Jonathan Bernstein in Salon explores some recent ruminations (especially election law expert Rick Hasan’s) on fixing our ridiculously gridlocked system but asserts that it’s not the system that is broken, the GOP is.
Hasan notes that our constitutional system was set up so it was difficult to pass legislation unless there was consensus, yes. And yet we always got things done, albeit usually in a way that was too late or too compromised to be real justice or effective government. Bernstein argues that the insane stasis we live under today isn’t really about the system, even the abuse of the filibuster, but rather the dysfunctional Republican Party and their perverse adoption of a confrontational style of discourse that comes with the conservative marketplace – the industry that includes talk radio, Fox News, fund raising, book sales – that actually incentivizes bomb throwing over compromise.
Simply put, a large portion of the party, including the GOP-aligned partisan press and even many politicians, profit from having Democrats in office. Typically, democracies “work” in part because political parties have strong incentives to hold office, which causes them once they win to try hard to enact public policy that keeps people satisfied with their government. That appears to be undermined for today’s Republicans.
Except that while in the past such extremism was unsustainable, through gerrymandering and a constant propaganda drum beat the GOP has profited from behavior that should have had them rooted from power.
What Bernstein and others do not take into account is that 30 years of such propaganda has created an entire generation of politicians, pundits and conservative voters that have been indoctrinated in lies and are immune to facts. So yeah, they should be out of power, throwing bombs, being a pain in the ass to the Democrats trying to govern. But they’re not out of power on the sidelines, they’re in power in Congress, in the courts, in state houses, acting out as if they were on the sidelines with no responsibility for governing.
From the GOP primary voter to the Speaker of the House they exhibit:
An aversion to normal bargaining and compromise
An inability to banish fringe people and views from the mainstream of the party
An almost comical lack of interest in substantive policy formation
A willingness to ignore established norms and play “Constitutional hardball”
A belief that when out of office, the best play is always all-out obstruction
Without a third party for rational traditional conservatives to go to, the present GOP is hell bent on shutting down governing. I don’t know how they will survive. The question is whether they can be stopped before we all go over the cliff together.
Fast and Furious and Benghazi, the sequester and the various fiscal cliff fights, they all point to a party that is all about the outrage that used to just be the bailiwick of talk radio:
Republican politicians who believed that the job of a member of Congress is to be outraged, and once they’ve done that, they can pretty much go home.
I agree with Bernstein to the extent that our constitutional system is probably not as much to blame as some think. But our political system has been waylayed by the dysfunctional GOP. One of two things should have happened by now (or should happen soon):
1. The GOP moderates based on their failures in 2006, 2008 and 2012; or
2. The GOP is sent packing because of their failure to moderate and disdain of actual governing.
But what actually happened is they did not moderate after 2006 and 2008 and were rewarded for it in 2010. They got spanked again in 2012, but show every sign of having a short term memory problem that forgets everything except 2010. If they do not get spanked again in 2014…