16 May 2012


This topic has been lying fallow on my desktop for a few weeks.  I was considering discarding it, when I checked the Washington Post online just now, and discovered that the story, which was first published on April 27, remains the most-shared article nearly three weeks later.  So if it still has that kind of traction, perhaps it's time to comment.

Please take a moment to read past the headline, Let's Just Say It ~ the Republicans Are the Problem.  I know it sounds like more blame-game finger-pointing.  But let's consider the evidence ~

"We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional.  In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted.  Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

"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.  When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country's challenges.

"It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right.  Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate .... are virtually extinct.  The post-McGovern Democratic Party, by contrast, while losing the bulk of its conservative Dixiecrat contingent in the decades after the civil rights revolution, has retained a more diverse base.  Since the Clinton presidency, it has hewed to the center-left on issues from welfare reform to fiscal policy.  While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post.

"What happened?"

And with that teaser, I leave you to peruse the Post analysis here.  The discussion goes well beyond election year commentary.  It recognizes a seismic shift in ideology, one which may well lead the GOP to implode from its own self-destructive inertia.  While I am an unapologetic liberal, I view the Republican Party's metamorphosis (think Franz Kafka) with concern, for how can meaningful dialogue in government occur when one set of participants refuses to negotiate?  Turn the situation around ~ if radical liberals (which mostly don't exist, except in Newt Gingrich's fevered imagination ~ held the nation hostage for years, saying 'It's my way or the highway', moderate Americans of all political persuasions would be justified in throwing the bums out.  Well, we have a different set of bums who are obstructing and subverting the democratic process.  (See image above, of current congressional Republican leaders)

We need a return to moderation on both sides.  The Democratic Party clearly retains more moderates than does the Republican Party, which, like an eager lapdog, pants and slobbers for the favor of the most radical band of the conservative base.  I don't understand that rabid, self-entitled mentality.  But I know that it is paralyzing Washington, and shredding our development at home and abroad.  If allowed to continue, the trend will mark a whimpering end to the American Century.

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