Hyper-partisanship leans to right

May 17, 2012


And another one bites the dust.

But Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar did not go quietly. After last week’s defeat in the GOP primary, the veteran legislator issued a remarkable statement warning of the dangers of continued partisanship. Lugar, a conservative who embraces “the Republican principles of small government, low taxes, a strong national defense, free enterprise and trade expansion,” was nevertheless targeted for defeat by conservatives who felt he had strayed from ideological orthodoxy. This, because he compromised with the other party on a few matters — the auto industry bailout, TARP, the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices — that were, he thought, “the right votes for the country.”

“Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum,” said Lugar, “are dominating the political debate in our country. … They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years.”

The senator is in the ballpark. But he misstates the problem in two ways.

In the first place, the issue is not partisanship, but hyper-partisanship, a mindset that prioritizes party above country. In the second place, Lugar’s sop to moral equivalence notwithstanding, this is not a problem caused by partisans “at both ends of the political spectrum.”

It was not Democrats who held the economy hostage in a manufactured debt ceiling crisis that caused the nation’s credit rating to be lowered for the first time in history. It was not Democrats who voted down their own deficit reduction resolution, apparently because they didn’t want the president to share credit. It was not a Democratic leader who declared defeating the president his top legislative priority.

No, it was Republicans who did all that. And it is not Democrats who have seen a steady trickle of condemnation and defection by their own appalled members.

That trickle includes Nathan Fletcher, a San Diego mayoral candidate who left the GOP because, “I don’t believe we have to treat people we disagree with as an enemy.”

And former Sen. Chuck Hagel, who said he was “disgusted” by the “irresponsible actions” of the GOP during the debt ceiling crisis.

And congressional staffer Mike Lofgren, who likened his party to an “apocalyptic cult.”

And former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said too many in the GOP regard it as “an exclusive club where your ideological card is checked at the door.”

In their new book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein argue that the GOP 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.” It is, they note, awkward for mainstream news media to report this because it might be seen as violating their ethos of non-bias or interpreted as blindness to the sins of Democrats.

But it needs reporting, regardless. One cannot fix a problem one will not face. And the new cultishness of the Republican Party is certainly a problem. It should concern anyone who thinks democracy is best served when political parties offer coherent alternatives and hash them out in the marketplace of ideas — something the GOP no longer does.

Or, as Lugar’s opponent, Richard Mourdock, said in response to Lugar’s statement: “I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wedneday on www.MiamiHerald.com.


cato_the_elder 6 years, 1 month ago

If you're looking for evidence of hyper-partisanship, this column is a poster child for it.

JackMcKee 6 years, 1 month ago

Take a look at Kansas. That's how they want the entire country. Shudder.

jaywalker 6 years, 1 month ago

And here comes observant, saying nothing, offering nothing, just playing the idiot's Patrick Henry.

Mixolydian 6 years, 1 month ago

It takes two to comprimise. With a republican house sending bill after bill to the senate, only to be told by Harry Reid, "Dead on arrival" it's difficult to achieve anything.

If the country was really as disappointed with congress as the polls indicate, incumbent losses should be happening on both sides of the aisle. The fact that it's not says more about a lack of partisanship than anything else to me.

jaywalker 6 years, 1 month ago

"The senator is in the ballpark. But he misstates the problem in two ways. In the first place, the issue is not partisanship, but hyper-partisanship, a mindset that prioritizes party above country."

Fairly accurate piece, though the language is disappointing, as evidenced in the epic fail of journalism above. Sorry, Mr. Pitts', but making up your own term doesn't lend credence to your argument. It's just "partisan", the addition of "hyper" lends nothing (much like observant's posts) except redundancy (much like observant's posts).

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 1 month ago

Partisanship has always been (and always will be) part of American politics. However, during certain periods, that partisanship most certainly has gone to extremes-- adding "hyper" to the description of the current Republican partisanship is entirely appropriate.

jaywalker 6 years, 1 month ago

Wrong as usual, bozo. That's like saying a 'fanatic' is hyperfanatic.

par·ti·san 1 (pärt-zn) n. 1. A fervent, sometimes militant supporter or proponent of a party, cause, faction, person, or idea.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 1 month ago

"sometimes militant"

Key words here-- when partisans aren't militant, they aren't "hyper." When they are militant, they are "hyper," as is currently the case.

jaywalker 6 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Fossick 6 years, 1 month ago

When the Democrats turn on 'moderate' Joe Lieberman, it's because he's a traitor. When the Rebublicans turn on 'moderate' Richard Lugar, it's because they are hyper-partisan. When the GOP purges their moderates, Pitts finds fault. When the Dems purge their moderates, Pitts says nary a word: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/24/pennsylvania-primary-blue-dog-democrats_n_1450926.html

It's not just an epic fail of journalism, it doesn't even make sense. What is happening are two separate intra-party struggles for power and direction, as both Lugar and the man who beat him are of the same party, and the Blue Dog Dems and their Progressive replacements are of the same party. Pitts has taken a word with a bad connotation, partisanship*, added an intensifying prefix, and gone looking for a political opponent to attach it to. It makes as much sense as Merrill calling someone a libertarian fascist.

