Why the GOP gets away with obstructing Congress

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There's an interesting piece on Calitics talking about what California can teach the nation in terms of ending Republican obstructionism. Robert Cruickshank, as usual, is right on target -- and he points to the real problem in Washington. Republicans in the House no longer worry about losing their seats to Democrats; the GOP has been so good about gerrymandering that only maybe 30 or 40 seats in the entire nation are still competitive. What these increasingly right-wing loonies worry about is a primary challenge from an even loonier, even right-wingier candidate -- so they refuse to vote for any taxes and they're willing to bring down the entire economy if that's what it takes.

The problem is it's not as easy to fix nationally as it was in California. We're talking long-term efforts to change governors and state Legislatures so they can rewrite Congressional districts (or create California-style independent redistricting, which I initially opposed but hasn't turned out so bad). The Constitution mandages redistricting every ten years, but I don't think there's any rule saying you can't draw new districts more often, or that you can't create a new way of drawing them and put that in place right away. But again, that's not immediate.

Meanwhile, Obama's going to have to force as much as he can through a reluctant Congress and do as much as he can with executive orders.

Comments

The GOP refusing to raise taxes is not different in principle from the Democrats refusing to cut spending or to reform entitlements. They are both as bad as each other in terms of obstructionism.

But that is good as well as bad. The resultant Fiscal Cliff bill, although flawed, doesn't give away the store to either side, but rather represents a compromize between what the two parties wanted. In other words, it was a centrist solution, and most Americans are centrists rather than extremists of either color, and want balance and compromize.

In fact, I like our system having checks and balances. I worry far more when a government has one-party rule. It didn't work out well in Fascist and Communist nations, so why do we think it will work out in California? Amercians want an opposition party to keep the ruling party in check - that's a key part of democracy.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

Every bit of it.

The difference -- "in principle" -- between the Democratic party fighting decimation of social programs and the party of rich men fighting to protect their often ill-gotten wealth is that one serves a majority constituency. That is the secret to democracy: a government whose actions reflect the will of voters.

And despite the rubbish you are obviously willing to spew about it, the American people of firmly against continued tax relief to the very very wealthy by a margin of 2:1.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

The fact that you prefer one side to the other doesn't make them better, except in your own skewed eyes.

And the GOP have a "majority" in the House so presumably you think their actions "reflect the will of the voters".

The deficit cannot be fixed just by "taxing the rich". Either everyone will have to pay more taxes. Or services and benefits will be cut. Or both.

Posted by Troll on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

I've already posted a link.

Americans understand that their democratic system has failed them in this regard -- whether they attribute that to Republican gerrymandering as described in the above article; or to the advantage moneyed interests have in being able to control the congressional delegations of small over-represented states; or, in the case of Democrats, the failings of their own party representatives to do the people's bidding.

Taxing the rich and printing more money will solve much of the problem. The money being spent on the military and intelligence is a huge area which might be addressed on the spending side. Also the many subsidies to banking and energy interests.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

Well they would, wouldn't they? Effectively that is legalized mugging.

Except that actually people don't vote that way. Even the 99% do not vote to massively tax the 1%. That's not how Americans think and that's why there is an anti-tax majority in the House.

Progressives are far too concerned with the distribution of tax rather than the amount collected. Even liberal democrats agree that we cannot fix the deficit just by taxing the rich because that is nowhere close to enough money. Either everyone pays more tax or we get serious about spending cuts..

Posted by Anon on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 4:53 pm

Troll.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

there is also the matter in this country of the Ignorant Voting Bloc.

Those are the ones who watch Faux News and vote for politicians who work against their own health and aspirations. (Note that it is not how they vote which makes them ignorant, but the fact that -- as studies have shown -- Faux News viewers have a less than average level of being informed.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

Decades of disinvestment have deprived a few generations now of of what should be their intellectual and educational birth rights.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

Obviously venture capital and IPO's are a major factor in the SF economy.

What was I thinking?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

economic interests. But then how is that any different from those champagne socialists and limousine liberals who have billions but wear their "liberal" persona as a badge of politically correct pride?

It just goes to show that people are more complicated that we think, and take into account a broader range of issues than mere self-interest. So a rich guy might vote to help the poor, while a poor guy may support the rich, perhaps hoping one day that he will be rich himself.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

interests.

They want the richest people to pay a reasonable tax again, but some Republican poly-sci expert comes along and tickles their nether regions of racism, sexism, religious dogma, what-have-you.

People vote against their own interests because they are made to feel afraid of doing otherwise.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 6:20 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

That should surprise both of us for a while.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

Lili, here's the thing:
The dude waaaaaaayyy towards the top of the comments is right. They are both equally guilty of stonewalling one another. I'm not saying all of them are doing so out of a genuine interest in what's good for this nation. Just that they're both guilty nonetheless.

