January 18, 2011

YOU CATCH MORE FLIES WITH HONEY...:

Are We Sure 'Civility' Will Help the Democrats? (Mickey Kaus, 1/17/11, Newsweek)

During the debate over welfare reform that consumed much of 1995 and 1996 in Congress, those who generally supported the Republican approach (ending the welfare "entitlement," imposing work requirements) had a very strong hand. Polls had consistently shown voters hated no-strings welfare. Even the Democratic president blamed welfare for sustaining a "culture of poverty." It would have been a minor feat of parliamentary skill for Republicans to somehow not reform welfare in this situation.

Yet they almost pulled it off. One reason was politicians like John Mica. During one of the early debates, Mica, a GOP representative from Florida, brandished a sign reading"Don't Feed the Alligators" to illustrate his argument that "unnatural feeding and artificial care creates dependency." A Wyoming congresswoman promptly compared welfare recipients to similarly dependent "wolves." You could debate the aptness of these attention-getting zoological metaphors, but they gave Democratic entitlement-defenders such as Barney Frank an opening to portray reformers as inhuman, disrespectful, possibly racist nutcases. Fortunately for Republicans, by the time the welfare debate resumed in 1996 they'd learned to leave the animals out of it. Reform passed convincingly.

Shorter version: Republicans toned it down, and that helped them win.

Which leads me to wonder: If the current frenzy for "civility" means Republicans have to take the sharp edges off their Tea Partyish rhetoric, will that really help Democrats?

It's the male party, so there's a certain disposition towards machismo even if it's counterproductive.

Posted by at January 18, 2011 5:21 AM
  
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