So much for “the wisdom of crowds.” Last night, knowing (theoretically, at least) that the one completely irrational choice for the nation at this critical juncture in its history is more gridlock born of ideological intransigence, voters sent a dysfunctional Congress back to Washington, opting for a radical conservative House and a radical liberal Senate despite telling pollsters that this was the least trusted Congress in history. Just to make sure compromise and movement would be as difficult as possible, the public also re-elected a President who, whatever his other virtues, has shown neither the ability nor the inclination to engage in effective negotiation with his political adversaries on the Hill. There were plenty of more responsible options available to voters:
- Commit to the President, and give his party majorities in both Houses of Congress so he could get his policies implemented, for better or worse,
- Give the Senate back to the GOP, so some of the bills the House has passed can be sent to the President’s desk
- Sweep everybody out and try a new team to see if it can do any better.
But no. The American public, in its infinite wisdom, opted for nearly the exact toxic partisan mix that has served the nation so miserably for the past two years. Unquestionably, the biggest ethics failure on election night was this one.
Yet there was progress, as voters rejected some of the more unethical officials offering their services. Unfortunately, these wise and ethical choices were greatly diluted by other unforgivable ones. On the plus side:
- Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) lost. The Congressman from Illinois 8th Congressional District was not only relentlessly unprofessional and uncivil but also a deadbeat dad, and the only member of Congress Ethics Alarms has designated a Fick. Yay.
- Rep. Todd Akin lost his bid to win the Senate seat in Missouri. Akin had marked himself as an ignorant dolt by espousing the ridiculous and offensive theory that the body magically knows whether or not a woman has really, really been raped by preventing fertilization by those evil sperm, as opposed to the nice, friendly ones. Then he showed complete disregard for his duty to his party when it demanded that he step aside and allow a candidate who had not disqualified himself to try to unseat the eminently unseatable Sen. Claire McCaskill. Selfish, stubborn and stupid is no way to go through life, son, but at least Akin will go through it somewhere other than the U.S. Senate.
- Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Cal.) finally, finally is out. Her corrupt ways have been thoroughly documented, and she was reprimanded this year by the House Ethics Committee. When CREW, the supposedly non-partisan ethics watchdog groups that somehow only only rarely finds Democrats unethical, targets a Democratic Congresswoman four years in a row as one of the most corrupt politicians on the Hill, you know she must be bad. Gone. Good.
- Mark Clayton, Tennessee’s embarrassing Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, lost, as expected. This almost makes up for the fact that he was a major party’s nominee despite having no qualifications, no support, and showing every sign of being an unhinged conspiracy theorist. When major parties allow people like Clayton to pollute the ballot on election day, democracy is an illusion.
- Republican Richard Mourdock lost his bid to win become one of Indiana’s U.S. Senators, thanks to his statement suggesting that if the pregnancy pixies don’t stop rape victims from getting pregnant like Todd Akin says, it’s because God himself has decided that a rape-induced pregnancy is good for all concerned. What an idiot. Worse, his comments attempted to put a positive spin on rape and suggest that if a victim seeks an abortion, she is opposing God’s will.
- Allen West (R-Fla) probably lost. Not that it wasn’t a novelty to have a conservative Republican in the Congressional Black Caucus, but West’s methods of advocacy regularly included insults, verbal abuse and wild accusations. The House instantly becomes more civil and collegial without him. Let’s hope that his opponent’s thin margin in votes holds up: West will insist on every recount option and challenge, because sportsmanship isn’t his style.
Unfortunately, for every step forward in the march to more ethical government there was a step back:
- Elizabeth Warren won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat back from Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Warren is a radical ideologue, a hypocrite, a phony, and quite possibly practiced law unethically in a jurisdiction where she wasn’t licensed to do so. But in Massachusetts, as Teddy himself proved, you can be all sorts of bad things and still succeed…if you’re a Democrat.