  • Frankly, I think partisanship ought to have a good connotation. What is the point of having elections if all we have is the choice between two moderates?

Fossick 6 years, 1 month ago

Joe Lieberman American Conservative Union Rating: 2011: 20 2010: 4 Lifetime: 15.79 http://conservative.org/ratings/ratingsarchive/2011/unified.html#CT

Joseph I. Lieberman's Progressive Action Score: 59

A score of 59 means that Sen. Lieberman has positively acted to support 59% of a slate of progressive policies in the 111th Congress. http://thatsmycongress.com/senate/senatorJosephLiebermanCT111.html (they also give him a "regressive" score of 32), meaning he voted "wrong" 1/3 of the time.

So the conservatives score the guy 16 out of 100, the progressives score him 60 out of 100, and you call him "right of center."

I'm going to count that as a QED. Progressives not only can't see the parallel, they are bad at math to boot.

jafs 6 years, 1 month ago

"I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view."

George Orwell would be proud.

Phoghorn 6 years, 1 month ago

Four legs good, two legs bad. Four legs good, two legs bad. Four legs good, two legs bad. Four legs good, two legs bad. Four legs good, two legs bad. Four legs good, two legs bad. Four legs good, two legs bad. Four legs good, two legs bad.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 1 month ago

That's a good question, especially when the J-W could run Thomas Sowell instead.

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 1 month ago

I don't believe I have seen a time in US politics when we had political factions who hold such cult like allegiance to their theories.

I know there are radical elements within the Democratic Party, but I have never before seen such radicalism in the Republican Party as we see today.

Paul Ryan is one of the leaders of this cult like group and he is a former legislative director for Sam Brownback. He was also a speech writer for Jack Kemp, a supply side economic evangelist.

These people are not afraid of budget shortfalls because they know it is very hard to raise taxes after they have been cut. Their goal is to demonize all government spending as irresponsible. Their goal is to achieve a conservative utopian ideal which has no basis in reality but is convenient as a tool for recruiting disciples to their cause.

People need to ask why these people spend all of their time criticizing their opponents and almost no time explaining what they actually believe.

Crysalis 6 years, 1 month ago

RC1977 - Deficit was 10 Trillion when Bush Boy and Five Defferment Dick left office it is 15 Trillion now. Who ran that up with unpaid massive spending bills, and two unfunded wars that those weenies kept out of our budget?

What party in congress passed those bills in reconciliation?

Who's party wants to go back to those policies?

Turn off Fixed News, put down the Ann Coulter book, and go outside, there is a whole world out there.

But, reality and facts do have that known liberal bias................. right?

Fossick 6 years, 1 month ago

Pitts: "It should concern anyone who thinks democracy is best served when political parties offer coherent alternatives and hash them out in the marketplace of ideas — something the GOP no longer does."

The marketplace of political ideas is called the "election booth," and it's something the GOP does quite well - a little too well in Kansas IMO. Parties do not offer coherent alternatives when both sides serve up middleton squish - then there is truly nothing at issue but partisanship, and that of the most vapid kind. When the Dems say yes and the GOP says no, that's when the voters are able to choose from alternatives.

As far as the debt limit is concerned, Pitts has a shorter memory than even the New York Times' infamous Filibuster Amnesia. Here's Obama's explanation for why he voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2006, exactly the vote Pitts decried in Republicans in 2010:

I think that it’s important to understand the vantage point of a Senator versus the vantage point of a…President. When you’re a Senator, traditionally what’s happened is this is always a lousy vote. Nobody likes to be tagged as having increased the debt limit for the United States by a trillion dollars… .. And so that was just a example of a new Senator, you know, making what is a political vote as opposed to doing what was important for the country. And I’m the first one to acknowledge it. (from a source) http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/04/president-barack-obama-exclusive-concedes-senate-vote-against-raising-debt-limit-political/

His change of heart aside, Obama was right about 2 things. First of all, he was right that this is a political vote. It's a political vote when the GOP opposes it, and it's a political vote when the Dems oppose it. But secondly, he was right in 2006 to vote against the debt limit increase, just as the GOP was right to vote against it in 2010. Had the Democrats won that battle in 2006, we would not be in anything close to the fiscal pickle we are today.

Partisanship is decrying one party's change of tune but not the others. Pitts is the very partisan he decries. Principle, what is actually needed in politicians, does not change just because the other guy is in the White House. And yes, that's a pox on both of the parties' houses.

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