Sunday, December 05, 2004

Political Mischief
I was thinking this morning about what the Republicans might do if they found themselves in the position the Democrats now face: out of power, totally marginalized in terms of federal policymaking, utterly detested by a large segment of the electorate and the media. The answer, of course: mischief!

I don't just mean TP'ing the Senate majority leader's office, replacing the donuts in the Repub House caucus with Play-Doh, or that kind of thing: I mean taking the policies and worldview of the majority to their logical conclusions through legislative proposals, and forcing them into choices between hypocrisy and irrationality.

Example: One of the preferred Republican rationales for their tax cuts is the simple and politically effective slogan, "It's Your Money." Indeed--so why not give taxpayers some "ownership" of what their government does by letting them choose what their tax dollars can and can't be spent on?

Yes, there are all sorts of administrative nightmares involved in this, and it's probably unworkable in practice. But wouldn't it be nice to see the other side have to resort to the process argument for a change? It would also probably appeal to a lot of right-wing voters who could explicitly forbid their taxes to go toward abortion, stem-cell research, foreign aid... or corporate welfare. And of course it empowers the "Blue states" that pay more into the federal till than we get back in services. Done right, this could be one of the few levers of control available to us.

Newt Gingrich's movement came to power with pranks of this stripe. The press loved the unconventional thinking, and they didn't really pay a price for their failure to pass any significant reforms. With the country likely to go to hell anyway over the next few years, we may as well have some fun watching the bad guys sweat a little.

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