- Charles Rangel (D-NY) was returned to the House for the 22nd time. There are few better examples of how power corrupts; Rangel broke laws and flouted conflict of interest rules so flagrantly that House Democrats were forced to discipline him, though less strictly than his conduct deserved. An honorable and more ethical man would have had the decency to resign, or at least retire. Not Charlie.
- Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who was defeated two years ago, is now back in Congress to regain bis mantle as the most uncivil, irresponsible, divisive, disrespectful member of Congress. All by himself, the despicable Grayson’s return cancels out the salutary effects of getting rid of West and Walsh.
- Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va) was re-elected. My own Congressman is one of the most obviously corrupt in the House. In past terms he has accepted a personal loan from a lobbyist prior to voting the lobbyist’s way on legislation (Moran said there was no connection, as if “avoiding the appearance of impropriety” was an alien concept to him…which, come to think of it, it probably is) and took a below market low-interest mortgage from a bank that also wanted his vote…and got it, naturally. The fact that his son was caught on camera brain-storming on effective voter fraud methods tells you what kind of values are taught in the Moran household. He is a Democrat, however, and Northern Virginia is a lot like Massachusetts in this respect.
- Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minn.) barely eked out re-election. Rats. Her dedication to making up historical facts to support her passion for the Constitution actively makes Congress and America dumber, which neither needs. She also opposes civil rights for gay Americans based on her fantasies about them, such as believing homosexuality can be “cured,” like the flu.
- Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) also was re-elected, despite ample evidence that his influence can be bought. Like Laura Richardson, Bishop is so bad that the Center For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington couldn’t look the other way.
- Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill), arguably the most outrageous of all. This is so unforgivable that my mind apparently repressed it in an effort to stop my head from exploding. As I recently explained, Jackson is corrupt, inept, unable to go to work and emotionally ill. Naturally, he was re-elected easily. Is this a great country, or what?
I’m looking on the bright side.
It could have been worse.
22 thoughts on “Morning After Report: Six Steps Forward and Seven Back In The Quest For A Trustworthy Congress”
Jack, I think the folks over at Reason magazine summed it up best with an article entitled “The Wildly Unpopular Status Quo Has Been Ratified.” I’m scratching my head, and crying at the same time.
Describing what “the voters” did, as if it is a single, thinking body is sort of a fallacy.
“Many small people, who in many small places, do many small things, can alter the face of the world.”
Well, sure, except that democracy is based on the presumed validity of that fallacy.
To clarify, I guess what I mean is that “the voters” did not choose a toxic partisan mix. People instead tried to match their views to one of the two available choices provided to them, as if there are only two possible worldviews. There are other forces at work choosing the partisan mix.
The voters did cast more votes for democratic congressmen than republican congressmen. I think you have to blame gerrymandering here.
It goes to show that, “Vote for me and if your little girl gets herself raped and becomes pregnant, I will make sure she has the baby, whether she likes it or not” is not a good campaign slogan.
Too long, too. That one wouldn’t fit on a bumper sticker even if you had a humvee.
It is curious. Then again, let’s look at several aspects of what happened yesterday, starting with the fact that while America doesn’t like Congress, it appears to like its OWN congresscritters just fine. As the late Tip O’Neill (no stranger to ethics issues himself) was fond of pointing out, “all politics is local.” In other words, “My congressman is A-OK. Yours is a bum.” (I actually think my own congressional rep is horrible, but you get the point).
Nor should we assume that the low view of Congress is due to a universal assessment of its actions. Progressives think it’s to conservative; conservatives think it’s too liberal. Both are unhappy with the net result, but they don’t agree on the cause.
