David Roberts @drvox Seattleite transplanted from Tennessee; now blogging for vox.com/ about energy politics. Climate hawk, deficit dove. Not a doctor. Sep. 09, 2018 4 min read

1. When deficit concerns were useful in protecting the White Male Status Quo (WMSQ), they used those. When "family values" were useful, they used those. When "state's rights" were useful, they used those. Law & order. Integrity of gov't. Regulatory certainty...

2. Critics of the right cannot seem to help engaging with those "principles" as though they were actually principles, rules of action meant to guide and bind all participants in a society equally. They can't help taking it seriously when accused of violating those principles.

3. But the right is not deploying principles as their critics conceive them, or the way they're taught in political-science classes, as universally binding rules. They are using the *language* of principle as a *weapon* to gain advantage in a political struggle for power.

4. They don't care about deficits as such. (Look what they do when in power!) They use the alleged "principle" of controlling deficits as a weapon to criticize or block attempts by the left to raise or spend gov't revenue in ways that might disturb the WMSQ.

5. Similarly, they don't care about personal rectitude or "family values" as such. They don't care about rule of law, or transparency, or federalism, or limited gov't, or "originalism." When they take power, they do not bind themselves to any of those rules.

6. What they've realized is that the language of principle is effective in some battles for power. Their opponents DO take principles seriously, as do the "referees" of establishment dialogue, like the MSM (what remains of them). Using that language is often an effective tactic.

7. Their bad-faith BS about deficits & fiscal rectitude got Dems to bind themselves to paygo (Rs are not, of course). Their bad-faith BS about the nobility of work got Dems to "reform" welfare (Rs didn't change their attacks at all). The examples are endless.

8. Dems fall for it again & again, desperately trying to get a gold star, to be the good student, the high achiever. They hobble themselves politically, mute their own language, weaken their own policies. They seem to think, despite all evidence, that they'll get credit for this.

9. But they get no credit. There are no arbiters, no referees, to give them credit, and nowhere to spend the credit if they got it. They're just impressing each other, impressing VSPs & op-ed writers, as citizens continue suffering & the WMSQ remains in place.

10. This has all been true for a while now, getting more & more clear, with more & more Dirty Hippies yelling & screaming about it. My hope -- perhaps it is a vain hope -- is that the Trump Era might finally put that dynamic to rest, might finally rip the veneer away entirely.

11. Because if the Trump Era has shown us anything, it's that neither conservative voters nor conservative politicians give a SINGLE SOLITARY SHIT about those principles -- moral, fiscal, procedural, any of them. They never did. It's all laid bare now, plain as day.

12. Every one of the principles went overboard, with barely a ripple. Exploding deficits, rampant corruption, procedural gimmicks, trade wars, crumbling int'l relationships -- they're fine with all of it as long as their core tribe, the wealthy, gets its big tax cut.

13. The only principle on the right, if you can call it that, is tribal advantage. Winning. Everything else, all language, arguments, & tactics, serves that singular goal. If the language of principle serves that goal, it's used, but principle never *supersedes* the goal.

14. No principle ever restricts their behavior in a way that might threaten that goal. The goal is fixed, permanent, inviolable -- everything else is shaped around it. Today, invoking principle X might help; tomorrow, invoking not-X might help. Whatever helps.

15. This raises a lot of big questions, most notably whether a democracy designed around principles & sustained by norms can survive when one side becomes purely tribal, purely instrumental. How long can a game go on when one player simply disregards the rules? I don't know.

16. But more modestly, it would just be nice if everyone in media & politics accepted this & quit pretending. Quit calling Rs "hypocrites" -- violating your own principle is hypocrisy only if it was actually a principle. Their only principle is power & they're 100% consistent!

17. The next time Mitch McConnell harrumphs about the alleged principle that presidents should have their SCOTUS nominees considered fairly & promptly ... I mean, he seriously says this stuff ... everyone should LAUGH. Not argue. Laugh. Mock.

18. If Rs go completely tribal like this, it's simply insane for Dems & the press to help them maintain the illusion otherwise. It would be nice if we were really debating principles, but we're not, & its dangerous to pretend we are. It misleads the public about what's going on.

19. The RW will do everything it can get away with to accrue & maintain power & thereby protect the WMSQ. Period. Yes, it will also do the next thing, the thing you think "surely" it won't do. It will do that too. No principle, no matter how fundamental, will restrain it.

20. Once you realize today's RW is animated purely by will to power, you realize that the only way to change it is to defeat it, to deny it power. Arguments, appeals to principle, moral suasion, charges of "hypocrisy!" -- all beside the point. For now, only power matters. </fin>


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