Watching President Obama’s Q & A with the Republicans Friday, it became starkly plain why entertaining any notion of “bipartisanship” in Washington is so colossally dumb that the very mention of the word ought to bring in a hail of derisive laughter and rotten vegetables. Bipartisanship, as practiced by the Republicans, means “do what we say or else,” and it’s exactly the same whether they’re in power or out. A baby could understand this, but none of the gasbags who are overpaid to ruminate on these issue seems to. (Mama, don’t let your baby grow up to be David Gregory….) Lo and behold, it might finally be dawning on our President that this is the case, and he finally let them have it (with laudable gentleness, considering).
It is just not possible to govern a country when the minority party devoutly believes that the party in power is illegitimate and fundamentally unfit to govern, and publicly says so, every day. The gasbags and righties will quickly point out that people said the same things about Bush, but to compare the two is ludicrous; Bush fulfilled the furthest right’s wildest dreams on an almost daily basis, with predictable results, and Obama has alienated “the left” nearly as often. The mildest anti-Bush comments were all but banned from the media amid stern denunciations, and Obama’s bland, centrist approach nonetheless has people loudly calling him a commie/fascist/what have you, hourly, from coast to coast. As Obama attempted to point out, such rhetoric leaves them little bargaining power, but that doesn’t matter to them because they don’t do bargaining. They consider Democratic dominance to be an unfortunate aberration they can just wait out, as they turn to dirtier and dirtier tricks to undermine it.
It’s no coincidence that the Manichean politics as practiced by Ailes, Rove, and the gang have their roots in the Nixon Administration. In many ways, Nixon personified the emerging Republican psychosis that plagues us to this day: paranoid, resentful, xenophobic, authoritarian, anti-intellectual, vengeful, soulless, venal, and reflexively deceitful. Both Bush and Nixon had great difficulty concealing these traits, and their popularity suffered for it, which is probably the main reason the Republicans are still so enamored of Reagan; he fooled a lot more people a lot more of the time than those creeps did. And fooling people is the one thing Republicans do well; that’s why they have invested so heavily in the media in the post-Watergate era.
Of course, there are a lot of things Republicans can’t do: win wars, balance budgets, protect natural resources, maintain infrastructure, respond to disasters, or pretty much anything else you thought you had a government to do. These glaring deficiencies would, in a functioning democracy, make getting elected somewhat more difficult, but when you have dozens of “think tanks,” hundreds of radio and television stations, and a whole “News” network dedicated to pumping out spin and garbage in your favor 24/7, not impossibly so. Because of the fundamental unpopularity of their program, which is nothing more than looting the treasury to reward their friends, Republicans must continually create disasters at home and abroad, then patiently explain that that’s where all the money went. ”More will than wallet,” as Dubya’s father once solemnly intoned with feigned regret as he cancelled one social program or the other. For Republicans, a wrecked economy is the best kind, because it make the rabble so much less uppity.
Another lesson learned from Watergate was the handling of the inevitable crimes required to maintain Republican governance. Destroying the independence of the federal judiciary and getting rid of “goo-goo” prosecutors turns out to be an awfully handy fallback when you’re caught spying illegally, disenfranchising voters, or using federal agencies to “screw your enemies.” Determined to avoid the type of fiasco the Nixon tapes created, the Bush Administration immediately set up a dual communications system to leave no trace of their criminality where some nosy judge might find it.
Basically, what we have here is a party, comprising a substantial minority of Americans, that either believes or has been taught that their particular ideology is the only one permissible even if the majority disagrees, and thus have no interest in compromise. To gain and hold power, they will lie, cheat and steal, and once they have it, they dedicate themselves to any means necessary to make it permanent. They don’t believe in Democracy, which becomes most apparent when they’re out of power and still demanding to control the agenda, regardless of its rejection by the voters.
So far, Obama has given in to them on the worst parts of their program; the wars continue, torture and other crimes will not be prosecuted, and it seems likely that at least some of the ruinous tax cuts Bush rammed through might survive relatively unaltered when their phony “expiration date” comes up. Still, they aren’t satisfied. You see, in the closed loop of spin in which they live, Obama is a socialist/fascist/usurper and their flimsy slogans masquerading as ideas are holy writ, and every stupid thing they say is unassailable truth because Glenn Beck said so. What an unpleasant surprise it must have been for them to stand up and bark the same old horseshit that reliably wows the teabaggers, and find themselves looking like the vindictive know-nothings that they are when a much smarter and more reasonable individual, the President, was able to answer them for a change. The horrifying image they’d been seeing and conjuring up for others turned out to be their own reflection in the mirror, once again.
Fox had to cut away in horror, and some Republicans were so gobsmacked that for a moment they forgot to lie and ruefully admitted that televising the exchange was “a mistake.” I’ll say. A mistake I wouldn’t be expecting them to make again.
All those years of controlling the government, kid-glove treatment in the media, and the freedom to lie without consequence has left them completely incapable of arguing any subject on its actual merits, as they were reminded Friday, booklet notwithstanding. More stunningly, even the media noticed. Their overconfidence at this point is probably just that; more of Karl Rove’s “Math.” If that’s all they’ve got, bring it on.