Saturday, April 28, 2012

This is dispiriting:

Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein write in the Washington Post: (excerpts, emp add)
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. ...

What happened? Of course, there were larger forces at work beyond the realignment of the South. They included the mobilization of social conservatives after the 1973Roe v. Wade decision, the anti-tax movement launched in 1978 by California’s Proposition 13, the rise of conservative talk radio after a congressional pay raise in 1989, and the emergence of Fox News and right-wing blogs. But the real move to the bedrock right starts with two names: Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist. ...

Norquist, meanwhile, founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985 and rolled out his Taxpayer Protection Pledge the following year. The pledge, which binds its signers to never support a tax increase (that includes closing tax loopholes), had been signed as of last year by 238 of the 242 House Republicans and 41 of the 47 GOP senators, according to ATR. The Norquist tax pledge has led to other pledges, on issues such as climate change, that create additional litmus tests that box in moderates and make cross-party coalitions nearly impossible. For Republicans concerned about a primary challenge from the right, the failure to sign such pledges is simply too risky.

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. ...

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?
Good luck with that last one. The press is feckless.

Over at A Plain Blog About Politics (which reviewed the above essay) there was this comment:
It's [Republicans'] ideological extremism that drives their radicalism and disrespect for institutional norms. The stuff that makes no sense to us, like UN conspiracy theories, has its origins in the netherworlds of the far-right ideology. This fringe stuff is now bubbling into the mainstream of movement conservatism as tribal identifiers. It's the incoherent id of the far-right, but the general narratives of who the good guys and bad guys are, what might happen, is all pretty standard far-right ideology.

And disrespect for institutional norms is just the logical conclusion when your ideology instructs that all government is evil, wasteful and corrupt. You take that ideology, plug into our current instituions and you end up with the nihilistic power-grab of Delay and the unprecedented obstruction of McConnel. They hate government and benefit politically from the institutional norms that keep it running becoming discredited and ineffectual. In the meantime though, they are happy to use their disregard of these norms for the benefit of those that their ideology tells them to support: business, finance, social conservatism.
The press and ideology aside, the Mann and Ornstein essay cite cases where some Republicans were in support of various policies, but reversed themselves when the policies turned out to be close to something the Democrats could agree with. That's a result of the decision (reported elsewhere) that the stance of the Republicans was 100% opposition from day one of the Obama administration.


Yes, indeed, " ... the stance of the Republicans was 100% opposition from day one of the Obama administration."

Yesterday I watched a rerun of Bill Moyers' PBS program that featured Marty Kaplan, who elaborated for almost the full hour on points similar to those raised by Mann and Ornstein. (The interview took place before the publication of their article in the WaPo.) Kaplan was involved with the 1992 film "The Distinguished Gentleman" that starred Eddie Murphy. Clips from the film were used to illustrate well the continuing situation in Congress. Kaplan attacks TV news as entertainment, with the examples of the networks and the GOP presidential campaign debates. He also attacks the print media for always presently both sides of controversial issues without challenging out and out misstatements. The program is available at Bill Moyers' website.

By Blogger Shag from Brookline, at 4/30/2012 3:02 AM  

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