Republican destructiveness, and why it’s so effective

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, April 25, 2012 12:46 EDT
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Jamelle Bouie’s review of Romney’s Big Speech is palpably angry. It’s actually pretty awesome, because it’s easy to get jaded as a journalist and political writer, but once in awhile, someone lies so gleefully, with so little regard for reality, that it can return you to that state of rage at the sheer immorality of it all. Romney spoke pure Conservatese, and they’ve grown so used to lying that actual truths would sound strange in their mouths. Still, the audacity of Romney’s bullshit was dazzling….and enraging. Jamelle explains the reality:

The other thing was less remarked upon at the time, but no less important: Congressional Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, pledged to make Obama a one-term president by any means necessary. Their plan was to use legislative rules like the filibuster to create a supermajority requirement for everything from confirming nominees to passing new legislation. Far from harming Republicans—who would be unified in their opposition—the blowback would tarnish Obama, who would be blamed by the public for gridlock and obstruction……

Worse, the sudden reversal of Republicans on the issue of fiscal stimulus—which they supported at both ends of the Bush administration—meant that the economy was stuck without further support, even as it stagnated with slow growth and high unemployment. Obama, as the president, received the lion’s share of blame from the public. The only people who noticed Republican obstruction, by contrast, were assorted bloggers, journalists, and Washington insiders.

If you read this history and really think about it, it’s hard to escape the creeping dread that it may be impossible to save this country with simple reforms. Progressives like to focus on campaign finance reform—which is an important issue, don’t get me wrong—but I honestly don’t think that the money is the most important issue when it comes to electoral politics. I know that’s blasphemy to say, but hear me out. I think one reason it’s intoxicating to focus on campaign finance reform is that as unlikely as it is to pass massive reforms that actually matter, it’s still possible. And it’s absolutely important, so it becomes this focal point. 

But at the end of the day, the real problem with this country is that one of our political parties not only doesn’t give a shit about the stability of this country, and in fact has powerful incentives to dismantle it. It’s both an ideological thing—stability is dependent on more equality, which they oppose above all other things—but it’s also a political thing, which they’ve come to realize. Republicans have been kept in check in the past by fear that if they destroy this country, they have to pay a major price for it. But it seems what they’ve learned from the Bush debacle is that if they destroy this country, all they have to do is make sure the Democrats can’t fix it properly, and then they can blame the Democrats and return to power to deliver more destruction. There’s no incentive to behave, and many incentives to tear shit up. 

This strikes me as a problem that can’t be fixed with gumption or policy reform. Campaign finance reform can only go so far, because Republicans just need to hold on to enough seats to be obstructionist when they’re out of power to make the system work. And those seats they get because the voters have powerful fears regarding women’s power and people of color making gains. The rest just works itself out. The only thing I see fixing all this is for the country itself to change enough that people stop voting for Republicans in sufficient numbers. Which may happen naturally, as demographic changes make the country more liberal, but I don’t know that it can be fixed with the usual reformist approach. 

Still, the nice thing about politics is there’s always some chaos afoot. For instance, Republicans put all this effort into creating the perfect situation for getting the country to blame Obama for their problems, and voting for the generic Republican candidate. And then they nominated a robot who scares people. Not a slick move, though I suppose we watched months of them trying to to bargain their way out of it. By no means am I saying this is over; I think Obama’s campaign skills are formidable. But the long term situation is scary, since the dynamic isn’t going to change. It’s only going to be changed when the voters stop falling for the bait-and-switch. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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