Carl Hulse and Adam Nagourney wrote an interesting article in the New York Times on March 16th that, in my opinion, did not get as much attention as it deserved. It was about the political strategy that Mitch McConnell has taken to bring the GOP back from irrelevance after the huge Democratic victory of November 8th, 2008. It is an article worth talking about, and the astute observations they make help us understand what danger may lie behind the strategy McConnell has taken, not just for Democrats, but for the American democracy itself.
Hulse and Nagourney argue:
Before the health care fight, before the economic stimulus package, before President Obama even took office, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, had a strategy for his party: use his extensive knowledge of Senate procedure to slow things down, take advantage of the difficulties Democrats would have in governing and deny Democrats any Republican support on big legislation.
This explains how the minority party with only 40 members in the Senate has been so effective in stalling the Democratic agenda.
The strategy is actually pretty, even deceptively, simple in execution. First consolidate all 40 Republican Senators and unify them in their opposition. Then stall procedurally all that they can during the legislative process itself. Once there is a vacuum during this stalling, repeat the same charge(s) and mantra(s) over and over, whether truthful or not, until they become branded in the public's mind and seeds of doubt begin to grow. The noise is then picked up by the MSM and broadcast repeatedly across the country on the airwaves.
This tactic has been brilliant in hindering the Obama administration from accomplishing much on its long agenda, creating the appearance of a power vacuum and rendering Democrats incompetent.
Already in the summer of 2009, some political analysts pointed out this power vacuum during the town hall meetings. The unhinged raucousness and utter chaos reminded us of the summer of 2008 when supporters of Sarah Palin chanted epithets and called for Obama's head. How did that happen? Bush was on his way out, and it was still unclear who would be the next president, and all of it added to the anxiety about who was actually in power and control.
While Palin's infamous phrase "death panels" was being echoed throughout MSM during the summer, the sentiment among the disenchanted started to grow that the government was somehow in this bizarre effort to alienate the voters from the political process itself. The so-called Tea Party itself grew during this time, riding the wave of these anti-government sentiments. These sentiments still echo through their protests outside the Congress even after the health care bill has passed.
What McConnell needs to be aware of, however, is that the vacuum he helped create by pummeling into our heads that the government is no good, the government wants to take over, the government is somehow secretively sending its tentacles into our lives, is also the very same vacuum in which the Republicans exist and continue to exist.
McConnell's strategy to cast doubt about every issue put forward by the current administration, has also put the GOP in a bind. Is the GOP part of Washington or not? Among the die-hard Tea Partiers, the GOP fares no better than the Democrats. One only needs to look at the number of attempts made by the faces of the GOP to urge the Tea Party to merge with the GOP. This is indicative of two things: that the GOP and the Tea Party are actually two separate political entities and minds; and the level of distrust among the Tea Party members of anyone perceived to be inside the beltway is far deeper than the GOP can reach.
But more ominous than the distrust in the government, McConnell has planted a seed of doubt about the Democratic process itself. He is making it possible to believe that even a democratically elected government can act dictatorially. That the government will do whatever it can through "reconciliation" or even "no vote" to push its agenda through. This is a dangerous path. When doubts grow about the government, then the democracy itself is in danger. And we have seen plenty of evidence of allusions to a revolution from Tea Partiers.
Andy Borowitz's blog makes a humorous jab at this possible outcome in thought. He writes wittily, quoting a fictitious Tea Partier: "This whole voting thing that's going on Sunday is tantamount to a government takeover of Congress."
And why should this sentence scare you as much as it makes you laugh? Because it exposes the thought process in the distrusting minds. It makes voting, the very element, the bedrock of democracy, suspect in many minds.
McConnell better be careful about what he is wishing for. In trying to bring the GOP back to relevance by stoking people's distrust of the government, he may get more than he bargained for.
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