ONTD Political

Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

12:31 pm - 04/28/2012
Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, was recently captured on video asserting that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party. Of course, it’s not unusual for some renegade lawmaker from either side of the aisle to say something outrageous. What made West’s comment — right out of the McCarthyite playbook of the 1950s — so striking was the almost complete lack of condemnation from Republican congressional leaders or other major party figures, including the remaining presidential candidates.

It’s not that the GOP leadership agrees with West; it is that such extreme remarks and views are now taken for granted.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct.

The post-McGovern Democratic Party, by contrast, while losing the bulk of its conservative Dixiecrat contingent in the decades after the civil rights revolution, has retained a more diverse base. Since the Clinton presidency, it has hewed to the center-left on issues from welfare reform to fiscal policy. While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post.

What happened? Of course, there were larger forces at work beyond the realignment of the South. They included the mobilization of social conservatives after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the anti-tax movement launched in 1978 by California’s Proposition 13, the rise of conservative talk radio after a congressional pay raise in 1989, and the emergence of Fox News and right-wing blogs. But the real move to the bedrock right starts with two names: Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist.

From the day he entered Congress in 1979, Gingrich had a strategy to create a Republican majority in the House: convincing voters that the institution was so corrupt that anyone would be better than the incumbents, especially those in the Democratic majority. It took him 16 years, but by bringing ethics charges against Democratic leaders; provoking them into overreactions that enraged Republicans and united them to vote against Democratic initiatives; exploiting scandals to create even more public disgust with politicians; and then recruiting GOP candidates around the country to run against Washington, Democrats and Congress, Gingrich accomplished his goal.

Ironically, after becoming speaker, Gingrich wanted to enhance Congress’s reputation and was content to compromise with President Bill Clinton when it served his interests. But the forces Gingrich unleashed destroyed whatever comity existed across party lines, activated an extreme and virulently anti-Washington base — most recently represented by tea party activists — and helped drive moderate Republicans out of Congress. (Some of his progeny, elected in the early 1990s, moved to the Senate and polarized its culture in the same way.)

Norquist, meanwhile, founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985 and rolled out his Taxpayer Protection Pledge the following year. The pledge, which binds its signers to never support a tax increase (that includes closing tax loopholes), had been signed as of last year by 238 of the 242 House Republicans and 41 of the 47 GOP senators, according to ATR. The Norquist tax pledge has led to other pledges, on issues such as climate change, that create additional litmus tests that box in moderates and make cross-party coalitions nearly impossible. For Republicans concerned about a primary challenge from the right, the failure to sign such pledges is simply too risky.

Today, thanks to the GOP, compromise has gone out the window in Washington. In the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly every presidential initiative met with vehement, rancorous and unanimous Republican opposition in the House and the Senate, followed by efforts to delegitimize the results and repeal the policies. The filibuster, once relegated to a handful of major national issues in a given Congress, became a routine weapon of obstruction, applied even to widely supported bills or presidential nominations. And Republicans in the Senate have abused the confirmation process to block any and every nominee to posts such as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solely to keep laws that were legitimately enacted from being implemented.

In the third and now fourth years of the Obama presidency, divided government has produced something closer to complete gridlock than we have ever seen in our time in Washington, with partisan divides even leading last year to America’s first credit downgrade.

On financial stabilization and economic recovery, on deficits and debt, on climate change and health-care reform, Republicans have been the force behind the widening ideological gaps and the strategic use of partisanship. In the presidential campaign and in Congress, GOP leaders have embraced fanciful policies on taxes and spending, kowtowing to their party’s most strident voices.

Republicans often dismiss nonpartisan analyses of the nature of problems and the impact of policies when those assessments don’t fit their ideology. In the face of the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, the party’s leaders and their outside acolytes insisted on obeisance to a supply-side view of economic growth — thus fulfilling Norquist’s pledge — while ignoring contrary considerations.

The results can border on the absurd: In early 2009, several of the eight Republican co-sponsors of a bipartisan health-care reform plan dropped their support; by early 2010, the others had turned on their own proposal so that there would be zero GOP backing for any bill that came within a mile of Obama’s reform initiative. As one co-sponsor, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), told The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein: “I liked it because it was bipartisan. I wouldn’t have voted for it.”

