It's the beginning of a new year—stock-taking time. I recently had an opportunity to review the memo I wrote twenty-two months ago on my hopes and dreams for our blogging here at Campaign for America's Future on the subject of conservative failure.
All my professional goals are grand. So was this one:
CAF's project...is to link the ideology of conservatism to things Americans find disastrous, such that conservatism becomes a "dirty word"—equivalent to the status the status of "liberalism" by the time of the 1988 presidential election.
The timing seemed propitious. Democrats had just won sweeping congressional victories campaigning on the theme of George Bush's failure. Democratic voter ID was (and is) way up; what's more, so was the underlying evidence  that the American public agreed with the proposition that progressive ideas were good ones, and conservative ideas were bad.
Our idea was to take that moment and help seed in the public mind a new habit of mind: thinking about the last eight years not as failure of one person or even a set of people—George W. Bush's administration—but as the failure of an ideology, a governing program crystalized in the Barry Goldwater campaign, attempted in the Reagan administration, and reaching its apotheosis in 2001 with all three branches finally in the firm control of conservatives for the first time since the 1920s.
Frankly, my dream was that Republican presidential candidates—if not in 2008, then in 2012—would show up on programs like "Meet the Press" and "Hardball" and at least be asked, "Aren't you too conservative to be elected president?" More proximately, we at least hoped people would get used to thinking about the disasters of the last eight years as something that could not be wished away merely with the absenting of George Walker Bush from the scene, but as a way to get people talking about conservatism as such, as an ideology, in more general and critical terms.
Perhaps it's too early, but I'm not sure whether or not we've succeeded, even among our progressive allies.
This past weekend I was watching a Sunday night panel show  produced by Chicago talk radio station WLS and syndicated nationally. Came time for the discussion of the evolving Obama investment-based stimulus package. The conservative panelist said what conservatives say about stimulus, which is to say he had nothing to say—or nothing but lies. Disparaging Obama's "neo-Keynsian blather"—that would refer to Obama's promise of infrastructure investment that America actually needs—and praising Obama's supposed wisdom in increasing the chunk of the stimulus going to tax cuts from $100 to $300 billion, the conservative heavyweight in question...well, blathers. The original plan for the $100 billion, he claimed, was "kind of like tax credits, which is basically a different form of government spending"—money down the toilet, in other words, apparently because it merely, you know, went to ordinary American citizens. Now, he said, perking up, Obama's talking about "some really decent business tax cuts." Which apparently brings nothing but ponies and puppy dogs: if we want recovery, the conservative said, "you'd better be about job creation. You'd better be about incentivizing small businesses."
The thing I found so discouraging was that he got away with this horseshit. Supply-side stimulus is noble and cost-free; demand-side stimulus is worse than chemical waste: any responsible economist will tell you that if you want to pump-prime an economy, this is turned around exactly 180 degrees from the facts. Listen to Dean Baker  in the Fresh Air appearance I reference above: Corporations who get tax cuts don't tend to spend it on investment: they spend it on anything but investment—including, say, dividends, which rich people are like to apply toward, say, foreign-made luxury items. (Read Krugman making the same argument , here in technical form .)
But, like I say, the conservative got away with the con. The liberal panelist, a very smart blogger at one of the most prominent liberal blogs, picked up the discussion by noting how Obama's proposed business tax cuts prove that he's a pragmatist.
I hate to play Wednesday morning quarterback. But she she have roared back in thunder that two plus two does not equal five. It equals four. She should have said what I've heard Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute told the moderator in a recent debate with Grover Norquist: "I'm glad Grover is here on this panel to remind us just what the ideology was that failed so massively, and which the American people rejected so decisively."
We've still got so much work to do. People still don't get the big con. Conservatives can still spout the most errant nonsense, and people are not crying foul.