As a former Republican (I held a city committee position for 8 years) from a family of generations of Republicans I often lament what has become of the party that once valued intellect and knowledge and rationality and logic. Those days are long gone and, as I have done in the past, I again attribute the decline of the GOP to the ascendancy of the Christian Right - or as I prefer to call them, the Christofascists - in the party. The infiltration of the Christofascists with in the GOP has indeed been like a metastasizing cancer that has slowly but steadily driven out moderates and those who value constitutional principles such as the concept of separation of church and state. I personally witnessed the early stages of the process and ultimately resigned from the GOP citing the party's refusal to separate religious dogma from party policies in my resignation letter. Things have only worsened since that day years ago. A piece in Salon looks at the political dysfunction that now grips Washington, D.C., and correctly fixes the blame on the GOP. Here are excerpts:
The American political system is not broken. What’s broken is the Republican Party. And it’s not clear how it will recover.
What’s wrong with American politics and what can be done about it is the question that election law expert Rick Hasen sets for himself in a fascinating new paper. In particular, he asks whether American politics is so broken that the only cure is to chuck the Constitution and replace it with a parliamentary system or some other radical systemic reform.
Hasen lays out the well-known case of dysfunction (perhaps best set out in Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein’s recent “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks”) and considers, but mostly rejects, three possible rejoinders: that gridlock is actually what voters want; that gridlock is to some extent an illusion, and the system is more productive than frustrated partisans believe; and that dysfunction is real but could be cured by less-drastic measures such as Senate reform and electoral reform.
My conclusion? It’s not partisanship. It’s not polarization. It’s not even extremism.
It’s the Republican Party. The GOP is broken.
Perhaps the biggest cause is the perverse incentives created by the conservative marketplace. 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.
A second and related cause has to do with a spiraling insistence on ever-more-pure candidates in party primaries. To some extent, this is perfectly healthy. Party actors are able to use nominations to fight for their interests and for their preferred positions on public policy; in a healthy party, those fights are one of the best sources of real democracy in the political system. The danger in even the healthiest parties is that participation in nomination contests tends to be highest among those with the most extreme views, which can leave a party too far from median voters. In the GOP, however, there are strong incentives to constantly create new levels of purity, in many cases by creating purely symbolic differences and attempting to exploit them. Knowing of that threat, candidates don’t even need direct threats in many cases to make themselves easy marks for cranks attempting to pressure them.
The result? A massively dysfunctional party, as they amply demonstrated over the last decade —think Iraq, Congressional corruption, economic collapse, and on and on. Just to give the basics:
As I said at the beginning, I really don’t have any great solution to any of this. My guess is that while in theory it could be solved from the bottom up by activists or party-aligned groups who get fed up with it, the more likely solution will be that they’ll get lucky and win a presidential election with a nominee who somehow is able to handle the job and reform his party, in part by example. But it could take a long time for that to happen. Far more likely is that the next time Republicans win they’ll prove even more incapable of governing than they were during the George W. Bush presidency.
- 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
The problem isn’t partisanship or polarization. The problem is the GOP.
The author is too hesitant to name names and responsible factions. The descent of the GOP coincides directly with the rise of the Christofascists and, more recently, their cousins in the Tea Party which has an 85% overlap with conservative Christians. They are a poisonous cancer that needs to be eradicated.