According to FindLaw.com, first degree murder is (in most states) defined as an “unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that it was committed after planning or ‘lying in wait’ for the victim.” Of course, first degree murder is among the worst crimes that one human can commit. The prosecutor describes to the jurors how the accused not only intended to kill the victim, but also planned the attack – all while the victim’s survivors listen in horror.
On January 16 2009, Rush Limbaugh made his famous “I hope Obama fails” proclamation. There was a small media firestorm over the comment because most Americans knew that Obama’s goal was to help America dig itself out of the Great Recession where we’d been left by the Bush administration but, as happens all too often, the moment is soon forgotten as the media turns the page for us. Besides, President Obama was about to be sworn into office with a majority in both houses, right? Right.
What we didn’t know at the time was the plan being put together by the Republican Party to make a political comeback. Some light on their internal decisions is now being shed by Michael Grunwald in his excellent article in Time, and reading his article made me feel like a juror in a first degree murder trial. Why? Because I knew that the circumstantial evidence and particularly their unprecedented use of the filibuster, far more than at any point in the history of the filibuster, pointed to the Republicans’ intentions to stop Obama from accomplishing anything at all, good or bad.
It wasn’t that they were just stopping Democratic efforts that they didn’t like; they tried to stop almost everything! Here’s a short list of legislation that the Republicans filibustered, and many of them make no sense since the legislation that was filibustered was very often on issues that should have had front-and-center support by every Republican in the country! So why? Why would the Republicans filibuster or otherwise obstruct almost all legislation in the Senate (as this article from The Atlantic shows so well)?
Many Dems and liberals who were paying attention could see what was going on: the Republicans were saying that Obama’s presidency was going to be a failure, and they were doing their damnedest to make sure of it. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, that Obama could do that was seen as good or right in the eyes of the Republican Party, and they fostered this perception to their rank-and-file. Even the congratulations that some Republicans gave Obama for the killing of Osama bin Laden were muted at best, and many gave him no credit at all for it, even when he was was given truly high praise by the admiral in charge of our SpecOps forces. What brought on this intolerance, this hatred of everything Obama says or does?
This quote from Grunwald’s article referenced above perfectly illustrates what happened:
David Obey, then chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, met with his GOP counterpart, Jerry Lewis, to explain what Democrats had in mind for the stimulus and ask what Republicans wanted to include. Jerry’s response was, “I’m sorry, but leadership tells us we can’t play,” Obey told me. “Exact quote: ‘We can’t play.’ What they said right from the get-go was, It doesn’t matter what the hell you do, we ain’t going to help you. We’re going to stand on the sidelines and bitch.”
Read that again: “I’m sorry, but the leadership tells us we can’t play. It doesn’t matter what the hell you do, we ain’t going to help you.” The Republican leadership had decided that there would be zero bipartisanship, zero cooperation by Republicans in Congress. Anything the Obama administration wanted to make happen, the Republicans would oppose even if they had supported it in the past.
This explains not only the Republican flip-flops on cap and trade to address anthropogenic global warming, and the individual mandate to ensure access to quality health care for all Americans, both of which were once signature Republican positions; it also explains why they filibustered this bill that cut tax breaks for companies that shipped jobs overseas and at the same time gave tax breaks to companies that brought jobs back to America from overseas. It explains why they filibustered this bill (which filibuster the Dems eventually broke) that opened up billions in loans to small businesses through the SBA and gave billions more in tax breaks to small businesses. The Republicans filibustered Obama’s infrastructure bill, his jobs package, and his bill to provide states emergency funding to hire teachers and first responders.
Again, it’s like the Republican said: “…it doesn’t matter what the hell you do, we ain’t going to help you,” and by their actions showed that this applied to nearly all legislation, whether good or bad, even if it had had near-lockstep support by Republicans in the past. Witness the epic obstructionism by the Republicans in the debt-ceiling debate last year that cost America our credit rating; remember when House Speaker John Boehner bragged that “I got 98% of what I wanted” in the negotiations with the White House? And yet many of the House Republicans still opposed any deal to raise the debt ceiling, no matter the consequences.
And now the deliberate intransigence and intolerance by the Republican Party leadership is tearing at the party from within, as this recent article by longtime Blogcritics resident and leader of the Republican Liberty Caucus Dave Nalle clearly shows. On the orders of the Republican Party elite, “bipartisanship,” “negotiation,” and “moderate” have become terms of shame and scorn among conservatives. If the Republicans lose in the upcoming November elections, it seems that their reaction will be anything but realization that they need to change their message and return to being a “big tent” party; instead, it’s much more likely that they will demand ever more conservative policies from their politicians, never mind that their current positions are much further to the right than the Republicans would have tolerated (much less supported) during the Reagan era.
Indeed, any careful analysis of the fiscal policies supported by the current Republican presidential ticket will reveal that they not only largely support the same policies that nearly drove America off the fiscal cliff under George W. Bush, but do so to an even greater extent: larger tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporate elite, larger spending cuts to everything but Medicare and Defense, and yet more deregulation of Wall Street. Bush’s policies nearly brought America and the world into another depression, yet Romney wants those same polices, but even more so? To make matters worse, the foreign policy positions of both Romney and Ryan are closely aligned with those of George W. Bush. And where did that get us? Afghanistan and Iraq.
Yet the Republicans don’t really have a choice, do they? They’ve painted themselves into a rhetorical corner by deciding to oppose whatever the Democrats want, regardless of whether the Democrats want what the Republicans have supported in the past. That means that if the Democrats want to do something that is good for America, the Republicans force themselves to vehemently oppose it, and instead wind up supporting positions that are not popular and have brought nothing but fiscal and social disaster in the past. But what else can they do? They can’t allow themselves to work with the Democrats, the very suggestion of which is strictly forbidden.
How can the GOP return to its glory days? They can’t, not for many years. Why? I wrote about what was happening to the GOP in early 2009, and many pundits and elder politicians of both parties have said much the same since then: that the Republican’s perpetual game of “I’m more conservative than you” is becoming an inescapable spiral down to marginalization. I don’t think there’s a way out of that spiral, not now. Oh, the Republicans are not going quietly into that good night, they’ll still win many victories and some presidential elections, especially given the effects of their voter suppression efforts and the Citizens United decision that now allows unlimited corporate and private funding to all federal, state, and local elections. But the continuing changes in America’s demography are irresistible. Unless the GOP evolves to once more become a big-tent party, it is only a matter of time before it is marginalized.
The greatest danger lay in the fact that in order for the GOP to become once again a big tent party, there will have to be a great social change in America. Great social changes rarely come without great social upheavals; and that’s something that few of us really want to see.