And seven Republican co-sponsors of a Senate resolution to create a debt-reduction panel voted in January 2010 against their own resolution, solely to keep it from getting to the 60-vote threshold Republicans demanded and thus denying the president a seeming victory.

This attitude filters down far deeper than the party leadership. Rank-and-file GOP voters endorse the strategy that the party’s elites have adopted, eschewing compromise to solve problems and insisting on principle, even if it leads to gridlock. Democratic voters, by contrast, along with self-identified independents, are more likely to favor deal-making over deadlock.

Democrats are hardly blameless, and they have their own extreme wing and their own predilection for hardball politics. But these tendencies do not routinely veer outside the normal bounds of robust politics. If anything, under the presidencies of Clinton and Obama, the Democrats have become more of a status-quo party. They are centrist protectors of government, reluctantly willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits to maintain its central commitments in the face of fiscal pressures.

No doubt, Democrats were not exactly warm and fuzzy toward George W. Bush during his presidency. But recall that they worked hand in glove with the Republican president on the No Child Left Behind Act, provided crucial votes in the Senate for his tax cuts, joined with Republicans for all the steps taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and supplied the key votes for the Bush administration’s financial bailout at the height of the economic crisis in 2008. The difference is striking.

The GOP’s evolution has become too much for some longtime Republicans. Former senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska called his party “irresponsible” in an interview with the Financial Times in August, at the height of the debt-ceiling battle. “I think the Republican Party is captive to political movements that are very ideological, that are very narrow,” he said. “I’ve never seen so much intolerance as I see today in American politics.”

And Mike Lofgren, a veteran Republican congressional staffer, wrote an anguished diatribe last year about why he was ending his career on the Hill after nearly three decades. “The Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe,” he wrote on the Truthout Web site.

Shortly before Rep. West went off the rails with his accusations of communism in the Democratic Party, political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, who have long tracked historical trends in political polarization, said their studies of congressional votes found that Republicans are now more conservative than they have been in more than a century. Their data show a dramatic uptick in polarization, mostly caused by the sharp rightward move of the GOP.

If our democracy is to regain its health and vitality, the culture and ideological center of the Republican Party must change. In the short run, without a massive (and unlikely) across-the-board rejection of the GOP at the polls, that will not happen. If anything, Washington’s ideological divide will probably grow after the 2012 elections.

In the House, some of the remaining centrist and conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats have been targeted for extinction by redistricting, while even ardent tea party Republicans, such as freshman Rep. Alan Nunnelee (Miss.), have faced primary challenges from the right for being too accommodationist. And Mitt Romney’s rhetoric and positions offer no indication that he would govern differently if his party captures the White House and both chambers of Congress.

We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?

Also, stop lending legitimacy to Senate filibusters by treating a 60-vote hurdle as routine. The framers certainly didn’t intend it to be. Report individual senators’ abusive use of holds and identify every time the minority party uses a filibuster to kill a bill or nomination with majority support.

Look ahead to the likely consequences of voters’ choices in the November elections. How would the candidates govern? What could they accomplish? What differences can people expect from a unified Republican or Democratic government, or one divided between the parties?

In the end, while the press can make certain political choices understandable, it is up to voters to decide. If they can punish ideological extremism at the polls and look skeptically upon candidates who profess to reject all dialogue and bargaining with opponents, then an insurgent outlier party will have some impetus to return to the center. Otherwise, our politics will get worse before it gets better.


