August 13th, 2006

What Is Rainville Republicanism, Daddy?

by Philip Baruth

Given current polling, it could well happen that Vermont’s own US House race all but single-handedly determines which political party holds a Congressional majority.

martha hearts georgeIn other words, Vermont may be the next Ohio, which was in its own turn the next Florida: a nexus for two utterly different American futures.

Of course, Martha Rainville’s campaign would have Vermonters believe that she will be a Republican with an independent streak.

Rainville Republicanism, call it.

But that’s simply to say that everything surrounding the streak will be mainstream Republican, if you see VDB’s point.

And mainstream Republicanism circa 2006 — in the fourth year of the Iraq War and the sixth year of escalating deficits — is riddled with basic and disastrous contradictions.

Look no further than the thumbnail issue-papers on Rainville’s campaign website. Here’s Martha on “Government Spending,” to take one fat example:

Q: Are you worried about out-of-control government spending?

A: Absolutely. Congress, including both political parties, has shown no leadership when it comes to spending priorities and figuring out what America can and cannot afford. We are currently running up a debt that will be an enormous burden for our children’s generation.

I know how to make principled spending decisions that accurately reflect our priorities. In Congress, I will use my budgetary experience to rein in government spending.

Forget the attempt to rope Democrats in on the explosion of the deficit and the disappearance of the five trillion surplus Clinton left as his legacy. The main point here is that federal spending is out of control, and Martha will get right on it.

Which leads us to Rainville on “Tax Cuts”:

As a fiscal conservative, I believe that taxpayers spend their hard earned money better than the government. Tax cuts stimulate the economy, promote strong economic growth and create new jobs. In Congress, I will treat every dollar as carefully as if it were my own.

The first and last sentences here are sheer boiler-plate, but the line wedged between them is pure, Kool-aid-drinking trickle-down economics. No caveats; no qualifications. Tax cuts are a social good, period. They create revenue and jobs. Hence, the Bush tax cuts already in place must stay in place, and it’s hard to see how Rainville could oppose making them permanent without sinning against her own basic economic creed.

In other words, we must balance the budget — as soon as we’ve cut additional billions, perhaps trillions, in revenue to the Federal government.

Which brings us, in a nightmarishly illogical circle, to the “War in Iraq”:

Over the last three years, the Iraqi people have taken tremendous steps towards a democratic, stable and free Iraq. As the Iraqis continue to increase their capacity to secure their own country and defeat the terrorists, American troops will continue to withdraw.

Again, an unimaginative restatement of Bush’s “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down” formulation. Of course, it’s been clear for months that no one’s standing up and hence no one’s standing down, that civil war is well under way in Iraq, but that’s not really the point.

The point is that the United States of America cannot balance the budget — cannot even meaningfully reduce spending and borrowing — while we’re spending between 200$ and $250 million dollars a day to install a fundamentalist Shiite regime in Iraq.

Staying the course means mortgaging the farm. Period.

rummyBush and Donald Rumsfeld have dealt with this problem audaciously, by simply moving the costs of the War on Terror off the books. And by borrowing the associated talking points, Rainville tacitly supports this move.

It’s not complicated. Martha Rainville is a Republican.

If elected, she will vote to return the current corrupt House leadership to power. She will turn a blind eye to the inherent contradictions both in mainstream conservative ideology, and in the Bush administration’s smoke-and-mirrors war budgeting.

Sure, Rainville might well select one high-profile issue on which to dog her party, as a way of showing a telegenic brand of independence. Arlen Specter has raised this sort of misdirection to a high art.

But in its fundamentals, Rainville’s political world-view dovetails nicely with that shared by the Southern conservatives who brought you unlimited earmarks at home and unlimited military spending abroad.

Fiscal discipline is a joke in bad taste as long as the Republican leadership continues to wage war and cut taxes simultaneously.

And Rainville has made it amply clear from the very beginning that she intends to laugh right along with them.