The problem with people like you, and by 'people like you' I mean anyone who polarizes themselves so severely among political lines -everyone from the voter all the way to congress, is that it has to be one way or the other. Even if it does nothing to progress us as a nation or, hell, even our own little towns and burbs.

If a Republican walked into this discussion and said right now, "I'd like to do my part and pay my fair share," you would still make every possible step to find some kind of fault or ulterior motive.

The truth is, a lot of the so-called "1%" DO want to pay a higher tax rate. However, legislation and tax code as it is written now keep them from doing so.
(source - Your very own NPR : http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125918497)

The moral of this story is that there is a reason why we have more than one political party. It's to keep the other guys in check. If we were too much to the left or right we'd just have a nifty little dictatorship wouldn't we?

Capitalism is one of the factors that saw the U.S. of A. as the most dominant country on the planet. In those golden days the whole world wanted to be us. Then somewheres along the way we, as a nation, forgot that we needed to be compassionate as well.

Problem is now the folks who pulled whatever strings to make us a superpower done plum forgot how to do that. Good thing we had Dems to remind us of that as a nation.

We need to be strong AND compassionate. We're not gonna turn everything around overnight with a magic coin. We need to work together. This "class warfare" stuff is what's killing us because no matter how you articulate the facts... it's all gonna appear to the media and to the world as an us versus them kind of affair.

When, in reality, we need each other to survive.

Posted by IceColdHaterade on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

OK, the year is only ten days old but you catch my drift.

"Moderate" is a dirty word around here but, in the end, no American wants a "one party dictatorship" because of the risk that it might be the "other" party. And mutual assured destruction has avoided nuclear war for 80 years now.

While the extremists say "only new taxes" and "only spending cuts", what would it take for the silent moderate majority in the center to tell both parties to banish their own zealots, bigots and extremists and work together?

Liberal republicans and bluedog democrats probably represent the golden mean of America. Let's banish BOTH the religious conservatives and the enterprise-bashing socialists. What are we waiting for?

Posted by guest on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

but following that, I also want to say fuck you very very much for your straw man attack and outright lies (when you aren't just coloring around the edges of outright lies.)

My main point was that the two parties are not morally equal because the American people have been solidly in favor of taxing the rich for a long time. That's where the morality comes from; representing a constituency wider than your biggest campaign contributors.

And in case I didn't mention it, fuck you for claiming that Nationalist Propaganda Radio is "my station."

Fuck you!

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

superior intellect and the ethical right to impose their will on others is exactly the problem here. Of course you think you're right and smart but, unfortunately, so does everyone else. So knowing what is truly right isn't as simple as asking you.

The appeal here is for moderation, balance and compromize. Do you understand how unreasonable you sound when you instead demand unconditional and total victory?

That's what dictators seek.

Posted by guest on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

Moderate your libertarianism, Troll.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 2:13 pm
Posted by guest on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

but he is adept at creating new identities for himself and so continues to pollute the airways with his mutterings.

It's fairly well known that he is in fact a right-wing mole who seeks to discredit progressives by going too far. Regard his posts with that in mind.

Posted by guest on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

So yes, of the one website where I've ever been even close to being banned -- SFGate -- the fascists won out.

The SF Comical wants to run a fascist rag and have its forum "peopled" by fascist scum, and so they have orchestrated a system which allows immoral and otherwise unprinicipled fascists to do as they like.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

Congress voted to increase taxes on those making more than $400K (good) but will do nothing to stop the fraud and cheating of those that receive Government assistance. I see this every day. Contractors and others who want to be paid in cash so they don't have to declare income, restaurant owners paying for groceries and getting into new BMWs, women falsly claiming to be abandoned by fathers so they qualify for AFDC payments. All of these people are cheating the rest of us who pay taxes. Everyone needs skin in the game. There should be a minimum $100.00 per person income tax. If 47 Million don't pay income tax, that would generate $4.7 Billion per year. Eliminate deductions, have everyone with income over a certain amount pay the same % of income in tax, regardless of source (capital gains, dividends, interest)

Posted by Richmondman on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

If 47% of the population are voting on a tax issue and know that they won't have to pay it anyway, where is the democracy? Didn't we throw the British out over something like that.

No representation without taxation ;-)

Posted by Anon on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

Concern troll.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

Troll

Posted by Guest on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

There is a huge difference between the Dems refusing to cut spending or reform entitlements. Raising taxes and entitlement reform are frequently discussed together but have very different ramifications for the groups who these very separate issues effect.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

It's two sides of the same ledger. To solve the deficit you either cut spending, raise taxes or some combo of the two. Given the ideological slant of both major parties, it seems like a fairly sure bet that we will have both.

