This morning, Dana Bash had AOC on State of the Union as her guest. Eager to lead her into an attack on conservative Democrats, Bash immediately asked her a couple of straight-to-the-point questions: "So, a group of five Republican, five Democratic senators is proposing $1.2 trillion in an infrastructure compromise deal; $600 billion of that is new spending, they say, no tax hikes to pay for it. Would you vote yes or no on that package if it comes before you in the House? ... As you well know, Democrats have three votes to spare in the House. So, if the White House comes to you, if Democratic leaders come to you and say, 'this is the best you're going to get right now,' would you and fellow progressives still say no to this?"
AOC responded appropriately, first reminding Bash that the all conservative phony "compromise" is not the best the Democrats can get and is "not going to create the millions of union jobs that we need in this country, particularly to recover from the pandemic. And it's not going to get us closer to meeting our climate goals, which are crucially important at this point in time." And then telling the viewers that "we need to talk about the elephant in the room, which is Senate Democrats which are blocking crucial items in a Democratic agenda for very-- I think, for reasons that I don't think hold a lot of water. And for folks saying, OK, 'where are you going to get these 50 votes?', I think we really need to start asking some of these Democratic senators where they plan on getting 60 votes... There is a theory that we're going to get support for that out there, I think, is a claim that doesn't really hold water, particularly when we can't even get 10 senators to support a January 6 commission."
Bash, repeating McConnell's complete bullshit strategy for stalling and killing, asked AOC to assume there are 10 Republican votes-- there aren't-- for this crap conservative bill. AOC responded "then the question we have to make is that there is a fork in the road, which is, do we settle for much less and an infrastructure package that has been largely designed by Republicans in order to get 60 votes, or can we really transform this country, create millions of union jobs, revamp our power grid, get people's bridges fixed and schools rebuilt with 51 or 50 Democratic votes? And I think the argument that we need to make here is it's worth going it alone if we can do more for working people in this country. You know, with 50 votes, we have the potential to lower the age of Medicare eligibility, so that more people can be covered and guaranteed to their right to health care, as opposed to 60 votes, where we do very, very little, and the scope of that is defined by a Republican minority that has not been elected to lead."
Bash then moved on to another extremely popular-- with people, if not with McConnell, McCarthy and Manchin-- progressive agenda item: voting rights. She as much as asked AOC to attack Manchin to entertain the viewers. "H.R.1," explained Ocasio Cortez, "has sweeping lobbying reforms. And I believe that we have the influence of big money that impacts not just one party, but both parties in the United States Congress. And I do believe that that old way of politics has absolutely an influence in Joe Manchin's thinking and the way he navigates the body. I mean, the way-- the things that he cites, like this, I think, romanticism of bipartisanship is about an era of Republicans that simply do not exist anymore. And I also believe that the opposition to big money and dark money-- you have the Koch brothers and associated organizations from the Koch brothers-- really doing victory laps about Joe Manchin's opposition to the filibuster. I think that it's pretty open that these groups exert a lot of influence, as much as-- and as much influence as they can on members of Congress. And I think that-- that the older-school way of accepting the role of lobbyists in Washington absolutely has a role in Joe Manchin's thinking."
Describing the Democratic Party establishment as "old school" is, if anything, an understatement. It's way past time for people like Manchin, Feinstein, Carper, Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn, Cuellar, Costa, Schrader... to retire already.
The Republicans, though, are an entirely different problem-- not old school... at least not old school American. How about old school European fascism? This morning, writing for the L.A. Times, Jackie Calmes wrote about how she watched from the front row as the GOP morphed from a traditional conservative party into a radical fascist party, which she called the biggest story of her career as a reporter. "I’ve been watching it from the start, from the time I arrived in then-Democratic Texas just out of college in 1978 to my years as a reporter in Washington through four revolutions-- Ronald Reagan’s, Newt Gingrich’s, the tea party’s and Donald Trump’s-- each of which took the party farther right. From this perspective, it seems clear that the antidemocratic drift of the GOP will continue, regardless of Trump’s role. He didn’t cause its crackup, he accelerated it. He took ownership of the party’s base, and gave license to its racists, conspiracists, zealots and even self-styled paramilitaries, but that base had been calling the shots in the Republican Party for some years, spurred by conservative media. Now, emboldened, its activists will carry on with or without him."
