Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Little Brother Is Watching You

Kevin Drum finds himself less than impressed by Michael Gerson's new column.
Holy cow! Obama might be tempted to expose Republicans' internal divisions and unpopular policy views? The fiend! And Republicans are helpless to resist because tea party crackpots the momentum of their ideology doesn't allow them to be reasonable. They literally have no choice except to surrender to fanaticism.
I don't disagree with anything Drum says here, but I think it's part of a larger issue than just conservative's believing their own ludicrous rhetoric. Some of this involves what I'll call the "little brother GOP" theory.

A brief slice of Squid history: I am six years older than my brother, which means that when going through those highly awkward early teen years, I had to deal with a child in the mid to late single digits.  Naturally, we had our share of arguments and fights (not physical, really; he couldn't do any damage and I didn't want to), and every time they got loud enough for my parents to get involved, the same judgement would be passed down: I was six years older, and therefore every conflict was my fault because I was older and should know better.

At least, that's how I remember it.  I'm sure my brother and my parents have very different recollections.  My point is, there's a strange tendency in America political discourse, not just demonstrated by conservatives themselves but my many so-called neutral observers in the media, to treat Republicans as though they're the younger brother.  Every fight becomes the Democrats fault for not having been smart enough to avoid it.  It doesn't matter if the GOP was the one to pick the fight, or how unreasonable a position they've taken, or what Democrats would lose if they kept their powder dry, it's always up to Democrats to be the older brother.

Drum's looking at one example of this - it's somehow the Democrats fault that Republicans will choose to publicly refuse to aid the American economy unless they make the lives of the rich better and/or the poor worse. Another is the Republican bed-shitting on display over Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense, which has led to people criticising Obama as playing dirty pool by selecting a Republican candidate.  After all, they argue, if the Republicans fail with all their desperate mud-slinging, they'll look petty and weak, and if they succeed, they'll do so only having publicly slimed a war hero from their own party.  It never seems to occur to this breed of commentator that some amongst the Republican ranks chose to start a smear campaign which couldn't end well for them (Larison makes a similar argument here).  That's just what little brothers do! How dare big brother take advantage.

It's just expected that Democrats are supposed to be the adults in the room, always and forever.  Were I a Republican, I'd be kinda insulted by the suggestion that my party is so unable to function on any cerebral level my opponents bear the blame for any reaction I have to them. It's fortunate for their sake - though no-one else's - that the GOP's self-awareness is so atrophied they're two weeks out from thinking themselves actual elephants.

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