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Opinion

Opinion

Hyper-partisanship leans to right

May 17, 2012

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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.

Comments

rockchalk1977 1 year, 11 months ago

Speaking of hyper-partisanship leaning left, autopsy results indicate that Trayvon Martin had injuries to his knuckles when he died, which could support George Zimmerman’s claim that the unarmed teenager assaulted him before he was fatally shot. How is the Pitts going to spin this one.

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Fossick 1 year, 11 months 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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jayhawklawrence 1 year, 11 months 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.

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rockchalk1977 1 year, 11 months ago

The irony of Leonard (The Chip) Pitts ranting about partisanship is laughable and absurd. Why would any newspaper in the country pay for this hypocrite's words.

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Phoghorn 1 year, 11 months 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.

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jafs 1 year, 11 months 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.

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jaywalker 1 year, 11 months 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).

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Mixolydian 1 year, 11 months 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.

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

Pitt's mindset is "perfect" for "New America". Complex. Refreshing. Sweet to the ear.

Old guard Luger, "Ol' gummy" among his pals, did exactly what was needed to attain the unattainable. He was instrumental at moving New America "Forward".

Pitt's complex cagey eye, like so many of his, notice these "things" about people across the aisle. They know a easy mark when they see it and "pounce" on it with "accolades" at appropriate intervals.

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observant 1 year, 11 months ago

And here come the hyper-partisan right wing nutcases defending their hyper-partisanship since they don't think they are. After all, everyone must simply believe as they do and there would be no partisanship issues.

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JackMcKee 1 year, 11 months ago

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

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cato_the_elder 1 year, 11 months ago

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

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