Tuesday, December 04, 2018

He Wants Us To Go Along To Get Along

We have met the enemy and he is us.

Steve M reviews how GOP-controlled legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin are pushing legislation to hamstring newly elected Democrat governors and attorneys general.  The laws then would be signed by Republican governors on their way out the door. Slamming NPR, SM notes "Steve Inskeep interviewed a poli sci professor named Thad Kousser, who assured us all that Both Sides Do It."

But Kousser is merely one, presumably objective, professor. It is more serious when a former President- a Democrat, no less- does the same and no one notices.  Last week, putative Democrat Barack Obama stated (beginning at 24:31 of the video below) at the 25th Anniversary Gala of the (James A) Baker Institute at Rice University

When Jim arrives in Washington in 1981, you still had a whole bunch of conservative democrats, many of them from the south. You had Republicans, many from the north, who were extraordinarily liberal on environmental issues or civil rights issues on a whole range of topics and you know political scientists were getting angry at the fact that American parties don't make any sense.

Actually, they weren't "angry," rather suggesting the possibility that at some distant point in time the parties should transition from "Democrat" and "Republican" to "liberal" and "conservative." Obama understands that has largely, informally, occurred in the decades since. He also pines for the time when progressive leadership (i.e., Speaker O'Neill) was forced to sell out the progressive principles of the party. Obama continues

There's not always any rhyme or reason for it but the advantage of that was that you had overlapping- an overlapping ideological spectrum in each party so that there were going to be some Democrats you could have a conversation with who in turn were going to put some pressure on Tip O'Neill because they said "doggone it, If I'm gonna keep my seat in Tennessee, you're going to have to give a little bit because Reagan's really popular down there, and conversely Democrats would have to deal with the fact that there were going to be some Republicans who were going to reach across the aisle because actually they have same view on certain issues.

The former President continues his history lecture by blaming the media, The New York Times equally with Fox News, alleging

There are a range of reasons why that changed. Some of that had to do with the shift in the media because in 1981 your news cycle was still governed by the stories that were going to be filed by AP, Washington Post, maybe New York Times and the three broadcast stations and whether it was Cronkite, Brinkley, or what have you, there was a common set of facts, a baseline around which both parties had to adapt and respond to and by the time I take office what you increasingly have is a media environment in which if you are a Fox News viewer, you have an entirely different reality than if you are a New York Times reader.

Obama blames gerrymandering and believes both sides are in on it equally, about which North Carolinians beg to differ. The word "Georgia" never escapes his lips and he pretends to be unaware of voter suppression by Republicans there and elsewhere.  Nor does he mention that results of a democratic election are being undone in Wisconsin and Michigan. Instead, we hear

It means the basis of each respective party had become more ideological. It means that because of gerrymandering, members of Congress now are entirely sure they'll win the seat if they get the nomination. What they get to worry about is whether I get somebody from farther to the right or farther to the left who's going to run against me in a primary.  They then are not willing to stray from whatever the party line has become....

What they get to worry about is whether I get somebody from farther to the right or farther to the left who's going to run against me in a primary.  But it is not liberal and conservative activists who equally have mounted credible primary campaigns in, respectively, Democratic and Republican primaries.  It's as if the history professor/44th President had never heard the phrase Tea Party.

There is simply no leftist equivalent to the rightist Tea Party, which sent many conservative Republicans, including then-Minority Leader Eric Cantor, packing, and which has had a lasting impact upon GOP legislators, persuaded previously to oppose anything Obama and now supportive of anything Trump.

Playing the bothsiderism game, Barack Obama disappears that history, as he downplayed the threat from the far right while he was President.  In June, Axios noted that "at least nine" Democrats mulling a 2020 run had met with him because "meeting with Obama is an easy way for 2020 contenders to gain legitimacy and presidential wisdom — and, most importantly, a foothold with the man still largely considered to be the Democratic Party's figurehead."

So it matters what Barack Obama thinks.  And what he thinks is that the Democratic Party is becoming too ideological, Washington dysfunction is prompted by the media, and the Democratic Party is as guilty as is the Republican Party of subverting democracy.  And that nothing could be finer than a Democratic House Speaker and a Republican President sitting down together and forging consensus because that was the great thing about the Reagan presidency.

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