Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"You might want to reconsider," indeed

Really, truly, Onion-esque:

Fresh off his stint as a war correspondent in Gaza, Joe the Plumber is now doing political strategy with Republicans.

When GOP congressional aides gather Tuesday morning for a meeting of the Conservative Working Group, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher – more commonly known as Joe the Plumber — will be their featured guest. This group is an organization of conservative Capitol Hill staffers who meet regularly to chart GOP strategy for the week.


“In case you weren’t planning to attend CWG tomorrow morning, you might want to reconsider because Joe the Plumber will be joining us!” Kimberly Wallner, an aide to South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, wrote in a message to her e-mail list this afternoon. [emphases added]
(Hat-tip: Washington Monthly)

Politico tries to write this up with a straight face but can't quite manage it (note the initial introductory clause, for example, which also happened, courtesy of Pajamas Media). And, really, what serious person could?

Others will make considerable comedic hay out of this; but really, it's so easy to do it, why bother? I'll just make this observation, though, by way of a re-reading of Ms. Wallner's pitch for the meeting: The liberal-leaning blogs I read, when not taking pot-shots at the Republicans' all-around unhelpfulness and ineptitude regarding the Congress's and Senate's debates on the stimulus package, would welcome serious suggestions from the GOP. But to argue, as some Republicans in Congress did, that the stimulus package is far too big yet singling out considerably less than 1% of items in the package for specific criticism is not serious. It's weird: there's a much more constructive debate in the liberal blogosphere over this thing--they're even making some conservative-leaning arguments and have duly noted that the bill that passed the House of Representatives contains more tax cuts than were originally in the proposal because it is true, generally-speaking, that tax cuts will stimulate the economy more in the short term than investments in infrastructure. At the risk of overgeneralizing things, though, conservatives seem content to label the entire thing as socialism and wash their hands of it--we're going to hell in a handbasket, but it'll be the Democrats' fault, by God. (But--nota bene, CWG et al.--if this thing works, that too will be the Democrats' fault: how can one legitimately claim credit for something one has voted against, no matter how much it might reflect one's own thinking?)

So, with a "strategy" like that, what's to plan? Why show up? I feel Ms. Wallner's pain ("In case you weren't planning to attend . . . "). I'm not sure, though, that bringing in Joe the Plumber will add any new wrinkles to the debate, no matter how many warm bodies his presence adds to the room. After all, if public opinion is any indication, Joe's opposition to the stimulus package is out of step with precisely the constituency--the American people--the GOP has mythologized him to be the standard-bearer of. Yet, even in the wake of the 2006 and 2008 elections, the party looks out over the political landscape and sees, and hears, only itself. Hence, you betcha (to borrow another current GOP standard-bearer's phrase) "you might want to reconsider."

I'm entirely serious when I say I'm tired of alternately laughing at and shaking my head in despair over what the Republican Party has devolved into. I want to see Democrats and progressives have true, substantive arguments with it over matters of policy. Otherwise, the only argument left is the extent to which we collectively should take at all seriously much of anything conservatives have to say about this crisis in which we find ourselves. To those of us not rabidly partisan, that would be a sad argument to have.

Along these lines: Reread this Mark Schmitt piece from December of 2007 in light of the Congressional debates over the stimulus package, especially the final three paragraphs. It's hard to overstate just how prescient that piece looks now.

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