I know a lot of this is old news to a lot of _p's members, but I thought it was a nice summary of just how ridiculous the GOP is. Also one of the writers of the piece is an American Enterprise Institute scholar, so I'm wondering how long it's going to be before some right-wing pundit calls AEI "leftist" or whatever.
rationalflake 29th-Apr-2012 03:33 am (UTC)
yeah, I read this a few days ago and was legit flabbergasted to see the American Enterprise Institute in the byline.
nesmith 29th-Apr-2012 03:53 am (UTC)
I just want to know when the GOP is going to collapse and disappear. I don't think I will ever again be able to view them with anything other than intense hatred and disgust.
4o5pastmidnight 29th-Apr-2012 04:41 am (UTC)
I think it's getting so extreme that there will be a split sometime soon.
tilmon 29th-Apr-2012 05:35 am (UTC)
They won't collapse and disappear without a fight. They are entrenched demogogues who should have been shamed and routed 30 years ago. They now have the power they need to stay in place, and the ability to whip up a violent frenzy to maintain their positions. Groups like AEI, people like Gingrich, thought they could somehow control these retrograde forces for their own hypocritical ends, never believing themselves any of the charges they were making and having so little respect for the common good that they actively sought to convince significant minorities that "common good" is the same as communism. They are worried now that they see the flames licking their own eaves, but they were the bastards who set the fire to their neighbors.
carolpent 29th-Apr-2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
Considering the nature of our democracy, I don't think the Republican party will die so much as shift ideologically. When it comes right down to it, the two parties in our system don't really stand for anything, just whatever they think their constituents want. For example, being a Democrat doesn't mean what it did say, sixty or seventy years ago, and with the rise of the evangelical right, being a Republican doesn't mean what it used to mean. The GOP might collapse for a little while, but something different will come out of the rubble.
ayarane 29th-Apr-2012 06:03 am (UTC)
Maybe I'm oversimplifying things in many places, but this is pretty much my observation of what's happened to date:

GOP is butthurt over having lost the presidency AND that there's a black man in the oval office. They decide to just upend everything in an attempt to discredit both the President and the Democrats, even if it means taking down the rest of America. "Don't worry, we can fuck things up enough and God will make everything right in the end because we're the real Americans, not that dreck."

So you get things like the birthers, the recalcitrant digging of feet into the ground over what should be sensible policy decisions, the whole clusterfuck that is HCR. Basically, the Republicans turning into a bunch of 4 year olds. (I hate to lump the more reasonable-minded congressional republicans in there... but at the same time I'm hard-pressed to name any, and in this case if you're not actively shaming your asshat peers for being asshats, you're part of the problem). For flavor, they also start up the War on Women and LGBT and other minorities. Why not, eh? Go out in a blaze of hateful glory, and take as many out with you as possible.

The Democrats and anyone else who would call themselves liberals... they bent over, they were accommodating, they did almost everything they could to make some kind of good-faith gesture. Their mistake is assuming that the Republicans were going to play by the rules (even the convoluted ones of their own creation). It wasn't happening, it was never GOING to happen. It's admirable to try and play nice, but when you're dancing with a stubborn pack of bullies, it's pretty much a given that you'd be better off banging your head against a wall.

So, yes, it's time to take the kid gloves off. This is the Hancock-brand "call me an asshole one more time" moment, and that's when the Democrats need to just roll their head over yonder and make with the footstomping. No more neutering yourselves to make nice with the Republicans. No more of this throwing women and minorities under the bus because some white dude conservatives are going to get butthurt and hide behind their pro-life/family/business banner and blah-de-blah. And finally, it's time to break that tax foot off in some rich dude's ass.

Finally: I would just slap any GOP dood who bitches every time Obama goes on a late-night TV show for fun and lulz. He's human, too. Let him have fun like the rest of us. He's not as miserable as the Republicans for it, that's for sure.
(no subject) - Anonymous
omimouse 29th-Apr-2012 06:55 am (UTC)
Basic human decency.
(no subject) - Anonymous
captainpunisher 29th-Apr-2012 07:54 am (UTC)
I can't think of any Democratic governors who have said that Republicans' one goal is to kill children. But that's what the governor of Mississippi said about Democrats.
(no subject) - Anonymous
stevie_jane 29th-Apr-2012 08:34 am (UTC)
Uh huh, sure, name them.

The whole point was you cannot say both sides are just as bad just for the sake of appearing 'fair'. It's pretty obvious to anyone not thick as shit/not paying any attention that it's not the case.
(no subject) - Anonymous
stevie_jane 29th-Apr-2012 09:22 am (UTC)
You are so disingenuous it's almost funny. Instead it's boring. Which is sad.

You think Republicans can't/don't act like terrorists and back people who act as such? You think they are somehow unaware that their stance of abortion and healthycare in general will kill women? I find that unlikely. Also, no, I give no fucks about how 'awful' my tone is.

