"We need a consensus."
This is what Joe Biden said a little while ago, when asked by Keith Olberman if he would appoint a Republican to head up the Pentagon or the Department of Homeland Security. I don’t have the exact language, but he seemed to imply that nothing would work unless it had significant support from Republicans.
I was floored.
If there is anything that has been apparent since the Democratic takeover of Congress, it’s that many and probably most of the current Republican members of Congress will NEVER work with Democrats for the good of the country. Since the rise of Newt Gingrich, the majority of Republicans in Congress have demonstrated that they don’t care about the good of the country. Grover Norquist is inadvertently one of the most honest of conservatives, and when he referred to bipartisanship as date rape, he wasn’t revealing just his own personal view, he was describing the mindset of much of the Republican Congressional caucus and it’s allies in think tanks, among campaign hacks and activists, and in a sizeable chunk of its electoral base.
It’s a realization many of us had come to long ago. It’s one of the reasons many of us ended up on progressive blogs, the knowledge that George W Bush, his allies in Congress and the people who push them in to power will use unscrupulous means to attain, maintain and exercise power. They know they have to conceal their unscrupulousness from the public. While the Republican party has veered farther and farther to the right, the American people haven’t really budged. In fact, on individual issues, the American public is more liberal today than it was 10 or 20 years ago, and far more liberal than it was when Lyndon Johnson crushed Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election, which provided the mandate to enact our major civil rights legislation and the most major extension of the social welfare state since the New Deal and World War II. Republicans involved in organizing and running elections and selling their policy positions to the press and the talking heads know that the American public is far to their left. But they conceal their radicalism through clever marketing scams like Frank Luntz’ Contract on America and the pabulum of "compassionate conservatism."
Further obfuscating the dangerous radicalism of a main current in current Republican politics is that most of their office holders, at least in the past, appeared to the keepers of beltway conventional wisdom as genial men, the type who David Broder or David Ignatius wouldn’t mind chatting up at the Safeway in Georgetown or while waiting for a flight at National. They seemed like good guys, and on the major organizing principle of our politics after World War II—the Cold War and the long fight against communism—they made common cause with Democrats. While nasty people like Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy were scurrilous red baiters, and the Republican party was full of people who made common cause with reactionary Southern Democrats to fight unionization and the full inclusion of blacks in to our nation’s public and economic life, they weren’t fundamentally hostile to cooperation with Democrats on any and all issues.
But Bob Michel retired, Bob Dole was attacked by the right for doing his job and actually passing legislation, and Newt Gingrich became the leader of the Republican party. People like David Broder never saw or understood what happened and continued to indulge their idiotic fixations on making a fetish of bipartisanship. Joe Lieberman and his ilk confused moderation with centrism; as the Republicans moved farther to the right, Joementum followed them, thinking there was virtue in being equidistant from the middles of both parties, but showing that someone who’s deepest principle is appearing to be above a passionate partisan love of our country can be played like a rube from the backwoods facing his first big-city grifter. And people like Joe Biden, who haven’t figured out that the hatred that fearful conservatives mustered against commies and blacks has now been directed at tolerant and non-authoritarian Americans, and that these haters control and intimidate all but a few of the once proud Republican moderates, act as if we’re still in the Cold War and everyone in Congress is committed to a higher good.
Senator Biden, please look around, and realize that the solutions to our nation’s woes, the answers to our challenges, aren’t bipartisan. The involvement of people looking for solutions and to meet our challenges could eventually be bipartisan, but current evidence suggest otherwise. No more than four House Republicans have voted for any of the most meaningful pieces of legislation dealing with Iraq. Only four Republicans have joined the Senate Democrats on Iraq. The Republican Study Group in the House engages in delaying tactics almost every day; to see one reason why the House—which has passed significant legislation—isn’t doing more, look at how many bullshit procedural votes the Republican offered last week. In the Senate, the Republicans continue to use the filibuster and cloture votes to bottle up almost everything the Democrats try to accomplish. The Republicans go along with just about everything Bush and Cheney shove down our nation’s throat.
And unfortunately, a consistent minority of Democrats buckle under and accept what Bush and the Republicans shove down our throats.
A few weeks ago, in his dissent in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1, which partially rolled back Brown v Board of Education, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote of change on the Supreme Court:
The Court has changed significantly since it decided School Comm. of Boston in 1968. It was then more faithful to Brown and more respectful of our precedent than it is today. It is my firm conviction that no Member of the Court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today's decision.
Stevens was discussing a change in American politics in which so-called conservatives have become radicals whose views are now divorced from the mainstream of American politics and life. The same radical turn that Stevens observed on the Court is evident in the radicalism of the Bush administration and its allies in Congress and the Republican party.
In electoral and representative politics, those of us on progressive blogs have known about this change for some time; as Markos (justifiably) crowed this morning, we’ve been right on just about everything for five years, while the establishment drones and too many timid Dems tried to find the truth in between where we were—and we were eventually joined by about 80% of the country on the war—and where the Republicans were. But the Republicans’ politics are so skewed, they have gone so far from reality, that we have now arrived at the point where it’s probably impossible to have any reality-based solutions to our national problems and challenges that can be accepted by the Republicans.
As Stevens pointed out in the Seattle schools case, as we see on the Iraq votes, the majority of Republicans are radicals, or are too beholden to their radical leadership, radical money interests and radical activist base to step up and do what’s good for the country. Democrats like Joe Biden, who’ve served a long time in public life, have a hard time recognizing that the Republicans no longer can or care to act in the interests of the country. Therefore, we must recognize that until the Republicans change, the answers to our nation’s most pressing needs and challenges—getting out of Iraq and fixing our foreign and defense policy, combating terrorism, addressing global warming and environmental devastation, changing out energy policy, implementing universal health care, shoring up the economic security of the middle class, expanding opportunities for the poor and disadvantaged, and undoing the damage of the "unitary executive" and the assault on our civil liberties—will not be bipartisan. Demanding bipartisan solutions to our problems requires us to wait for the Republican party to heal itself. We can’t wait, and it’s time all our Democratic politicians and policy wonks and pundits and campaign and strategy people stop expecting the Republicans officials and party leadership to join in and work for the good of the country.
I’m floored that this is still a mystery to Joe Biden.