“One of the two major parties, the REPUBLICAN PARTY, has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically EXTREME; CONTEMPTUOUS of the inherited social and economic policy regime; SCORNFUL of compromise; UNPERSUADED BY conventional understanding of FACTS, evidence and science; and DISMISSIVE of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”—from It’s Even Worse Than It Looks by Norman Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann (but the CAPITALS are mine).
These two authors are Congressional scholars. Non-partisan Congressional scholars. In the past, they’ve been critical of both political parties. If anything, Ornstein comes from a slight conservative bent, given that he works for the think tank called the American Enterprise Institute. Mann is with the Brookings Institution. Yet both point a finger squarely at the Republican Party as the cause of major dysfunction in our government today.
In an interview on National Public Radio, the authors stated that the GOP started throwing up obstacles from the first day of the Obama administration. “When we did get action, half the political process viewed it as illegitimate, tried to undermine its implementation and moved to repeal it… If you compromise, you are basically defiling what the party stands for,” Ornstein said.
It doesn’t take Congressional scholars to tell us that all over the country, the GOP is attempting to create obstacles to the exercise of democracy by wresting power away from the people, and hording it for themselves. Their efforts are transparently obvious as Republicans push for laws that are supposed to prevent voter fraud. Yet, voter fraud has no basis in fact. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, evidence from Washington State shows voter fraud happens about 0.0009% of the time; similarly, statistics from Ohio show a rate of 0.00004%. “National Weather Service data shows that Americans are struck and killed by lightning about as often,” states the Brennan Center analysis.
Nevertheless, THIRTY states have passed new laws to make registering to vote—as well as actually voting—more difficult for citizens. THIRTY! In Wisconsin, those who want to register voters have to be deputized in individual towns. In Florida, voter registration forms have to be turned in within 48 hours of being collected. In Ohio, new laws are meant to keep poll workers from directing voters to their correct precincts. There are laws to require photo IDs of those who want to vote, or even to pick up absentee ballots…laws requiring that groups involved in registering voters have to be certified by the state…laws to require groups to check out and account for every voter registration form that they take with them…new laws about where groups can register voters…laws to shorten early voting periods.
Jeremy Bird, field director of the Obama campaign, said these laws “are clearly put forward for partisan political gains. They are trying to change the rules in the middle of the game.”
For Ornstein and Mann, the situation has become more polarized than it has been since before the Civil War, a period that, according to Ornstein, “left us with a virtual fracture in our society.” That fracture, of course, resulted in the Civil War.
For some of us, it’s frightening to contemplate that our democracy is once again teetering on the brink of an unbridgeable divide. But the GOP, in general, and the Republican Congressmen, in particular, don’t seem to mind at all. They are gleefully pushing it toward the abyss!