Wednesday, October 14, 2015

This should stir William's soul

The Republican 'Freedom Caucus' Is Un-American


There's a stunning unreality to the right-wing attack on John Boehner as insufficiently conservative. On issues like economic policy, abortion, guns, Obamacare, gay marriage, immigration, you-name-it Boehner is in perfect right-wing harmony with the most reactionary of his Members. Indeed, the entire Republican House Majority is in lock-step about everything. The Republican Party has purged itself of ideological dispute. It is a single, hard-right voice.
Then what happened to Boehner? To answer that you need to read your Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Federalist Paper Number 10: "some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our Governments;...[rather the] increasing distrust of public engagements [are the] effects of...a factious spirit [which] has tainted our public administrations. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning Government; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for preƫminence and power...have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other, than to coƶperate for their common good."
The danger, sayeth the Founders, is not disagreement on policy, it is factions unwilling to cooperate. So it is with the House Republicans and the "Freedom Caucus" which drove Boehner out of the Speaker's chair. These folks are entitled to their policy views. The real question is whether they will be able to shut down the government because they haven't sufficient votes to enact them through democratic means.
Be it Planned Parenthood or immigration or Obamacare the central objection to Boehner from the Freedom Caucus is that he compromised, and was insufficiently militant. Boehner's response is to point to the undeniable fact that the Senate has insufficient votes to adopt the Freedom Caucus agenda, the President will veto and the override votes aren't there in either house. No matter says the Freedom Caucus. We must shut down the government if that is what it takes to get our way.
Again, this isn't a policy dispute. It's about tactics. I spent close to thirty years in a legislative body, and I will tell you that American democracy is not designed for speed, efficiency or clear-cut wins. It is about the development of consensus and compromise. The Founders produced a Constitution that carefully separates power and makes it harder to function. The Speaker of the House is not a Prime Minister, not a dictator. To govern otherwise is un-American.
You would think that the Freedom Caucus would be willing to put things to a vote of the whole Congress. No. They do not accept the notion of bi-partisan majorities governing. Their policies must become law, their leaders and the views of the majority be damned.
There is more at stake for all of us than the name and ideology of the next Speaker. There is a struggle for the soul of American democracy. We are being required to re-examine our basic commitment to constitutional government. We are deciding whether a faction, numbering less than 40 of 535 elected representatives, can do to the Constitution what civil war, economic collapse, and enormous social change was never able to do: Undo the basic understanding of how we govern ourselves.
Madison and Hamilton knew what they were talking about, and knew that faction and democracy cannot co-exist. The responsibility for sorting this out now falls on a Republican Party that seems not to know itself or the country, either in Congress or in the battle for the Presidential nomination. There is no reason to believe that things will come out well.


  1. Madison and Hamilton knew what they were talking about, and knew that faction and democracy cannot co-exist.
    Now aint that the truth. When will people realize that the Federalist Papers, read in their entirety provide so much guidance and so many truisms for modern day politicians. Even politicians in other nations can learn and receive guidance from these publications. Foreigners however need to have devoted some years to looking at the early years of the revolutionary period in America to fully understand the intent of the papers. By the way,FP are easier for a complete foreigner to read than modern American prose with its peculiar spelling. When writing these small pieces I have to run them through a spell check tabulated to “American English”. I often see glaring mistakes as people such as TS use expressions which make little sense to someone reasonable well versed in conventional English. Viva la difference perhaps.

    1. And yes I realize the error in the penultimate sentence, put it down to wayward fingers!!.
      Cheers from Aussie

    2. King,

      The level where you and TS engage in discussion about the Federalist papers does not seem to be in the same orbit of importance of the people who are launching Trump and Carson upward. The only way those two could damage themselves now would be by showing civility and actually discussion policy. The group that Boehner has called "jackasses" have overwhelming support from people who likely have no flipping clue what the federalist papers are. When Trump or Carson say something that gets the press all aflutter, their support grows.

      a segment of this country has been a fed a never ending diet of hyperbole that they are being so screwed and that the fix is so simple that all they have to do is just shut down the government, and everything will fix itself. The Republicans, IMO, could fix this right now by actually working with Democrats where they agree with them. If they did that and nothing more, they could still get cuts of funding to many things they hate, probably get another tax cut for the rich, and get a host o things they want. Why they won't do this, I can't say.

    3. The Freedom caucus has about 40 votes in one chamber. Surely the Statist in both parties can and will compromise and continue to spend our grandchildren ' s money.

      This is a given. Concern about the limited government faction is pure propaganda.