So first, we just passed a bill that raises taxes and defers the spending cuts by just 2 months. Then, by the end of February, we either agree to cut spending or default to sequestration that cuts spending anyway. There is no third choice.

The effects of taxes and cuts may vary but overall, both go into the pot and the books have to balance. We cannot keep spending 1.5 trillion a year more than we collect, and you cannot fix that by "taxing the rich". Everyone will have to pay more tax unless you make the painful but necessary cuts.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

Well does this matter, when your precious Blue Team works for the Red Team? Didn't you guys endorse your "savior" Obama? What was wrong with Dra Jill Stein....you know the PROGRESSIVE candidate (don't you guys pretend to be "progressives?") as opposed to the Establishment corporatist pro-war, pro-drone, pro-torture, pro-illegal spying (and the reprehensible list goes on) D Team candidate that you gushed over in your endorsements?

You are part of the problem and I see no sign of that changing. I despise Democrats as much as Republicans and their faithful followers who will defend and create excuses for their "Team" no matter what they do. Republicans at least seem to stand for "principles," while Democrats stand for nothing but their party allegiance. Pathetic.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

is like a vegetarian having a choice of chicken or fish for dinner. It's better to eat elsewhere or prepare your own meal.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

With the caveat, of course, that they have to have some chance of power, else it's just a protest vote.

Or is it some cruel trick of fate that you find yourself in a country where the political climate doesn't suit your ideological clothes?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

Ad Hominem Troll.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

Or don't vote, which is actually the most common vote in the US. That's your choice, obviously. Real democracy is not limited to the ballot box. I don't believe in fate and have no idea how it would relate to my clothing.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 8:43 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 8:22 am

workplace democracy: worker ownership, involvement in union, etc.
community democracy: working with neighbors on issues.
free speech democracy: speaking out, rallying, occupy.
living space democracy: tenant organization, cooperative living.

Maybe you can think of more.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 8:49 am

How about participatory democracy where we don't outsource our autonomy to a bunch of middle men corruptable by destructive incumbent power and take some time to work through the issues as a community?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 8:57 am

that instead of the system being corrupted by corporations, it gets corrupted by activists and the politically aggressive.

I'd rather be ruled by an elected official with flaws than by someone like you given that kind of power. Nobody ever elected an activist.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 9:11 am

a place for that, I don't see it as democracy. It's really one eprson trying to project the power of many votes by finessing the system.

If we think it is wrong for corporations and unions to use money to influence results, then why is it any better when one person cans wing results thru excessive effort?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 9:09 am

with our top-down, authoritarian, elitist, un-democratic "democratic" system.

The average person is rendered so powerless, busy, desperate, etc. that she is scared, unwilling, or unable to participate in participatory democracy.

I don't claim that transforming the atrocious, predatory economic system (with a wink and nod to "democracy" through almost meaningless elections) into real democracy will be easy, but yielding one's autonomy by being inactive, or defeatist, or buying into the system's myths is what the elites want and will maintain the status quo or worse.

So yeah, activism is a huge part of real democracy. There are bullies everywhere, but non-bullies can keep them accountable. At present, we are so removed from real democracy that its possibility seems fantastic. We have nothing to lose by trying to acheive it.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 9:48 am

the existing form. Why? Because activists are typically ideologs. An ideolog doesn't ask the people what they want and then give it to them. They have already decided what the people should want and then give that to them regardless of what they actually want.

Do you really want someone like Marcos having real political power. Does he have ANY track record of soliciting the view of the people and then following that even if he disagrees with it? Because that is the hallmark of the kind of people I trust with power.

Activists scare me. They are too zealous and narrowly-focussed.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:04 am

what Marcos has to do with this discussion, but the type of people you fear are the ones that are in power, especially the real power (military, industrial, financial).

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:21 am

But there are in all other types too, and often worse. Right now, we can throw out politicians every 4 years and we routinely do. Try doing that to a king or dictator.

You'd have to define how you'd like a different system to work. And absent specific reassurances and controls, I'd rather stick with what I know than risk "oligarchy by activists".

Posted by Anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:36 am

Because that's pretty much what we have now.

Throw out the politicians all you want. Politicians are expendable. The oligarchy never gets thrown out though. When we have a system of government where it matters who you vote for, when the economic system can be changed, when foreign policy can be changed, depending on the party you vote for... then we will have democracy.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

There are two counter-arguments to that:

1) Many SF progressives don't want change at all. They oppose new development, business expansion, building new homes or road, and can be archetypal NIMBY's.

