Monday, December 17, 2007

Krugman on Comity

Paul Krugman's most recent column is about the Democratic front-runners, or at least about Obama and Edwards. He points out something which is worth thinking about: The desire for comity and politeness and holding hands in a country where we all sing the National Anthem or Kumbaya together while following the Dear Leader:

Broadly speaking, the serious contenders for the Democratic nomination are offering similar policy proposals — the dispute over health care mandates notwithstanding. But there are large differences among the candidates in their beliefs about what it will take to turn a progressive agenda into reality.

At one extreme, Barack Obama insists that the problem with America is that our politics are so "bitter and partisan," and insists that he can get things done by ushering in a "different kind of politics."

At the opposite extreme, John Edwards blames the power of the wealthy and corporate interests for our problems, and says, in effect, that America needs another F.D.R. — a polarizing figure, the object of much hatred from the right, who nonetheless succeeded in making big changes.

Krugman then goes on to argue that Obama's approach would not work, because those who have power are never going to give it up over some tea and cucumber sandwiches. They are going to fight, and fight dirty, and if you are not prepared for this you are going to lose.

But it's an interesting thing to ponder, this desire for comity and cooperation. I'm sure that most voters would prefer things to be chummy and calm, as long as their ideologies are winning. That is just not going to happen, and the real question is whether voters desire comity more than they desire real political action.

Of course the above paragraph has to do with the recent definition of politeness in politics, not with the real definition of politeness. The Republicans are not going to make compromises, and this means that all politeness from the Democratic side means to let the Republicans win. There were no calls for politeness when the Republicans had total control of the government, and there will be no calls for it when/if they return to power again.