Republican nihilism

Greg Sargent had an excellent post this week about the “sabotage governing” of the GOP:

It’s not unusual to hear dirty hippie liberal blogger types (and the occasional lefty Nobel Prize winner) point out that today’s GOP has effectively abdicated the role of functional opposition party, instead opting for a kind of post-policy nihilism in which sabotaging the Obama agenda has become its only guiding governing light.

But when you hear this sort of argument coming from Chuck Todd, the mild-mannered, well respected Beltway insider, it should prompt folks to take notice.

[I cut out the Todd quote, it’s not that great]

But I’d take it further; it goes well beyond Obamacare implementation and the relentless blockading of Obama nominees for the explicit purpose of preventing democratically-created agencies from functioning. We’ve slowly crossed over into something a bit different. It’s now become accepted as normal that Republicans will threaten explicitly to allow harm to the country to get what they want, and will allow untold numbers of Americans to be hurt rather than even enter into negotiations over the sort of compromises that lie at the heart of basic governing.  [emphasis mine]

Meanwhile, in an unrelated post, Chait makes the point that Republicans not only don’t care about policy, they simply don’t care about governing, period:

The distrust for lawmaking is the main argument — wait, “argument” is too strong; maybe premise? — of a rare joint op-ed by Rich Lowry and William Kristol, editors of the National Review and the Weekly Standard. Lowry and Kristol urge House Republicans to kill immigration reform, because passing it would involve legislating, and legislating is bad.

They don’t put it exactly like that, of course. What they say is that the Senate immigration bill is “a stew of deals, payoffs, waivers, and special-interest breaks.” And, yes, that’s true, in the sense that every piece of major legislation is a stew of deals, payoffs, waivers, and special-interest breaks. The 1964 Civil Rights Act certainly was. So were the Reagan tax cuts. So was the Constitution! It’s a big country with lots of people and organizations with different points of view, and cobbling together major support for any far-reaching change is going to involve some wheeling and dealing…

A rational legislative strategy would consider the relative benefits of a law to maintaining the status quo, and weigh the possibilities of a better bill emerging over time. But tea-party logic simply regards the existence of compromise as disqualifying. The moral purity of opposition has become untethered from any political or policy objective, and appears to have sprouted into an actual freestanding principle.

It’s not such a strongly held principle that it would survive if and when Republicans regain control of government. Lowry, Kristol, and the entire tea party will surely forget their hatred of side deals when they are needed to pass the next tax cuts. But the hatred for legislating has gained a strong enough hold over the conservative mind as to render them unable to consider the merits of any bill at all.

Yep.  If we had a true parliamentary system where the Republicans were simply a power-less majority, this wouldn’t really matter.  But in our system of government which truly requires participation and compromise from the minority party, this is a governing disaster.

Of course parties often put their own interests ahead of the interests of the American people.  But I’ve had to say, never before (at least in modern times) has it been done so extensively and so shamelessly.  And indeed, very much to the detriment of the American people.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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