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July 10, 2013

"Sabotage Governing"

Greg Sargent thinks the GOP's sole agenda boils down to preventing Democrats and the Obama administration from getting anything done - a tactic he calls "sabotage governing":

It’s not unusual to hear dirty hippie liberal blogger types (and the occasional lefty Nobel Prize winner) point out that today’s GOP has effectively abdicated the role of functional opposition party, instead opting for a kind of post-policy nihilism in which sabotaging the Obama agenda has become its only guiding governing light.

... It’s now become accepted as normal that Republicans will threaten explicitly to allow harm to the country to get what they want, and will allow untold numbers of Americans to be hurt rather than even enter into negotiations over the sort of compromises that lie at the heart of basic governing.

Let's leave aside (for a moment) the factual accuracy of his claims and evaluate them as though they were true. If he's right, how would such tactics differ from those explicitly adopted by the Democrats during the Bush years?

Like DeLay, who was also known for bruising rivalries within his party, Pelosi has embraced hard-knuckle partisanship, even if it means standing still. When Bush announced his Social Security plan last year, Pelosi told House Democrats they could never beat him in a straight-ahead, policy-against-policy debate because he had the megaphone of the presidency and was just coming off re-election. So the Democrats would thunderously attack Bush and argue there was no Social Security crisis and therefore no need for them to put out their own proposal. Some members were leery, concerned that Pelosi would make the Democrats look like the Party of No. As the spring of 2005 wore on, some pestered her every week, asking when they were going to release a rival plan. "Never. Is never good enough for you?" Pelosi defiantly said to one member. When Florida Democrat Robert Wexler publicly suggested raising Social Security taxes as the solution, Pelosi immediately chewed him out over the phone. Only one other Democrat signed on to his plan.

The Democrats won the Social Security battle Pelosi's way. That earned her credit with her colleagues, who have embraced her overall strategy. Throughout the past year, Pelosi has demanded that Democrats unanimously oppose g.o.p. bills. By denying the g.o.p votes from across the aisle, Democrats have forced moderate Republicans to back bills like those cutting Medicaid and other social programs that fiscally conservative Republicans have insisted on, votes for which Democrats have then attacked moderate Republicans in television ads. Pelosi has also ordered Democrats not to work on bills or even hold press conferences with Republicans whom the party is trying to defeat in November.

Not that two wrongs make a right, but where in the approach Pelosi openly advocated when Bush was President is there even a hint of willingness to "enter into negotiations over the sort of compromises that lie at the heart of basic governing"?

That's the problem with scorched earth politics - the pleasure is short lived but memories are long....

Unless you're a journalist.

Posted by Cassandra at July 10, 2013 12:31 PM

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But you see, when they did it they were trying to prevent bad things™ from happening.

Unlike those filthy Rethuglicans.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at July 10, 2013 02:52 PM

I expressed this thought to a coworker yesterday. It very much seems like there really are two Americas and they really don't reconcile very much. It somewhat use to be that both sides wanted the same thing, but differed in how to get there. I really think we are starting to want different things.

1) Minimize the occurance of "Bad Things™" Poverty, obesity, lack of health care, pollution, etc are unpleasant. No one in their right mind is "for" these things. What kind of monster would be?

2) Maximize people's liberty. If you want a giant soda, have at it. You want to seel beer you made in your basement, go for it. You want a gas guzzling SUV, hope you can afford it. Taxes are a necessary evil and should be kept as small as possible. What kind of monster wants to control everyone else?

The problem is, you can't really have one without giving up the other. Eleviating poverty necessarily means taking money from someone who doesn't want to give it up. Fighting obesity necessarily entails preventing someone from eating more than you say they can. Providing healthcare necessarily entails requiring someone else to provide their labor against their wishes. Preventing pollution necessarily entails telling people what they can and can't do with their own property.

Allowing people to do as they will neccesarily means that some people will do the "wrong thing" and someone (maybe that person, but maybe someone else) will have a "bad thing™" happen to them. They choose to drink and drive and someone gets hurt. They choose to eat to much and develop heart disease. Rich people will "buy" elections.

Both sides think this balance should be 90/10 but in the oppposite directions. There really is no fixing this.

I think we'll stay in this unhappy marriage, but my coworker thinks a divorce is on the horizon.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at July 10, 2013 03:16 PM

Perhaps, but a divorce would entail people to get far more involved in their own governance than I've seen any sign they want to be :p

I live in a PUD. It is governed by a board of volunteers. No one ever wants to serve on the board (because it's haaaaaaaaaard!) but everyone has an opinion about how "incompetent" the board members are. And every year it takes at least 3 tries to get a quorum of homeowners to actually show up and VOTE on the losers...errr... civic minded souls who do step up to the plate. Because apparently, voting is haaaaaaard, too.

If you ever want to see the splendor that is self government in action, I highly recommend serving on a few such boards. Somehow, our board managed to negotiate multimillion dollar agreements with the county to pave unfinished roads in the part of the PUD where we used to live (on zero pay, mind you). But somehow they're all self-serving, incompetent morons.

I have not managed to figure this out, no doubt because I am also an incompetent moron :p Everyone knows exactly what to do. Until they're asked to actually do it, that is. Then all those inconvenient details pop up like whack-a-moles.

Posted by: Cass at July 10, 2013 03:26 PM

Perhaps, but a divorce would entail people to get far more involved in their own governance than I've seen any sign they want to be :p

That's generally been my reason for thinking he's incorrect. But he's thinks that as things get worse (from the perspectives of both sides) more people will get active.

I don't see it, but he's convinced.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at July 10, 2013 04:09 PM

Hi Cass,
So what's wrong w/ saying 'no' to each and every proposal to expand gov't? (taxes, spending, regulation). It is my strongly held opinion that we already have waay too much gov't.

It won't be a divorce so much as a separation. People are starting to segregate based on personal and political preference.

Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at July 10, 2013 07:45 PM

So what's wrong w/ saying 'no' to each and every proposal to expand gov't? (taxes, spending, regulation). It is my strongly held opinion that we already have waay too much gov't.

I agree. I'm not sure if I'd have a problem with saying, "Thus far, and no farther". But I do have to say that I've noticed that even proponents of smaller government often support more government... so long as it concerns some outcome they favor.

Every new law is "more government", but I don't see Republicans limiting themselves only to laws that reduce the power of government. This, IMO, is a big part of our credibility problem on the size-of-government issue.

Posted by: Cass at July 10, 2013 07:50 PM