E.J. Dionne has a nice piece today about the GOP’s inconsistency, perhaps hypocrisy.
Many tragic ironies are bubbling to the surface along with the oil. Consider the situation of Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a Republican conservative who devoutly opposes the exertions of big government.
"The strength of America is not found in our government," Jindal declared in his response to President Obama’s February 2009 address to Congress. "It is found in the compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens."
But with his state facing an environmental disaster of unknown proportions, Jindal is looking for a little strength from Washington. His beef is that the federal government isn’t doing enough to help. "It is clear we don’t have the resources we need to protect our coast," he said this week, expressing his frustrations with "the disjointed effort to date that has too often meant too little, too late."
You can’t blame Jindal for being mad. But will he ever acknowledge that "compassionate hearts" were not sufficient for coping with this catastrophe? Did he ever ask BP how prepared it was for something like this? Or was he just counting on the company’s "enterprising spirit"?
A few weeks ago, I responded to a commenter on my News Commonsense blog who argued that the oil spill is Obama’s Katrina. I asked, “Is your complaint that Obama didn’t wait long enough to let market forces work?” There are plenty of other examples of the GOP’s forked tongue.
One is happening in my neighborhood where I have commented on our listserve about how the same neighbors who complain about local government’s lack of services or laud its quick response to a crisis are sometimes the very same people who make general and often vague criticisms about big government.
Meanwhile, I’m reading The Political Brain by Drew Westen, a 2007 book that argues for a more passionate and articulate defense of progressive principals. Early in the book he cites the Democrats’ tendency to shy away from emotional arguments in favor of rational ones, which frequently results in their trying to decipher voters’ policy choices and then couching their arguments in those terms. Which voters then see as pandering and a lack of core principles. He also argues that if an articulation of core principles doesn’t alienate 30 percent of the population, the message is weak. A third of the voters will never be with you and trying to appeal to them with a universal message is doomed to failure.
The “government is the problem” started by Ronald Reagan can and should be forcefully countered. I hope Westen’s book lays out a clear roadmap. I’ll let you know, but in the meantime, let’s hope more progressives start fighting back as Dionne is doing today.