Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Cost of GOP Extremism and Obstruction

In the days of my parents and even my own days in the Republican Party, knowledge, logic, reason and acknowledgement of objective fact were respected and factored into responsible policy and legislative action.  Those days are gone and, to beat a dead horse, really began to die a quarter of a century ago when local GOP city and county committees began to vote Christofascists - many of whom are also racists and gun fanatics - into membership.  The mantra was to "grow the party" or expand the "big tent."  The result was the exact opposite as sane and rational members fled and religious and social orthodoxy became a prerequisite to party membership.  Indeed, continued party membership and participation demanded that one have the equivalent of a lobotomy.  A column in the New York Times looks at the obstruction and insanity that this foul transformation of the GOP has inflicted on America.  Here are excerpts:

Who could be against a bill to keep pistols, rifles, assault weapons and such commercially available explosives as Tannerite, ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder, and potassium chlorate out of the hands of those on the terrorist list?

The answer is 53 of 54 Senate Republicans and every one of the 241 House Republicans, who voted on Dec. 2 and Dec. 10, respectively, against taking up legislation to ban those on the F.B.I. list from buying explosives or guns. . . . . these votes illuminate a conservative orthodoxy that dominates Republican politics.

Not only are gun rights sacrosanct, there are conservative prohibitions against the acknowledgment of climate change; opposition to abortion is mandatory; immigration reform is rejected; and top priority goes to tax cuts.

In a successful effort to secure compliance, the right has institutionalized enforcement through such groups as Americans for Tax Reform, Freedom Works, the Club for Growth and the network of national and local Tea Party organizations. These watchdog groups ensure that Republicans toe the line, ready to foster — and finance — primary challenges against those who deviate from the party line.

There are adverse consequences for the nation in adherence to doctrinal conservatism.

A majority of economists surveyed in 2012 by the University of Chicago found that, despite Republican demands for austerity, the $831 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 stimulus legislation significantly reduced unemployment. Every Republican in the House voted against the bill on Feb. 13, 2009, as did 38 of 41 Republican senators on the same day.
Republican opposition to raising taxes, in turn, resulted in a decade-long delay before the enactment last year of long-term Highway Trust Fund legislation. During the delay, the nation’s infrastructure continued to decay, with one out of nine bridges considered structurally deficient; the Federal Aviation Administration estimated that airport overcrowding and delays cost the nation $22 billion annually; and 42 percent of major urban highways were congested.

Republican rejection of climate change and global warming is having a substantial impact at both the national and state levels.

In two votes on Nov. 17, 2015, for example, Senate Republicans voted by identical 49 to 3 margins to disapprove a proposed E.P.A. regulation of carbon pollution emissions and an E.P.A. regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. Two weeks later, House Republicans voted 231 to 10 to disapprove the greenhouse gas regulations and 231 to 2 to disapprove the carbon pollution emission guidelines.

In Florida, present and former state employees contend that the words “climate change” have been banned from state documents, although Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, denies any such edict.

In North Carolina, where communities along the Atlantic are threatened, the Legislature voted in 2012 to bar the state Coastal Resources Commission from defining “rates of sea-level change for regulatory purposes” before July 1, 2016. 

In many ways, the Republican strategy of huge resistance has backfired on the party itself.
As recently as 2001 to 2003, Gallup found that Republicans in Congress had favorability ratings in the high 40s to mid-50s, consistently better than their unfavorable ratings.

By 2015, the Polling Report, which tracks all public surveys, found that in five polls taken between August and the end of the year, the favorability rating of congressional Republicans had fallen to 14 percent, and the unfavorable ratings had risen to 79.4. Ratings of congressional Democrats at the end of 2015 were also negative, but significantly less so  . . . .

The American political system could use a candidate who possesses a good faith desire to address aggrieved voters who believe they have been shortchanged. But for this to be legitimate, such a candidate would have to have greater integrity, range and moral capacity than Donald Trump.

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