Now, to your bullet points:
– Commit to the President, and give his party majorities in both Houses of Congress so he could get his policies implemented, for better or worse,
From my perspective, one of the rays of light from yesterday is that this DIDN’T happen. Let us remember that the United States was NOT founded as a democracy; the Founders were (with good reason, and I believe that yesterday shows why) fearful of democracy and instead set the nation up as a representative republic. They wanted it to be DIFFICULT for lawmakers to do their jobs, and as we saw with the first six years of George Bush and the first two years of Barack Obama, granting both major parties a lock on both the legislature and the executive branches can be highly problematic. That we didn’t end up with this is a good thing, IMO, and one for which all of us – liberals and conservatives, can (and, I think SHOULD) be grateful
-Give the Senate back to the GOP, so some of the bills the House has passed can be sent to the President’s desk
As a conservative who is deeply concerned about how Barack Obama has been misusing the Executive Branch’s rulemaking process, this is the outcome I would have preferred. If it weren’t for morons like Mourdock and Akin, and a deeply dishonest Massachusetts media machine that tossed out the man who was almost certainly the most liberal Republican in the Senate, this might have happened.
-Sweep everybody out and try a new team to see if it can do any better.
Yeah. Like THAT’S gonna happen. Besides, I don’t think it should. The nation would be chaos while the new kids figure out how to do the job. Institutional memory has real value.
Well, that’s a bother. Jack, I think you can see how I was trying to format that, and I’d appreciate it if you’d correct accordingly.
I can’t resist sharing something, but first, want to say Arthur makes some great points above.
A short while ago, I saw an ad that I had seen before, but until now was just another silly Geico ad. This time, I immediately recognized it as an allegory for the Republicans and Democrats in relation to each other, and in relation to yesterday’s elections – but more specifically, an allegory for Obama and Democrats, Steven Mark Pilling and Bill in another thread in this blog, discussing the election results. I have now chuckled enough to get a good night’s sleep.
The ad shows a witch flying around on a broom, inside a broom factory, whooping it up. The witch lands briefly, and gestures for a fresh broom from one of the guys on the factory floor. The guy hesitates, then hands over a broom, and off she flies, whooping again. The guy turns to watch the witch fly away; another guy working close by turns to watch as well.
The guy who forked over the broom (representing Republicans, SMP, Boehner, “reactionary conservatives”) turns to look up and glare behind the witch’s back as she flies away, puffs out his chest, sets his jaw, and declares as if making a most solemn vow:
“I’m gonna stand up to her.”
(her = the witch = Obama, Democrats, liberals, progressives, socialists)
Guy #2, standing behind Guy #1 (= Bill, other Republicans/conservatives, cynics, defeatists, someone who knows when to call someone else’s bluff):
(dismissively) “No, you’re not.”
Guy #1, immediately upon hearing Guy #2, slumps his shoulders once again in despair:
I’ll believe Republicans are serious once again about winning presidential elections when they make inroads to the point of being competitive once again in the country’s major metro/urban areas. They’re either going to start winning in those areas again, or else none of them will live in the White House again.
That’s a pragmatic position, not an ethical one. Nor is it responsible. If the only way to do that is to agree to keep spending on entitlements until the country is broke, and to open the gates to anyone who wants to come to the US without restrictions, conditions, and limits, should the GOP just shrug and say, OK, if that’s what it takes? If you aren’t going to stand for anything, what’s the point of having power? Your statement is nothing but a formula for attracting principle-free followers, not leaders.
Fiscal conservatism is quite popular. Nobody is saying that the GOP has to abandon that core. But the radicals in the primary process and the right-wing media are an albatross around the party’s neck. The GOP right now is a loose coalition of single-issue reactionaries, and the contortions that candidates have to make to please the base are what’s driving moderates, women, and minorities away. My family’s always voted Republican (hell, when I was a young’un I actually participated in a Bush rally), but the party’s left us because of their brinkmanship and their single-minded pandering to evangelicals. How many other people feel the same way?
The GOP base is driving the moderates out of their ranks. Take the Indiana race for example. The previous moderate GOP office-holder, Sen. Lugar, was considered a true statesman both in and out of his constituency. If he had been in the running on Tuesday, the Republicans would have won the race in a landslide. But the Tea Party mounted a primary challenge from the right, and that boob Mourdock ended up on the ticket instead.
Which reactionary issues drove minorities away?
