The Two Party System at Work

This is a tentative sketch subject to revision. Suggestions encouraged.

Phase One

Liberals: X is a problem, and the government should do Y1 about it.

Conservatives: Stop!

Voters: Yeah, X is a problem, but conservatives make good points about how Y1 isn’t the answer.

Phase Two

Liberals: X is an even bigger problem than before, and the government should do Y2 about it.

Conservatives: Opposition to Y1 was a winning issue for us five years ago. It’s probably smart to oppose Y2.

Voters: Overall we’re still with you, conservatives, but by a lesser margin, because this does sort of seem like a problem, yeah?

Phase Three

Liberals: X is an even bigger problem now. The solution Y3 is an urgent national priority.

Conservatives: The Founders would hate Y3. It’s European. In other words, socialist. Why doesn’t anyone care about how many people Mao killed?

Voters: Yeah, why doesn’t anyone care about how many people Mao killed? And Y3 is a flawed solution. On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be any conservative alternative for addressing X. And we’re sorta worried about X.

Phase Four

Liberals: We’re campaigning on Y3B. And you don’t even care about X.

Conservatives: We do so care about X. Look at this white paper from Heritage!

Voters: We’re divided on this issue, but the growing number of us who think it’s a problem trust the liberals more because it has never seemed like the conservative movement actually cared about addressing it, so much as opposing efforts to address it. Even when Reihan Salam and Ramesh Ponnuru and Ross Douthat proposed what seemed like very smart ideas for reform, they were basically chastised by some talk radio hosts and ignored by the whole right-of-center political establishment, which took advantage of the political landscape for short term electoral gain.

Phase Five

Liberals: We’re putting YC3 to a vote, and the American people support us enough to get it passed.

Conservatives: Rather than negotiate, we’re going to just oppose this outright. The people passing it are basically radical socialists. Anyone who compromises with them is a traitor.

Voters: Gee, we’d be more comfortable if this bill was improved by conservative insights. We’d maybe even prefer a totally different approach to reform if we’d been educated about one over a sustained period. On the other hand, maybe the liberals are right that this is necessary? We’re going to uneasily cross our fingers.

Phase Six

Liberals: Yay! We won! Also, yikes, we hope this goes over okay.

Conservatives: This is a catastrophic disaster. You’ll pay for it in November. Yay!

Voters: What contempt we have for all of you. Especially those of you currently in Congress.

Phase Seven

Liberals: I know we’re in the minority now. But Z is a real problem. The government should do something about it.

Conservatives: We’re back in power!! Did you here how excited Rush was today about this huge victory for our side? What’s that? You said something about Z? We’re going to ignore you. What could go wrong? We’ve probably got a permanent majority now anyway. Right of center nation and all that.

Voters: How about some tax cuts? And no new wars, please?

Ad Infinitum.

22 Responses to “The Two Party System at Work”

  1. elviselvisberg Says:

    Great post.

    Voters: What contempt we have for all of you.

    Hey, at least voters and conservatives view each other the same way.

    If we’re going to imagine, in Phase Four, that the voters know who Reihan Salam and Ramesh Ponnuru and Ross Douthat are, then maybe they should use the subjunctive in the first sentence in Phase Five.

    Maybe you could add the media into the screenplay. Maybe they could say, “this moment is fraught with peril for Democrats, who don’t want to seem too extreme to this right-of-center country!” in Phase Five. Or in every phase.

  2. drtesla Says:

    This kid is obsessed with talk radio. What are these ideas that liberals are right about? He doesn’t have the courage to speak up for his own ideas in this lame attempt at humor.

    In this kid’s world, you have to worship Obama and the leftwing media, or you are a traitor to be scorned.

  3. drtesla Says:

    Conor wants to forget, on purpose of course, that Republicans didn’t have the votes to stop Obamacare or any of his agenda. What was in it for Republicans to negotiate with…if it was so poopular with the American people, why did Obama need Republican support?

    It’s amusing to me how leftwingers like Conor F and David Frum think Rush and Republicans in general has some kind of obligation to “negotiate” with Democrats, which only means we bend and grab the ankles for them on their leftwing agenda that’s not supported by most Americans.

  4. drtesla Says:

    Conor F thinks objective journalism can come from a liberal Hezbollah apologist. Hmmmmmmmm.

    CNN dumps senior editor over Twitter eulogy of Hezbollah radical

  5. drtesla Says:

    It would be instructive if Conor could define the variables X, Y1, Y2, Y3, and Z. Give us at least one concrete example of something liberals are right about.

    Liberals think every problem is a Z that the government should do something about. That’s why conservatives don’t get along with the liberals. We dont’ think the solution to everything is the government.

  6. drtesla Says:

    Let’s say deficits and high taxes are real problems. These are problems caused by Democrats, along with some Republicans, in the government. If we go with Conor’s construct, we have to concede that Democrats care about deficits and high taxes (they don’t), and that government can fix these two problems (but they are the cause of them).

    If Conor had to define terms, he could not have written this piece. That’s why he didn’t define terms.

  7. drtesla Says:

    I don’t think you have to worry about the meida being concerned about being seen as too extreme by conservatives. They are seen as being in the tank for Obama and leftwing Democrats. That’s why Conor F is whining about it….he hates the fact he can’t control our perceptions of the media. Conor F went to journalism school to learn how to do leftwing propaganda for the Democratic party. It appears those days are over.

