All these new-fangled terms out of Washington for us to keep track of recently. We were in the throes of “fiscal cliff” overkill a little while back. Now the incessant chatter has shifted to “sequestration.” Alas, these labels, fancy though they may be, can’t mask one fundamental truth about their reason for being: that they lead to the same dark, ugly place.
I was asked a few days ago by someone who isn’t normally focused on such matter, whether I thought the Republicans are actively working on the demise of their party with this seeming affinity for being stubbornly uncooperative. I said that wasn’t very likely although, in truth, one has to wonder if the GOP isn’t being propelled by some strange, demonic force in this march of theirs in unabashed defiance of public sentiment. And that’s not to take issue with the broadly held view that Washington, as a whole, has become a dysfunctional mess.
To be blunt about it, Washington cannot but come across as the embodiment of haplessness, so long as the GOP, having failed to wrest either the presidency or the senate from the other side, sees itself first and foremost in obstructionist terms. The farce of, at every opportunity, running on about a willingness to negotiate with the president and other Democrats about this or that has become quite tedious. We’ll see how this sequester thing plays out, but “resolution” becomes more or less meaningless gimmickry when on the Republican side there’s an almost “sacred oath” ideological fervor attending their stand that the country’s budget problems are to be addressed via the much parroted “spending cuts” route, the raising of revenues a non-starter that’s unequivocally off the table. It could be said that President Obama and Democrats are just as determined that serious revenue raising measures must be part of the discussion. The difference being that the Democratic position is reflective of majority feeling among the population, as one would expect.
Consistently have surveys shown that a solid majority of Americans believe that asking those who are better off to pay a modest tax increase is altogether fair. Ditto, asking the same of corporations. A solid majority of Americans are supportive of ending subsidies to corporations that clearly don’t need them, such as those enjoyed by large oil companies. The blame game as far as what caused the budget deficit to assume outlandish proportions is merely another posturing opportunity. The much more important takeaway from where the country now sits, fiscally, is that Republicans are content to be openly dismissive of how the people feel. That contempt for majority sentiment now looks to be very basic Republican m.o, evidently seen by its purveyors as essential to the obstructionist ethos.
Republicans’ brazenly apologist behavior where big business is concerned rolls on unabated. There is no sphere of business activity where Republicans are the least bit shy about being four-square supportive of those interests. Against regulation, against the imposition of environmental restrictions of any kind, against new minimum wage measures whenever they’re proposed, some among them unreservedly adopting a screamingly anti-union posture…that’s the GOP way. Every move intended to provide some working class uplift is a “job killer.” Or so goes the mantra. One recalls the cartoonish and hopefully no-more-to-be-heard-from Herman Cain, who famously regaled us with his philosophical take on the poor: they have only themselves to blame for their condition. But we should by now be immune to shocking conduct from the GOP ranks, like balking at federal assistance to victims of Sandy or their proposals (courtesy presidential aspirant Romney) to dismantle, if they had their way, the likes of the departments of education, energy and the E.P.A. All while our war mongering capability, they insist, is not only left intact but gets ramped up some.
The yen for devil-may-care obstructionism is across the board. Senate Republicans’ filibuster of the president’s choice for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, was just one of many acts of ill will we’ve had from a GOP roster committed, apparently, to the how-low-can-you-go principle. The ubiquitous John McCain was again front and center to “explain” the GOP action on Hagel. There were things about which Hagel, when he was a senator, disagreed with his Republican colleagues, and beyond disagreeing chose to be disagreeable. To which the sharp radar-watching crew at MSNBC was quick to wonder where does a guy get off squawking about “disagreeable” conduct from a former senator, as they revisited video of McCain hurling epithets at fellow senators on more than one occasion!
These Republican games would be laughable had the players been merely a bluster-prone minority. Turning a blind eye to the antics would be easy enough to do. They happen, however, to be a majority party in one of the legislative chambers, in which position they seem determined to thwart actions undertaken in the people’s interest, actions for which substantiation exists of the people’s stamp of approval. That these folks enjoy free reign to frustrate the process, that this tail wagging dog absurdity can proceed unimpeded, is nuts. And ultimately it must be the people who decide that if the Republican contribution to the Washington follies is the sum total of the party’s designs on governance, then the party would have earned for itself a role in which shared power isn’t part of the equation.