Big babies

BIG BABIES…. Tim Noah pondered an interesting question last night: why are Republicans such “sore losers”? As Noah sees it, “When Democrats lose, they’re pathetic. When Republicans lose, they’re bitter and mean.”

That certainly seems true. Well before President Obama’s 100th day in office, leading Republicans had already labeled him a communist/fascist dictator hell bent on ending civilization and getting us all killed. Prominent Republican officials made casual references to secession, emulating the Taliban, and keeping conservative activists “armed and dangerous.”

In other words, after just a couple of months of Democratic rule, a few too many in the minority party were struggling to cope with reality.

When George W. Bush took office eight years ago, congressional Democrats actually tried to work with him, especially on education policy, and largely pretended not to notice the painful circumstances — in Florida, at the Supreme Court — that led to his presidency. This year, congressional Republicans have largely treated President Obama to a series of increasingly intense tantrums.

So, why are Republicans, to borrow Noah’s phrase, “bigger babies”? He offers two possibilities:

* When it comes to losing presidential elections, Democrats have more experience. During the past 40 years, the GOP won seven presidential elections. Democrats have won only four, and all of these were under conditions that were unusually favorable…. When the Republicans lose a presidential election, it’s a shock to their system. When Democrats lose, it mostly just confirms their tragic view of life.

* Democrats view elections as a means to an end, while Republicans view an election as an end in itself. This arises from their differing views about government. Democrats want to use government as a force for good in society, while Republicans want to diminish government’s capacity to do harm…. These differing views of government’s value cause Democrats to favor compromise (since they tend to view minimal action as preferable to no action at all) and Republicans to favor deadlock (second-best to active dismantlement of government).

The first argument doesn’t really work for me. It was probably more persuasive in 1992, when Republicans thought they owned the White House, controlling it for 20 of the previous 24 years. But those days are long gone. As it stands, the Democratic candidate has won more votes than the Republican candidate in four of the last five presidential elections. The “shock to the system” defense just doesn’t sound right.

The second argument is better in explaining why the GOP sees value in obstructionism, but Noah’s larger question is why Republicans are “big babies” after a defeat, and act in such a “bitter and mean” fashion. Their anti-government vision doesn’t really address this.

Maybe there’s a problem with Noah’s premise. He asks why Republicans act like spoiled children after losing a presidential race. But isn’t it at least possible that these same Republicans were just as infantile before losing the presidential race? Can we rule out the notion that GOP leaders aren’t sore losers, but are generally just a more ornery bunch?