“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.”
And that atttitude produces such extreme dysfunction that the U.S. political system cannot “deal constructively” with the challenges that face our country.
So say Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, political scientists. The two have been studying Washington politics and the U.S. Congress for more than 40 years. Generally, their writings criticize both parties. But in a Washington Post article of April 28, 2012, they write a very compelling article that, quite simply, is pretty darn scary.
How have we gotten here as a country? What happened within the Republican Party that has moved it beyond any sense of reason to work collaboratively to confront the problems we face as a country?
Mann and Ornstein explain the situation like this:
— The realignment of the South, moving away from the Democrats after the civil rights revolution.
— Mobilization of social conservatives after the 1973 Roe versus Wade decision by the Supreme Court.
— Anti-tax movement launched in California – Proposition 13 – in 1978
— Media changes like the rise of conservative talk radio in 1989, Fox News, and right-wing blogs.
But…and this is a very interesting “but.” Mann and Ornstein note that the most powerful push to the right comes from Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist.
When Gingrich entered Congress in 1979, he initiated a strategy to convince voters that anyone would be better than the incumbents. Within 16 years – both a short and long time, I think – he got people to run against Washington, Democrats, and Congress.
Norquist, of course, founded Americans for Tax Reform. His Taxpayer Protection Pledge “binds signers to never support a tax increase.” Norquist’s pledge doesn’t even allow the closing of tax loopholes. And Republicans sign it. Those running for office sign it in order to get elected. Those in office sign it to stay in office.
Norquist is just a citizen, like you and me. He isn’t an elected official. He isn’t giving mega bucks to campaigns. He’s just soooo powerful.
Is there hope for change? Mann and Ornstein think things will get work after the 2012 elections. Mann and Ornstein observe: “If our democracy is to regain its health and vitality, the culture and ideological center of the Republican Party must change.”
That means that you and I have the power. We the voters.
It’s not okay for Congress to be dysfunctional. It’s not okay for elected officials to despise one party so much that you simply put a stop to governing. It’s not okay for voters to get so frustrated that they don’t vote.
This is not the way to run a country.
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