Why the GOP gets away with obstructing Congress


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.


The super-majority the Dem's have in Sac may please extremists who want to ram thru an agenda without any opposition. But in a broader way, it mitigates against democracy because it becomes a one-party dictatorship i.e. an oligarchy.

Congress may get stuck and be forced to compromize, as with the fiscal cliff. But why is that so wrong? Aren't "checks and balances" at the heart of American democracy?

As you note, one third of Californians are Republicans and they are a majority outside of the major cities. They should not be disenfranchised, and our society has always protected minorities from abuse by the majority.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 8:47 am

Very amusing. Very amusing.

This comes from the same Guest/troll who repeatedly proposes that true democracy must include "checks" to balance the will of the majority whenever concentrated wealth and power is at risk; where a minority can block action by a majority; not through any cogent interpretation of Constitutional law, but simply by filibuster and obstructionism.

Greg, on the other hand, has made a bunch of excellent points. Greg, I also voted against the redistricting set-up and the open primaries.

I am surprised at how redistricting worked out, but wrong is still wrong. And disenfranchising third parties is dead wrong.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 9:20 am

is a second party and happens to be the Republicans, then it's somehow OK?

If you want fringe parties represented then you have to go for some form of PR. That often emans coalitions of parties and so you still have to compromize to get things done. Plus you risk the "Italian problem" and coalitions constantly forming and re-forming.

A two-party system where neither has absolute power works the best, IMO.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 9:53 am

Republicans are not disenfranchised when they lose elections any more than anybody else ever has been. On the other hand, the jungle primaries make it impossible for minor party candidates to get a spot on the ballot.

The two party system works perfectly to extinguish any possibility of democracy when both parties are in service to the same power elite.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:17 am

There is no system that will give a party with only 1% support any real power. If the Greens or the Nazi's have a token House member, what does that really achieve. It's a gesture and nothing more.

Anyway, we've had third parties before, and Perot got - what was it 15-20% of the vote?

Posted by Anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:31 am

has more to do with structural impediments (including the topic of this article,) rather than a lack of appeal of the ideas that those parties express.

For example, at the presidential level, the commission on presidental debates consists of the two major parties, which insures that "minor" party candidates can't participate. The Green candidates, Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, were arrested and chained to chairs for many hours when they tried to protest this charade.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:05 am

We've learned that locally, the Democrat Party will make offers to independent elected officials that they cannot refuse as a means to nip any independent political party in the bud, kill it in its crib.

Both facets of the corporate party divide the labor amongst each other to keep their bases in line.

The only difference is that the Republicans coopt their activist base into their electoral coalition which moves them to the right.

The Democrats repress their activist base, marginalizing them from their electoral coalition which moves them to the right.

This political car only turns to the right. All that is up for discussion in elections is how fast and sharp that right turn will be taken.

Counterintuitively, it turns out that when the Democrats win, they neutralize their base and the right turn is taken faster and sharper than the Republicans.

Huge amounts of resources are dedicated to stabilizing the duopoly from the localities through the states and onto the federal government.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:15 am

leave the Greens and become a Democrat. Being a Green is great if you love whining from the sidelines and never having to actually implement anything. But if you want to be taken seriously in this town, you need to be a Democrat.

While in most places other than SF, you need to be either a Democrat or a Republican.

So the choice is clear. Do you want to be on the sidelines but remain ideologically pure? Or do you want to get your hands dirty and actually get something done? Obama may have deserted his liberal roots, but he has more power as a result. You can't effect any change if you never get elected.

Posted by anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:29 am

Never would have guessed.

I think that Green elected officials jumping ship is more a result of careerism than anything else.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:46 am

Careerism in the form of either you play ball with us and you get nothing done for the rest of your term, we defeat you in your quest for reelection and if you survive that, you will go no further than entry level elected official.

It takes more than just winning elections, it takes ongoing grassroots organizing to decisively win elections, to provide elected officials power to implement a non right wing agenda, and to hold them accountable in the face of inevitable cooptation by the right wing and corporate power.

Just showing up with good ideas and someone who can win an election is insufficient, the data confirm that.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:59 am

It's the worst system, except for all the others.

Posted by Anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:10 pm


Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

No substantive positive democratic social change as come without popular uprising.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

further refined in the carnage of the civil war. But I think you're going to be waiting an awful long time for the revolution. That has always been far more likely in the volatile cauldron of Europe where, in France, Spain, Italy as well as much of eastern europe, pupular uprisings were not uncommon.

But the US? We're the fattest, happiest and most inert and lethargic people on the planet. We're not overthrowing anything as long as we can get a bucket of KFC and a giant slurpee.

The only scenario in which I see a populist scenario, paradoxically, is if we have a very left-wing elected government, and the gun-toting Chuck Norris's of the great interior are unleashed. But then, isn't that why we have the 2nd amendment - to counter-balance central government?

