For the past two weeks my wife and I have been packing up and moving out of our home of 21 years. There simply wasn’t time to give careful thought to a blog. More gaps in my blogging will probably occur over the next several months but the issues will always be on my mind. The following thoughts have been on my mind for some time.
Congress is on vacation until September so there are no legislative battles raging on Capitol Hill. Still President Trump is providing amble subject matter for the media. I don’t intend to go into all of that and duplicate what others have covered so well. My purpose today is to voice some concerns about the bad presidents that have been set by Republicans over several decades, particularly the past eight years.
The roots were probably in the presidency of Ronald Reagan. It was during the 1980s that big government was branded as the problem or even the enemy. This period spawned the Americans for Tax Reform and its president Grover Norquist. Libertarian Norquist hated big government so he hatched an ingenious plan to limit the federal bureaucracy. He convinced Republican politicians to sign a pledge to never raise taxes on anything, ever. Most Republicans in Congress have signed this pledge. It effectively prevents compromises on federal budgets.
Grover sought to deprive the government of tax revenue so deficits would get out of control and Congress would be forced to drastically cut spending. He wanted to “starve the beast.” The tax cutting and supply-side economics that Norquist and the Reagan administration espoused survive to this day, creating the income inequality that caused many voters to be taken in by Trump’s lies during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Next came Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) who concentrated power as speaker of the House and helped cause the longest partial government shutdown ever during President Bill Clinton’s presidency. Gingrich mercilessly pursued the Clinton’s during the 1990s and that persecution followed Hillary Clinton through the years and continues to this day. Trump supporters enthusiastically shout, “Lock her up.” Third world countries persecute political opponents, not the United States.
But I think no politician has fostered more bad precedents than the current majority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell. With ruthless filibusters, he hamstrung the democratic processes from 2007 until he finally became the majority leader in 2015. Then he continued to block President Obama’s administrative and judicial appointments and legislative agenda until Trump was inaugurated in January. McConnell’s absolute refusal to even hold hearings on Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court will live in Senate infamy and will come back to haunt.
Now, in part because McConnell’s obstruction was so effective, we have President Donald Trump. His lies are simply a continuation of the credibility gap between American voters and their government that I believe started under Reagan.
Members of Congress have constantly lied to suit their political purposes. Many are more concerned about pleasing their wealthy backers than serving their constituents. A prime example is what Republicans have continuously said about Obamacare since the law was enacted in 2010. It would destroy jobs; death panels would decide who lives and who dies; it would be a government take over the healthcare system. The horror stories they told are too numerous to document. More recently Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Trump and McConnell have been lying about the viability of Obamacare, claiming it is about to collapse.
Well, Obamacare is far from perfect but Republicans have been unable to convert their lies into legislation to repeal or even replace it. Unemployment has continuously decreased during the past four years, the number of citizens without health care insurance is at record low levels and Obamacare is still providing health care coverage for millions in most markets despite GOP efforts to kill it.
The bad precedents that Republicans have set over the years will not be easily erased. The veracity of political candidates is ceasing to be an important consideration in their qualifications. Future representatives and senators will justify their actions based on McConnell’s conduct of Senate business and obstruction and Gingrich’s government shutdown tactics. The comity that existed in the Senate and the House that has been destroyed by McConnell, the Tea Party, the House Freedom Caucus and other right-wing organizations will be difficult to reestablish.
In my opinion Republicans and their followers have divided the nation with their bad precedents, particularly over the past eight years. Now Trump has truly become the divider-in-chief with his scurrilous attacks on opponents and support for the alt-right and neo-Nazis. This troubles me greatly because a divided America is a vulnerable America. And despots like Russian President Vladimir Putin are eager to take advantage.
Footnote: Please cut me a little slack over the next several weeks. Writing on a laptop in a motel room is challenging.