Saturday, January 31, 2009
The concept of bandwidth has gotten a lot of attention since the beginning of the Internet Age. In it's literal meaning it's a computer geek thing of course, but the general concept, ie, the amount of information that can be successfully sent across a channel at any one time, extends to any form of communication. Occasionally you can even hear management-guru types talk about the desirability of "high-bandwidth relationships."
In any case, what I'm interested is the application of bandwidth in political sphere. It's a subject that's gotten little or no attention, but it should. The ability of a politician or pundit to make his audience hear as he intends to be heard is a very valuable commodity, and in many cases a scarce one. Anyone who has had the misfortune to be a conservative or a Republican recently has been affected.
Let's recap. Starting from the middle of 2006 or so, the American people fundamentally tuned out President Bush (and by extension the Republican Party). It's not so much that they disagreed with him about this or that, as much as they simply quit listening. Conservative politics have carried an ethos of make-believe ever since. No has to care what Mike Huckabee or Rush Limbaugh says, because nobody's listening anyway. This lasted until the selection of Sarah Palin as bottom half of the GOP Presidential ticket. Gov. Palin was clearly fresh on the scene and had nothing to do with President Bush. For two glorious weeks or so, the Republicans weren't forced to carry the dead weight of the Bush Administration. Unfortunately, when the Republican party finally got the chance to be heard on its own terms, it turned out that John McCain didn't have much to say about the economic crisis. The world went back to ignoring the Republicans, and that more or less settled the election.
And here we are. President Bush is now former President Bush, and Democrats have subsantial majorities in both chambers of Congress. President Obama proposes $819 Bn, $1.2 trillion, 43 quintajillion whatever "stimulus" package. The amount of money is so large that the Republicans are actually back in the game a little bit. So, right away Michelle Malkin calls this the "Generational Theft Act of 2009." Congressional Republicans have complained that the bill is comprised mostly of giveaways to favored constituencies. I have some sympathy for their arguments but I fear that this is the sort of knee-jerk reaction that will continue to get ignored.
If I were in charge of the Republican message, the first thing I would point out is that the original TARP plan passed Congress was intended to respond to a particular kind of crisis. Ie, do something or else the world's financial system will collapse in two days. We might still be in a crisis but if we are it's a different sort: getting out of our current economic jam is going to be a long hard slog. Whatever the economic remedy is, we need it done right more than fast. Second, I'd point out that President Obama and the Democrats haven't told us what this plan is supposed to accomplish. I'd try to get the Democrats out in front for what this package is supposed to do and hold my fire until then.
In any case, the Democrats are the majority and they will get to set the agenda for a while. Whatever attention the Republicans get from the American people, they should use carefully and wisely.