Saturday, April 28, 2012

Jury Finally In: The Republicans Are to Blame

First, a note on my previous post on delusional Republicans. I intended to portray the non-professional Republican Party members -- you know, the real Americans -- as the deludees and the professional Republican Party members -- elected politicians, Rush Limbaugh, most anyone on Fox -- as the deluders, and I hope that distinction is clear. Some might see this as cynical or that it belies the legitimacy of the-stupid-or-evil polarity, but I don't see it that way. The stupid-or-evil polarity applies only to the professional class and is meant to shed light on the motivation of the professional right. The stupid professionals shouldn't catch a break, and the evil professionals are responsible for the bulk of damage they do to those suckers who fall for their schlock. Those bastards should be called out and fought to the last ditch. But it doesn't excuse the suckers.

Voters captured in their native habitat.

No, with a bit of sadness, I have to admit I'm calling the Republican grassroots and the right-leaning independents stupid or ignorant. The stupid-or-ignorant polarity is a real phenomenon, though the notion of willful ignorance can't be forgotten. Some people just long for a time when blacks knew their place and women didn't compete with men for jobs -- and knew their place, too, which was in the nursery or the kitchen. That wish to return to "traditional values" is a powerful draw, especially for the disenfranchised, the displaced. That's why it's so prevalent in the South and among the less educated.

I intend that statement of belief. It's backed up by studies and facts. I don't have to like it, and I don't. That's why I spent a large part of my life in the field of education. I wanted to fight ignorance and stupidity. Like Paul Krugman -- with whom I share an affinity if not stature -- I fear I might have failed. But to paraphrase Martin L. King, the arc of education is long and bends toward knowledge -- and illumination.

*               *               *               *

Now, back to my regularly schedule post, one that I offer with unbounded joy. It turns out that two leading centrist political scientists, one from a centrist Washington think tank and the other from a conservative version, have thought long and hard about it and come to the conclusion that the Republican Party has flown off its wheels, much to the detriment of the federal government's ability to do its job, which, unsurprisingly, is to govern. And it's published on the front page (web version, at least) of the Washington Post!

And there was great joy and celebration throughout the land.

Here's a link to the lengthy and scholarly article, co-authored by Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institute and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, entitled "Let's just say it: The Republicans are the Problem." Here are the money paragraphs:
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.
 That's pretty heady stuff for someone like me who came to this conclusion long ago but wondered why the "liberal media" never acknowledged it. Mann and Ornstein have a recommendation to said media:
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?
 Again, heady stuff. Another treat from the article was this link to an article on Truthout written by a Mike Lofgren, a lifelong Republican and a veteran of 28 years as a congressional staffer. Here are his money paragraphs:
To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.
[ ...] It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that 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. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant. [emphasis mine]
 Read the whole article, long as it is. Since Lofgren's a Republican and one who was on the inside for much of his career, when he speaks it's with the knowledge of the inside game, making it all the more visceral and frightening in its clarity. It explains in vivid detail both the deception and the implications.

Even if I'm an avowed archenemy of today's Republican Party and the conservative movement in general, I, too, am almost wistful for the quaint days when even Barry Goldwater was a moderate compared to today's rabble. The realization that Richard Nixon, for all his foibles, was by today's standards a liberal with good intentions for the country, though he pursued them with an evil vigor.

Holy shit, another voter.

There's more literature out there about this descent by one of America's two great parties into an insurrectionist party that obstructs with guerrilla-like tactics. Lofgren quotes John P. Judis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace writing in The New Republic:
Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today's Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery.
That didn't work out well for the secessionists, did it? Thanks to the NRA, the right is easily better armed than the left. So I hope it doesn't come to actual insurrection. In today's climate, where money is the overwhelming ticket to power, the battle will more likely be played out in the political theater of war than a real battlefield.

Yet, there are calls from the far left, the Occupy movement in particular, to come together behind the barricades, and the Tea-Party freshmen in the House of Representatives still fight with the fervor of the true believer and when offered the chance to close down the government over a simple debt-ceiling vote, crying, "Bring it on!"

Oops, wrong barricade.

Where this all ends remains clouded in mystery, but how we got there is not. Hopefully the media will take the advice of Mann and Ornstein before it's too late. We need a long and healthy dose of reality to restore us to anything resembling a functioning great nation.

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