2) Why should change be the criterion for political parties anyway? If most voters like this nation the way it is, then where is the compelling mandate to change that?

I don't think that the two main parties are that divergent from what the average American wants them to be.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 9:07 am

Troll.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 9:16 am

Ad Hominem Troll.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:40 am

They backed the Republican and Democratic bosses to the hilt - Tim screeched endlessly about how electoral reform would ensure a Republican majority 'till kingdom come.

Don't forget how these two measures - jungle primaries and redistricting reform - passed over every effort of the Republican and Democratic parties and then survived their attempts to repeal them. They are precious jewels and as such people are always going to want to steal them from us - the people.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

Tim's usual screeds are a bit much but this one is over the top.

The democrats love safe districts as much as the R's, they both play at the districting game.

The goofy left and right apologists for the parties think they are a victim of a game they fully partake in.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

"Tim screeched endlessly about how electoral reform would ensure a Republican majority 'till kingdom come."

I've seen no such thing.

Personally I said right from the beginning that it was mathematically impossible for the Republicans to do what they wanted to do. In gerrymandering themselves safe districts, Democrats also paradoxically ensured they'd never get 2/3. Any move to make the districts more competitive would necessarily work in the Democrats' favor given the demographics of California. But the process stank to high heaven, which is why I still voted no. Republicans gave themselves the lions share of representation on this supposedly independent commission, far beyond their numbers. I don't think people realized that when they voted for it.

The jungle primary was even worse. Freedom of association means nothing anymore. The California primary has become the equivalent of the Guardian comment site, where any number of Anonymous "Guests" can come in and fuck with the whole site just to muck things up. It's not my business to tell Republicans who to nominate, but now I'm allowed to make mischief (which of course I will do with reckless abandon).

You get a total mockery of democracy like what happened in CD 31, where a liberal leaning district gets represented by a right wing Republican. I'm sure it came as a surprise to multitudes of voters who only vote in the general, that when they got to the voting booth they only had a choice between two Republicans. And even when there is a "choice" between the two parties, third parties are still completely shut out. Choosing between war profiteer Dianne Fineswine and someone who's off the rails batshit insane, is not a choice. Now, I don't even get to lodge a protest vote against that! They've taken away even the pretense of democracy.

Your "precious jewels" are really pieces of rat turd.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 11:09 pm

Personally I could care less about the jungle primaries. But citizen-led redistricting has been a great thing for California. You're missing the entire point of the commission - it wasn't designed to allow either party a "voice" but rather to redistrict fairly and with more attention to creating compact districts which allowed citizens a voice without giving any heed to protecting incumbents - which was the only thing the legislature cared about. At that it succeeded. Proof positive it was a good thing and remains so today.

And Greg - you can always write in someone. Democracy doesn't mean you getting to vote for who you want in the general election - there were plenty of choices in the primary.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:36 am

Here's the thing, Dems outnumber Reeps 1.5 to 1 in California. There are independents, but they are split and divided, so they really don't weigh one way or the other in a winner-take-all system. So here's what happens under that scenario:

If you allow the legislature to do redistricting, they're going to *try* to protect incumbents, yes. But in order to do that, they have to create districts that are strongly D and strongly R. That may protect some incumbents, but it also insures the minority party some representation. And in fact, you saw a pretty proportional outcome in the seats. Third parties and indies were still shut out (as they will be in any winner-take-all system, including after these "reforms"), but D vs R was roughly proportional. D's outnumber R's 1.5 to 1 in the population, and they outnumbered R's roughly 1.5 to 1 in the legislature. It actually matched pretty well.

Plus, you had the added benefit that some of these heavily D and heavily R districts weren't really great incumbency protection vehicles, because they opened the incumbents to primary challenges (at least pre-jungle primary).

But look what happens when you try to break up those districts and make them more competitive. Well let's take the most extreme example... suppose it were *possible* to make every district as competitive as possible, which is to say have every district balanced exactly the way the state is between the parties. What will happen? Well, as a matter of fact we can see what will happen, because we have a handful of those districts -they're called statewide offices! And what happens in those elections? Democrats win roughly 100% of the time. The margins vary depending on the individual race dynamics, but that 1.5 to 1 edge is hard and getting harder for Rs to overcome.

So what happens in any in-between scenario? That is, when you break up the party protection gerrymandering but can't get things to be totally balanced. That's what the redistricting commission did. Well you'll likely push the Ds from 60% majorities to 2/3+ majorities, which is exactly what happened.

So when you say it's been a "good thing for California," maybe you're right, if you believe that 2/3 majorities in perpetuity plus total one-party dominance at the statewide level is a good thing for California.

But is it democracy?

Posted by Greg on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 8:34 am