Paul Waldman: Right-Wingers Would Rather Whine Than Win

According to American Prospect blogger Paul Waldman, the typical conservative is a frustrated grouch for two reasons: 1) most Americans will never want a government as small as conservatives would prefer, and 2) since hyperideological righties refuse to settle for half a loaf, they've "resigned [themselves] to a lifetime of outright defeats, unsatisfying half-victories, and betrayals."

From Waldman's Monday post (emphasis added):

One of the greatest challenges for today's conservatives is that their ultimate policy demands are all but impossible to achieve. Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist used to say that his objective was to cut government down to the size where you could drown it in the bathtub, and many Tea Partiers would sign on to that mission. It's a vivid image, but it reflects a goal that can never be reached. There will always be government, and Americans demanding that it provide services for them—which means there will always be taxes to fund the services, one moral outrage piled on top of another.

That means that the most doctrinaire conservatives are doomed to remain forever disappointed by what comes of their political action.
Not only do they want to cut government, if you ask them exactly how much they'd like to cut, the answer is, "More," just as the tax level they find appropriate is always "Less." When small government is not a means to an end but an end in itself, there will always be more to cut, which means there is no point at which conservatives can be satisfied.


...Even in a slightly smaller form, government is still doing lots of things they'd rather it not do. It's giving health care to seniors and poor people, and paying for pre-school, and building highways and opening parks and doing a thousand other things. Since many of those things are politically impossible to eliminate or even curtail significantly, conservatives will probably be forever angry about government's size and scope.

Liberals, on the other hand, are not only congenitally more inclined to compromise, they're likely to be more content with the political victories they manage. Because they view government as a means to an end, they can take satisfaction in whatever progress it makes on the ends they seek, even if more can still be done.
Many would still like to see a single-payer health-care system and weren't happy about some of the compromises that came with passage of the Affordable Care Act, but nearly all of them are pleased with the things the ACA has accomplished, like the millions of people who now have coverage but didn't before, or the fact that pre-existing conditions no longer matter.

But when you've decided that an aversion to compromise lies at the heart of your political identity, alongside a desire for a government smaller than whatever size it is at the moment, you've resigned yourself to a lifetime of outright defeats, unsatisfying half-victories, and betrayals at the hands of pragmatic politicians. So fighting the members of your party seems like a reasonable way to continue the revolution. Especially if you don't have anything better to do.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters