Attack of the Extremists

If you follow politics to any extent and have for more than 20 years, then you have to realize that what has happened to the Republican Party is extraordinary. What has been happening to the country for the last three years is unlike anything a political junkie could have imagined even ten years ago. It’s almost as if they keep trying to prove how bad they can get.

The current incarnation of the Republican Party is the most extremist in the history of the United States. You can’t compare the most conservative Democrat to the current GOP, because there is no comparison to be made. There is no Democrat – even the Bluest of Blue Dogs – who isn’t better than just about any current Republican you can name. Even those who used to be somewhat reasonable have been cowed by the extremists that have taken over their party. They vote as a solid bloc on everything.

This month’s government shutdown, and the second threat of default in two years should certify the current GOP as the most radical in history. They don’t care about the people in this country. They don’t care about the economy. They sure as hell don’t care about the process, or the rules, or anything, except their preconceived notions, which are almost always wrong, and their ideology, which they hold as so sacred that they won’t even listen to anything else.

Their core belief is that government is incompetent to do much of anything. They claim, almost reflexively, that everything the government touches turns to crap, and that the solution to every problem is their actual deity, which is “the market.” This, despite the fact that “the market” has caused every recession and depression in our history, and it’s government that always bails them out. Take the last near-depression in 2008. That was caused when “the market” was given the ability to create its own mortgage after-market, and several securities instruments that no one – not even those who created them – fully understood. They did so free of government regulation. The result? A crash of the entire economy, caused by these unregulated markets.

Yet, as bad as that was, the current GOP, led by their extremist base, wants a return of those policies, because they believe in them more than they believe in Jesus or God. For whatever reason, their “logic” tells them these policies have to work, despite the evidence to the contrary. And that’s the problem. They will do everything they can to get them passed, including a massive amount of cheating. They know their ideas aren’t popular enough to win popular support, so they cheat. By the way, It’s the cheating that makes them extremists, and it’s what makes them too dangerous to keep around the government.

This is a democratic republic, with the key word being “democratic.” Congress represents all of us, and they are supposed to be working for US. Everything that happens in our system is supposed to reflect the democratic process. But the current incarnation of the Republican Party doesn’t believe in democracy. In fact, they kind of hate the process. Look at the crap they’ve been pulling over the last five years. What can you call it, except cheating?

Consider their abuse of the filibuster in the Senate. The purpose of the filibuster is as a safety valve, to protect the electorate from the excesses of the majority. By using the filibuster, a group of senators can perhaps get the majority to think about whether they really want certain bills to pass. In the past, because Congress was populated largely by responsible people, the mechanism was used rarely. But since the dawn of the GOP extremist era, Republicans have used it to stop anything the Democratic majority wants to pass. Look at this chart, posted by Ezra Klein in the Washington Post about a year and a half ago, and you can see the problem. Think about what this means. Even as late as the 1960s and 1970s, Republicans used the filibuster rarely, for specific bills they felt really strongly about. But now, the radicals in the current GOP have essentially used it to block every piece of legislation that Democrats view favorably. It’s so bad that, last December, Mitch McConnell filibustered one of his own proposals on the debt ceiling. He was betting that Democrats had no principles, and he wanted them to vote against it because it was expensive. When they looked like they’d help pass the bill, McConnell filibustered.

It’s not just some Republicans, it’s impossible to block so many bills without the entire caucus voting as a solid bloc. In the 111th Congress alone, Senate Republicans blocked 375 bills that had been passed by the Democratic House, even though they only had 40-41 seats at the time. That means every single Republican is working to circumvent the democratic process to that degree.

Since January 2011, what we’ve seen is constant brinksmanship, and constant cheating on the part of Republicans. The hostage-taking that led to a two-week government shutdown was just the latest example of their extremism leading them to screw the American people. And screw us they have.

Last Congress passed a record low number of laws last session of Congress, and 24 percent of those laws were to re-name government buildings, mostly post offices. And this session, they’re on track to pass half as many as they did last time. President Obama has submitted two massive jobs bills in the last three years, both of them slated to create millions of jobs. Millions of jobs would mean a booming economy and a deficit reduction unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Yet, Republicans shelved the bills. They have never debated them, or offered alternatives – they just hide them away and let them die.

They have yet to pass a budget. President Obama always submits one, but they never even debate that, either. They just pass individual spending bills that cut spending in areas they don’t like and pass continuing resolutions that don’t address spending issues directly. Some agencies get less money than they need and others get too much, especially the Defense Department. They consistently try to hold back emergency funding for people hit by tragedy, and they engage in hostage taking every chance they get. They seem to have no idea that Congress controls the purse strings, despite their claims of constitutional expertise. Because of this, the current Republican Party has been enormously irresponsible. For the first time in our history, he House of Representatives, led by the current GOP, has led the country toward financial ruin because of their irresponsibility. Not only have they done this twice now, but this time, 144 Republicans – nearly two-thirds of the Republican caucus – voted to not pay our bills.

I know many progressives like to quote Harry Truman, when he said, “Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time.” It sounds great, and it would be true if this was still 1946. But these days, the Republican Party is so far beyond that point that it no longer applies. In part, it’s because no Democrat acts like the current GOP. The GOP has become crazy, and they have become destructive. This is not your father’s GOP, so stop acting like it is.

This country is under attack by extremists, and they have taken over the Republican Party, We all know what to do about extremists, right? Don’t we un-elect them?

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