The concept of governing through formal, orderly, and extended expression of thought on a subject using fair interchange of ideas and discussion according to rules of parliamentary procedure is regarded as bipartisan governance. Even in government where one side’s voice carries greater weight by virtue of a majority, there is still room for discourse and debate to come to decisions benefitting all citizens and give every opportunity to examine each possible opinion and prevent one side from ruling by edict. Up until January 2009, American government operated according to so-called “majority rule” that still depended on bipartisan agreements where all voices and positions were given equal weight prior to deliberations and votes, but on inauguration night in 2009 when Washington celebrated a new President, Republicans met and plotted to bring governance to a halt by opposing any and every agenda put forth by the newly elected President and Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. It is four-and-a-half years later, and despite President Obama winning re-election and Democrats gaining seats to bolster its majority in the Senate, Republicans are still opposing and blocking any and every proposal put forward by the Democratic majority and the African American President.
Over the past couple of days, there has been renewed talks of changing Senate filibuster rules to deter Republicans from continuing to bring governance to a standstill and stop their attempts to rule by minority, but simply talking about a semblance of order to allow the legislative bodies to operate evoked a claim by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that Democrats were “fostering a culture of intimidation.” McConnell’s contention is more Republican projection of their tactics on to Democrats, and an attempt to garner support to oppose reform and continue obstructionism for the sole purpose of keeping government at either a standstill, or under Republican rule despite their minority position and losses in the recent election.
At the start of the 113th Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry struck a deal with Republicans with the goal of “streamlining Senate floor business,” and he failed to implement fair rule changes because Democrats were terrified of poisoning the non-existent bipartisan relations during what could have been a productive period for governance. The result has been more filibuster and obstruction of President Obama’s nominees for critical department positions as well as preventing legislation Republicans and their corporate masters refuse to tolerate, but it is McConnell’s assertion that Democrats are fostering a culture of intimidation that reeks of hypocrisy and informs the Republican’s tactics throughout President Obama’s tenure in office. There are varying opinions why Republicans brought normal governance to a whimpering end, and whether it is racist opposition to an African American President or their frenzied anti-government agenda, they have used intimidation, economic terrorism, and outright obstructionism to ensure this government cannot operate to serve the people.
Just in the past two weeks, Senate Republicans threatened to obstruct the President’s nominees to head the Consumer Protection Bureau (CPB), Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency, and three nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals even before the President officially submits nominee’s names for confirmation. Republicans claim the court’s workload is too light for a full complement of judges, they oppose CPB to protect bankers and leave consumers at the mercy of predatory financial institutions, openly called for eliminating the EPA to enrich the oil industry, and want to keep the Labor Department from protecting the American labor force for their corporate donors’ benefit. For the past two months, Republicans reiterated their threats to hold the debt ceiling increase hostage for more Draconian cuts to safety nets and tax reform to enrich the wealthy in a repeat of 2011’s hostage scenario that drove rating agency S&P to downgrade America’s stellar credit rating for the first time in its history.
This week, Democrats and several groups have begun anew pushing for reforms to give the government a chance to work for the people, and it is about time since Senator Reid’s “expression of comity” for his “esteemed colleagues across the aisle” at the start of the current session of Congress did absolutely nothing to alleviate the gross level of Republican obstruction that has continued unabated over the past five months. It is the push to stop Republican obstructionism, stop their economic terrorism, and install leaders to run various protection agencies that precipitated Mitch McConnell’s allegation that Democrats were fostering a culture of intimidation, or as its definition informs; to compel or deter actions with the use of threats. It is despicable that Republicans have used threats against Democrats to enable them to rule from a minority position, but their actions have gone beyond threats and their obstruction is creating real harm to the people they were sent to Washington to serve. Republicans have taken filibusters and obstruction to such an unprecedented degree that they have blocked discussion and debate of their own ideas and policies that impact every man, woman, and child in America, and they have convinced many Democrats that abridging the obstructionist tactics is toxic to discourse and bi-partisanship the GOP is successfully blocking.
Republicans have played on Democrats, especially President Obama’s, desire to govern in a bipartisan manner to such an extent that Democratic inaction is part of why Washington is paralyzed and the nation cannot progress beyond Republican limitations. There are a substantial number of liberals and Democrats that are so terrified of offending Republicans by calling out their obstruction or accurately portraying their un-American and anti-government tactics that they openly criticize any negative characterization of the GOP as “prohibiting reasonable discourse and debate” and “threatening bipartisan solutions” to America’s problems. Whether the left’s altruists are aware that discourse and debate is not remotely possible with conservatives, or that GOP intransigence drove them to reject their own solutions because President Obama embraced them is questionable, but their naiveté and ignorance of the current crop of Republicans and their opposition to governance is absolutely stunning. It has gotten so perverse that political commentators who use inflammatory rhetoric and facts to expose Republican malfeasance are accused of prohibiting discourse, civil debate, and discussion necessary to solve the nation’s problems, and it is the same argument that drove Harry Reid to just “streamline Senate floor business” instead of bringing an end to Republican Senate rule from a minority position.
It is beyond time for Democrats, all Democrats, to stand up to Republican obstruction and demand reform to allow the government to operate on behalf of the American people. That may require some Democrat, any Democrat, to go in front of the American people and tell them exactly why roads and bridges are crumbling, why wages are declining, and why education, social programs, and consumer protections face extinction. However, not only will that require telling people the truth, it will mean hurting Republicans’ feelings and engender outrage, cries of intimidation, and accusations of tyranny from conservatives, as well as incite many Democrats to decry truth as obstructing discourse, debate and their precious bipartisanship that is as much a pipe-dream as expecting Republicans to give up ruling from a minority position. Regardless of what one thinks about Mitch McConnell and his anti-government and un-American ideology, he is at least smart enough to know all he had to do to intimidate Harry Reid and President Obama was tell them attempting to govern through orderly discussion, discourse, and debate is Democrat’s “culture of intimidation” that will likely produce three-and-a-half more years of obstruction, super-majorities for discussion, unwarranted filibusters, and of course the requisite Democratic “we’re sorry; please forgive us.”