Back when Republican John Lindsay was seeking the New York mayoralty against Democrat Abe Beame, or New York Republican Jacob Javits was looking to retain his Senate seat against a Democratic opponent, or when Democrat Bill Bradley was running for the Senate in New Jersey against Christine Todd Whitman, it wasn’t that difficult to understand why Lindsay would prevail in a city of overwhelmingly Democratic Party registration, why Javits repeatedly beat back challenges from Democrats or why Whitman mounted the tough fight against Bradley that he ultimately won. Lindsay, Javits and Whitman would today be considered Republican dinosaurs. Lindsay, while formally of Republican affiliation during his stint in Congress, frequently took positions contrary to the party’s mainstream. Javits maintained a voting record that was unapologetically liberal. And Whitman was, without question, of moderate bent. Factors other than strictly defined differences in policy direction determined voter choices. The election of one of those Republicans hardly meant lights out for stuff a Democratic agenda might propose. What a difference in 2012!
A sound bite from GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan on the campaign trail a few days ago had him in full flight, dispensing the “no government” malarkey to a gathering of malleable souls. It’s classic theater of the absurd: folks running for office with an overriding message to their electors that in this American experiment in democracy, the role of government is practically superfluous, that government can best serve the people by not serving them.
That outrageous pitch by Ryan and his cohorts is the kind of stark difference that was alien to the likes of Lindsay, Javits et al. Lindsay, to his credit, evidently perceived a growing menace in the Republican fold even back then and by the early 70s had switched allegiance to the Democratic Party, so much so as to try for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination. Even Lindsay, though, would probably not have imagined the level of dysfunction in the GOP of 2012, occasioned by an infusion of conservative/Tea Party lunacy that more sober heads in that tent seem powerless to contain.
When, driven ostensibly by President Obama’s health care legislation (health care was hardly the full story, we insist), the so-called Tea Party uprising resulted in the 2010 elections delivering a plurality for House Republicans, the country couldn’t possibly have figured this to mean the sick display it has seen from the GOP-controlled House for two years. The Republican rump, somehow seeing itself mandated to be, first and foremost, the greatest obstructionists ever to invade Capitol Hill, turned Congress into chambers of shame absolutely without precedent. No longer simply preaching fire and brimstone on the hustings, this GOP “strike force” now delivered to the American people the cold reality of an anti-parliamentarian code to which they were committed. It numbs the senses to think of such a travesty being rewarded anew.
Where Congress is concerned, the election of 2012 shapes up as an electoral I.Q. test. Yes, the high court, in another travesty, its infamous Citizens United decision, has made possible an election so gaudy with special-interest cash, one cringes at the prospect of this being the new normal. Even so, are we really at a place where bulging money bags are all it takes to paper over dereliction of duty on the scale perpetrated by the House GOP in particular these couple of years?
How do electors feel, for instance, in that district in Florida that sent nauseating Allen West to Congress in 2010? Was it really their mandate that this guy, evidently victim of a delusion all his own, should toe a Tea Party line that called for unyielding resistance to everything not of the far-right agenda of its own framing? Whether this dude, who apparently relishes sticking out like a sore thumb in the typical Tea Party color configuration, is sent forth again by those Floridians to make a mockery of serving the people, will contribute to our understanding of the collective 2012 voter I.Q.
The president has been making a point of underscoring the very clear difference in choice offered by his party and their opponents. It is well that he and his Democratic colleagues do so relentlessly. All things considered, there should be no talk at this stage, either at presidential or other elective levels, of any “toss-up.” These are not Lindsay-Javits-Whitman Republicans on the other side. These are dangerous folk who care not one whit about the catastrophic dislocation sure to result from their willy-nilly “reform” plans for this country’s social order. Theirs was a very matter-of-fact negative reaction, remember, to the idea that the auto industry, when it faced imminent collapse, very much needed the action taken by the administration. That should be an overarching cautionary tale for these nervous times. Troughs of money, courtesy all manner of vested interests, shouldn’t deliver power sufficient to obfuscate sheer devilish intent.
After they stormed into Congress in 2011, the Tea Party’s loyalty to the politics of anger and insensitivity should have sent shockwaves to poor slobs everywhere about what this new strain of inhumanity in high places portends. Not a moment too soon the battle is joined. The people, thank heavens, find themselves equipped with what it takes to stop this contagion in its tracks.