Michael Grunwald has a new book, The New New Deal, about making the stimulus. Economics aside, it reveals some pretty interesting details about the republican party and their organized efforts to completely block government action under the Obama Administration.
First, some context on our heightened political polarization.
In June of this year, the Pew Research Center published a report showing the rise of polarization in American politics. It’s no secret that America is more politically divided than we’ve been in recent history, but the new report broke it down to particular issues and showed how far our differences really go. The following graph sums up that rising polarization
Other demographic divides remain generally stable while partisanship soars.
Other studies focused on the our political divide focusing on Congress. Below is a chart showing the rise of the party unity votes
Notice the steady rise of Congress people voting consistently with their party. Not only do members vote more with their party, the Senate is using the filibuster more frequently.
This has real life consequences for out political system. Congress and the White House are only as productive as they can reach compromise on certain policy issues. If they can’t find a middle ground then nothing gets done, which is alarming given the urgency for decisive government action on the economy, jobs, poverty, etc.
Here is the heart of the problem:
Americans generally want their political leaders to compromise on issues. More and more democrats and independents recognize the value of compromise (The number of Democrats have risen from 77% to 90% and Independents have risen from 68% to the 88%). The values of compromise for republicans, however, has not changed.
This reflects a growing aversion to compromise which we have seen from a number of Republican leaders. The most obvious example is when John Boehner said on an interview with 60 Minutes that he rejects the word compromise.
Another example is when House freshman rejected a deficit reduction deal that included one dollar in new taxes for each ten dollars in spending cuts. The same question was posed to all eight GOP presidential candidates, including Romney, during the primary debates to which they all opposed it as well.
Disturbing news comes out today concerning a growing culture of intransigence from the right. According to Michael Grunwald’s new book, The New New Deal, several republican senators confided to Joe Biden that they received orders from Mitch McConnell to oppose everything the President does.
From page 207
Biden says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ he recalls. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden says.
The vice president says he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along these lines.
Let’s not forget when McConnell said on Fox News that the republicans should work on making the President a “one-term president”
It’s unlikely that this new culture of republican intransigence is to blame for all of the politicking and polarization in America, but it is responsible for most it!