Chase, I get mixed messages from what you say above. Fiscal conservatism is “popular,” I agree. But, since when has fiscal conservatism been part of the GOP’s “core?” I don’t believe it’s been close to a core GOP principle since around Reagan’s time – and even then, GOP adherence to it was only ephemeral, utilitarian and insincere.
Also, you seem to be saying that the GOP could carry the fight for fiscal conservatism, if only the TEA party would break up and shut up. If that’s what you mean, then I disagree: I am convinced that if not for TEA party pressure, the GOP would not even be contending with the Democrats about fiscal responsibility. If anything, with no TEA party, the Democrats would have seized the initiative to appear more “fiscally responsible” (and through their wily deceptiveness, they appear to have already seized that initiative after all, anyway, in spite of the popularity of the real deal) – all the while, taxing and spending and borrowing with the result of ever more irreconcilable debt, as if no fiscal day of reckoning would ever dawn on the federal treasury of the United States.
Next, you seem to say the GOP base is a loose coalition of extremists. But “loose” and “base,” even in politics, tend to be mutually exclusive if not oxymoronic. Like you, I have many family members, in all generations, who identify as Republicans. Most of them, I would call “traditional” or conservative, while some I would call “liberal” or “old guard;” only a few GOP members in my family are what you and I would probably both call “single-issue reactionaries.” The GOP has long been under a siege of sorts by some factions with special (but not entirely “reactionary”) interests (like abortion). That siege has eroded the traditional Republican base – a base which has been, predictably, only mildly receptive to the views or interests of those mounting the siege (that is, mildly receptive for [so they’ve wished], again, ephemeral, utilitarian and insincere reasons).
Some power within the GOP has been “hijacked” to some extent by “non-moderates.” But, I do not believe fringe groups have hijacked the GOP to the extent they have hijacked the Democratic Party. We are witnessing re-alignment in both D and R parties. The brinksmanship you refer to, I see as only a symptom of the GOP being truly on the brink of overdue re-alignment. The GOP in 2012 may have reached its “maximum gravity” or “critical mass,” where the various groups that have managed to vote in a coalition favorable to Republican office-holders must part ways. Thus, given the size of the Democratic Party, the GOP stands to be effectively rendered irrelevant as a force in politics, first at the national level, then “driven down” to states and locales. The Democrats will experience their own critical mass, eventually, but not before accumulating such overwhelming power that “defectors” will be too isolated and/or weak to mount effective opposition. Given the state of ethics in the society, I see a one-party system as inevitable, with no civil way out.
I’m going to try to reply to this piecemeal.
[i]”Fiscal conservatism is “popular,” I agree. But, since when has fiscal conservatism been part of the GOP’s “core?” I don’t believe it’s been close to a core GOP principle since around Reagan’s time – and even then, GOP adherence to it was only ephemeral, utilitarian and insincere.”[/i]
What I mean to say is that as it stands right now, fiscal conservatism, and opposition to Democrat positions, is the main force binding the GOP’s coalition together. The GOP is three main factions as I see it- religious conservatives, particularly from the Bible Belt, libertarians, and military hawks. The lip service paid to fiscal conservatism is the main thing holding everyone there together.
[i]”Also, you seem to be saying that the GOP could carry the fight for fiscal conservatism, if only the TEA party would break up and shut up. If that’s what you mean, then I disagree: I am convinced that if not for TEA party pressure, the GOP would not even be contending with the Democrats about fiscal responsibility.”[/i]
I’m sorry, I was unclear. Yes, Tea Party pressure is leading to a more hawkish stance on the budget. However, that faction, and in particular the extremely right-wing individuals now populating the house from their primary efforts, is extremely hostile to anything seen as moderation and/or compromise. This is helping to torpedo GOP efforts, as the Democrats will either ram legislation through congress WITHOUT conservative input (i.e. the ACA) or nothing at all will happen, in which case the media-assisted majority party can blame the GOP for the gridlock.
