Saturday, February 27, 2016

David Brooks Should Stop Speaking Euphemistically About the Disaster that is the Modern GOP

The problem with politics today, says David Brooks, is we don't have enough of it. Politics is the art of recognizing diverse interests in society, respecting differences, and finding ways to compromise. The alternative is some form of tyranny or dictatorship. We have too many people who have lost sight of the virtue and necessity of compromise. Too many would be tyrants.

"Too many people" in this case is a euphemism for the Republican Party.  Brooks identifies a real and dangerous problem. He should stop using euphemisms. 

Brooks:
Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate.... [Politics] involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own....
Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right--want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power. 
Typical Brooks. When he says "best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right," the implication of that sentence is that it's a Tea Party problem, but also a problem of the left.  But this is wrong, wrong, wrong.  The anti-government, anti-compromise politics Brooks accurately describes was set in motion by Newt Gingrich and his "revolution." This revolution has been a revolution of the right.  The my-way-or-we'll-hold-the-budget-ceiling-hostage problem in Congress is a GOP problem. And, yes, the problem is much broader than the Tea Party. The problem is that the authoritarian anti-politics Brooks identifies has been adopted by the Republican leadership as its strategy for getting Republicans elected to the House and Senate for the past 30 years. Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Trent Lott, Bill Frist, and Mitch McConnell, they all followed the same playbook. As Brooks suggests, the problem has gotten progressively worse. But it's the right that has been infected with this despotic anti-politics to the point of pathology. It is the right that has sabotaged the government's ability to respond to and meet the country's needs. The modern GOP is a disaster for the country.

"We'll shrink government 'til we can drown it in a bathtub" has given way to Donald Trump.

The problem has been exemplified by intransigent Republican opposition to badly needed healthcare reform. Not a single Republican voted for the legislation despite the fact that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was modeled on ideas developed by Republican think tanks and was adopted by Republicans before Obama (e.g. Romneycare in Massachusetts). The Republicans opted to obstruct this much needed health care legislation in order to deny President Obama any accomplishment, and they did this for partisan electoral advantage. The Republicans refused to accept the democratic outcome of this legislation as exemplified by 62 votes in the House of Representatives to repeal the health care law. Mitch McConnell infamously prioritized his desire to make Obama a "one term President" over the country's desperate needs to recover from the ongoing ravages of the lesser depression. Mitch MConnell and the GOP have put party over country.

(Watch the smirk and weep for our country)

The GOP's authoritarian anti-politics is exemplified by Republican candidates for President repudiating the rule of law; by their statements that the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling should be considered invalid and ignored.

The GOP's anti-democratic authoritarianism is exemplified by their refusal to acknowledge Obama as the legitimate President of the United States. It is this sentiment that allowed a Republican back-bencher to shout out "you lie" during the Presidents address to a joint session of Congress in support of the health care legislation in 2009.  It is exemplified by Senate Republicans announcing immediately after Justice Scalia's death that they will not meet with, grant a hearing to, or approve any replacement for Scalia's empty chair on the court as long as Obama remains president.

Brooks continues:
Ultimately, they [the royal THEY again] don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.... [They] don’t accept that politics is a limited activity. They make soaring promises and raise ridiculous expectations. When those expectations are not met, voters grow cynical and, disgusted, turn even further in the direction of antipolitics.
The antipolitics people refuse compromise and so block the legislative process. The absence of accomplishment destroys public trust. The decline in trust makes deal-making harder. 
We’re now at a point where the Senate says it won’t even hold hearings on a presidential Supreme Court nominee, in clear defiance of custom and the Constitution. We’re now at a point in which politicians live in fear if they try to compromise and legislate. We’re now at a point in which normal political conversation has broken down. People feel unheard, which makes them shout even louder, which further destroys conversation.
.... Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means. Trump represents the path the founders rejected. There is a hint of violence undergirding his campaign.
This analysis by Brooks is good and right. It logically should make him declare full-throated support for the Democratic party in this election cycle, although he likely won't. Some people are sore about that. E.g. Sean Illig in Salon. Me, I just wish David Brooks would stop speaking in euphemisms when it comes to the disaster that is the modern Republican Party.

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