Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gene Lyons on the immediate future of Bipartisanship

Gene Lyons in The Animal House Republicans Take Control National Memo 11/12/2014 isn't optimistic that the new Senate and House majorities will take a constructive approach to governance over the next two years:

You think a guy like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be dutifully attending committee meetings and painstakingly crafting legislation? Not as long as President Obama’s still in the White House and there are TV cameras on the premises.

There’s actually an editorial in the influential conservative magazine National Review entitled “The Governing Trap.”

It argues for two more years of Animal House Republicanism: “If voters come to believe that a Republican Congress and a Democratic president are doing a fine job of governing together, why wouldn’t they vote to continue the arrangement in 2016?”
I really like his point that "the demise of regionally and ideologically diverse American political parties — i.e. of liberal Republicans and conservative Southern Democrats — has brought paralysis to Washington."

Some amount of the nostalgia for Bipartisanship reflects just that fact. There used to be Democrats who would vote for liberal economic policies but were conservative on others. And there were Republicans who were critical of segregation and unnecessary wars. Putting together a coalition for a liberal or conservative policy normally meant getting votes from "both sides of the aisle."

But there's no virtue in Bipartisanship as such. Good policies are good policies even they're enacted on a party-line vote. Bad ones are bad no matter how much bipartisan support there is for them.

There is also a geographical aspect to this. Up until 1992, it was a cliche that Democratic Presidential candidates had a big advantage in "the West." That meant, in practice, that California with its bonanza of electoral college votes tended to go Republican. More specifically, California went Democratic in 1948 and 1964 and Republican in 1952, 1958, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988. Clinton's "It's the economy, stupid" campaign in 1992 won California.

Then in 1994, California's Republican Governor Pete Wilson was successful in passing the anti-immigrant Proposition 187, for which he prominently campaigned. Much of the badly-written law was struck down by the federal courts: "A federal district court temporarily halted Prop 187's restrictions on benefits in December 1994, and this freeze was continued under a November 1995 preliminary injunction. This 1995 decision, LULAC v. Wilson, also overturned most of Prop 187's enforcement procedures." (Larry Eig, California's Proposition 187: A Brief Overview; Congressional Research Service, n/d)

The obvious racist and xenophobic undertones of the Prop 187 campaign - and they weren't always "under" - alerted Latino citizens to the degree of hostility toward them and the undocumented relatives and neighbors. After that, Latino voting participation went up and stayed up. And a higher percentage of Latino voters have been voting Democratic ever since.

So California, and therefore "the West," now are a more reliably Democratic area in Presidential elections.

And that also means that, starting in the early 1990s, the Democrats no longer had to count on carry states in the Old Confederacy to win the Presidency, though it always helps to have Florida's trove of electoral votes, as the Supreme Court's selection of the President in 2000 reminds us in the worst way.

There are many factors in the current Party polarization. But one of them is this geographical situation. The Republicans have recreated the Solid South of earlier years and put it in their column. And they've constructed a partisan narrative that's ties the segregationist anti-democracy perspective to plutocratic economics and cultural conservatism. And they have a level of Party discipline in their national messaging and in both Houses of Congress that was just not the case for either Party after the infamous compromise of the Republican Party after the 1876 election with the Southern anti-democracy "Redeemers" until the last 20 years or so.

In fact, the "Republican Revolution" of 1994 with the election of a Republican House majority under the leadership of Newt Gingrich is a central milestone in the ongoing development of this process.

The 2014 midterm elections were a reminder of how deeply Democrats are stuck in the pre-1994 era: in their narrative framing, in their distancing themselves from their own Party and even from some of its most politically popular positions, in their endless and pointless jabbering about bipartisanship and "reaching across the aisle" (a phrase the Dems should remove from their vocabulary), in their irresponsibly hawkish foreign policy, in their almost bizarre failure to recognize how critical turnout of their own voting base is during midterm elections.

Republican segregationists are always saying that African-Americans need to just "git over it," in this case "it" being any and all objections to white racism.

What the Democrats need to git over is their fixation on the 1980s and their perceived vulnerability to an surging "movement conservatism."

Cenk Uygur here deconstructs the sorry spectacle that way too many Democrats presented in the 2014 election cycle in distancing themselves from Obama and his popular accomplishments, Dems Viciously Blame Obama As Era Of Compromise Begins The Young Turks 11/05/2014:

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