Posted by Anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:33 pm


Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

Anon dutifully represents the forces of stupidifcation. The glee expressed at minor victories in that program is, in essence, whistling past the graveyard.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

the average American has no history of or appetite for the kind of workers' uprising that you so romantically think will save us.

Americans might riot if you try and take away their guns, but they sure are not going to rise up to create a socialist nation.

You want to move the nation to the left? Great. Put up some outstanding candidates for election.

Posted by anon on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

Then *that* is the problem for which we need to devising a solution.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

A "good" idea is simply one that you just happen to agree with. A "bad" idea is simply one that you just happen to disagree with.

That is why we have elections - so no one person's idea of "good" or "bad" gets to trump the consensus..

You don't like elections? Fine. Proffer an alternative?

Posted by Anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

elected? Clinton certainly did. And, perhaps more arguably, so did George W. Bush - example: he wanted to privatize social security.

One enters politics because of ideals, but compromize is always the political reality. Those who want to have at least some influence accept that as the price of admission to the corridors of power. Those who do not wish to sully themselves with reality and stay pure remain "activists" and throw stones from the perimeter instead.

Which do you want to be? SFBG only has the latter; the former are too busy getting things done. That is why I fear people like Hestor, Welch, Shaw etc. far more tha people like Lilli and Marcos, who are mere commentators.

Posted by Anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

One might conflate your false assertion with conventional wisdom that party candidates move to the center after winning their primaries and think it true enough to repeat ad nauseum, but I defy you to cite a Republican president that moved to the left.

Every president in my lifetime has moved to the right after being elected.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

platform of privatizing social security but, in the end, he did not push for that.

He also made his tax cuts temporary, when his original intent was to make them permanent.

And so on.

Posted by anon on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

but, yes, I saw your mention of Bush in the last post too.

Just absurd.

Before you seemed to be positing that the privatization scheme was left wing.

Now you are clearly saying that his failure to secure that radical bit of his post "re"-election agenda somehow represents a softening of an otherwise right-leaning position.

The first time around, Bush campaigned on being a "uniter-not-a-divider" and then promptly turned into the most devisive president in our time.

He pushed through his radical right wing agenda of wars and public subsidy to church groups, expansion of the police state and giveaways to corporations and the rich.

In his second campaign, Bush didn't promise to privatize Social Security if he won; he sprung that on the American people after the vote.

Then he made a big show of claiming "poltical capital" that he was going to "spend" in privatizing the popular program but he was limited by the American people he claimed to represent.

The reason Social Security was not privatized was that the public aligned by a ratio of more than 2:1 against it.

Again, no American president in my lifetime has moved to the left. Presidents always move to the right; this is just as reliable as you telling lies.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

many who supported him wanted is indicative of W moving to the center, i.e. to the left. Now, I am not suggesting that he has became more left-wing, any more than I think Clinton or Obama became more right-wing. Rather it is just the reality of that office that the ideals you took into the job must be diluted to gain the necessary broad support to get something done.

We saw that willingness to compromize when Obama agreed to the fiscal cliff deal, where he allowed th 250K-450K Americans to enjoy W's tax cuts, despute his concerns about that.

When SF progressives see no return on their efforts, it is invariably because they do not want to wotk with the moderate majority, leaving them adrift. They retain their ideological purity, but get nothing done.

If you want success in politics, accept that you must compromize on key principles. Not everyone can do that and, for those, there is the consolation prize of ranting here 24/7.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

to act more radically, but he doesn't oblige them when in office, that proves that the candidate moved to the center. Got it.

(But what if the candidate has constituents ... oh never mind. You are a troll.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

achieve? Unless the two main parties were neck and neck, they'd have no influence. And if that were the case, then they'd have far too much influence.

Nader got a bunch of votes in 2000, and I voted from him myself. But I knew it was a protest vote and nothing more. And if I'd have been in florida, I probably would not have taken the risk.

And remember, PR will give fascists, Nazi's and racists the odd seat too.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:16 am

Even if it gave a few racists and fascists seats. It's the most democratic system, in that every POV is represented.

In practice, you form coalitions, and that's not a bad thing. It's compromise, but a qualitatively different sort of compromise than what we have now. Now we have a system where the debate is severely limited, partly because everyone knows that anyone outside the Washington consensus will never achieve power. Everyone has to fit into the mold. That's not really compromise, that's stifling opposition.

With PR, all ideas are at least on the table and discussed. Minor parties may not be able to win total power, but they can enter coalitions and get *some* of what they want in exchange for support. Usually it's something proportional to the amount of representation they have. And... when their ideas are on the table and discussed, those ideas can spread and gain converts. You have the potential to grow the party in a way that's much more difficult under winner-take-all.

