Chris Matthews had a rare hit when he referred to Sarah Palin's effect on the presidential race as being like "new car smell." Lots of hubbub at the outset followed by rapidly diminishing returns. Upon her nomination I commented that she would ultimately serve to fire up the base (as if they weren't already voting for McCain) and exactly no one else; Americans are unmatched for their ability to purge their short-term memories as soon as the next shiny object flutters by. The fact is that 99% of what happens during the campaign is like new car smell.

The Palin analogy might be more accurate than Matthews intended, though, given that "new car smell" is actually quite toxic.


In a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll, 47% of respondents said that the Republicans are more to blame for the current economic mess. That makes sense, leaving us to wonder only about the logic of the remaining 53%.

Discounting the 8% who claimed that neither party is more responsible, we are left with a combined 44% of Americans who believe that the Democrats are more to blame (24%) or the parties share equal responsibility (20%). This might be the best evidence yet for one of Thomas Frank's favorite points (in both What's the Matter with Kansas? and The Wrecking Crew) – that the right has commandeered the language of victimhood, powerlessness, and anti-governmentism to the extent that these people do not even realize how long they have been in complete control of Washington. Somehow, no matter how many presidents they elect or how many decade-long Congressional majorities they have, the minority Democrats (whom the governing GOP treat worse than personae non grata) are somehow to blame.

Granted, 24% blaming the Democrats is unsurprising – this is the same 24% that voted for Alan Keyes in 2004. It is the same 24% level below which President Bush's approval rating will not fall. It is the 24% who would blame the Democrats if George Bush decided to invade Belgium tomorrow. These people, as Bill O'Reilly would say, are ideological zombies. Their opinions on politics are roughly as objective and valuable as Bill Swerski's opinions about Da Bears.

Since 1980, this country has lurched as far to the right on economic issues as any democratic nation has since the Industrial Revolution. Regulation and government have successfully been rebranded as the antichrist, the public has been conditioned to receive (so long as they maintain a steady flow of bitching) a new tax cut every five fucking minutes, and spending under "small government" conservatives has exploded to levels previously unimaginable – but that's probably all on "welfare" for the lazy colored folk, right?

This 44% will insist, even as things continue to get worse over the next 36 to 48 months, that the Democrats and nonspecific "liberals" are somehow to blame. Stuck in the 70s and unable to apply critical thinking skills to the arguments crammed down their throats by talk radio, they will blame this all on the big spending ways of left-wing Washington. Twelve years of a GOP Congress which reduced Clinton's role to a rubber stamp for milquetoasty "centrist" "new Democrat" free-market wanking and then did everything George W. Bush asked be damned. Eight years of Reagan and twelve of the Bushes be damned as well. The Democrats have been in control of the House (and at Lieberman's mercy in the one-seat majority Senate) for eighteen months! Doesn't that make them equally responsible?

I am seriously considering devoting a portion of my time to writing a handbook for liberal and progressive Americans entitled Stop Being Such a Goddamn Pussy. As we continue our march toward complete economic meltdown (The Dollar: Spend It, Or Burn It As Solid Fuel!tm) it is essential that this baseless, ridiculous argument that right-wing economic theory is somehow not responsible for our predicament be prevented from taking root. If you hear somebody make that claim, get about 18 inches from his face and tell him that he is brimming with shit. I, for one, have no intention of allowing anyone within my earshot of entertaining this delusion. I hate to say "We told you so", but…wait, no I don't. In fact I will get significant pleasure out of rubbing the right's nose in a simple set of facts: you did this. Your ideas. Your greed. Your leaders. Your ideology. Your childish insistence on believing what feels true rather than what can be supported by facts. Your insistence that the economic turmoil caused by repeated tax cuts during periods of runaway spending can be cured by more tax cuts.

This isn't a "difference of opinion" – it's the difference between correct and incorrect interpretations of basic facts. And if you wonder why I'm so aggressive about it, it's because I and everyone else who understands how full of shit these people are have to suffer the consequences of the toxic mess that three decades of supply-side leg-humping have created.