  8. drtesla Says:

    I don’t see a whole lot of contempt by voters for every politician in Congress, like Jim DeMint and Eric Cantor. If they are generally conservative and respesent what most American voters want, voters are not angry with them. It’s Obama and liberal Democrats that agree with Obama politics that a majority of Americans hold in contempt. Nobody likes a control freak, and Obama and his allies are control freaks.

  9. Dennis Hildebrand Says:

    All of the comments here do everything needed to prove Connor’s overall point.

    Get it now?

    Dennis – Portland OR

  10. drtesla Says:

    How so, Dennis? He didn’t specifify any issue that Democrats are right about….neither have you.

    This is just typical whining from Conor. He doesn’t want to debate the issues as the liberal he is.

  11. drtesla Says:

    In Conor’s world, a majority of Americans supported ObamaCare. I never saw any poll back that up, and the fact it took Obama so long to get it passed, even when Republicans could not stop it, does seem to indicate the public was opposed to it. Obama and the Democrats don’t care about what the people want. That’s not good government. That’s what you call soft tyranny.

  12. drtesla Says:

    Why are liberals/socialists like Conor so defensive about being called a liberal and/or socialist by conservatives? The socialists in Europe don’t run away from that label. If you don’t have the courage to admit what your political philosophy is, how can you claim to be intellectually honest? Conor F is smarmy in that he consistently advocates Obama policies, but then denies he’s a leftwinger.

  13. drtesla Says:

    Conor’s main problem with the two party system is that it’s not a one party system run by Obama Democrats. When do Democrats ever compromise with Republicans on anything when they are out of power? Why the outrage and shock that Republicans would wisely refuse to compromise on Democratic legislation that is widely disliked by a majority of Americans, especially ObamaCare? That’s smart politics for Republicans, and they are right that ObamaCare sucks.

  14. drtesla Says:


    Don’t run away….stand up for your liberal convictions. Tell us why we should be on board with Obama’s agenda. Don’t be a coward.

  15. The Functioning of American Parties Says:

    […] Conor Friedersdorf describes The Two Party System at Work. […]

  16. voxoctopi Says:

    I think someone’s stopped taking his medication.

  17. misterparaphrastic Says:

    Better comments, please! Jesus.

    OK, so what I think is missing, is that with each revision of their plan to deal with X, Liberals try to make their proposed solution more moderate, more palatable to both Conservatives and the public, to no avail.

    Take the debate on health care, running from 1948 through this year.

    Liberals: It seems like a real problem that some people can’t get health insurance, and end up relying on emergency rooms and not paying the bill. Maybe we could just have the government insure everybody.

    Oh, that’s too socialist? OK, fair enough. How about instead of that we have the government set up non-profit HMO networks that compete with one another on a regional basis to keep costs down, and issue everybody a membership?

    Oh, it’s too scary for people to lose the insurance plans they’re used to, fair point. Some people want to keep what they’re used to. Well, how about we just require employers to cover their employees with private plans, so at least all workers have coverage?

    Tyranny, you say. OK. Well how about we just eliminate pre-existing condition bans and price discrimination, but also require everybody to buy insurance so the companies can stay in business, and also create a non-profit public plan in case people don’t want private insurance: basically what your guy did in Massachusetts, and what you were saying was a good idea last time we argued?

    You say the thing about the public plan is too dangerous? Fine, it’s gone. Private insurance only, but with discrimination outlawed. I assume you’ll vote for it now?

    Conservatives: Government-run health care!!! Socialism!!! Hitler!! Gubment takeover!!! Europe!!! Death Panels!! Blargle!!!

  18. misterparaphrastic Says:

    I also should have had a phase of the above conversation about Wyden-Bennett, the most “free market” solution that was ever on the table, opposed by the Republicans because it would have ended the tax subsidy for employer plans. And about the hypocrisy of Republicans opposing Medicare’s creation, complaining for years that it was full of fraud and waste, then taking power and expanding the program and expressly adding in a new layer of waste (Medicare Advantage), and then, when the Dems propose cutting the waste and fraud out that the Republicans have been complaining about, opposing these cuts and characterizing them as “pulling the plug on Grandma.”

    But that hypocrisy is so extreme and pathological, I don’t know that it could be added into your story, without muddying the picture.

  19. jcapan Says:

    “Better comments, please! Jesus.”

    Ditto that. And it’d also help if CF engaged.

  20. Conor Friedersdorf Says:

    There wasn’t much to engage with until now!

  21. Apple of Doubt : The Two Party System at Work Says:

    […] The Two Party System at Work, Connor Fiedersdorf Posted by Friar_Zero on Thursday, July 22, 2010, at 2:42 pm. Filed under political. […]

  22. laysee26 Says:

    The comments prove that right wing conservatives are immediately scared and therefore must attack when someone points out exactly how our system works. He doesnt need to blatently list what X or Y1 etc are to prove he has a point. We all know what X etc are. And we know Conor is right. Kudos to him for pointing out the B.S. that conservatives rely on the rest of us never noticing/finding out. Im sure my comment will be attacked but its not going to stop me from agreeing with Conor and disagreeing with the rest of you right wing-nuts.

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