In a superb and thoughtful article in Salon, Steve Kornacki describes why a Romney victory would be a blow to America not just because of Romney’s policies but more notably because of the great injury Romney and the GOP have done to American Democracy and its principles in the US. This is a gradual [ but accelerating] undermining in Charles Handy frog boiling fashion of American democratic processes and principles by the Republican party for the past 30 years. In 2012 the GOP is now turning up the heat and boiling away such core principles as elections and voting rights, truth and integrity in policy statements, translating money into votes, and perverting basic business/economic policy while slandering scientific methods.
In his article, Steve Kornacki is arguing 2 crucial points. First, that the US electorate simply does not know what it is getting with Mitt Romney. Check John Stewart’s theDailyShow , the British financial weekly the Economist and another superb Salon article by Joan Walsh – all describe the latest complete flip-flopping [“pivoting” in political parlance, lying in common speech ] that Romney has just done in the final Foreign Policy debate.
The condition known as Romnesia
But the fundamental problem Steve Kornacki raises is that because of Romney’s reversal of so many domestic and foreign policy pronouncements during his campaign, it is impossible to get a true reading on any of his positions. This is deliberate since Romney is writing a series of policy blank checks for himself and his party. There is devious calculation behind this ambiguity. It is deliberately hard to say what “promises” will be honoured and what part of his “current” commitment to moderation and the middle class will be kept .This allows Romney to “pivot” in any direction regardless of past promises. These are the cunning “busniness” skills of a private equity shark who regularly insured his company’s private gain while passing on the losses unemployed workers and the social safety net.
Some observers are reverting to Romney’s Day 1 promises to get an inkling on the Governor’s core commitments; yet there are clear conflicts in even these statements versus Romney’s new found moderation. Romney and the GOP appear able to capitalize on economic hard times to sell a likely bill of badly failed goods.Embracing Romney and the GOP is truly akin to writing a blank check to a Bankster. The major TV networks have bent over backwards to diguise the blatant flip flops by Romney. Only in the debates when so many pundits and fact checkers are available have ABC and NBC acknowledged the Romney flip-flops but praising his belated move to the center. MediaMatters examines the kid glove treatment by the TV, print and web press given to such blatant flip-flopping – especially in light of the Romney litany on promises not kept by Obama made 4 years ago on the economic recovery.
GOP’s Current Dismantling of Democratic Processes
The second point Steve makes is even more vital – that in this election the Republican Party is corroding and corrupting fundamental democratic processes. Here is the essence:
The basic problem has to do with the behavior of Romney’s party over the past four years – reflexive opposition and obstruction rooted in [a treasonous] electoral strategy, not ideology – and the lesson that politicians from both parties would draw if it results in a one-term Obama presidency. Essentially, Republicans looked around when Obama was sworn in and saw political opportunity … they had considerable power to stall Obama’s agenda, and with economic anxiety rampant, it seemed logical to assume voters would blame the ruling party if things didn’t turn around quickly.
The result is that Republicans devoted themselves not to constructively criticizing Democratic proposals, crafting feasible alternatives, and accepting olive branches from the administration but instead to cranking up the hysteria and treating virtually every Obama initiative as a step toward socialism. They matched this with legislative obstruction, tying up scores of nominations, forcing a record number of filibusters, and forcing Democrats to pass their agenda on party-line votes.
