WITH GREAT POWER…. House Republican will soon have what they’ve been lacking: power. But with that power comes responsibilities, and it’s hard to feel any optimism about whether this crop of GOP leaders is prepared to take their duties seriously.
For one thing, it’s far from clear whether the incoming Republican majority has any idea what it’s doing. Mark Schmitt noted today:
There have been three major Republican/conservative takeover elections in recent history: 1980, when Ronald Reagan carried 12 seats and control of the Senate; 1994, when Newt Gingrich’s Republicans took both houses; and 2010. The first, while in many ways a reaction to the incompetent presidency of Jimmy Carter (a conservative Democrat whose flaws came to symbolize liberalism) unquestionably carried a mandate for conservatism. The second, 1994, was in many ways a reaction to congressional corruption, combined with a long-postponed rejection of Southern Democrats, but Gingrich and his allies took it very seriously — perhaps too seriously — as an ideological mandate.
This year, though, right-wingers barely even pretended to have a comparable program-cutting agenda. Their main talking point about health reform was that it would cut Medicare benefits. They railed about TARP and the auto bailout, but the former originated in the Bush administration, and they will not attempt to repeal it. They talked about creating jobs by reducing the deficit, which is economic nonsense. Moreover, not one of the policy plans the Republicans produced would reduce the deficit by a penny. Tea Partiers ranted about constitutional and economic schemes that they probably won’t even introduce, much less pass.
I’ve been following developments at the granular level for quite a while, and I honestly haven’t the foggiest idea what kind of agenda the GOP intends to pursue. They’re against spending, but no one knows what they’d cut. They’re against health care reform, but it’s not clear what they can do about it, and no one seriously wants another lengthy fight over health care policy anyway.
They’re for a government shutdown, but I’m not sure why. They’re toying with letting the country slip into default, but the motivations for that are even less clear. They’re no doubt looking forward to some partisan witch hunts, which are already tiresome before even beginning.
I’ve received some very nice notes today from readers wanting to know how I’m feeling today. In truth, I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed, but that’s only because I largely expected the results we received.
Instead, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated about some exceptional lawmakers losing their jobs for no good reason. I’m frustrated about the role of secret money in the elections. I’m frustrated that there’s so much idiocy in the discourse — people think Obama raised taxes, bailed out Wall Street, and socialized health care, all of which is completely at odds with reality — and that too many people believe it. I’m frustrated about voters saying they want all kinds of things — less gridlock, fewer candidates beholden to special interests — and then deliberately choosing the opposite.
I’m frustrated that, after two years of digging out of a ditch Republicans put us in, the country is ready to take the next productive step forward, and now that’s impossible. I’m frustrated that the economy desperately needs additional investments to create jobs, but that’s impossible, too. I’m frustrated that Republican leaders seem to be making no real effort to hide the fact that they prioritize destroying the president over literally everything else.
But most of all, I’m frustrated that there are no meaningful consequences for successes and failures. Republicans began last year as an embarrassed and discredited minority, and proceeded to play as destructive a role as humanly possible as Democrats tried to clean up their mess. GOP officials refused to take policymaking seriously; they refused to work in good faith; they refused to offer coherent solutions; they even refused to accept responsibility for their own catastrophic mistakes.
They’ve proven themselves wholly unprepared to govern, but have been rewarded with power anyway. It’s … frustrating.