In a recent article for The New York Times article, reprinted in today’s edition of the Guardian the Nobel Prizewinning economist Paul Krugman agues that the “guiding principle of one of our nation’s two great political parties” – the Republican party – “is spite, pure and simple”.
There was what President Obama likes to call a teachable moment last week, when the International Olympic Committee rejected Chicago’s bid to be host of the 2016 summer games.
“Cheers erupted” at the headquarters of the conservative Weekly Standard, according to a blogpost by a member of the magazine’s staff, with the headline “Obama loses! Obama loses!”. Rush Limbaugh declared himself “gleeful”. “World Rejects Obama,” gloated the Drudge Report. And so on……………..
If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they’re against it whether or not it’s good for America.
To be sure, while celebrating America’s rebuff by the Olympic committee was puerile, it didn’t do any real harm. But the same principle of spite has determined Republican positions on more serious matters, with potentially serious consequences in particular, in the debate over healthcare reform.
Now, it’s understandable that many Republicans oppose Democratic plans to extend insurance coverage just as most Democrats opposed President Bush’s attempt to convert social security into a sort of giant 401(k). The two parties do, after all, have different philosophies about the appropriate role of government.
But the tactics of the two parties have been different. In 2005, when Democrats campaigned against social security privatisation, their arguments were consistent with their underlying ideology: they argued that replacing guaranteed benefits with private accounts would expose retirees to too much risk.
The Republican campaign against healthcare reform, by contrast, has shown no such consistency. For the main line of attack is the claim based mainly on lies about death panels and so on that reform will undermine Medicare. And this line of attack is utterly at odds both with the party’s traditions and with what conservatives claim to believe…………………
It’s difficult to read much more of this without asking onself whether or not there can be grown-up political debate in a country like this.