Monday, October 12, 2015

How the GOP Establishment Allowed the Hijacking of Congress

There have been many post mortems of how the Republican Party got to the point where it now finds itself hostage to extremists who have no desire to govern the nation but instead wreak havoc on the system and increase government paralysis.   A piece in the Los Angeles Times rightly lays out the reality that the current hijacking of the House of Representatives was done with the complicity of the so-called GOP establishment.  The only thing that it fails to do is to properly tie the descent into insanity with the rise of the Christofascists within the GOP - the very same Christofascists who make up the bulk of the Tea Party saboteurs.  Expect nothing to change in the GOP until this lunatic element is eradicated from the GOP or becomes irrelevant.  With the would be 2016 GOP presidential candidates prostituting themselves willy nilly to these folks, this is not going to happen any time soon.  Logic, reason and a grasp of objective reality simply hold no sway with those living in a fantasy world. Here are column excerpts:

The irony is that McCarthy and Boehner helped many of the rebels get elected. McCarthy was one of the three leaders of the GOP's “Young Guns” program, which recruited up-and-coming conservatives for House elections in 2010 and after. Another was Eric Cantor (R-Va.), a Boehner deputy who lost his seat when an insurgent defeated him in the Republican primary. The third, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is now almost every Republican's favorite candidate for speaker — but on Friday he said he wasn't interested.

Boehner wasn't part of the new wave; he was an old-line conservative who believed in blocking the agenda of a Democratic president, but also accepted the need to compromise to keep the federal government running. And that enraged many of the insurgents, who had promised voters they wouldn't agree to half-measures. They believe they were sent to Washington to obstruct compromises, not support them.

Their intransigence produced a series of fruitless crises.

In 2011, they demanded that Boehner refuse to allow a rise in the federal debt ceiling if Obama and the Democratic-led Senate didn't agree to all the spending cuts they wanted. The gambit failed. In 2013, they shut the federal government for 16 days in an attempt to force the repeal of Obama's health insurance program; that gambit failed too.

After his decision to retire, Boehner denounced the GOP radicals as “false prophets” who misled their own voters. They “whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know — they know! — are never going to happen,” he said last week.

But don't feel too bad for him: Boehner stood by while that whipping took place.

“Now he's saying the House has been hijacked by radicals, but the pilots of this airline gave the hijackers first-class seats,” Norman J. Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, a longtime Congress-watcher, told me. “They encouraged them, incited them, promised them things. And now the hijackers want what they were promised.”

As radical as the insurgents are, it would be wrong to dismiss them as a fringe group. Even as they antagonized Boehner, they built a national constituency that may be a majority among grass-roots Republicans. A Fox News poll last month reported that 62% of GOP primary voters believe they have been “betrayed” by the party's leaders; 66% believe leaders have failed to do everything possible to block Obama's agenda.

The GOP's insurgent impulse, in other words, isn't merely a result of gerrymandering or conservative microclimates in rural America. It's a product of the same widespread anger that has made Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina potential presidential nominees.

Last week, the insurgents — who have organized themselves as the Freedom Caucus, with about 40 members — auditioned McCarthy and others for speaker. As the price for their support, they demanded written promises from McCarthy: a Freedom Caucus member as his deputy, more limits on the speaker's power to appoint committee chairmen, no punishment for members who buck party discipline. McCarthy would have been crazy to say yes.

The sensible thing at this point might be for the Republican conference to split. After all, it's already operating as an unstable coalition of two mini-parties: the Freedom Caucus and what you might call the Governing Caucus.
Republicans will keep their majority — but it still won't be a usable, workable majority. They'll have the satisfaction of telling their constituents that they refused to compromise. But they still won't get anything done.

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