Progressive Democrats who understand that dialogue, negotiation, and compromise are necessary for the democratic process to work have been struggling with the scary reality that a majority of the opposition party do not. Most politicians on both sides of the aisle have traditionally been strong on public rhetoric but when the time came for legislating, reason prevailed and a much more pragmatic approach was adopted.
Through the first two years of his presidency, Barack Obama turned a deaf ear to the Republican rallying cries as voiced by Boehner and McConnell – namely that their only agenda in Congress was to ensure his defeat for re-election. Unfortunately, it’s been more than rhetorical and they continued to back up this rallying cry with intransigence and inaction. Their plan was to use obstruction wherever possible to paralyze the legislature regardless of the risk to those in need (e.g., extension of unemployment benefits) or the welfare of the nation itself (e.g., refusing to raise debt ceiling which resulted in lowering the credit rating of the U.S. Government).
Whatever was left of the moderate wing of the Republican Party has been silenced by Tea Party bullying. They have succeeded in pushing their extreme right-wing agenda that government itself is intrinsically evil. What sort of reasonable compromise is possible if that is your starting point? Eventually Obama woke up to the realization that trying to reason in this climate is futile and turned his attention from Congress to the American people to expose the do-nothing Republican strategy and draw the distinctions as clearly as possible in the hope of creating broader support and demand for progressive legislation.
So fast forward two years to the 2012 election. Adding insult to injury, the Republicans have abandoned the idea that truth matters. Ironically, they are attempting to re-write history and are campaigning on Obama’s inability to deliver on many of his promises when it was their own unwillingness to negotiate and compromise, i.e., their shameless and obstinate political objectives that impeded his success. They have accused him of the erosion of the Fed’s credit rating when it was the Republican House that would not extend the debt ceiling. Standard and Poore’s, (S&P) which issues the credit rating, placed the responsibility with House Republicans because of their insistence on extending the Bush tax cuts while Obama has pushed to increase revenue by raising taxes on the top 1%:
“… Our [S&P] revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues…”
Republicans have repeatedly mis-represented or otherwise lied about what Obama has said and done (“increased taxes to the middle class, reduced Medicare benefits, eliminated the work requirement for welfare recipients, failed to keep the Janesville, WI auto plant open when it actually closed 7 months before he took office, …”). Sally Kohn, the current token liberal at Fox News concluded:
“Ryan’s speech [at the Republican National Convention] was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.”
The Republicans have been able to manage this audacity by elevating synchronized lying to an Olympic level, repeating the lies in unison over and over. They have also manipulated the playing field by isolating the entire mainstream media (even heretofore apolitical journalists) by painting them with the broad brushstroke as “the liberal media.” Thus, any objective reflections on their actions that do surface can be readily dismissed.
Why stop at lying? Once all semblances of ethics and fair play are out the window why not tilt elections in your favor by selectively denying citizens the right to vote? The suppression of voting, especially among African-American and other traditionally Democratic leaning communities in swing states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania is just one more incredible and outrageous desecration. But even this too is based on the lie that voter fraud is a significant problem.
So how do reasonable people deal with such blatant distortions of reality and refusal to play by the rules of reason? How can we expect the government to function in this poisonous atmosphere? The answer is to make this a failing strategy. Republican extremists have thrown an awful lot of outrageous crap at the wall – it’s up to us to get out the hose and make sure it doesn’t stick.