October 15, 2017

Political Ataxia: The Threatening Collapse of the Republican Party

by Hal Gershowitz

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Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsThe utter lack of cohesion and coordination within the Republican Party represents a type of political ataxia that could well prove terminal. Other than those Republicans for whom utter stalemate is a cause célèbre, the unease among serious Republicans is growing, maybe, exponentially. Utter collapse is no longer a far-fetched fear. It could happen. Just ask any old Whigs who are still around holding out for the return to the good old days. The reader will recall that the Whigs (circa 1854) were pathetically ambivalent about the expansion of slavery in the United States, and from its ruins rose the modern Republican Party, which was determined to stop the spread and scourge of slavery.

A new orthodoxy, consisting of a gaggle of Republicans who see any cooperation and compromise in the halls of Congress as heresy, has all but paralyzed the party. The new orthodoxy takes its cues from no one—not the party leadership, not the White House and not from voters who reside in other districts. They do not fear being labeled as obstructionists—in fact, they rather like the epithet. They have, more or less, congealed into the so-called Freedom Caucus, of which there are only about three dozen members. They, along with the strangest White House circus we have ever seen, could very well bring down the Republican Party in the mid-term elections next year. President Trump, the ringmaster in the oval tent, marches to his own drummer and no one can predict where his parade will lead, nor, it seems, can anyone influence its course. Truth be told, the so-called Freedom Caucus could care less how little gets done. Their congressional seats are probably pretty safe.

The founding fathers did not evolve the concept of co-equal branches of government out of naiveté.  They intended that the executive branch and the legislative branch, each having the best interests of the country at heart, would work hard to hammer out consensus wherever they could to accomplish what could be accomplished in the country’s best interest. They established a system that demanded a willingness to give and take, and to debate long and hard, but ultimately to do the nation’s business.

Trumpian White-House tumult has created an aura of confusion, if not bedlam, in Washington. The danger, of course, is that the nation will not just see a lack of Republican party discipline, but rather an abundance of Republican party incompetence. And when that happens, the Party could be dispatched to the political wilderness from which it may never return.

The Republicans in Congress have, so far, cut the President a lot of slack. They know he has weathered some rather incredible challenges. His record of verbal inanities would have sent almost all political aspirants to the dustbin of history faster than one could say, “when you’re a celebrity you can grab…,” but Trump, so far, has been immune to hoof-and-mouth disease. That’s because American voters have grown tired, even fed-up, with politics as usual in Washington – politics that seem oblivious to the voters’ needs and anxieties. American voters were remarkably and collectively ready to give the ruling class a proverbial poke in the eye. And did they ever. With one ridiculous debate performance after another, candidate Trump’s ratings went up. Each debate inanity represented another chance to poke the ruling class in the eye, and did the electorate poke, right through election night.

But now, ten months into the Trump presidency, the Republican Congress has produced nothing, literally nothing. The President has gotten into a nuclear, school-yard shoving match with the goofy kid from Pyongyang. He has demanded a ransom for the basic humanity of resolving the Dreamers’ issue by demanding the funding of a wall on our southern border; you know the one for which Mexico was going to pay. We’ve unilaterally walked from the Paris climate accord, and decertified the Iran nuclear agreement without any of our allies walking with us.

The voters gave the GOP an opportunity of a lifetime. They gave the Republicans everything—both houses of Congress, the White House, thirty-four governorships and control of both chambers of thirty-two state houses. When much is given, much is expected. The voters expected repeal and replacement of Obamacare with something better. They wanted to see America respected once again throughout the world. They wanted a Congress that got busy doing the work of the country.

The Republicans face the voters again in one year. The American people will take stock of what the Republicans have produced, compared to what they promised. This doesn’t look like a Party making America Great Again.

The Republican party may be approaching a state of extremis. The American body politic gave Washington a poke in the eye last November. The Republican Party might soon learn the American voter is an equal-opportunity eye poker. It might be a poke from which the GOP doesn’t survive.

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4 responses to “Political Ataxia: The Threatening Collapse of the Republican Party”

  1. Steve Prover says:

    An excellent insightful analysis of the disarray in the Washington DC body politic.

  2. SHEILA says:

    Agree that you’ve done a great analysis and agree with your conclusions. I am not a Republican, but I recognize the need for two strong mainstream parties in Congress that are willing to work together in order to maintain a healthy political system. I hope the Republicans take heed to finally get their act together. McCain, Collins and Murkowski are lone Republican voices in a losing struggle to place country over party. They are heroes, in my opinion. In the meantime, Trump continues to trample on/ignore the Constitution with impunity, and it now appears he has given Bannon his blessing to blow up the mothership. God help us if Alabama is any indication of our future.


  3. bonnie joseph says:

    hal, you write so well and I look forward to your missives every week. I am only disappointed that you follow the trump line of diminishing people with childish descriptions like “goofy kid”.

    he is the head of state and while a not very positive leader according to our philosophy– he could be called by name. he is perhaps goofy but the names trump calls him do not help with important negotiations of the highest level for the world safety.

    just a thought


  4. robert borns says:

    may i humbly disagree with your thought that the republican party will be a loser. i believe that the trump public realizes that the difficulties he faces from washington are because he is upsetting the standard way the system has operated. the democrats in trump states will be voted out in the next election and the republicans majority will increase. working average people like and appreciate the trump manner and ignore his sometimes off the wall missteps. trump understands that you don’t sell what he likes-you sell what the customer likes. isnt that the key to success. how is that for inflaming passions?

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