Bruce Bartlett on black voters

I just posted an item on Bruce Bartlett‘s essay on his exile from the Republican party. But there’s one section of his piece in the American Conservative that at best is naive and at worse is disingenuous.

Among the ideas he emphasizes to save the GOP from its lemming-like march over the cliff (not just the fiscal one): Have today’s Republicans appeal to the black community.

The best way to get Republicans to read a book about reaching out for the black vote, I thought, was to detail the Democratic Party’s long history of maltreatment of blacks. After all, the party was based in the South for 100 years after the war, and all of the ugly racism we associate with that region was enacted and enforced by Democratic politicians. …

I thought knowing the Democratic Party’s pre-1964 history of racism, which is indisputable, would give Republicans a story to tell when they went before black groups to solicit votes. I thought it would also make Republicans more sympathetic to the problems of the black community, many of which are historical in their origins.

How do I break this to him?

Yes, the pre-1964 Democratic Party was full of racists. Republicans were far more tolerant. Democratic congressmen from the South were the among the vilest bigots on the planet, and Republicans were hated in that region because of Abraham Lincoln’s Northern War of Aggression (Yeah, that’s what they call it down there, and they still hold a grudge).

But in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat and a Texan, got the Civil Rights Act through Congress. It passed because of Republican votes; southern Democrats were against it. No senator from the South voted for it. Tennessee Sen. Al Gore Sr., father of you-know-who, voted against it.

“According to Congressional Quarterly, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the House 290-130, and Republican support for the bill was much stronger than Democratic: 61 percent (152-96) of the Democrats supported the legislation while 80 percent (138-34) of the Republicans backed it. These numbers were similar in the Senate — 69 percent of Democrats (46-21), backed the bill along with 82 percent of Republicans (27-6).”

Then in 1965, Johnson pushed through the Voting Rights Act, and he gave this speech before Congress:

He also said:

But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.

“We shall overcome,” the rallying cry of the civil-rights movement. That made southern Democrats apoplectic.

But here’s the important part. In 1968, southern Democrats swarmed like locusts to Richard Nixon. Then they gradually changed parties and became Republicans. It’s all documented in Rick Pearlstein‘s book “Nixonland.”

Don’t believe it? Quick: Name a white southern Democrat currently in Congress? (No, John Yarmuth in Louisville doesn’t count, because as much as the state’s residents hate to admit it, Kentucky was with the Union during the Civil War.)

There’s only one from the Deep South. John Barrow in Georgia. And he voted against Obamacare.

As we all saw at the 2012 GOP convention, at the Romney campaign party on election night and on the blog White People Mourning Romney, the GOP isn’t exactly a party of inclusion. In fact, its Southern strategy since the days of Nixon was based on racial antagonism. Here’s a link back to the Lee Atwater interview posted a few days ago.

I have to think Bartlett knows all this. I can’t figure out if he’s being naive or intentionally deceptive on the idea of the GOP appealing to blacks. And then, there’s this quote in his article:

I thought that blacks and Latinos were natural political and economic competitors, and I saw in poll data that blacks were receptive to a hardline position on illegal immigration.

That’s pretty dickish, right? Make the party stronger by playing on racial animosity.

Look, I remember when older black people were Republicans, because that was the party that ended slavery. Eisenhower got something like 40 percent of the black vote when he was re-elected president in 1956.

But that was almost 60 years ago. The evil southern Democrats of that era are all dead, and when they were alive, black people saw they were eagerly joining the Republican Party. And in 1980, when Ronald Reagan campaigned in Philadelphia, Mississippi (the place were three civil-rights activists were brutally murdered in June 1964) and talked about “states’ rights” (the term used in Southern states to justify every racial abuse they committed), the bigot baton was officially handed off to the Republicans from the southern Democrats.

Anyone who makes the argument that today’s Republicans aren’t the progeny of that era’s Democrats … well, I have to use a quote that appeared in the comment section of the Bartlett article:

“I don’t mind that you lie to me half as much as I mind that you apparently think I’m stupid.”

No fury like a conservative scorned … by the GOP

Since the administration of George Bush the Dumber, Bruce Bartlett (a noted conservative economist who worked in the Reagan administration) hasn’t taken a sip of the delusion Kool-Aid that the Republican party has been drowning in.

As a result, the party has thrown him into exile.

He has a piece in the American Conservative this week where he essentially says the GOP has been the “Stupid Party” for quite a while.

