In Criticizing Republicans, Careful Not to Boost Democrats

In a Ricochet blog entitled Obama Labels Others With His Own Traits, I said:

Throughout his first term, Obama decried GOP “budget games,” “obstructionism” and unwillingness to “compromise,” at the same time insisting that it was Republicans, not he, who engaged in “blaming and finger-pointing.” He stigmatized “Republicans in Congress” as obstinate do-nothings at the very time he was: campaigning around the country instead of governing; giving hyper-partisan fundraising speeches; and refusing to submit a real budget or to meet with Republicans in the attempt to forge a budget.

Moreover, he continuously caricatured Republicans as ideologically extreme. At a 2011 Town hall Meeting at Facebook headquarters, he said, “I think it’s fair to say their vision is radical.” A year later, Obama was hammering the same theme, saying that the Republican budget plan represented “an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country.” Almost everyone in the media bought Obama’s line. …. It is thus that the national discussion of the budget (and of countless other issues) is preposterous to the point of being surreal.

Today, Republicans in Congress are again bearing the brunt of the blame, even though it is the Obama team that upped the ante, rejecting their own former taxing and spending goals for even bigger ones, and using the post-election budget process to further demonize and humiliate Republicans. Democrats and their media friends claim that an agreement could have been reached sooner were it not for GOP extremism. Conservatives, for their part, express disgust with the way Republicans caved in to Democratic demands. 

Here’s the problem: How do we criticize Republicans for not holding out for a better budget without playing into the hands of liberals who themselves blame Republicans for everything that went wrong? How do we avoid abetting Democrats’ opportunistic play for consolidated power and bigger government, as they cleverly claim that if it weren’t for “divided government,” (by which they really mean checks and balances, the separation of powers, and two-party rule) – the budget process wouldn’t have been so painful? How do we get the truth out about Democratic obstructionism and extremism? Here are a couple of my suggestions (I look forward to yours):

—For every petition you sign urging Republicans to hold the line on reckless spending, lending and borrowing, send a letter, fax or e-mail to Democrats letting them know you know the truth about their objectives and tactics. (See, for example, When Big Deficits Became Good by Victor Davis Hanson.)

—Object (write, call, whatever) when “news” sources mimic absurd Democratic Party lines about the budget — for example, that a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction is one that hikes taxes and revenues as a prerequisite for reducing spending. (See , for example, Charles Krauthammer’s piece, It’s Nothing But a Power Play.)

–Refuse to play into liberal mantras by condemning all congressional Republicans. I personally believe, for example, that Mitch McConnell received more of the blame than he deserved. (See Arnie Parnes’s Obama Says Pressure is on Congress/ Blames GOP as Fiscal Deadline Nears for a reminder of the kind of pressure exerted on McConnell, and how our own criticism might assist Obama’s campaign to mold public opinion. See John C. Goodman’s What’s Wrong With the GOP? for a look at some of the complexities bedeviling our national discussion of the budget process. )

One of our conservative challenges is the threatening expansion of governmental power. Another is the expanding public acceptance of ideas that simply are not true. We should spend at least as much time pressing reason into our national debates as we do expressing frustration with “Republicans in Congress.”