Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jeb Bush, Grover Norquist, and the Chickens Coming Home to Roost

Politico Arena Topic: Is Jeb Bush Right About Partisanship?

Governor Jeb Bush is absolutely correct when he says that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush would be out of sync with today’s GOP. Make no mistake, Reagan and Bush were conservatives; however, both were willing to negotiate, compromise, and cut deals with the other side, despite differences in ideology and policy. Such behavior is considered treasonous today but governing was the priority, not the 24/7/365 campaign that dominates in the twenty-first century.

One can see in the Bush 41 presidency a foreshadowing of what would come: when he agreed with Democrats to raise taxes in the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1990 in an attempt to get America’s fiscal house in order and lower the deficit, he was assailed by the Right for discarding the “No New Taxes” pledge he made at the 1988 RNC Convention. In this instance, Bush acted with courage and did what he thought was in the best interests of the country. However, conservatives at the time such as Richard Viguerie assailed President Bush accusing him of abandoning conservative principles and being too willing to “cut deals with the Washington establishment.”

Today, the chickens have come home to roost. Most Congressional Republicans have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes—ever. Republicans fear if they don’t sign the Norquist pledge, he will find someone who is willing to sign the pledge to defeat them in the next primary election. And with the Congressional map gerrymandered in such a way that most districts are safe, and with the invention of the SuperPAC and unlimited campaign spending, Republican members of Congress fear a primary challenge from an uber-funded fellow Republican more than anything. And so to avoid that primary challenge, Republican lawmakers uphold Conservative orthodoxy—regardless of merit and regardless of the consequences thus giving us stalemate.

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1 comment:

Leon S. said...

If there is one thing I’ve learned from my 4 ½ years in Political Science, it’s that very few people are capable of being nonpartisan, and 99.9% of those who try, fail.

I don’t believe Jeb Bush is on the mark here, he’s one of many Republicans under the misconception that partisanship is only found on the right. During a debate between Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan, Mondale made the assumption that his opponent wanted to cut Social Security and harm seniors. Reagan retorted by saying that any attempt to scare the American people had no place in politics. I don’t think Reagan would resign himself if he heard today’s Democrats claiming that Republicans were waging a war on women. He wouldn’t resign himself if he saw the Obama Administration’s Universal Health Care plan. He wouldn’t resign himself if he saw the current state of the Union.

I’m not sure where or when Republicans bought into the notion that any attempt to criticize the Democrat agenda was in poor taste. I suspect it stated with the major news networks, it seems like NBC, ABC and the like tend to paint Republican dissent as radical and unprofessional. After all, their poor coverage of the Tea Party protests showed everyone that any politician who wanted to cut taxes, shrink the government and bring down spending would be labeled a “Radical Tea Party Guy” in the eyes of the media. So Republicans restrain themselves naturally, no politician wants to be shunned by the news.

Jeb Bush is probably the one out of sync with the GOP right now; I think Republicans are trying to emerge from the malaise of the Bush Jr. years by creating a new platform centered around low taxes and small government. There’s nothing radical about signing Norquist’s pledge if that’s what conservatives want to do, time will tell if it was the right choice. What is wrong is all the hoop-lah about them doing so.

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