Monday, May 21, 2012

Republicans say Republicans are the Problem

Perhaps you heard recently that two prominent Republican strategists have acknowledged that Republicans are the problem with government. Surely you have read by now the whirlwind tour that Messrs. Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have been on, where they have been able to discuss in detail their damning indictment against what the Republican Party has become. All the major media outlets have hosted the pair where they have been able to honestly discuss the issues. Shawn Hannity says he has had an epiphany, a veritable mea culpa. Even Rush Limbaugh admits to rethinking his positions.

All right, so that will never happen. Not when their salaries depend upon them not understanding it, to paraphrase Upton Sinclair. But Mann and Ornstein, writing in none other than the Washington Post, did indeed acknowledge how toxic their party has become:
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.
It is grimly gratifying to hear them admit that
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.
The Republican party was not always like this. Geoffrey Kabaservice's history of the party, Rule and Ruin, reminds us Republicans had long stretches of moderation and sensibility. Mann and Ornstein plead this point as well. They acknowledge what progressives have been saying for years; "...the center of gravity of the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right."

And you thought all that talk about obstructionist Republicans was just whiny liberals:
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.
I remind readers that Mann and Ornstein are fixtures in Washington and in Republican circles, often called upon to do the intellectual heavy lifting on conservative issues. So what makes the media response even more interesting, in an Alice-in-Wonderland sort of way, is the systemic refusal of Washington elites, beyond the Wapo, to acknowledge or even bother to dispute, the veracity of Mann and Ornstein's contentions. They are simply being ignored. Bear in mind that these two authors are among the most quoted in politics; they are frequent guests on the media talk shows.

Not this time. Republicans and their media masters can blow off such talk when it comes from Democrats; it is harder to do when your own policy wonks say the same thing. So you do the next best thing. Ignore them and be thankful the news cycle is as short as the American attention span.

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