She blames, at least in part, evangelicals who "threw off their longtime aversion to earthly politics and took over local party organizations, becoming culture warriors."
She wrote that now it's clear that "the norms-abiding moderates never had a chance. As right-wing activist Paul Weyrich warned, 'We are different from previous generations of conservatives. We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structure in the country.' That could stand as conservatives’ mission statement today." Except that is not what conservatism is. That's what fascism is, the next step rightward from conservatism, a step that always destroys conservatism. She wrote that Ginrich's rise was one sign that a new breed of Republican, more interested in ruthless partisanship than in passing laws and representing constituents. His goal was nothing short of ending Democrats’ decades-long lock on the House majority and leading the next Republican revolution."
Gingrich worked to undermine President George HW Bush-- worked harder to destroy him than Democrats did-- so that a Democrat would win in 1992 and that he would then be able to flip the house red to blue in the 1994 midterms. One way Gingrich worked to weaken Bush, she wrote was to lead "a conservative mutiny against a bipartisan deficit-reduction deal the president had negotiated, assailing him for violating his 'no new taxes' campaign promise." That cost Bush reelection and a disappointing conservative Democrat further alienated the Democratic Party's working class base, handing Congress to the Republicans. In that midterm, the Democrats lost a net of 54 seats in the House-- including those of Speaker Tom Foley, Maria Cantwell and Jay Inslee in Washington-- and 8 seats in the Senate-- actually 10 because 2 right-wing Democrats, Richard Shelby (AL) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (CO) jumped the fence and became Republicans. The new GOP freshman class in the House included soon notorious members Bob Ney (OH), Lindsey Graham (SC), J.C. Watts (OK), Tom Coburn (OK), Joe Scarborough (FL), Sam Brownback (KS), Roger Wicker (MS), Richard Burr (NC) and Saxby Chambliss (GA). Their Senate freshman class included future shitheads Rick Santorum (PA), Bill Frist (TN), John Ashcroft (MO) and Mike DeWine (OH). Think of all the damage these people caused-- not even counting Gingrich!
Calmes pointed out that "As the new speaker who’d taken the party to the promised land, Gingrich led a cult of personality presaging Trump’s. 'Be nasty,' he’d tell followers, and he kept conservatives perpetually angry at Democrats and at government generally, with the aid of his right-wing media megaphone. On the first day of the new Republican-controlled Congress in January 1995, Gingrich had set up 'Radio Row' in a Capitol corridor-- table after table of talk-show hosts interviewing Republicans for conservative audiences back home. Rush Limbaugh, the king of them all, was declared an honorary House Republican. Collectively, these local celebrities became a power center within the party. Gingrich would find governing harder and less popular than campaigning, however. He overreached to please the base, shutting down the government in a doomed bid to force deep cuts in domestic programs, and then impeaching Clinton. Within four years, after election losses and scandals, he resigned."
But that didn't solve the deeper problems of where the GOP was heading. She wrote that even as George W. Bush "sought to soften his party’s hard lines to win election, the GOP’s nationalistic, protectionist and even nativist populism ran deep. As president, Bush had hoped to build a broader party-- for example, by giving millions of undocumented, longtime residents a path to citizenship. But the growing xenophobia among the party’s increasingly white, older and rural base foiled him. Trump didn’t unleash those forces 16 years later. He simply harnessed and amplified them. By the end of Bush’s presidency, conservatives were rebellious against both Bush, for his immigration proposals, Mideast wars and rising debt, and the Republican majority in Congress for its overspending and corruption."
In 2016, after the Tea Party interregnum, and "against a field of establishment Republicans vying for the presidential nomination, Trump quickly rose to the top, speaking a language of aggrievement that resonated with the mostly white, less educated voters living in rural America and long-struggling industrial areas... They jumped on the Trump train and stayed on even after he’d lost reelection and the GOP’s control of Congress. As Donald Trump Jr. said of other Republican officials on Jan. 6, just before the attack on the Capitol, 'This isn’t their Republican Party anymore. This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party.' It was a straight line from Gingrich’s uncompromising, smash-mouth politics to the tea party and then to Trump. Should Trump remain exiled at Mar-a-Lago, his MAGA army will soldier on, forcing party officials and 2024 presidential aspirants to fall in line. And if Republicans lose in 2022 or 2024, many seem poised to reject the result, turn to force or countenance those who do-- Trump or no Trump."