This Isn't Both Sides - Scorched Earth Politics from the GOP

Stephen Rockwell • 30 September 2018
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We often hear a refrain that folks are troubled, dismayed, and fed up with the strident tones of our political discourse.  The explanation posited is that the hyper-partisanship that pervades Washington DC is the root of the problem. Most of the folks who do so are relative centrists whether they be Republican, Independent, or Democrat.  The argument often blames both sides equally, despite all evidence to the contrary. Positing a more neutral theory feels better, more centrist and reasonable.  Indeed, assigning blame might contribute to further partisanship.

To solve the problem of our politics we have to get real about who and what behaviors are causing the problems.

We may use the Supreme Court nomination as an example of how the GOP, and Mitch McConnell in particular, has undermined the basic norms that allow the Senate and thereby the democracy to function.  

Blocking Obama's Judicial Appointments including Merrick Garland

We are all familiar that Mitch McConnell broke a major norm in American history by refusing to vote or seat a President's nominee for the Supreme Court.  He quite clearly stole the seat in a completely unprecedented manner.   Before Merrick Garland, McConnell was stymieing Obama's appointments in the lower courts.  He did this so much that in 2013 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was forced to use the nuclear option of changing the Senate rules to disallow the filibuster and only require a majority vote as opposed to the 60 votes needed to proceed to votes according to Senate rules.  This change was necessary because McConnell abused the filibuster meant to provide some protection to the minority by applying to a multitude of judicial appointments.   McConnell was on record of wanting to obstruct Obama at every turn in order to make sure he was a one term President, despite the challenges of the Great Recession.  This is hyperpartisanship, but it did not come from the moderate Barack Obama.  Such poor behavior came from McConnell and hard line GOP Senators.

Kavanaugh's Confirmation Process

We find ourselves again in another moment of high political drama.  This last week was disturbing on many levels, most of all that white men who lead the GOP do not care about the charges of sexual assault, but will vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.  Indeed, a poll last week of Evangelicals said half would support his nomination, even if he were found to have sexually assaulted a woman or women. Let's be real about what is happening:

A President who brags about sexual assault appoints a judge who faces credible sexual assault charges.  A group of Republican  white male senators are hell-bent on building a Supreme Court that will deny a woman the right to have an abortion by refusing to account for these sexual assault charges, thereby ensuring that any woman who becomes pregnant from a rape, would not be allowed to terminate that pregnancy because of the vote of a justice who stands credibly accused of such behavior.  

This is indeed "crazytown" and there is no comparable analogy to Democrats.  People who want to say this problem exists both sides, can you give me an example that is even close to what we are seeing right now? This type of vile public policy and villanous behavior is coming from a political party morally rotted from the years of upending basic norms of fairness in policy positions (tax cuts to the rich, pre-emptive war, taking health care from people) and political malpractice like McConnell's manuervings.  These traits were all present before embracing Trump, but have certainly been made many times worse through the tacit acceptance of his behavior.  Whether it is a 24-7 propaganda machine of Fox News and conservative talk shows, the embrace of the xenophobia and racism of Trump, or McConnell's foul play on judges, there is one side in our politics that deserves the overwhelming majority of the blame for what we see today: 

Lindsey Graham yelling about destroying a wealthy, privileged in every sense of the word, white man being held accountable by a woman upending her life to tell her painful truth.  Indeed the yelling, partisan attacks, and tears of a potential supreme court judge bolstered Kavanaugh's position within the GOP as opposed to leaving them to question his temperament for the job. 

There is no equivalent behavior on the left or among Democrats.  The problem of our politics rests squarely on right wing hyper-Machiavellianism that discounts the basic norms necessary for the functioning of a democracy. The only solution in the short-term is to vote Democratic.  In the long-term, decent people who are Republicans must wrest back control of the conservative movement and the Republican Party.  David Frum, Max Boot, John Kasich, Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, George Will, Steve Schmidt, Lisa Murkowski, Joe Scarborough, Jennifer Rubin and other principled conservatives who respect the political norms and institutions as a basic tenet of their conservatism will need to come forward.