Power PoliticsI had a thought tonight about how Republicans see their position. The Republican focus is on ideology. It's strange, but if you look closely, they are united in a weird kind of thinking that is based on the idea that how things are is almost perfect. From this we get the libertarian talk that keeps the economy stagnant and the Christian talk that keeps social power stagnant. I'm not sure that most Republicans realize this, but this is how you get a party that draws together a religion founded on a guy who didn't like the rich with a religion that worships the rich.

Democrats have been ideological in the past, but they are a very practical group now. But even at their most ideological, Democrats always depended upon results. We could certainly quibble about the social policy, but when it comes to economics, there is no question: Democrats favor policies that work. There is no doubt in my mind that if Ted Kennedy had not gotten sick and died, we would have got a second stimulus and that the economy would be far better today. (It might even have been far better in 2010 and would have prevented the Republicans retaking the House and so many state legislatures.)

Earlier today, I saw Rand Paul saying that the Republicans should allow the Democrats to have their tax increase. He said that way, they would own it and when the economy goes to hell, the American people would know who to blame. But if Republicans really believed that, they would have done it before. They would have allowed the Democrats to dig their own grave. But they haven't and they won't.

The fact that Democratic policies work scares the hell out of Republicans. They know they can't just let Democrats have their way because if they do, it will be a long time before they are back in power. So they stop the Democrats from doing anything—even things they would normally agree with. We've seen this for the last four years, and not just from politicians. Many conservative economists have made the argument against stimulus even as they had argued for it when Republicans were in power. And this is not a case of changing their minds. We know this because recently (when they thought Romney was going to win) they backtracked.

What's more, every liberal I know hates conservative economic policy because it is bad for the country. But they take a certain amount of solace from political defeat knowing that before long the Republicans will screw up the economy and give it back to Democrats. This is the opposite of what educated conservatives worry about. And so they have no choice but to oppose everything Democratic administrations want to do.

Afterword

This all makes me wonder about something. If conservatives really do know that their policies don't work as advertised, why don't they change sides? I have a few thoughts. First, I think that conservatives see politics as nothing other than a power struggle. They want to keep their power. Second, they see success differently than the rest of society (and frankly the rest of Republican voters). Success is making the rich even richer, it is not making the people generally richer. Either way, I don't know how they live with themselves.