Posts Tagged ‘blame’

On Bias and Keeping Score

October 3, 2013 Leave a comment

There’s a popular refrain about what’s wrong with the world today that involves giving trophies to everyone just for participating and not keeping score during sports or other competitions. The story goes that liberal touchy-feely types are so worried about hurting their children’s self-esteem that they are instead sheltering those children from the realities of competition, failure, and the lessons of bouncing back from adversity. I’m inclined to agree.

But while keeping score in children’s athletics is wildly popular among conservatives and moderates, I’ve learned that those same rules do not apply to political commentary. Since writing “On the Shutdown Blame Game” yesterday morning in which I placed the full blame for the shutdown on House Republicans, I have been routinely and incessantly accused of having a liberal bias. Apparently, unlike kids playing sports, the right-leaning in this country do not appreciate keeping score in politics. The only acceptable answer is that everyone is to blame. Picking winners and losers; placing blame on one side or the other; these are unacceptable atrocities that can only serve to reveal your true inner bias.

Now, it’s true that there are often times that I espouse a point of view with which very few conservatives or Republicans would agree. Sure, I can often find an Andrew Sullivan, David Brooks, or a Bruce Bartlett to back my logic, but many (most?) on the right consider these men RINOs–not true believers in the cause (which in and of itself might be worth a whole post). Their backing provides no credibility with the right. These are the times that I expect to be accused of liberal bias, even when I feel I am simply conveying the facts as I see them.

I probably could have tried to dissuade people accusing me of bias by pointing them toward the time I wrote that passing health care instead of a jobs bill was President Obama’s biggest mistake and agreed that he leads from behind; or about how pushing everyone to go to college was misguided; or about how wrong-headed I thought the liberal-led anti-bullying campaign is; or wrote that labor unions continue to prioritize short-term gains over the long-term health of the industry in which their members work; or about how useless the focus on “fairness” is and how the word itself is all but meaningless. But I didn’t feel the need to do all of that. I decided I could look elsewhere for my defense.

In the case of the government shutdown, my opinion is simply this: The House Republicans embarked on an ill-advised journey toward certain defeat in a move that could only result in a shutdown, and that Republicans are the ones who are best able and most likely to re-open the government based on the realities of vote counts. It was easy to find agreement in the Washington Post, The Guardian, and a lovely media critique in Al Jazeera. But this straight-forward view can still easily be seen as one-sided if only the “liberal media” backs it.

If my viewpoint constitutes liberal bias, however, then Karl Rove has a liberal bias. John McCain has a liberal bias. A handful of House Republicans such as Devin Nunes, Michael Grimm, and Peter King have a liberal bias. Republican Senators Orin Hatch and Richard Burr have a liberal bias. Honestly, the list is huge. I can’t even begin to include all of the Republicans who have spoken out against the logic and chances of success for the current House Republican tactics. When party leadership is doing the right thing, groups of party members usually don’t attempt to plan a revolt by siding with the other party.

You see, a liberal point of view is unlikely to be replicated by elected Republicans and prominent republican commentators. In fact, the main bias involved in the reporting of this story comes from the people that are trying to claim that “everyone is to blame.” Those are the people who are getting more spin than substance; who are taking media sources at face value; who are buying all the mutual finger pointing on C-SPAN.

Blaming both sides is the lazy way out. It allows you to have an opinion and share outrage without having followed the story or understanding the appropriations process until it all hit the front page. But the fact is that Republicans generally don’t, en mass, endorse a “liberal” point of view. But here so many are. Be honest with yourselves; keep score. The House Republicans messed this one up. They shouldn’t get a trophy just for participating.

Examples of Liberal Bias:

  • Getting angry about George W. Bush’s NSA wiretapping scandal and defending Obama’s NSA metadata scandal
  • Only getting your news from MSNBC, Mother Jones, and Huffington Post
  • Insisting with certainty that Obamacare will work as planned/intended when it’s success level depends on unpredictable human behavior
  • Ignoring the perverse incentives present in some aspects of Obamacare
  • Thinking that George W. Bush should be jailed as a war criminal and Obama’s drone strikes are just fine
  • Agreeing with that old Occupy Wall Street list of demands

Examples of what ISN’T a liberal bias

  • Agreeing with a huge number of Republicans and conservatives on any issue, even if that issue is that House Republicans are to blame for a given predicament.

On the Shutdown Blame Game

October 1, 2013 2 comments

If your social media experience today is anything like mine, you have some conservative or right-leaning friends crying “a pox on both your houses,” while your liberal or left-leaning friends are chanting “Down with the GOP!” Some could interpret this to mean that right-leaning friends are more fair, clear-eyed, and rational about the situation while left-leaning friends are being partisan nincompoops. In many situations, that could easily be the case. However, in this specific scenario, it’s simply that this whole shutdown is entirely the House Republicans’ fault. Let me explain the many reasons why this is true.

(For ease of writing, I’m going to refer to Republicans and Democrats instead of specifying “a large block of House Republicans including their leadership,” or “the Democrats in the Senate.”)

