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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