Protip: the definition of terrorist isn't 'brown person from a brown people country'. It's a pity the Republicans still pretend it is.
(no subject) - Anonymous
stevie_jane 29th-Apr-2012 10:03 am (UTC)
I'm not a Democrat. Now what?

Also, seriously, look up terrorism and keep on pretenting Republicans can't fit the definion when they hold a country hostage to their whims and make threats like it's their job.
(no subject) - Anonymous
oudeteron 29th-Apr-2012 09:05 pm (UTC)
Then why derail the conversation just to whiteknight them?

Seriously, this bid at "two-sidedness" when it's been repeatedly demonstrated that the Republicans are not out for compromise on their extremist views is old, irrelevant, and deliberately distracts from the real issue. These people don't need to be defended, at this point. At all. Unless of course you want them to stay this influential and force their destructive policies down everyone's throat sooner or later.
amyura 29th-Apr-2012 10:42 am (UTC)
It makes a public declaration that you think "I am right and anyone who disagrees with me is stupid."

Yet Hannity, O'Reilly, Ingraham, Levin, Limbaugh, Malkin, and Coulter say almost exactly this almost every day they're on the air or in print.

It also doesn't take much effort to notice that you came up with a whopping four quotes and had to go back almost six years to do so.
grazie 29th-Apr-2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
False equivalencies. Look it up.

The point of the article is this: Republicans have created gridlock in this country that makes it next to impossible to pass any meaningful legislation, no matter how necessary. Point in case: the debt ceiling fiasco and the then extremely popular republican congressman Michelle Bachmann insisting this was a fight to not give the government a blank check.

Which was a common sentiment among Republicans and conservatives at the time, completely eschewing the facts of what the debt ceiling is.

Or the fact that John Boehner has been forced to walk away from no less than two Grand Bargains because of the ideological purity his party requires of him.

It is offensive for you to insist, despite the many recent examples and the points listed in the article, that 'Democrats do it too.' And to act like you are being shut down in your insistence is completely disingenuous. The only person I see shutting down conversation is you, simply by acting completely dismissive of the points brought up, and acting like the milquetoast quotes that you've found makes the entire problem with the modern GOP go away because 'Democrats do it too.'

Making ignorant, or purposely belligerent comments while disregarding the matter at hand, is not intellectual debate. And I don't give a shit if you're not a Republican, because that has absofuckinglutely 0% to do with what you're doing.
(no subject) - Anonymous
grazie 30th-Apr-2012 04:10 am (UTC)
Troll harder.
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
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silver_sandals 29th-Apr-2012 10:16 pm (UTC)
Uh.... maybe all those times Republican-controlled state legislatures tried to slam by legislation while the Democrats were not in the room and other examples of just failing to follow the proper procedure? Just look at Wisconsin. The point was, though, that there's been no give-and-take or compromise, just right-wingers getting more and more extreme.

Seriously, you're not being a very convincing troll.
(no subject) - Anonymous
silver_sandals 1st-May-2012 12:06 am (UTC)
What you seem not to realize is that we have all already had these conversations and we have no desire or responsibility to rehash them with you. I'm only talking to you 'cause I'm bored.
(no subject) - Anonymous
silver_sandals 1st-May-2012 03:05 pm (UTC)
...are you ever going to actually respond to what I said or what
silver_sandals 1st-May-2012 03:27 pm (UTC)
Here's an idea: how about you educate yourself. Try looking through the tags for 'Republicans', 'Wisconsin', and 'Georgia', that should give you somewhere to start.

Basically: lurk moar. That's what I did before I started commenting. The reason this place might seem like a hive mind to you is most of us have been here for quite a while and already been through all these discussions. We're not going to rehash them just for the sake of your edification.
stevie_jane 29th-Apr-2012 08:43 am (UTC)
They'll just stick around outright lying and making fools of themselves until they can't any longer. Using the existing commonplace prejudices against women, minorities, and anyone who falls under they LGBT umbrella can't work forever. It's already registering as distateful even to people who only seem to give a bit of a fuck, so it's not unlikely there'll be a time when it's admitted by most that it's actually downright disgusting to treat millions of people like shit just so cis white men can come out on top every time.
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