Sunday, April 29, 2012

Who is to Blame for Political Dysfunction?

     Artwork © Scott Gustafson. All rights reserved. Used with permission!
      Visit Scott's website

Take it not from me, but from non-partisan political observers, that the Republican Party is dragging the nation down with it!
by Charlie Leck

Let’s just say it: The Repubicans are the problem!
Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann are the co-writers of
a column that appeared in the Washington Post yesterday that blames the Republican Party for contributing most significantly to the current failure and stagnation of the political system in America. I strongly suggest you read the column (whether you are a Democrat or a Republican – or neither). Taken together, Orstein and Mann paint a pretty objective picture.

Who are Orstein and Mann?
It makes sense to know about these two guys in order to comprehend the full impact of what they write in this column.

Ornstein is a scholar on the staff of the American Enterprise Institute. Mann is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The Washington Post column is an adaptation from their book: It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.

Mann is a highly respected and extremely well known congressional scholar and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The Brookings Institution is a highly regarded think tank in the nation’s capital. It states its mission this way: “…to provide innovative and practical recommendations that advance three broad goals: strengthen American democracy; foster the economic and social welfare security and opportunity of all Americans; and secure a more open, safe, prosperous and cooperative international system.” Its claim of non-partisanship has been generally accepted.

The American Enterprise Institute is a conservative think tank that says its mission is “to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism – limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty and responsibility…”

“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.
“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.”

Mann and Ornstein blame this movement to the far, far right of the political spectrum on a number of possible factors…

·         The Roe v. Wade decision on legal abortion in ‘73
·         California’s proposition 13 that launched the anti-tax movement in ‘78
·         The increased popularity of conservative radio talk shows
·         The emergence of admittedly biased news programming, like FOX News

Yet, more so, the writers trace the hard to the right movement of the GOP to the influence of two particular individuals: Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist.

It is difficult and dangerous to summarize such a significant and complex piece of political analysis, so I urge you to read the entire piece as it is presented in the Washington Post and this may then lead you to order the book by these two writers. Nevertheless, I will take a stab at a brief summary.

Why Gingrich and Norquist?
The Norquist connection to this radical movement of the party to the right is the easier of the two to explain, so I’ll begin there.

In 1985, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform and, with it, the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Both are prime exhibits of the dangers of absolutism in politics or, for that matter, in society itself. The pledge binds those who sign it to NEVER support tax increases. The absolute here is absolutely clear. Here’s the kicker (as in kick in the pants): 238 of 242 House Republicans have signed the pledge and so have all but six of the 47 Republican U.S. Senators. To not sign the Norquist Pledge is to put oneself at risk for failure in the next election.

As a result of the no-tax-increase pledge, compromise in the House and Senate over virtually any serious and important issue is nearly impossible. The U.S. Senate filibuster rule was once only used sparingly and for extremely important issues or appointments. It is now used in considering and voting on nearly every single issue that comes before the Senate. A simple majority can no longer pass any controversial issue. In the Senate, it currently it takes 60 votes to pass any bill to which Republicans object.

The two authors blame the intransigency of the Republican Party for causing the recent and historic down-grade of America’s credit worthiness – the first down-grade of America’s credit standing in our history.

Among moderate Republicans in Congress there is all-out fear of the power and irrationality of their own party’s very conservative right-wing.

As a result, the work of the Congress has come to a near standstill on all matters except the most ceremonial and unimportant issues.

A key question – probably to be answered in the coming November elections – has to do with how seriously the American public is infected with this Norquist ideology. If the contagion runs deep, American society could be significantly changed for a long period of time.

The Newt Gingrich factor!
Gingrich was clearly the leader, from the time of his election to Congress in 1979, of the fight to wrest congressional control away from the Democratic Party. His goal was accomplished in the 1995.

The result of the Gingrich-Norquist reformation of Republican politics has left us with a Congress than cannot act on the simplest of governmental and administrative actions.

To make matters worse, conventional and rational, sensible, cooperative Republicans are leaving the Congress in disgust.

Unfortunately, the two authors predict that the “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.”

Oh, my! I’m sorry to put this in front of you today. I should have written about something rosier – like the international growth of nuclear weapons – or, perhaps, of the rapidly declining respect in which America is today held all around the world – being taken less and less seriously when it speaks of Democracy because it cannot even get its own house in order.

“Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before a king?
The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The Queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.”

The article by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein is very important. Their new book is… It’s Even Worse than it Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism.

Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

No comments:

Post a Comment