The calculation was that Republican cooperation would signal to the public that progress was being made and that Obama was living up to his promise to change Washington. But if they railed against him and his agenda instead, Republicans would create an air of controversy around every Obama proposal and bring his approval rating down that much faster…..[So] Congressional Republicans bitterly derided the stimulus, even though it was loaded up with tax cuts and infrastructure spending that Republicans had traditionally supported. But where was their viable alternative? Healthcare is even more egregious. Obama spent months cultivating Republican support and adopted a basic framework – an individual mandate that would strengthen private insurers – that originated on the right. Not only did they unanimously oppose it; they’ve still failed to produce their own plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
There is no question that the basic policy of GOP obstructionism a)started right from Obama’s inaugurationn, b)has dispensed with any compromise on Economic Recovery under the guise of preventing the spread of Socialism plus new found fear of increasing deficits and c)has continued with Big Lie attacks from the GOP’s propaganda machine including Fox News , Rush Limbaugh and the markedly partisan Chamber of Commerce, NFIB, American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation among others. Now this is critical because one of the Big Lies the GOP has been repeating over and over is that Obama is a rabid socialist, the worst President in history and that he is to blame for the lack of bipartisanship. Yet the record shows Obama moving to the Center and bending over backwards to try to establish bipartisan relationships several times during his Presidency. Remarkably, the major networks like NBC with vehicles like Meet the Press and the Nightly New, ABC with Dateline and This Week, and CBS with 60 Minutes plus Face the Nation have been virtually silent on the Bipartisanship imbalance. Only PBS with Frontline and Washington Week have taken on the topic [Big Bird’s demise may have distinct political motivations]. TheDailyBeast, Salon, and Slate provide more details.
30 Years of GOP Attacks on Democratic Institutions
True, for the past 4 years, the GOP has been the scorched earth opponents of all President Obama’s economic recovery efforts. But for 30 years the GOP has been working to dismantle democratic institutions. Here is a list of some of the most critical attacks on democracy from the Republican Party.
1)Starting with Ronald Reagan Starve the Beast has been the Republican strategy of deliberately mismanaging the economy and national debt. For 30 years GOP Presidents have consistently overspent or reduced taxes with no cutbacks in programs to the tune of adding $9trillion to the National Debt [65% of the new deficit] compared to $5trillion added by Democratic presidents from Carter to Obama. In contrast the Democrats, adopting a Pay-As-You-go strategy which, under Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, reduced the important Deficit to GDP ratio and in the case of Bill Clinton there were budget surpluses. President Obama had a stark choice – add $2Trillion to the deficit or suffer a Worldwide Depression – few in Finance and Business Corporations who prospered from such help have backed him up let alone thanked him for it.
Starve the Beast has been nothing short of a treasonous GOP economic policy advocated by Lee Atwater, Grover Norquist and Ronald Reagan that deprived the US of a debt cushion against the George Bush aided and abated 2006-2009 Great Recession. Bruce Bartlett, former domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan, has called Starve the Beast “the most pernicious fiscal doctrine in history”, and blames it for the increasee in US government debt since the 1980s. None of the 3 major networks except for one 2009 NBC program have covered Starve the Beast despite its critical importance to the Economic Recovery. Again, only PBS with Bill Moyers and PBS NewsHour have discussed the topic with any regularity. But the web media have tracked the issue with good reports – Salon, Time Magazine, and the New Yorker are among many good analyses available on the web.
2)Unbridled use of the Senate filibuster rule where a 61 to 39 vote in the Senate is now required to get legislation passed rather than a traditional simple majority of 51 to 49. The GOP has used the filibuster 4 times more frequently than in the past and has applied it to wide array of legislation not the customary judicial appointments and national security questions. The following analysis shows how partisan politics and use of the filibuster rule in the Senatee thwarted Economic Recovery from 2009 to 2012. So instead of adopting Obama plans that would have increased jobs, increased taxes paid by new jobholders while reducing their government UI payouts and thus reduced deficit increases – the GOP Congress stuck to its treasonous obstructionism and sabotaged any and all job and recovery efforts. In their evening news reports, ABC and CBS have reported on the filibuster logjam but only PBS has gone beyond many NewsHour reports and had special features covering the seriousness of the topic. Web media have covered the topic extensively – here are the best: Newsweek/theBailyBeast, Slate Magazine, and NYTimes.
