The Republicans used to be a grand, or at least a “governing” old party. Agree or disagree with their policies, you could at least take them seriously. Not anymore.
Having fought off the radical John Birchers during the 1950s and survived Barry Goldwater’s disastrous presidential run in 1964, in which the far right candidate lost in an epic landslide to Lyndon Johnson, the GOP decided to let the radicals in the door after Barack Obama’s election in 2008. In fact, in the fever over health and financial reform, they let them take over the joint. As a result, the GOP is a shadow of its former self.
In fact, the Republican Party is today, for all intents and purposes, the Radical Party.
Republicans control the House of Representatives, but their speaker, John Boehner, cannot govern it. Under Boehner, the 112th Congress has passed fewer pieces of legislation than any Congress since 1947. Boehner has gaveled in about one-third of the number of roll calls as Nancy Pelosi did, when she led the 111th Congress to be the most productive since the 1965 Congress that passed Medicare and the Voting Rights Act.
On tax cuts, their radicalism is so pristine; the House was unable to even take a vote on their own leader’s proposal to shield the first million dollars of income from a 4 percent tax increase. The failure of Boehner’s “Plan B” to avert the fiscal cliff — the result of one of the few things Republicans did pass: the automatic spending cuts and tax hikes tied to sequestration — was the latest personal humiliation delivered to Boehner by his caucus. But to millions of Americans who are depending on unemployment insurance, who must file taxes in the coming months, doctors awaiting Medicare payments for their patients and those who are otherwise concerned about a second recession, Mr. Boehner’s pride is the least of their concerns.
Republicans couldn’t accept the president’s offer to spurn his winning campaign theme of raising taxes on income over $250,000 — raising the cap to $400,000.
Meanwhile, the right’s Big Ideas: slashing spending on the elderly and the poor, and tearing into Social Security and Medicare, are so unpopular, even their own base opposes them.
On the state level, Republicans control 27 state legislatures to the Democrats’ 17, and they have full control of 24 states, including the governorships. They control key blue and swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
But outside of the deep South, their presence seems to have helped keep those states in Barack Obama’s column in 2012.
Whether it’s Virginia’s bizarre push to force women to undergo invasive ultrasounds in order to exercise their right to an abortion, or Michigan’s Orwellian law allowing for the seizure of local governments by unelected “managers,” or Ohio’s thwarted attempt to roll back labor organizing rights, Wisconsin style, or Florida and Ohio’s all-out push to halt early voting, “backlash” has the been the operative word for those living under Republican state rule.
Throw in Michigan’s lame-duck purge of not just union rights, but also abortion rights, and it is becoming axiomatic that to be governed by Republicans is to learn of their radicalism.
On immigration, Republicans have in recent years sounded more like the radical right wing parties of Europe, crushing the party’s prospects with fast-growing American demographics.
Even on ground that used to be solid for Republicans, the earth is beginning to move beneath their feet. In the aftermath of the massacre of children and women at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, Americans are cringing at the extremist position of the gun industry lobbyists at the NRA that the Second Amendment gives Americans a green light, without a second look from government, to stockpile military hardware, fully capable of taking out dozens of fellow citizens in mere seconds, or that we should deploy armed militias inside our schools.
The party’s one safeguard is gerrymandering — which will insulate the party for now, ensuring that they will continue to hold power in many states, and potentially in the House, for years to come (or at least until the next Census.)
But if Republicans hope to actually govern, and not just exist, they — starting with Speaker Boehner — should make a New Year’s resolution: to wrestle their party out of the hands of the radicals.