Play the Cards You Have

This is a fairly simple concept. How realistic is it for each side to secure that for which they are asking? Back when poker was a big television event, viewers always had the luxury of knowing which cards each player held. Well, in this situation the Republicans are waiting on a flush draw and the Democrats already have a full house. The only way Republicans can win is to convince the Democrats to fold a superior hand. I’m talking about vote counts. The House Republicans continually pass bills which have no chance of winning a majority in the Senate, where there are 54 Democrats who support Obamacare. Meanwhile, multiple reports have indicated that there are enough Republicans in the House who would vote for a “clean” continuing resolution that a vote would pass.

So the Republicans keep passing bills that will not pass the Senate. And the Democrats keep passing bills that will pass the House. All they have to do is put it up for a vote. The Democrats’ plan has the support of the majority in both chambers of congress. Clearly, on “winability,” it’s advantage Democrats.

The Electoral High Ground

There was an exchange just before midnight during the Ted Cruz non-filibuster in which Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia conceded that Sen. Cruz was elected by a wide margin in both the primary and the general election on a clearly-stated opposition to Obamacare, and thus felt legitimately honor-bound to fight for its removal. Sen. Kaine then went on to explain that other representatives were equally honor-bound to do the opposite, and there were more of them.

You see, in the 2012 election, Obamacare was a pretty front-and-center issue. Yes, the economy was on everyone’s mind when they took to the ballots, but the outcome of Obamacare was clearly known to be a consequence of this election. The results were that Democrats received more votes for the Presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. They picked up seats in both chambers, expanding the Senate majority and narrowing the gap in the House. The American people weighed in, and the Democrats got more votes. The Republicans were able to maintain the House majority only due to a combination of geographic realities and some gerrymandering (more the former than the latter; sorry liberals). But the conclusion remains that more voters cast votes for representatives promising to uphold the law than to repeal it.

Moral High Ground

You’ll notice, thus far, that I have not made any arguments about the merits of Obamacare itself. That’s because I find them irrelevant to the issue of a shutdown. There have been numerous government shutdowns in the past, and while a handful centered on abortion issues, the vast majority of the times that the government couldn’t agree to funding levels before a deadline passed occurred because the government couldn’t agree on funding levels. This is a budgetary debate. There are many, many things that take place within the government with which I do not agree. I don’t think that there is a single one that I find worth failing to meet the obligations of elected office, governing, and funding that government. I think that to inflict real harm on the nation’s economy and several hundred thousand federal employees over an ideological agenda is simply wrong.

Survey Says

One point often made is that the American people are against Obamacare and therefore the Democrats should listen to them and give ground. While this flies in the face of election results, polling data speaks fairly clearly. However, very few of those polls ask the proper follow-up question. The CNN Poll does. When asked whether they disapprove of Obamacare because it is too liberal or not liberal enough, a solid 11% of the respondents say they disapprove because it’s not liberal enough (that’s 11% of the total population, not 11% of those who disapprove). Suddenly, those election results make a lot more sense, don’t they? If you assume that those who disapprove of Obamacare because it is not liberal enough are more likely to back a Democratic agenda, then suddenly the 10-12 point majority opposing the bill swings the opposite direction.

On top of that, every single poll out there indicates that shutting down the government is wildly unpopular under any circumstances, for any reason. So on the health care bill, the public is siding less with Republicans than Republicans seem to think, and on shutting down the government the public is adamantly opposed to the Republican tactics. Make DC Listen!

Negotiation 101

The Republicans are reprimanding Democrats for not negotiating. “The President will negotiate with [insert terrorists, Iran, Russia, etc] but he won’t negotiate with Republican leaders,” they cry! Well, let’s look at where both parties stand.

Democrats want: To fund the government (at previous levels)

Republicans want: To fund the government (at previous levels) and to delay/defund/weaken/cripple Obamacare.

So let me get this straight. You want to negotiate when only one side has any demands? Funding the government is good for everyone. Not funding the government is bad for everyone. The Republicans are not offering any concessions. They are simply offering fewer demands each time and calling it compromise, but they are still the only one with demands.

And guess what. Time just ran out. People today will begin enrolling in Obamacare. The default position wins the day. When one side is asking for major changes, and the other side is asking for, well, nothing, it’s tough to negotiate.


Okay. Let’s say the Democrats go along with this and delay key aspects of Obamacare for a year. They won’t, but let’s say that they do. Now, a year goes by. A legislative body has to enact a new spending bill to keep the government open, and Obamacare is about to go into effect. The House has voted approximately 40 times to repeal this law, so the odds are that a simple delay is not their end game. What is to stop Republicans from, once again, taking a stand against the bill and holding the operational purse strings of the federal government for ransom? Nothing. There is nothing stopping them from using what leverage they have over federal funding to continue to attempt to derail this law. And if they succeed using this tactic once, why on earth would they not try it again in a year?

Wrapping Up

In closing, the Democrats have a more-achievable position; they have passed a funding bill which has the support of a majority in both chambers of congress; they have electoral results on their side; they have polling data on their side; and they have a stronger negotiating position. The only way this works out for Republicans is if the Democrats fold a winning hand. I don’t see any rational justification for them to do so. Hopefully, we remember these lessons in November 2014.