Partisan Rules and the Agonizing Death of a Functional RepublicPosted: April 26, 2012
My very Republican father and I were talking about the high levels of unemployment and the impact that was having on the deficit and the current problems with Social Security and Medicare. He was trying to reconcile how long this thing has drug on and why he wasn’t seeing any efforts being made that were similar to what happened during the Great Depression. He’s no FDR fan either. Even he had the sense that there were forces that were at work that were preventing a recovery. I muttered something about partisan politics and he had to agree. It’s gotten so that beating your opponent takes precedence over what you’re supposed to do once elected. We’re electing people that don’t want our government to work. They only want to win and spin.
You’ll undoubtedly hear a lot in the upcoming days about Robert Draper’s new book ‘Do Not Ask What Good We Do.’ It’s a book about the Republicans in Congress and their political agenda. There’s a focus on Tea Party politicians as well as the gang of stubborn white patriarchs. We knew from the very beginning–as announced almost immediately by Mitch McConnell–that the Republicans were intent on making Obama a one term president. The book details some very ugly things about the effort. It also details how elected Republican pols have begin to act like an angry mob at times because many have come with their own brand of “kill the beast” that is our Constitutional Republic. Still, the Draper book does not appear to be about one vast monolithic, stereotypical Republican right winger as it profiles some of the most controversial members. The anger binds them and divides them in intriguing ways.
At what point does ugly partisanship and sour grapes become such an issue that voters will wake up and vote their own interests for a change? Why are we such a nation of Angry Birds these days?
As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.
The event — which provides a telling revelation for how quickly the post-election climate soured — serves as the prologue of Robert Draper’s much-discussed and heavily-reported new book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives.”
According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.
For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.
“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes McCarthy as saying. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”
The conversation got only more specific from there, Draper reports. Kyl suggested going after incoming Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for failing to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes while at the International Monetary Fund. Gingrich noted that House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) had a similar tax problem. McCarthy chimed in to declare “there’s a web” before arguing that Republicans could put pressure on any Democrat who accepted campaign money from Rangel to give it back.
As most of you know, I was not a supporter of candidate Obama. However, there are no words to express how I feel about the idea of a group of elected officials planning a political coup during some of the worst days of our Republic over what seems like a bunch of partisan sour grapes. In this tale, there is little care or thought given to the suffering of the country in the grips of a recession and endless, worthless wars. There is only plotting for personal power. There are a lot of details about how the election of the Tea Party candidates has led to more problems that make our country look ungovernable and our differences irreconcilable. In some ways, the Republican take over of the House sandbagged the very people that plotted to make it so.
The anti-big-government zealotry that swept the Republicans into power turned out to be a major obstacle in the debt-ceiling negotiations with the White House. As Eric Cantor told Joe Biden in the talks, the best compromise House Republicans could offer was “giving you a vote on the debt ceiling. You may not think that’s a big deal. But you’ve got to understand, I’ve got a lot of guys that think that not raising the debt ceiling may not be such a bad thing—that in fact it may be just what we need.” Cantor then added wistfully “We’re working hard to educate our guys.”
The House Majority Leader didn’t want to wind up suffering the same fate during the debt ceiling negotiations as the No. 2 House Republican, Roy Blunt, who became a pariah among conservatives for his role in negotiating the details of TARP in 2008. When Cantor saw that he couldn’t bridge the differences between the Republicans and the White House on revenue increases, he backed out of the talks. To avoid blame, Cantor claimed that the Democrats were intending to do the same and he just wanted to preempt them. This “had no basis in fact,” Draper wrote.
Draper profiles many of the strongest Republican Tea Party characters in the book. This includes Allen West who appears to be completely out of touch with any form of reality as we know it.
Draper profiles firebrands like Florida’s Allen West, a former Army lieutenant colonel who attempts to induce his draconian brand of military discipline on America’s finances and security apparatus. West is also the only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus. West comes across as someone whose mouth gets him in trouble (he recently nabbed coverage for labeling 81 of his House colleagues communists, and then got more coverage for refusing to back down from the accusation); his hand-wringing paranoia would have more bite if it weren’t so nostalgic. But in Draper’s reporting, he becomes a surprisingly nuanced person who isn’t afraid to defy the more conservative elements of his base (including a vote clearing the way for that Republican whipping-horse, the Environmental Protection Agency, to clean Florida’s waterways after farmers in his district encouraged him to vote that way).
This may not be one of those books that stands the test of time. But, we need this kind of hand book right now. Here’s a headline that will give you some pause: “Dick Lugar trails by 5, poll says”.
Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar has fallen behind state Treasurer Richard Mourdock by five points, according to a new poll released Thursday.
The survey, taken Tuesday and Wednesday by Wenzel Strategies on behalf of Citizens United, places Mourdock at 44 percent and Lugar at 39 percent. Nearly 17 percent remain undecided with just 12 days to go until the Indiana Senate primary.
Citizens United is backing Mourdock in the May 8 contest.
Wenzel found that Mourdock’s lead is powered by self-described tea party conservatives, who comprise 36 percent of the GOP electorate.
Among that group of voters, Mourdock holds a commanding 63 percent to 24 percent lead. Lugar’s ability to keep the race close is due to moderates and traditional conservatives, which both favor the incumbent, according to Wenzel.
It seems like we had the birth of our nation in the Age of Reason and we may experience our death throes in the Age of the Angry Mob.