3)The GOP is attacking the voting process itself in two ways. First, in Presidential elections in battleground states such as Ohio and Florida, the GOP has been subject of many investigations on tampering with the vote counting results in the past 5 federal election cycles. This year in Colorado and Ohio votes will be counted by a firm with a tainted record and owned by Tag Romney, Mitt’s son. There are genuine concerns about vote counting fraud because with current machines hacking is so easy to do. Second, because the GOP has lost support in key groups such as Latinos, students,blacks, gays and now women; the GOP is suddenly adding new restrictions that make it harder for these groups to vote under the guise of rampant voter fraud. The GOP cites voter fraud as the cause but numerous studies have shown the voter fraud as 2000 cases in ten years. In short it is miniscule – as seen here, here and here – – strange support for extra controls by a party supposedly dedicated to less regulations and decreased wasteful spending. Vote counting fraud and vote tampering appears to be a taboo subject for all of the major TV networks except PBS which did a report on the Ohio 2004 presidential elections. In contrast, all the major TV networks are covering the false Voter fraud issue. Finally, some major websites like Salon and theDailyBeast are highlighting both false voter fraud and vote count tampering. Again, there has been vigorous discussion of the GOP fraud on voter fraud as seen at USAToday, Salon, and Hacking Democracy.
4)GOP lead the support for Citizens United Supreme Court declaring corporations/organizations as people and thus are allowed to deploy unlimited election financial support for campaigns and lobbying. The false equivalence that a organization reflects the voting or policy preferences of all its employees, suppliers and other stakeholders is a fiction. Rather control of an organization political spending is exercised by a very privileged few. If there is anything skewing government toward the 1% while impeding efficiency, transparency and effectiveness it is the availability of unlimited political funds to large organizations. It seeks to translate $money into votes as the Republican party loses more voter constituencies. This decision is another travesty of Justice rendered by a Supreme Court that increasinglyvotes on partisan lines. Remarkably only PBS among the TV networks has covered Citizens United with regularity and detailed reports. Also it is a hot topic on web media as recent articles at NYTimes, Salon, and The RollingStone among many others.
5)The GOP is moving towards a uniform doctrinaire party discipline. The Grover Norquist pledge by over 250 Congressmen, Senators and Presidential candidates to raise no new taxes is ruinous inflexibility for any government. That it enforced by political dark money in the GOP primaries for those GOP-ers who dare to depart from the pledges is hauntingly insidious. Now litmus tests with little or no flexibility are applied to a wider range of policy from gun control thru abortion and women’s right to choose to climate change and energy policy. Moderates and dissenting viewpoints are increasingly censured and drummed out. This rigid unifomity can be seen most revealingly in the doctrinaire GOP media feeds as mocked on the Daily Show where the exact same wording is used by countless “independent” analysts.
Despite the humor, the TVnetworks just don’t cover this topic at all but Rolling Stone, CNN, and WashingtonPost
6)The GOP is finding it increasingly difficult to to discipline members who adhere to antisocial viewpoints that fall within its base support. Thus rape has been excused by a number of GOP candidates for Congress and Senate. Mitt Romney condemns those remarks but continues to support the candidates. This also applies to interest groups like the NRA and Tea Party – these groups having increasing impunity in their attacks on opposing viewpoints including even Republican officials. The results is that large portions of the Republican Base policies are increasingly off limits no matter how injurious they may be to national welfare and/or priorities. For example, microstamping of gun barrels and cartridges, a carefully targeted means of controlling criminal use of guns and illegals weapons has been off the table in a Republican Congress. See Wikipedia, AlterNet, and the WashingtonPost.
7)The GOP employs blatant lies and smears while discrediting basic scientific methods for political gains. Equivalently a Presidential candidate can pivot/lie as much as he wants during a campaign because Romney and the GOP has worked to establish the notion “that the other side does it too” as cover for the much greater frequency and seriousness of GOP lying. The outright lying technique is based on “lie now correct later” only if forced to. It works well because a)many people will not know a lie is being made and b) the correction, if it comes at all, emerges so much later when most people are no longer attending. But even more insidious is the deliberate attacks on scientic methods, data and processes. Following many of the same methods used by Cigarette companies that held at bay for 25 years the link between smoking and lung cancer, GOP are using the similar tactics to thwart gun control policy, climate change efforts, energy policy changes among deception/ and delay efforts. The TV news media have been offering very poor coverage except again for PBS. But the topic is a lively one in web media and books – Merchants of Doubt, AlterNet, Wikipedia, and CNN.