For example:

A couple of weeks before the 2004 election, (Ron) Suskind wrote a long article for the New York Times Magazine that quoted some of my comments to him that were highly critical of Bush and the drift of Republican policy. The article is best remembered for his quote from an anonymous White House official dismissing critics like me for being “the reality-based community.” …

Interestingly, a couple of days after the Suskind article appeared, I happened to be at a reception for some right-wing organization that many of my think tank friends were also attending. I assumed I would get a lot of grief for my comments in the Suskind article and was surprised when there was none at all.

Finally, I started asking people about it. Not one person had read it or cared in the slightest what the New York Times had to say about anything. They all viewed it as having as much credibility as Pravda and a similar political philosophy as well. Some were indignant that I would even suspect them of reading a left-wing rag such as the New York Times.

I was flabbergasted. Until that moment I had not realized how closed the right-wing mind had become. Even assuming that my friends’ view of the Times’ philosophy was correct, which it most certainly was not, why would they not want to know what their enemy was thinking?

And speaking as a Reagan conservative, he has a few things to say about that radical Muslim communist Barack Obama:

The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.

It’s an interesting piece.


Richard Milhous Obama

Bruce Bartlett at the Fiscal Times makes the following observation:

There is no question that Barack Obama is one of our most enigmatic presidents. Despite having published two volumes of memoirs before being elected president, we really don’t know that much about what makes him tick. The ongoing debate over the deficit and the debt limit is clarifying what I think he is: a Democratic Richard Nixon. …

… Here are a few examples of Obama’s effective conservatism:

— His stimulus bill was half the size that his advisers thought necessary;
— He continued Bush’s war and national security policies without change and even retained Bush’s defense secretary;
— He put forward a health plan almost identical to those that had been supported by Republicans such as Mitt Romney in the recent past, pointedly rejecting the single-payer option favored by liberals;
— He caved to conservative demands that the Bush tax cuts be extended without getting any quid pro quo whatsoever;
— And in the past few weeks he has supported deficit reductions that go far beyond those offered by Republicans.

His point is that Obama is to liberals what Richard Nixon was to conservatives.

Although Republicans routinely accuse him (Obama) of being a socialist, an honest examination of his presidency must conclude that he has in fact been moderately conservative to exactly the same degree that Nixon was moderately liberal.

And no matter how much you hated Nixon, if you compare their domestic records on entitlement programs, Nixon comes out ahead. Nixon increased spending on social programs. Obama is cutting it back. Nixon expanded government regulation through the creation of such things as the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies that protected consumers, Bartlett notes. Obama is cutting federal regulatory programs and jobs at a time when jobs are scarce.

I’m not saying Nixon was a better person than Obama. His administration is best represented in Philip Roth‘s “Our Gang,” which ends with a dead Nixon (named “Trick E. Dixon”) plotting to take over Hell from Satan.

But from an economic standpoint, the poor likely stood a better chance with the fiscal policies of a scheming Nixon than they do with the fiscal policies of an acquiescent Obama.

By the numbers

The dust hasn’t completely settled yet on Republican Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, because there’s a general sense of dismay concerning which parallel universe he was pulling his forecasts from.

There’s no way U.S. unemployment is ever going to fall to 2.8%. This country actually considers full employment a jobless rate of 4% among the population over 16 years old.

There’s no way you can increase tax revenue by cutting taxes. It just doesn’t make any sense. But that’s key to Ryan’s budget plan.

TPM has a pretty good reaction post on this.

Ryan is pulling his numbers from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Here’s one responsible Republican’s reaction to that:

CBO is what they use on the budget side — as a matter of procedure, any numbers from the Heritage Foundation or anybody else are essentially worthless,” Bruce Bartlett, a former Treasury official under President George H.W. Bush, said in an interview. “You can assert whatever you want to assert, but you can always find some half-baked tax think tank that will make up any number you feel like.”

So how has the Heritage Foundation done in the past? Matt Yglesias over at Think Progress points this out

Specifically, they promised us that George W Bush’s tax policies would lead the country into a brave new era of prosperity:

OK, folks. How has that worked out for us so far?

What you don’t know will hurt you

What can you say to people who argue a point passionately and refuse to listen to you when you point out that they haven’t the slightest clue of what they’re talking about?

This from yesterday’s New York Times

In a smart column today, Bruce Bartlett looks at why it will be so hard for politicians to cut government spending: because so many Americans who say they support cutting government programs don’t realize just how much they benefit from them.

Remember, for example, when a town hall attendee famously told his congressman to “keep your government hands off my Medicare”? Apparently that bewilderingly blinkered sentiment is hardly unique.

You have to click to the story to check out a chart that asks people who benefit from a government program if they’ve ever benefited from a government program. The percentages who say “No” are outrageous.