Post-fact politics… September 12, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, US Politics.
I’d a few posts half drafted on the US party conventions and then I just thought, why bother? They’d been fairly glum affairs all things considered, the Republicans characterising themselves by remarkable ineptness, the Democrats somewhat better but a warning in and of itself about the dangers of broad political coalitions masquerading as parties. And while rhetorically the DNC was impressive the reality beyond it, outside it is so grim that that simply doesn’t cut it. Though it would appear that Obama gained a significant bounce post Convention as compared with Romney. But that’s not to say that the race itself isn’t of interest or importance as may become increasingly apparent as the election draws even closer. Anyhow…
On the Slate Political Gabfest in discussion about the US Presidential Election there was a phrase thrown about which has a gloomy appropriateness – the post-fact election. What was meant by that was a situation, best exemplified by the part of Paul Ryan’s speech as VP nominee where he mentioned a factory in his home town which he claimed had closed as a result of Obama’s policies. Problem being that said factory had closed before Obama was elected. And there were a number of – frankly to my mind – less clear cut examples from the Democratic side thrown in.
But the consensus was, and I thought it was notable that John Dickerson, their senior political correspondent agreed with this, that this was indeed an election where factual accuracy wasn’t considered paramount, in particular by the Republicans.
And what’s this? As if to prove the point Romney has been tying himself up in knots over his latest pronouncements on health care reform where he has now support retention of various provisions. Which is problematic because that de facto entails an expansion of benefits. As Eliot Sptizer notes in Slate (and by the way, Spitzer is oddly left of centre a lot of the time, which is to his credit):
But Romney’s position creates a huge problem for him: How does he propose to pay for this expansion of benefits? The options are limited: Asking existing customers to subsidize those with pre-existing conditions or having government subsidize them are not answers Romney can give.
And given his own pedigree on this issue – introducing health care reform in many respects identical to that introduced by the Democrats (indeed it was that which the Democrats sought to use as political cover by pushing rightwards with the policy in order that Republicans couldn’t attack it so much – well that sure worked out fine…) Romney is in trouble.
Nor can he give the rational answer—an individual mandate or something similar to ensure that there are no free riders in the health care system. The individual mandate—by Romney himself and the Heritage Foundation—is now the bane of his party and the right.
So what is the means by which Romney cuts this particular Gordian knot (and one largely of his own making)?
So to the surprise of no one, Romney now steadfastly refuses to answer the question of how he will pay.
To which one can only respond that not merely is this election post-fact, but it’s now post-justifying one’s policies. Remarkable.
And John Dickerson continued this week:
There is more merit to the knock on Romney’s vagueness. If Romney doesn’t get more specific, they may not find him appealing enough to leave Obama. That would be bad for Romney and Republicans, of course, but there may also be a way in which Romney’s lack of specificity is bad for everyone. If Romney doesn’t get more specific, whichever party wins will have no mandate for governing. If Romney wins, his lack of specificity will mean he has no mandate. If Obama wins, Republicans will conclude that the president didn’t prevail in a contest of ideas; he simply defeated a bad politician, which will make them no more likely to cooperate with him.
Hmmm… that seems like a triumph of hope over experience.
And by the way, how much of this is already extant in our polity?