[Edited May 8, 2016…]
I have been gestating an idea in my head for about a week.
A comment on a Thomas Friedman article in the NY Times Trump and the Lord’s Work by one Mary Scott included this, which ties in with my developing thinking:
“Four years after the Republicans regained the House, they’d produced the least productive terms since we’ve been keeping track.”
My conjecture is that the 62 years from 1933 to 1995 left that party scarred. That was when the GOP had 58 years of being a minority party in Congress. The other four years brought the country the Red Scare and the McCarthy era.
Scarred how? No, not by McCarthy or by other red baiters. Participants in those like Roy Cohn and Richard Nixon. Scarred by simply being a minority party too long.
Because of two full generations of resisting the actions (solutions enacted to perceived problems) of the Democrats – I want to ask the question:
Did they forget how to govern? 62 years is a LONG freaking time to never run things.
Majority parties and minority parties have to do things differently. Majority parties initiate bills. Minority parties find reasons to resist against those bills. Majority party members scan the horizon for both problems to solve and the solutions to those problems. Minority parties do neither; their members have no need to look ahead and see what is going on. They are too busy trying to put the brakes on. Simply put, majority parties are gas pedals, while minority parties are brake pedals.
But what happens when a party is in the minority for a very long time and then finds itself in the driver’s seat? Can it shift gears and become the initiators, the gas pedal instead of the brake? Can it govern AS an initiator? Or does the braking mentality continue?
LET’S TAKE A LOOK
What kind of laws do Republicans pass? HAVE they passed?
What kinds of actions have Republican Presidents taken?
Laws repealing other laws. Laws trying to undo Democratic Party past actions.
- Union busting actions like Reagan’s PATCO dissolution in the 1980s, in violation of the Wagner Act (a New Deal law allowing collective bargaining) which allowed for the proliferation of unions.
- Stifling the regulatory agencies – partly by installing Directors who were antipathetical to the very regulations the agency exists to enforce.
- 62 attempts by the U.S. House to repeal the ACA (Obamacare) – all unsuccessful.
- Repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, the law prohibiting commercial banks from engaging in investment banking practices. Within 9 years the Crash of 2008 occurred.
- Abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 by a Reagan-appointed FCC Chairman.
- 62 or so attempts by the House to repeal the ACA, Obamacare.
It is not difficult to see in this the genesis of the “tax and spend Democrats” phrase that has been parroted down the years. To be only standing on the sidelines and unable to generate anything of their own, while the Dems did all sorts of things from the New Deal to the New Frontier – Did that emasculation have an effect? I know that Republican fathers and grandfathers have imbued the Republican mindset into their offspring – including hatred of all things FDR. But did those fathers and grandfathers ALSO fail to transmit ANY idea that governing includes RESPONSIBILITY to solve new problems that arose?
So this idea is about the possibility of FORGETTING that there are some things that only government can DO. Did the GOP forget that government is for DOING THE BUSINESS OF THE CITIZENRY?
This also argues, then, that (essentially) only the Democrats DO the business of the people.
I am not arguing that repealing of laws must NEVER happen. I am arguing that by and large that is ALL the Republicans do – that they do not observe existing problems and offer up ways that the government can solve them. I now see it as more than simply Republicans thinking that private solutions are better and more appropriate. I see THAT instead as a residual effect of the overall UNDOING mentality.
DO NOTHING CONGRESSES – ARE THEY MORE THAN INTENTIONAL?
So, if we look at what they’ve done since Gingrich manipulated them into the majority:, we see them UNDOING anything and everything that is FOR THE PEOPLE that they could get their hands on – deregulating, dismantling, defunding – and attempting to dismantle even MORE.
One is reminded of FEMA and Hurricane Katrina, for one. Absolute incapacity to even REGISTER that something MUST be done. The utter cluelessness of George W Bush in the aftermath of Katrina about the plight of the citizens of New Orleans and coastal Mississippi are burnished in the word’s consciousness. I heard about it first from a British woman; I’d been assuming the news was simply about normal post-hurricane problems, not that the government was doing NOTHING. And this nothing was in stark contrast to the actions one year earlier when Florida had been hit by 4 major hurricanes and FEMA had responded in magnificent form. What happened in the interim? Why was the response so GOOD in one year and so horribly NOTHING the very next year?
The Republicans in that period had decided that FEMA had to be shut down or reduced as much as possible.
And then there is privatizing the rest. One is also minded of the idea of George W Bush to privatize Social Security.
Only bullying has been done with any sense of vigor, of the Dems, of other countries, of minorities, of voting rights. Macho bullying is the one thing they do strenuously. (For the benefit of the armaments corporations and ONLY them?)
A clear example is the dismantling going on in the state of Wisconsin since Scott Walker got into the Governor’s Mansion. And the current governor of Illinois is working on dismantling Illinois, too.
Everything is either UNDOING or OBSTRUCTING. But where did that mindset COME FROM?
DO they think that government is the problem because THEY DO NOT KNOW ANY BETTER, ANYMORE?
Somehow this all seems to have some traction in my brain as an explanation to why they are so distorted and ineffective and BLIND to what they CAN do or SHOULD do.
Of course, I can also see the hand of private firms meddling and accentuating the distortions and dysfunction.
But at its core is it simply that as a party they really do not KNOW how to govern?
Are they simply IGNORANT that there are responsibilities inherent in governing?
Can an entire party be in amnesia? Or did the Republicans ALWAYS try to stop governing functioning as an actor on the stage of developing and facilitating a modern society?