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Thursday, October 15, 2009

# Posted 9:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WEEKLY STANDARD=PRAVDA? TNR's Jon Chait is furious about Republican demagoguery:
There's not much fun in conceding that your side is winning over public opinion by exploiting ignorance and fear. It's far more pleasant to imagine that the people have risen up in principled revulsion against statism.

The vanguard of this fantasy movement rests at The Weekly Standard. One issue from a few weeks ago featured a cover image glorifying the town-hall protestors. Modeled after Norman Rockwell's famous Freedom of Speech painting, it depicted a heroic conservative with a copy of the Standard in his pocket. Unlike Rockwell's image, which portrayed the onlookers as fellow citizens holding their tongues in respectful disagreement, the Standard cover depicted them as hideous goons armed with brass knuckles. The corresponding editorial, unironically entitled "People Power," explained that the public had righteously stood up against elites in the name of "freedom and responsibility." The editors of Pravda would have called this package over-the-top.
If you like Chait, you might describe his Pravda analogy as a charming exaggeration. If you don't, you might compare his writing style to, I don't know, maybe, uh, Pravda?

More importantly, while dismissing the Standard's cover package, he makes no reference to the actual cover story, an excellent analysis by Mary Katherine Ham of how Democrats have demagogued the town halls in order to spin public anger about health care as a violent, right-wing fringe movement.

Chait does raise an interesting conceptual point, however. Can Republicans oppose Obamacare as a government takeover of healthcare while simultaneously warning about dangerous cuts to Medicare?

In terms of pure free-market ideology, it doesn't make sense. If you don't like government healthcare, consistency demands that you oppose Medicare. But if you blend conservatism with free-market politics, the answer changes a bit. The fact is, Medicare exists and is the only choice for a lot of seniors. You can oppose Medicare cuts on pragmatic grounds while opposing the extension of government healthcare to new markets.

Does this mean GOP opposition is purely principled and has nothing to do with politics? Of course not. Politics is what political parties do. Even Democrats!

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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