It's a much more dynamic system, and more true to the real sense of the electorate.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

Because the current winner take all single member district electoral system is so good at weeding out racists in the state and national legislatures?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

but nobody gets elected if they represent the fascist party or the communist party. You'd need to explain why having, say, one communist, one green, one nazi, and one white power representative in Congress would improve things.

Posted by anon on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

Imp Troll.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

Both parties have engaged in Gerrymandering and obstruction. Yes the Republicans in the Senate have complete slowed the process of approving Judges- but the Dems did the same thing when Bush was in office. To act like one party is guilty and the other is innocent in the molasses that is DC is lunacy. Get your head out of the sand.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

than has Obama. And remember - Bush stopped submitting judges to the ABA for qualification so many of them were ideologues with minimal credentials other than the fact they were right-wing extremists.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

insisting that the deficit be closed only with taxes and with no cuts to spending. The latter is an imperative and, when the debt ceiling is reached in a few weeks, some very hard choices will have to be made. Hopefully the Dem's and the GOP will work together, but if they fail it will be because both sides were rigid.

Posted by Anon on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 4:07 pm
Posted by Greg on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 11:13 pm

If anything, it was skewed towards the Democrats since, although the bill had tax increases, it really didn't have any spending cuts.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 8:25 am

You're worried about the GOP? It's a little late for that.

Then why did you vote for Mr Change We Can Believe In who is nothing but a neocon Republican (to the right of Bush) with a faux D next to his name?

According to credible news sources, Mr Change is going to nominate anti-gay Chuck Hagel (R) for secretary of the war department (that's really what it is).

How will the Obamabots justify that: I can hear them now: "Well, you know, I don't always agree with Obama but he's a smart guy, he's a constitutional scholar and he knows more than we do and he knows best so I support him nominating an anti-gay piece of ..."

How would Romney (who I can't stand either) have been any worse?

The real progressives voted for Jill Stein or Durham/López. The faux progressives/faux liberals voted for the D and R status quo and how they've been brainwashed to vote due to party allegiance. And because of that, we'll continue the downward spiral indefinitely.

How will the GLBTQueer "community" justify Hagel's nomination from the same guy they allowed themselves to fall for during the election year with that bull shit about Obama having "evolved." Reality: Obama "evolved" only to buy votes and to get $$$ from GLBTQueer SUCKERS who were too damned thick/gullible to understand that's what he was doing. Some people allow themselves to be played repeatedly when there's a meaningless D behind the politician's name.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

rights is? As long as he is the best guy for the job, it doesn't matter if he is deficient in a totally unrelated field.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

LGBT Group Takes Issue with Hagel Nomination, Urges Obama to Abandon
Jan 4, 2013

A statement from GetEQUAL on the Hagel nomination:

A pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender group issued a statement today urging President Barack Obama not to nominate Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.

"GetEQUAL strongly opposes the potential nomination of Chuck Hagel to become the next Secretary of Defense. Hagel has, time and time again, taken every opportunity to lambast and denigrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans, and the Cabinet is no place for this kind of disrespect," writes the chair GetEQUAL's board Tanya Domi.

Hagel's recent apology for his insulting comments about the nomination of James Hormel as U.S. Ambassador to Luxemborg were hollow, politically expedient, and nakedly gratuitous. The Defense Department has made important strides toward creating an inclusive Armed Forces, but has miles left to go -- nominating Hagel to lead the Defense Department would be a staggering step backward for the LGBT community and an upheaval of President Obama's past support for the LGBT community.

During his years in Congress, Hagel consistently opposed the advancement of civil rights for LGBT Americans. A Hagel nomination would throw President Obama's support for LGBT civil rights into deep suspicion. Following yesterday's signing of an NDAA that includes a new "conscience clause" designed to permit discrimination in the military by chaplains, the LGBT community is looking for leadership at the Defense Department that will remove discriminatory practices from the Armed Forces -- not cement those practices.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 3:04 am

The obstruction in congress is in place so states can rape the masses. It's a hit on women,children and all men, whether we realize it or not. Since they've been ignoring or marginalizing minorities forever, they know they can get away with it. Now, the poor and underemployed are the under represented majority.

Posted by Rochelle Marie on Jun. 24, 2013 @ 9:36 am

The word "minority" is meaningless.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2013 @ 10:18 am

It always makes me laugh the sheer arrogance of liberals. They draw conclusions that Gerrymandering is to blame, despite the fact the democrats had the majority in the house 2 years prior within the same districts.

Are you stupid? Or just so grandiose as to think people actually don't agree with your socialistic agenda? Please don't stop though. The best part about democrat arrogance is the fact that once they manage to get power, they are so brazen they don't hold office for at least another 12-16 years.

Posted by Jake on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 11:08 pm