

We will always have partisan division and rancor. We will always have irreconcilable differences–don’t waste your time committing the Cumbaya Fallacy. If those who oppose you show no inclination to compromise–and conservatives have moved from standing athwart history, yelling, “Stop” to standing on the Overpass of History and lobbing bowling balls into oncoming traffic–then stand up to them.

During the last couple of years, We Dirty Hippies have been accused of being unrealistic, of lacking pragmatism. But we never deluded ourselves into believing that movement conservatives, in whatever guise they travel under, would suddenly change and become better people.

Ersatz pragmatism is nothing more than delusional utopianism. Too many of us had to pay the price for the administration and its cheering section to learn that.

*Can nominal Democrats please stop asking people who are already hanging on by their fingernails to ‘sacrifice’ more? If you’re still tempted, here’s some information for you.

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