Friday, May 20, 2011

Extremists losing popularity

Not that it is much of a surprise, but some of the more extreme politicians are losing popularity.  John Avalon of the Daily Beast points out that a Democrat became the mayor of Jacksonville, a conservative stronghold, and the new Republican governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has driven his ratings down due to his confrontational assaults on government services.  Wisconsin's Scott Walker has been unnecessarily confrontational, as has Maine's Paul LePage, and also Ohio's John Kasich.  

It looks to me like each of these men, and the more extreme end of the conservative spectrum in general, have over-read their electoral victories.  They seem to think that the world finally has come to its senses and supports their ideological absolutism.  Their most fatal flaws seem to me to be their harshness of their approach, plus their compulsion to also enact social conservative agendas as well as fiscal.  

In fact, most election reversals are a reaction to the extremism or incompetence of their predecessors, not the joining of a different ideological extreme.

So, what to do about the crying need to reduce deficits?  Well, one thing is to keep your eye on the goal - i.e. to reduce deficits.  The hard right seems to be using disastrous deficits to promote their actual goal of reducing the size of government, especially its support of the lower classes.  I would be much more sympathetic to their efforts if they also proposed to raise revenues as well as cut spending.

Avalon's best point is that being fiscally responsible doesn't have to be polarizing.  I don't follow Andrew Cuomo, the new NY governor, but Avalon says that he closed a $10 billion budget deficit without new taxes, by cutting spending, and getting concessions from the public sector unions - and his approval ratings skyrocketed, rather than plummet like the ratings of the Republican governors listed above.  

Cooperation, respect, negotiation, compromise - the tools of governing rather than the tools of inciting radio and television audiences to build ratings.  Isn't it time for politicians to distinguish themselves from the media zealots and convince the voters that extremism itself is way to destroy the country we all love so much?