Now is there independent support for these arguments? How about testimony from David Frum, staunch Republican supporter and Speech writer for President George W. Bush. Frum says the Republican Party is the problem:
Last month, two political scientists published one of those rare op-eds that gets the political community talking. The piece drew its authority from the authors’ identity: Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, two of Washington’s most veteran watchers of Congress. Both men have hard-earned reputations for nonideological independence of mind despite their institutional affiliations: Mann works at the liberal Brookings Institution, Ornstein at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
The thesis of the piece was contained in the title: “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.” In case that was not clear enough, the authors elaborated: “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.”
“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”
Now they have backed their provocative op-ed with a new book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.
The book backs the arresting op-ed with a battery of depressing research, substantiating their charge that congressional Republicans now act in a uniquely irresponsible way.
The debt showdown last summer was the ultimate case: congressional Republicans nearly forcing a default on the obligations of the United States to get their way on a budget agreement.
But the pattern manifests itself in almost all the business of government, down to the most mundane.
For example: Because Senate rules often require unanimous consent to move to the next order of business, a determined minority can force delay on almost any action it opposes.
Since 2009, Republicans have used this power of delay hyper-aggressively. Compare and contrast the treatment of executive-branch nominees.
Sixteen months into the George W. Bush administration, Memorial Day 2002, only 13 executive-branch nominations awaited confirmation by the Senate. At the corresponding moment in the Obama administration, Memorial Day 2010, 108 nominees were awaiting action by the Senate.
And Republican David Frum is not alone. High ranking Reagan administration officials and long-time Republicans Bruce Bartlett and David Stockman have independently attacked the Republican Starve the Beast policy. And Mann + Ornstein It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: describes the 30 year history of growing GOP political extremism.
The evidence is compelling that the GOP has become a party of extremes not just in policy but also by undermining core democratic principles. The GOP is departing from its Center roots and historical traditions of Lincolnesque freedom for all, Teddy Roosevelt’s popular fairness, and Eisenhower’s pragmatic honesty and integrity. Clearly in the 1950s with Republican Senator Joe McCarthy’s commies-everywhere extremism and then Richard Nixon’s use of dirty tricks, Republicans were starting to move away from the Center in both policy and electoral process.
Under Gerald Ford Republicans made an effort to move back to the Center. But the turning point came with Ronald Reagan whose burning ambition for the Presidency, eerily like Romney’s, had Reagan embracing the underhand political practices of Lee Atwater and the treasonous Starve the Beast policies of Atwater and Grover Norquist. The many largely suppressed scandals in the Reagan years reflect this move to extremes in both political processes and an increasingly elitist policy swing. One-issue special interest groups like the gun lobby were to be protected while business and financial elites were given policy sway such that the second major Republican Financial Crisis, the Savings and Loans Collapse of the late 1980s served as a preview for the the third Republican Financial Disaster, the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
Under GOP’s Starve the Beast policy, George Bush was allowed to pursue $2 trillion dollar wars in Afghanistan and Iraq plus pass huge tax cuts which accrued mightily to the rich without paying for them and thus adding $4trillion to the deficit. In similar treasonous fashion, the GOP Congress has sabotaged all efforts towards an economic recovery by President Obama so they could blame the slow recovery on the President. And thechart above shows the consequences as money elites do well at the cost of everybody else.
But nowhere is the cynical Republican extremism seen most appallingly than in the GOP’s abandonment of US veterans. In speech after speech, GOP Congressmen praise the blood treasure, the sacrifice and the courage of veterans. But under President George Bush veterans hospitals were allowed to deteriorate badly and not expand for the increasing casualties of Iraq and Afghanistan [where survival rates increased 8 fold but added to the casualties and hospital burden]. That neglect and near contempt for veterans is being seen again in the NO Obstructionism of the current GOP Congress where bills to increase Veterans benefits and Job opportunities for veterans are being sunk by GOP NO votes. The extreme hypocrisy of the Republican Congress is reprehensible. That is why a vote for Mitt Romney and his GOP Congressional colleagues is doubly damned – the country will get a disastrous double dip recession as austerity and tax cuts are carried to extremes and hard earned democratic principles, already torn badly, will suffer even more as harsh partisanship and GOP elitism rears its ugly consequences on US Democracy.