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Lunatic, Counterfactual Rantings of the Mythical "Center"

On the perils of blind bipartisanship

Seems like everyone is calling for bipartisanship. Voters, Democrats, Republicans... well almost everyone. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (Image: DonkeyHotey / Flckr / creative commons)

Apparently for Republicans, bipartisanship means do it our way.  Witness Mitch Mc Connell’s take on the elections.  After essentially calling the President a complete failure, and denying that he had a mandate of any kind, he said:

Now it’s time for the President to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely-divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office. To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way.

Or take Bohner.  He’s still pedaling the counter-factual.  Asked about the fiscal cliff, he said, "Raising tax rates will slow down our ability to create the jobs that everyone says they want." He also claimed Obama didn’t receive a mandate on taxing the rich.

This less than a week after a comprehensive study by the Congressional Research Service showed that tax cuts for the rich do not spur economic growth.  But it does create income inequality – the precursor to three of this nation’s worst economic crises.

In other words, Republicans are saying we’ll define the center by what we’re willing to pass, and you better acquiesce or we’ll hold the country hostage, even though the majority of Americans voted to move to the left in the election.

And why not?  With the exception of Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann , Paul Krugman, and a few others, no one seems to care that the Republicans have replaced governance with brinksmanship and that this has cost the country dearly, bringing us to the verge of financial ruin on several occasions.  No one even seems to acknowledge it.  Their lunatic, counterfactual rantings are treated much like the mad uncle in the attic.  There is an implicit assumption that we have to accept self-interested acts of betrayal and irrational outbursts as if they were serious and legitimate political discourse.

In reality, they are neither.  Here’s how Ornstein – a conservative himself – and Mann put it:

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 yet, Republicans – with Democratic complicity – have been extraordinarily effective at stealth sabotage of government.  Since Reagan, they’ve been claiming government can’t do a thing right, making it so when they are in power, and filibustering it into incompetence when they aren’t.

But because Democrats haven’t called them on it and the corporate-controlled news media has given them a cloak of secrecy, most Americans aren’t aware of how badly Republicans have undercut governance and government – how they have intentionally brought about the failures they point to as evidence that government can’t do anything.  And as government failures mounted, people have been crying a pox on both their houses, and faith in government is now at an all-time low.

This explains one of the great conundrums of politics.  A sizable majority of Americans hold liberal positions on an issue-by-issue basis, but most are loath to call themselves liberals.  And exit polls confirm that the political narrative is still shaped by meta-myths created by Republicans.  Big gubmint’ caint do nothin’ right.  The magic markets and the private sector will provide all good things by pure serendipity.  Taxes are always bad.  Regulation stifles growth ya da, ya da, ya da.

As long as these myths survive, it will be difficult to pull the country back from the political cliff that has led to the fiscal cliff.  And as long as Democrats fail to confront these issues, the myths will survive. 

This campaign was a start.  After ignoring the fundamental differences between the parties for three years and nearly compromising away core liberal and progressive values, this administration and this President were forced to stake out the liberal position.  The embrace was reluctant, but they had no choice.

And Liberalism won. 

Democrats now have an historic opportunity to put a stake in the heart of these destructive meta-myths and wrest control of the country from the clutches of the plutocrats.  It they don’t seize this opportunity, they will continue to win battles while losing the war.

What must they do?

Take on the myths. Consolidate and extend the ground gained in this election, don’t retreat from them.  Polls show that Americans would rather raise taxes than gut social security Medicare, and Medicaid in order to balance the budget.  In fact, the vast majority of Americans don’t believe deficits should be our number one issue right now – they think job creation should be.  So how much political courage would it take to stand up the Republicans when they start trying to raise a panic?

And how much would it take to embrace the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s Budget4All, which balances the budget sooner than any Republican proposal and uses popular measures to do it?

If Republicans choose to filibuster, make them wear diapers.  Make them stand in front of the American people day after day, defending tax cuts for corporations and  the rich and tax increases for middle and low income Americans; make them call for eviscerating social security, eliminating Medicare as we know it, gutting Medicaid, cutting Pell grants for students, deregulating industry, giving tax credits for shipping jobs overseas – the whole shebang.

By putting a spotlight on their policies, we’ll not only avoid a fiscal cliff, we’ll escape a much more serious political cliff we’ve been hurtling toward for 30 years now.