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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

 
Can some beltway wags really not walk and chew gum at the same time?

by digby

Greg Sargent is much too nice to characterize the Ron Fourniers of the world as out of touch, beltway fops as I did in my piece at Salon yesterday. But he makes a similar point here about the absolutely nonsensical notion that anyone should care about how and why our politics are so screwed up:
Let’s try a thought experiment. Take this series of solutions to many of the major challenges we face: 1) New EPA regs that fall short of the carbon reduction targets we need and give states implementation flexibility while making global climate talks more likely to succeed over the long term. 2) Immigration reform that combines increased border security (which Republicans want) with legalization (which Dems want). 3) A combination of short term job-creation stimulus with spending cuts and tax loophole closings to bring down the deficit.

Broadly speaking, Democrats have proposed variations of all of those things. Even if you quibble around the margins — by arguing, for instance, Dems have not proposed enough in spending cuts or long term debt reduction — it is still broadly true that Dems have offered multiple solutions to major challenges facing the country that require concessions by both sides. Broadly speaking, Republicans have said No to them. And yet, is there any doubt that Olympia Snowe and other former Republican officials who regularly wring their hands about generalized “polarization” and “Washington dysfunction” would support these general outlines of solutions?
I think we know the answer to that. For all of her paeans to bipartisanship, Snowe's record is one that only a few years ago would be seen as a starkly partisan one. The only reason Democrats cling to the fiction that she isn't as rabid as the rest of them is that there is a 1 in 10 chance she might sign on to some essential legislation after it's been watered down to essentially nothing at her behest. And even then she might back off --- they do that.

This is not to let the Democrats off the hook, by the way. When it comes to many of the most important issues of our time in the realm of economics and national security, the two parties are much more closely aligned that anyone likes to admit. They posture around the edges but when push comes to shove they are perfectly happy with the status quo: the financial elites who fund our politics have the upper hand in the one realm while the national security establishment has the upper hand in the other. The people and their desires are relegated to the role of bystanders.

However, there is also simply no doubt that the Republicans have gone batshit crazy and are literally trying to bring down the state from within. Their attitude on climate change and immigration are the tip of the ice-berg. They want to literally dismantle the nation's governmental infrastructure. Their approach to the basic workings of our government is far more radical and dangerous than anything the tepid Democrats have roused themselves to do. (If Obamacare is seen as an equal example of extremism in the beltway these days, I'm afraid we're doomed ...) The disdain for the processes of democracy is openly expressed on the right --- they simply do not acknowledge the basic legitimacy of their opposition. That is a radical departure from our historic norm (well, with one little exception that led to a little civil war.)

The fact that so many members of the beltway are unable to grasp this is frankly kind of scary. Yes, the Democrats wield power and yes, elected officials of both parties, along with the permanent political establishment, do have some large areas of fundamental agreement (agreements that are also at odds with their respective voters, by the way.) All you have to do is look at the way the government reacted in the wake of the two great crises of the new century --- 9/11 and the 2008 crash. Nonetheless, only one party believes that their duty is to completely eliminate the vital functions of the government that are not police and military related -- and they seek to do it by any means necessary. They have shown they are serious with government shutdowns and repeated standoffs. And the Democrats have been almost entirely flummoxed by their crash and burn tactics. The austerity budgets of the last few years show how successful they've been.

I don't see why it's so hard for the commentariat in Washington to see that all these things can be true at the same time.

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