Blame Republicans for Everything, Say Two DC Scholars
Republicans are the "core" problem of partisan gridlock and Washington's dysfunction, so write two longtime Washington scholars and pundits -- who also happen to be liberals.
It's hard to say if Norman Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann are writing about the GOP tongue-in-cheek or just indulging a taste for high-blown hackery. Their article appeared on the front page of last Friday's Washington Post.
Let's hit some of the highlights of Ornstein's and Mann's analysis, shall we?
In the lead paragraph, Ornstein and Mann chide Speaker Boehner and Republican leaders for not condemning Representative Allan West's remarks about members of the House Democratic caucus being "communists."
Let's set aside the validity of West's remarks. How about some of the shameful remarks made by Democrats against Republicans, without apparent condemnation from Democratic leaders?
The late Democratic Representative Tom Lantos said this about Republicans during a budget fight in 1995: "Republicans were Goose Stepping in their pursuit of legislation." Who goose-steps other than fascists? Was Lantos condemned by Democratic leaders for his remarks?
Or this gem for Democratic Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr.: "In South Africa we'd call it apartheid. In Germany we'd call it Fascism. Here we call it Conservatism. These people are attacking the poor!"
Where was Nancy Pelosi's censure of Jackson for his zinger? But, then, it was Nancy Pelosi a couple of years ago who accused Americans who opposed ObamaCare of wearing "swastika armbands."
Consider this assertion by Ornstein and Mann:
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. [Italics added]
Pray tell, wasn't it President Obama and congressional Democrats who passed the president's massive government takeover of health care without meaningful debate and on a party-line vote in 2010? In fact, wasn't the voluminous health care bill rushed through Congress without having read or understanding many important details?
But ObamaCare doesn't count to Ornstein and Mann, evidently, seeing that liberals consider government-dominated health care as centrist. Discussion and debate shouldn't be about the advisability of ObamaCare in a free nation, but about how best to implement and manage it. Then - and only then - are Republicans reasonable.
And here's one from Ornstein and Mann for the laugh meter:
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.
Where does one begin to counter such idiocy? How about with Mr. Obama's outrageous expansion of the national government? What about Mr. Obama's czar-heavy administration? Or the jaw-dropping increase in the national debt? How about Mr. Obama unleashing the EPA and FDA to ride roughshod over business, industry, and citizens' lives? How about the deliberate strangulation of traditional energy in favor of pie-in-the-sky green energy? And did we already mention ObamaCare? No goal line crossing by the Democrats on any of this?
Ornstein and Mann go on to explain why Republicans are such extremists:
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.
Of course, Democrats never attempted any of these maneuvers during the last Bush presidency, particularly when it came to the Iraq War.
Maybe - just maybe - Ornstein and Mann might want to consider GOP congressional opposition from this perspective: perhaps congressional Republicans are using whatever legislative tools are at their disposal to stop Uncle Sam's dramatic leftward lurch? Perhaps Republicans are functioning in the best sense as a "loyal opposition?" Perhaps Republicans see it as their duty to stymie Mr. Obama's statist designs and to thwart policies and appointments that will only push the nation to ruin?
But that's a conservative's perspective, which is extreme by Ornstein's and Mann's standards.
There's more, of course, from DC's scholarly duo:
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. [Italics added]
Imagine that. There are some Republicans who actually believe that principle matters; in fact, that principle is fundamental to decision-making; that principle trumps deal-making. It's fairly obvious why Democrats favor deal-making over principle: because their principles aren't being compromised. The question for Democrats isn't ever: "Should government be big?" The question is always, "How big can we grow government at this time?"
This next quote by Ornstein and Mann veers into farce:
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.
Fiscal pressures made exponentially worse by the reckless spending of Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats.
Clever, isn't it, how Ornstein and Mann try to lump Mr. Obama in with former President Clinton, who seems practically Coolidge-esque when compared to Mr. Obama. Ornstein and Mann conveniently forget that President Clinton's fiscal restraint was helped along mightily by Newt Gingrich (vilified elsewhere in the article) and a Republican Congress that insisted on financial prudence.
Both men may want to recall that voters in the 2010 midterm elections decisively repudiated Mr. Obama's and congressional Democrats' handling of the economy and government.
Finally, Ornstein's and Mann's takeaway for inside-the-Beltway readers:
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.
That's right. Unless Homo Country Club Republicanus is resuscitated and the GOP returns to the left-wing Democratic Party's reservation, all cannot be well with the republic.
Trouble is, the natives are restless. Grassroots conservatives across the land have embraced founding principles and are pushing for change - change away from big government, away from the world of comfortable assumptions, arrangements, and relationships that make Ornstein and Mann cry out for a return to the status quo ante.