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Romney and the Calamitous Republicans

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The media is abuzz over what appears to be the implosion of the Romney campaign, with leading Republicans offering scathing "pre-eulogies" such as Peggy Noonan's statement that the Romney campaign is a "rolling calamity." Such a focus on the individual candidate's tactical ineptitude obscures the larger point that the Republican Party is just as calamitous on a substantive level, as their agenda is openly adverse to the principles upon which this country was founded.

Let us start with Governor Romney's latest disaster -- his "47 percent" remark in which he divided up the electorate into two main groups. The first, whom he does not worry about, are what he views as government dependents that primarily support the president, while the second consists of taxpayer stakeholders who he believes primarily support him. It is ironic that when President Clinton succinctly sums up the Democrats' position these past four years he receives universal acclaim, but when Romney does the same for the Republicans he is disowned.

This "47 percent" philosophy is significant in the way it manifests itself in Republican thought and strategy. As the party of the "stakeholder class," Republicans increasingly view themselves as the only rightful holders of the reins of power. This strain of thinking is at the root of the strategy of Congressional Republicans to, in essence, become the political equivalent of a guerrilla movement and obstruct President Obama at every turn (even for proposals Republicans once supported). It also has fostered, in an institution that depends on compromise to function, an outright rejection of deviation from dogma regardless of whether it is to accommodate such difficult things as facts or to substantially achieve their own objectives.

In his farewell address, President Washington reminded the citizens that respect for the authority of the new government was a fundamental part of liberty. He also warned that:

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle [and designed to frustrate] the delegated will of the nation.

The ugly seed that Washington feared has blossomed in the dark recesses of Congress, with the Republicans likely to set a record this Congress for filibustering (most recently blocking a jobs bill for veterans) and refusing to act on judicial nominations despite the judicial branch's declaring a "vacancy crisis."

The most shameful and calamitous aspect of this mindset is in the rash of new voter suppression laws pushed by Republican governors and state legislatures. Nowhere is this more blatant than in Pennsylvania, which adopted a voter ID law drafted by Republican Daryl Metcalfe ostensibly to combat voter fraud that could prevent over nine percent of registered voters from voting. Since its passage, Pennsylvania has conceded that there is no evidence of voter fraud, while the House Republican leader told a partisan audience the measure was intended to help Romney win Pennsylvania.

After the "47 percent" story broke, Metcalfe said that if the government dependent class is "too lazy to get up and... get the ID they need... the state can't fix that." Metcalfe simply ignores the fact that many of those affected are elderly, disabled or poor who lack access to transportation or who cannot afford the fees involved for supporting documentation which can range from $10 to $345.

Metcalfe apparently believes that the other 47 percent does not deserve the vote. This is the mindset that has driven Republicans in Pennsylvania and 15 other states since 2008 to impose voter identification requirements or adopt other measures such as questionable voter purges, eliminating early voting the Sunday before the election when many African-American churches bus citizens to the polls and making voter registration more difficult.

It is telling when distinguished journalist and Nixon biographer Elizabeth Drew finds this open campaign of voter suppression to be "more menacing" than Watergate. Indeed, it is shocking that only two generations after the murder of Freedom Riders in Philadelphia, Mississippi and the enactment of the Voting Rights Act that followed that such actions could be taken without outrage or political consequence.

So while Republicans lament their nominee's frequent self-inflicted wounds, the true calamity in this race is that a political party has adopted a strategy that involves a refusal to govern and a frustration of the will of the majority. This strategy is an open assault on the principles of national unity and majority rule upon which this nation was founded and a growing cancer which the American people can no longer abide.