by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
May 11, 2012
WHAT HAPPENS TO A TWO-PARTY SYSTEM WHEN ONE PARTY WON'T GOVERN?
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- In a play on the "hope and change" theme of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee rolled out last week a new counter-slogan, "Hype and Blame 2012."
Of course, they are hoping everyone forgets who was president before Barack Obama.
Let me refresh your memories.
He turned a budget surplus into a deficit.
He started two wars and managed to screw both of them up, while slashing taxes for millionaires instead of raising them to pay for his two wars.
He allowed the mastermind of 9/11 to get away while pursuing an illegal war against a nation that had no involvement in the attacks.
He presided over the slowest rate of job growth since the Hoover Administration.
He trampled on civil liberties and disregarded the Constitution and international law.
And, he presided over the biggest economic collapse since the 1930s.
Ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it for our 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush!
As far as Republicans are concerned, Bush is utterly blameless for the eight years that have gone down in the history books as the worst presidency ever. And Obama is playing the "blame game" when he accurately points out that the bulk of the nation's economic collapse happened in 2007 and 2008, before he took office.
At the same time, Mr. Bush is treated as an un-person by the party. Nobody is clamoring for him to hit the campaign trail in support of Republican candidates. Nobody is seeking his endorsement, or his advice.
But Republicans aren't content to paint Obama's 2012 re-election campaign as an exercise in hype and blame. The Republicans are also mocking his campaign slogan, "Forward," which they think is a codeword for the secret Marxist agenda that Obama will unleash upon us all in his second term.
It would be a great joke. Except that it isn't. The Republicans sincerely believe that Obama is destroying the nation.
It's long past time for Obama to set the record straight. The Republican Party has no interest in being an equal partner in the governance of our nation. They have no interest in governance, period.
It's tough to talk about bipartisanship when you reach across the aisle and extend a hand, only to pull back a stub.
Since Obama took office, the Republicans have done nothing but attack and obstruct, and one of the biggest mistakes Obama made in his time in office was trying to be conciliatory to a pack of angry, half-bright dolts bent on making him a one-term president, even if they have to destroy the country in the process.
This 112th Congress has passed the fewest number of bills of any Congress in history. By passing only 80 bills last year, they have been even more unproductive than the previous gold standard for obstruction, the famed Republican "Do-Nothing" 80th Congress of 1947 and 1948 that President Truman successfully ran against. It's little wonder that the approval rating for the 112th Congress is bumping around at about 10 percent.
A column penned for The Washington Post by political scientists Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein on April 27 summed up the state of the GOP thusly: "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."
These aren't the words of wild-eyed leftists. Mann and Ornstein are as centrist as they come. When these two call the GOP "ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition," you know something is wrong.
And Mann and Ornstein put the blame where it belongs, on the two men who have done more to destroy our political system than anyone else: Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist.
"From the day he entered Congress in 1979, Gingrich had a strategy to create a Republican majority in the House: convincing voters that the institution was so corrupt that anyone would be better than the incumbents, especially those in the Democratic majority," they wrote.
"It took him 16 years, but by bringing ethics charges against Democratic leaders; provoking them into overreactions that enraged Republicans and united them to vote against Democratic initiatives; exploiting scandals to create even more public disgust with politicians; and then recruiting GOP candidates around the country to run against Washington, Democrats and Congress, Gingrich accomplished his goal.
"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 great a risk.
"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."
This is why nothing gets done in Washington. This is why, in the words of Mike Lofgren, a veteran Republican congressional staffer who left Capitol Hill after nearly three decades, "The Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th Century Europe."
This is why the 2012 election is going to be ugly beyond all belief.
AR Chief Correspondent Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.