[i]”If anything, with no TEA party, the Democrats would have seized the initiative to appear more “fiscally responsible” (and through their wily deceptiveness, they appear to have already seized that initiative after all, anyway, in spite of the popularity of the real deal) – all the while, taxing and spending and borrowing with the result of ever more irreconcilable debt, as if no fiscal day of reckoning would ever dawn on the federal treasury of the United States.[/i]
This is where, in my opinion, the ‘no-compromise’ attitude of the GOP coalition becomes the issue, and hamstrings their efforts to check the government’s power. No one faction in the GOP wants to give up their pet issues to make a deal, yet the Republicans can only check the Dems if they are willing to come to the table. The supply-side obsessives won’t give up on taxes, particularly for the wealthy; the military hawks refuse to see the massive waste in the defense budget; the libertarians refuse to countenance anything but massive cuts to social programs; the evangelicals INSIST on social-issue riders- none of this would be an issue if the GOP leadership could rein their caucus in, but they can’t because primary challenges from the right have weakened the establishment’s power.
[i]”The GOP has long been under a siege of sorts by some factions with special (but not entirely “reactionary”) interests (like abortion). That siege has eroded the traditional Republican base – a base which has been, predictably, only mildly receptive to the views or interests of those mounting the siege (that is, mildly receptive for [so they’ve wished], again, ephemeral, utilitarian and insincere reasons).
Some power within the GOP has been “hijacked” to some extent by “non-moderates.” But, I do not believe fringe groups have hijacked the GOP to the extent they have hijacked the Democratic Party.”[/i]
I disagree that they have hijacked the Democrats and not the Republican party. The Democratic caucus maintains their discipline, and has the leadership to maintain a cohesive front- this is why they remain in control, among other reasons. The GOP does not have this leadership, again because their leaders have been emasculated by semi-populist (I am not convinced that the TEA Party is not at least 20% astroturf rather than grassroots) rebellion.
Ironically, they only have themselves to blame for this, and for the fact that their re-alignment is so overdue. State legislatures have been gerrymandering for years in an effort to make seats safer- Republican districts are getting redder and redder, and while this helps get their congressmen re-elected (or Tea Party darlings elected in favor of establishment conservatives), it means that the GOP has started to exist in an echo chamber. Then again, the Democrats are starting to as well.
I think part of the problem is that these districts allow members of one party or the other to run with only token opposition. Their ideas are not pitted against one another for the voters to make a real choice. If GOP representatives were forced to run against real opposition, as I suspect many will in 2014 now that the Democrats smell blood in the water, their party may take heavy losses in the short term, but become much stronger in the longer term as natural selection starts to take effect.
One more note- if the Republicans dissolved as you say, it would not be the first time the United States has had only one party. Just as the last time the Democrats took total control, they would collapse under their own weight in only a couple of decades, and another opposition party would be born. I don’t think it is such a bad thing. All things have to die eventually, and truth be told, a couple decades is so small in the scope of things. Perspective, Eeyore. Perspective. It takes far more to maintain a single-party state than simply your opposition’s organization fading.
You misunderstood what I was trying to say (if you were replying to me). I’m sorry; I must have been terribly unclear (I did not mean to be, and did not think I was). I was prophesying, not taking any particular position. What irresponsible but pragmatic position, or “formula,” did you think I was taking or stating?
About your questions, though, in an electoral system, leaders are only as relevant as their followers make them, regardless of what the leaders stand for. For acquiring, holding, and expanding their power, principle-free “leaders” can expect to be dependent on (virtually) principle-free followers. That appears to be the vicious spiral of special-interest parasitism which the “leaders” and followers of American metro/urban welfare-entitlement statism are counting on being indefinitely sustainable.
My 12:35 comment above is in reply to Jack’s comment at 9:13.
You got the analogy wrong. The republicans have been standing up to democrats and trying to sabotage their success at a shared goal (the health of the country). A better analogy would be that the workers are republicans and the witch is the reactionary right.
And it opens the possibility that West could make a comeback.
Indeed, West can make a comeback; Grayson proved it.
An update on Jesse Jackson, Jr.