Calling It Like He Sees It

Norm Ornstein has a recent column in the Atlantic, in which he considers what has happened to his–and my–former political party. Ornstein, for those unfamiliar with him, is a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and a longtime and respected expert on Congress.

The most interesting, and important, dynamic in American politics today is the existential struggle going on in the Republican Party between the establishment and the insurgents—or to be more accurate, between the hard-line bedrock conservatives (there are only trace elements of the old-line center-right bloc, much less moderates) and the radicals…

As for the party leaders, consider some of the things that are now part of the official Texas Republican Party platform, as highlighted by The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg:

That the Texas Legislature should “ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify” federal laws it doesn’t like.

That when it comes to “unelected bureaucrats” (meaning, Hertzberg notes, almost the entire federal workforce), Congress should “defund and abolish these positions.”

That all federal “enforcement activities” in Texas “must be conducted under the auspices of the county sheriff with jurisdiction in that county.” (That would leave the FBI, air marshals, immigration officials, DEA personnel, and so on subordinate to the Texas versions of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.)

That “the Voting Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized.”

That the U.S. withdraw from the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank.

That governments at all levels should “ignore any plea for money to fund global climate change or ‘climate justice’ initiatives.”

That “all adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves, or their minor children, without penalty for refusing a vaccine.

That “no level of government shall regulate either the ownership or possession of firearms.” (Period, no exceptions.)

Texas, of course, may be an outlier. But the Maine Republican Party adopted a platform that called for the abolition of the Federal Reserve, called global warming a myth, and demanded an investigation of “collusion between government and industry” in perpetrating that myth. It also called for resistance to “efforts to create a one world government.” And the Benton County, Ark., Republican Party said in its newsletter, “The 2nd Amendment means nothing unless those in power believe you would have no problem simply walking up and shooting them if they got too far out of line and stopped responding as representatives.”

One might argue that these quotes are highly selective—but they are only a tiny sampling (not a single one from Michele Bachmann, only one from Gohmert!). Importantly, almost none were countered by party officials or legislative leaders, nor were the individuals quoted reprimanded in any way. What used to be widely seen as loony is now broadly accepted or tolerated.

There are all sorts of theories about why the Grand Old Party has lost its collective mind. I’ve offered a few on this blog. But whatever the reasons for the departure from reason and elementary common sense, the fact of that departure is beyond dispute.

And infinitely depressing.


  1. I am so liberal that the Democratic Party feels frustratingly conservative to me. But I MISS the old Republican Party that we could actually have a respectful debate with! That debate between the parties lead to better, stronger legislation! At least then, I could say the Republicans had a point that needs to be considered. But now the debate has changed as the Republican Party has gone off the deep end. You can’t debate crazy. And our nation suffers for the loss of sanity and rationality in the Republican Party.

  2. I believe the libertarians finally relizied they could not get elected with their ideas and looked at the GOP as their host. With Koch $ they set about with parasitic intent to destroy any moderates in the GOP’s body and push the reminance to the extreme right just to survive, any indication of moderation left in the body is attacked and destroyed, there seems to be no cure in the immediate future, and if the remaining moderates don’t fight back the GOP will surley die and what remains will be a political zombie wondering the halls of governments in search of brains they will never find.

  3. Jean; thank you and a huge AMEN! I have mentioned before that I resent no longer having a rational option to vote for the candidate and his platform regardless of party affiliation. I feel forced to vote the straight Democratic party ticket to attempt to rid our governement at all levels of any and all privately owned GOP candidates. I see no end in sight to this dilemma and fear the almighty dollar will continue the takeover of America which could result in deterioration of middle America to third world levels. We have only our vote to shield and protect us and they are trying to take that away with full backing by SCOTUS. I have little hope of seeing much improvement in what remains of my lifetime but will continue to get to the polls every election day to do my part and hope for some forward movement and a return to sanity by our government.

  4. I stand beside Jean or anyone else that thinks the Democratic Party is too conservative for them. I stand beside anyone that thinks the GOP are batsh*t crazy with their nonsense.

  5. If you want to see an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy, just consider the positions mentioned. These people are convinced that the U.S. is going into the tank, along with our stability and standing in the world, so believe stuff like this and, voila, it happens! If over 50% of the electorate piles onto these perceptions, we are setting ourselves up for a fascist disctatorship.

  6. Just this past week, I watched the House Hearings held back in the 1970’s concerning the Articles of Impeachment against President Nixon. The Hearings were held before the “Smoking Gun” tape was released. I was too busy being a 20 something back then to pay much attention to the Hearings.

    This time around I did pay attention. It surprised me to hear the number of Republicans that were very critical of Nixon. This would not happen today.

    I can recall even back then the Media was being painted by the Right as a part of the Liberal Media Conspiracy to topple Nixon.

    I find myself Alone as a Liberal these days. The Democratic Party has moved to the Right. The Confederate South lost the Military part of the Civil War with the North. However, when I read about Politicians that want States Rights to Trump Federal Laws, I realize the Confederacy is still alive.

  7. As a congenital Republican I’ve watched in dismay as my party has been dragged from the party of legitimate business to their present state. I can no longer, in any way, support them. In fact I now cannot regard them as even a political party but rather the International Brotherhood of Oligarchs.

