Saturday, October 13, 2012

Matthew Yglesias objects to yet another dishonest & hypocritical GOP talking point

Here is a point I was thinking of making myself, but I'll simply quote Matt Yglesias on this one:
4. Paul Ryan on partisanship: In 2009-10 "they had the ability to do anything of their choosing." That's nuts. In the real world, a minority of 41 senators can block almost any legislative measure. What's more, even smaller numbers of senators can create massive delays in the legislative process. The Republican caucus in 2009-10 was unusually aggressive in deploying these tools and it had a major impact on the course of legislation. GOP filibusters blocked the DREAM Act, kept Federal Reserve and Federal Housing Finance Agency offices vacant, killed hope for climate change legislation, blocked a number of fiscal stimulus measures, and so forth.
Of all the dishonest claims repeated endlessly by the Romney/Ryan campaign and the right-wing propaganda machine, the most shamelessly phony may be their complaints about Obama's supposed lack of "bipartisanship".  In the real world, from the moment that Obama took office, he faced an unrelenting campaign of monolithic and indiscriminate obstructionism by Senate Republicans, along with a systematic unwillingness to compromise or cooperate by Republicans in both Houses. (In 2011, after the Republicans had regained control of the House of Representatives, they escalated further by irresponsibly generating a completely artificial crisis over renewing the debt ceiling that brought the federal government to the brink of its first default in history, provoked a first-ever downgrade in the US credit rating, undermined economic confidence more generally, and reinforced the widespread impression that the US political system is incapable of dealing constructively with the country's problems.)

In the Senate, the use of the filibuster and other obstructionist procedural devices has become routine and promiscuous to a degree unprecedented in American history. And this dysfunctional situation is overwhelmingly the result of a deliberate rule-or-ruin strategy pursued by the Congressional Republicans, not an outcome that can be blamed even-handedly on both sides.  As James Fallows correctly pointed out a year ago, "requiring 60 votes for everything is new, and it is overwhelmingly a Republican tactic."

(For more details and elaboration, see Why "bipartisanship" won't work - Facing the underlying reality and an indispensable analysis published earlier this year by Thomas Mann & Norman Ornstein, "Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem".)

My impression is that these crucial facts are not widely understood or appreciated. And, on the whole, neither the Democrats nor political "journalists" do enough to make this situation clear to the general public.  That's unfortunate, since as long as the Republicans aren't called out for pursuing this strategy of obstructionism, sabotage, and partisan gridlock (alternating with uncompromising steamroller tactics when they happen to control the White House and Congress) they pay no electoral price for it.  And if they don't get punished for it, why should they stop?

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub