Tuesday, September 29, 2015

GOP Anarchy in the House of Representatives

As a former Republican I remain dumbfounded at the party's descent into insanity - at least until I remember the so-called GOP establishment's welcoming of the Christofasicts and those hiding behind the Tea Party label into the party.  Short term expediency has left the party with a metastasizing cancer that needs to be somehow stopped or else the party is headed toward eventual oblivion.  The question thus becomes one of whether somehow the dwindling number of sane Republicans in the party will overthrow the extremists or not.   Given how far right "mainstream" Republicans have become, the prospects do not look encouraging.  Geo­ffrey Kabaservice, the the author of book “Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party,” has an op-ed in the New York Times that looks at the troubling reality of today's GOP.  Here are excerpts:
REPUBLICANS aren’t big fans of Karl Marx, but perhaps they should ponder his observation that history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce. As preposterous presidential candidates dominate the polls and extremists topple congressional leaders, the Republican Party is headed for a replay of the catastrophic Goldwater revolt of the early 1960s. It may be an entertaining spectacle, but it’s dangerous.

The Republican Party has long been divided into comparatively moderate and conservative factions, but historically the conservatives were realists, too. Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, the great conservative leader of the mid-20th century, understood that his side had to make incremental steps toward its goals. It had to devise detailed policy alternatives to Democratic proposals, work with party leadership and build coalitions both within the party and across party lines.
But the early 1960s witnessed an overthrow of Taftian realism.

As Goldwater famously wrote: “My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones.”. . . . Goldwater’s followers viewed any Republicans who wanted to govern as traitors to be stamped out. . . . He would win the 1964 election, they believed, because a hidden majority would flock to the polls when presented with a candidate who wasn’t what we would now call “politically correct.”

Years ago, I wrote a history of the Republican civil war between the moderates and radicals of the Goldwater era. I’m sufficiently alarmed, watching history repeat itself, that I now work as a research consultant for the Main Street Partnership, an organization of over 70 members of Congress who represent the moderate-conservative wing of the Republican Party. Their rivals are members of the Freedom Caucus, who would rather close the government than compromise.

The radicals have no realistic alternative solutions of their own. Even to contemplate the negotiations and compromises such policies entail would sully their ideological purity. Senator Goldwater, despite his brave talk of repeal, was an isolated, powerless legislator. The extremists who opposed John A. Boehner as speaker are likewise a small faction without the ability to accomplish any positive program.

[M]any members of the Freedom Caucus put a higher priority on scoring purity points than on carrying out the nation’s business. Its chairman, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, is, by this accounting, the second-least effective member of Congress. The only one who’s even less effective is another longtime critic of Mr. Boehner, Representative Steve King of Iowa . . . .

The Republican Party’s unhappy ideological adventure in the early ’60s ended in disaster.  . . . . The present resurgence of anti-governing conservatism is also likely to end badly for Republicans. The extremists have the ability to disrupt the Congress, but not to lead it. Their belief that shutdowns will secure real concessions is magical thinking, not legislative realism.

The rebranding of Republicanism as a force for anarchy has spilled into the presidential contest and threatens the general election chances of the eventual nominee. The Republican establishment, and the party’s governing majority, have the power to quell this insurgency, whether by abandoning the so-called Hastert rule, which requires a majority of the majority to approve of legislation before it can come up for a vote, or by mounting primary challenges of their own. 

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