The Republican Senate's refusal even to consider President Obama's replacement for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court might finally bring into focus the level of their partisan nihilism. The congressional "dysfunction" trope imposes a false equivalency on the parties and thereby enables Republican obstructionism. But the Senate's blatant action not to allow the president to fill a vacancy on the high court makes their extremism more difficult to gloss over.
The Republican-controlled Congress is not "dysfunctional." It would "function" perfectly well if there were an occupant in the White House who gave the Republicans everything they wanted. With divided government they act like petulant children. Voices in the press decrying "dysfunction" render invisible the corporate oligarchy that has bought off the institution.
Whether attacking Planned Parenthood and women's reproductive rights, trying to privatize everything from the Veterans Administration to the U.S. Postal Service, handing over Social Security to Wall Street, selling off federal lands, obstructing everything President Obama does, or the million other hidden giveaways to banks, corporations, and the National Rifle Association -- all these actions drive home the point that we have the worst Congress money can buy.
We live in a time where the same ruling elites that have bought off the Congress are setting the parameters of our political debate. There's a stark disconnect between the people and the Congress today that is palpable, which goes a long way in explaining the extraordinary tone of this presidential election cycle.
Even in California where the labor unions are relatively strong and the politicians are relatively liberal there's still the false assumption imposed by profiteers and asset strippers that new investments in public sector institutions is a "waste" of tax dollars.
Since the final years of the catastrophic presidency of George W. Bush the anger has been stewing. Hillary Rodham Clinton's call for "incremental change" seems stuck in the 1990s and doesn't make much sense today (except in the Beltway Bubble).
Over the past seven years, President Obama has shown repeatedly that he's willing to work with the Republicans on all sorts of issues (even to the detriment of his own base) and that he was more than willing to meet them "halfway." But their aim was to defeat him politically; and after failing in 2012, they now want to destroy his legacy.
And what is the Republican agenda? We can see it playing out in the state of Wisconsin under Governor Scott Walker. Wisconsin under Walker is a blueprint for the kind of aggressive assault on the public sector the Republicans would love to impose on the whole country. Walker has ended the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers, slashed the budget for the University of Wisconsin, and decimated the civil service rules to give state workers about as much job security as Uber drivers.
There's no limit to the money Washington Republicans are willing to spend on crony capitalism, the military industrial complex, or in subsidies for oil, pharmaceutical, and agribusiness corporations. But when it comes to rebuilding the nation's bridges, roads, and water systems, or programs that benefit working people like paid leave, raising the minimum wage, or subsidized child care, then they start screaming about taxes, "big government," and budget deficits.
But even with all the partisan acrimony, when it comes to maintaining the Empire the "dysfunction" evaporates. Gargantuan "defense" bills sail through the Congress and end up on the president's desk where they're quickly signed into law. A model of legislative efficiency.
The two post-Citizen United midterm elections have been wipeouts for the Democrats. A few more election cycles marinated in this kind of money, along with a little more gerrymandering and voter suppression, and Karl Rove's dream of a "permanent Republican majority" can become our nightmare reality.
Unless Bernie Sanders can lead the political revolution he's been advocating, mobilize an angry citizenry, and put an end to this system of legalized bribery the plutocracy might become unstoppable. The time for Clinton-style incrementalism is over.
Over the past sixteen years since the flawed election that brought George W. Bush to power the only consolation prize between the terrorist attacks, wars, mass shootings, and recession was the election of the nation's first African American president. Young people have lived through these events and might be ready for a radical realignment of our politics that the pundit class simply cannot see. The young people who support the democratic socialist ideas of Bernie Sanders have little to lose in trying something new after their baby boomer parents and grandparents have so failed them.