Are Republicans at fault?
June 9, 2012
A colleague of mine sent a Washington Post article to me a month or so ago. He thought the authors raised a serious point. He was worried. If he’s worried, I’m terrified.
Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein published an article in the Washington Post (April 27) titled, “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.” These authors are veteran observers of Congress, and Ornstein is a member of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a highly respected conservative think tank. Although they do not exonerate the Democrats, they clearly blame the Republicans for our current economic and political shift to the right.
The authors note that they have been studying politics for the past 40 years and have never seen Washington politics and Congress as dysfunctional as they are today. They referenced Rep. Allan West, R-Fla., when he claimed that there were between “78 and 81 Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party.” This outrage is right out of the McCarthyism script of the 1950s – but what they thought was so strange is that congressional leaders in neither party complained about it. Such hideous rhetoric appears to be expected, par for the course.
Mann and Ornstein claim: “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.”
This is their argument in a nutshell. They go into detail about how the Republicans got there – trashing moderate Republicans (like Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel and most recently, Richard Lugar). The anti-tax movement, initiated by California’s Howard Jarvis’ Proposition 13 in 1978, put a stranglehold on local government. The right wing embraced the anti-government (corrupt institutions arguments) of Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist, starting in 1979 and picking up speed in the ’80’s with 24-hour, right-wing radio talk shows. The next step took them to today’s well-funded, foreign-owned Fox News channel, behind the scenes, newly elected tea party activists in a Congress committed to no new taxes, and no compromise regardless of how reasonable. These neo-con activists are absolutely committed to not allowing the Obama administration to achieve any major progress to solve national problems. Government is not working. The Republicans are to blame.
President Bill Clinton tried during his eight years in office to moderate the dramatic right-wing shift of the Republican Party. Clinton is an enormously talented and popular politician but was unable to derail the opposition party’s shift to the right. He cooperated with then-Speaker Newt Gingrich on welfare reform, but Gingrich drove a political knife into Clinton’s back during a highly partisan impeachment trial. So much for bipartisan comity.
Whether or not you agree with Mann and Ornstein, this right-wing move of the Republican Party is very dangerous. I remain convinced it is the most frightening issue confronting our country since the Republican Party (Herbert Hoover) of the late 1920s and early ’30’s seriously flirted with Benito Mussolini’s notion of fascism.
Mussolini got the Italian trains to run on time but destroyed himself and his country. Will the right wing destroy us as well?
• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.