    We were originally wounded by the likes of Rush Limbaugh who attracted those whose idea of governance is anarchy. With their input, the quality of Republican candidates plummeted to the low of Bush II who so enjoyed watching Cheney enrich Haliburton that he disregarded even common sense due diligence. By the time the country (and the GOP) was a smoking ruin, the oligarchs saw the opportunity to harvest the remains. So, under the guise of my once proud party, they rode what they thought was the gravy train to today. If the Koch Bros, Sheldon Adelson, Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, Bernie Madoff, Grover Norquist, the Romney’s and Bushes, Rush and Glenn Beck, and Wayne LaPierre have their way with us, and prevent all progress, they will have harvested the American Dream, and we will become a larger version of Detroit.

    They rely on our apathy, our comfort and our anger at their goblins. They promote it. They think that we have been reduced to nursing on the TV and, with the milk that they provide there, can be led to chasing moonbeams and manufactured mayhem while they sell off the last of our resources and leave us the land, ocean and atmosphere filled with their garbage.

    Will the sleeping giant of America wake in time?

  8. One other observation. If the GOP was still, in any way, the party of legitimate business they would all over the growth of the sustainable energy business, the biggest economic opportunity in decades.

    Why are they anti that business? The Koch Bros have chosen the opportunity instead of winning the race to trillionaire by buying mineral rights on 1-2M acres of Alberta tar sands instead.

    Follow the money.

  9. Our governor (and a few others) are fighting the EPA mandate to reduce our dependence on coal because they say it will negatively impact our economy. This is true if you can ignore all the costs associated with the pollution coal creates, from mining it to burning it. Senator Dan Coats also opposes alternative energy and supports electricty generated by burning coal. Pete: You’re right, if these leaders weren’t paid to ignore the opportunities from alternative energies, they could see that building a new infrastructure to support and expand clean energies would create employment for many. And, what are we going to do when the coal is gone or too expensive to mine – it will happen.

  10. The decades of decline of the middle class have coincided with the slide into ever-scarier political rhetoric.

    The old political establishment money can’t enlist political support for moving jobs overseas and foregoing pensions, so they finance campaign messages on hot-button social issues to divert attention to a different political battlefield. If folks see their jobs, homes, health care, and pensions disappearing, they can at least grip more tightly their ‘values’ and whatever possessions they have left.

    The political ramifications are coming full circle. Eric Cantor’s overwhelming campaign finance advantage couldn’t save him from a Tea Party candidate who berated Cantor’s Washington values AND lock-step support of corporate lobbying.

    The Tea Party folks and Wall Street occupiers have more in common than often is recognized. Some of the wealthiest 1% and their political allies realize it too. So the Koch brothers and others invest in campaign rhetoric that becomes more and more extreme. Thankfully blogs like Sheila’s and social media are exposing the foibles and conveyors of extremist rhetoric for voters to see more clearly. The tunnel may be long, but there is light shining from the end of it.

  11. Daleb, the downward path of coal will probably be interesting. The cost of solar is falling while its efficiency seems to be improving by the week. People are beginning to adopt solar because pv energy promises to be so much cheaper. It won’t be long before you see solar panels on most homes. Coal will be the product that few people will want, which will have a really big impact on the coal industry. The big push to “save jobs” will fall in on itself unless Indiana buys into the future instead of dancing into the past–the place where Pence seems to have staked his future.

  12. pete, daleb and stuart emphasize what to me is the most serious problem of our time, carbon pollution. Are the three of you active in one of the kazillion groups working not only to educate our elected officials of the peril of global warming and climate change. I would expect so, as am I. How do we link arms and convince the elected officials to separate themselves from the oligarchs’ clutches?

  13. Question. (Well… two)

    Are we heading toward the dissolution of the “United” States?


    If so, is it necessarily a bad thing?

    I read all of the above and, (especially considering it’s Texas) I’m all for letting them do whatever the hell they want to do in their own state. Will innocent lives be damaged along the way? Sure, but they already are under the current system.

    If they want to create the redneck utopia they have always dreamed of – fine. Give the rest of the country a damn break and let other people in the rest of the country who think those seem like brilliant ideas a chance to try them on for size and see how well they fit.

    I see no merging of ideological philosophies in the future – only occasional mediators (translators would be a more fitting description) who try to speak the language of the other party in the hopes of trying to find common ground, but even these individuals are (and will likely remain) rare.

    My trip home from San Francisco the past two weeks has been eye opening and a bit of an anthropological journey into the environment from which I developed and, finally – I GET IT. I get why I never felt like I was in quite the right place. I get why I was so fearful about leaving college because I felt like that small universe of intellectually curious people I had met during my undergraduate years would collapse behind me as soon as I walked across the stage. When I cried as I walked across the stage the day I graduated it was not with joy or relief, but because I worried I would only find those type of people in those hallways – and as soon as I left I would no longer be welcomed as part of that intellectually curious world. That shit was the most suffocating feeling I ever had as a college student.

    On this trip I’ve taken many images of the few square miles that surround where I’m staying and the blatant feel of all of it is ‘Merica And God! and if you question ether of those or desire to understand more about life in general there is something profoundly wrong with you. There is a world where people are OK with that atlas there is another world where some of us can’t function like that and there may just not be a demand or desire for growing what lies in the middle.

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