Tag Archives: Authoritarianism

Mann and Ornstein: How the Republicans Broke Congress

Political scientists Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, the high priests of “centrism” in Washington, D.C., warned back in 2012, Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

This op-ed was a preview of the books that followed, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism” (2012) and updated in 2016, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks Was: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.

Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein are back with a new op-ed at the New York Times, How the Republicans Broke Congress:

In the past three days, Republican leaders in the Senate scrambled to corral votes for a tax bill that the Joint Committee on Taxation said would add $1 trillion to the deficit — without holding any meaningful committee hearings. Worse, Republican leaders have been blunt about their motivation: to deliver on their promises to wealthy donors, and down the road, to use the leverage of huge deficits to cut and privatize Medicare and Social Security.

Congress no longer works the way it’s supposed to. But we’ve said that before.

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Senate passes GOP tax bill for the Oligarchy

While you were sleeping, the Senate passed the Senate GOP tax bill in the wee hours of Saturday morning on a party line vote of 51-49, with only Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), who is retiring, having the courage of his convictions to vote no. Senate passes tax overhaul, securing major GOP victory:

Vice President Pence presided over the final passage vote. GOP senators, who stayed on the Senate floor until the vote closed after midnight, broke out into applause after Pence announced the bill had passed.

“This is a great day for the country,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said during a 2 a.m. press conference after the vote.

The headline from The Hill above is typical of the headlines appearing in other media today: a “major GOP victory.” The media makes it appear as if this bill has been enacted and awaits president Trump’s signature. This is reminiscent of president Trump and House Tea-Publicans kegger party at the White House after the House voted to repeal “Obamacare,” only to see it defeated in the Senate.

The Senate GOP tax bill could be voted upon by the House without any amendments, but that is highly unlikely because it contains provisions which are opposed by the radical GOP House Freedom Caucus. This bill is headed to a conference committee where the Senate and House versions of the bill will be reconciled into a conformed bill which both chambers must pass. There is still a chance that this terrible tax bill can be defeated in the next round.

And I would point out to the media that this was a “major victory” for millionaire and billionaire GOP campaign donors, because they are the ones who demanded this terrible tax bill in exchange for their campaign donations and they are the only ones who will ultimately benefit from the GOP tax bill in the end. The U.S. government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful. Major Study Finds The US Is An Oligarchy. And the lickspittle GOP servants of corporations and plutocrats who voted for this bill? Millionaires’ Club: For First Time, Most Lawmakers are Worth $1 Million-Plus. They voted to benefit themselves as well, the American people who elected them be damned.

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The final countdown on the Senate GOP tax bill has begun: call your senators now

The Senate voted 52-48 along party lines Wednesday to begin debate on the Senate GOP tax bill. Several Republicans who have not committed to voting for the final bill, including Sens. Collins, McCain, Corker and Flake, voted in favor of moving forward to debate. But final passage could be another story.

Currently there is no firm agreement on the trigger provision Sen. Corker wants, no pay-for to partially keep the state and local tax deductions Sen. Collins wants, and no language on the pass-through changes for small businesses sought by Sens. Johnson and Daines. Senate Republicans are about to overhaul the tax code, and they don’t know what’s in their bill yet;

Senate Republicans are in such a rush to pass a tax overhaul in the next few days that they voted to start debate on a bill that could still undergo a bevy of last-minute changes they haven’t seen in writing — changes that could dramatically affect the US economy over the next decade.

But most Republicans aren’t letting some last-minute deal cutting that could mean billions of dollars in tax increases, tax cuts, or federal spending cuts get in the way of moving the bill along.

Even Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who’s one of the senators most skeptical of the bill and is pushing for the major addition of automatic tax hikes if the federal deficit grows too quickly, voted to start debate on the bill. He had told reporters earlier that he couldn’t describe the changes “until we get it in writing.” Corker later told reporters they could “throw away” anything they’d heard about the deal because it is “still evolving.”

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Politicizing the Census Bureau for GOP authoritarianism

Steve Benen warns of an ominous development at the U.S. Census Bureau. Trump eyes radical choice for the Census Bureau:

The Census, conducted every 10 years by constitutional mandate, is one of those incredible important tasks that most people probably find rather dull. That’s a shame because getting this right has an enormous impact on everything from federal spending to representation in Congress.

With that in mind, it was disappointing when Census Bureau Director John Thompson, in the midst of a funding fight, decided to resign unexpectedly in May. Making matters worse, we’re just now getting a look at the replacement Donald Trump apparently has in mind. Politico reports:

The Trump administration is leaning toward naming Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience, to the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, according to two people who have been briefed on the bureau’s plans.

Brunell, a political science professor, has testified more than half a dozen times on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts, and is the author of a 2008 book titled “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.”

Some Trump personal choices are alarming, some are disheartening, and some belong in the you-have-got-to-be-kidding me category.

As Slate explained earlier this year, “The decennial census is critical to ensuring that Americans are fairly represented in Washington, since it’s used as the basis for congressional redistricting. A mishandled census could undercount poor and minority populations, putting some states and many cities at a demographic disadvantage.”

It’s against this backdrop that Trump is eyeing someone who has not only played a direct role in helping Republican gerrymandering efforts, but who quite literally wrote a book criticizing competitive elections.

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The conservative media entertainment complex spoils for a constitutional crisis

I have previously explained how the conservative media entertainment complex and the Trump administration are amplifying “active measures” (propaganda) practiced by the Russians. The conservative media entertainment complex is an ancillary to Russian ‘active measures’ propaganda.

There has been a coordinated effort between our Twitter-troll-in-chief and Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal and GOPropaganda network FAUX News (aka Trump TV) in recent weeks to fabricate a fantastical alternate universe reality in which “President Hillary Clinton” colluded with the Russians and she and James Comey and Robert Mueller all must be prosecuted — for something. This is best exemplified by Trump’s Minister of GOPropganda at Trump TV, Sean Hannity, and Trump’s close friend “judge”Jeanine Pirro. See, The Fox News-Murdoch effect: Mueller must resign! Or be fired!, and The GOP strategy on the Russia scandal: ‘No puppet. You’re the puppet.’

While most observers argue this is an attempt to distract, divert and to mislead the public from the Russia investigation (it is), Greg Sargent explains that it is much more nefarious than this. Trump and his allies are laying the groundwork for a Saturday Night Massacre:

Let’s be clear on what’s happening in our politics right now. President Trump and his media allies are currently creating a vast, multi-tentacled, largely-fictional alternate media reality that casts large swaths of our government as irredeemably corrupt — with the explicitly declared purpose of laying the rationale for Trump to pardon his close associates or shut down the Russia probe, should he deem either necessary.

We often hear that Trump and his allies are trying to “distract” from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s intensifying investigation. That’s true, but this characterization inadequately casts this in terms ordinarily applied to conventional politics. Instead, Trump’s trafficking in this stuff should be seen as another sign of his fundamental unfitness to serve as president. Similar efforts by his media allies [e.g., Stepehen Bannon at Breitbart] should be labeled as a deliberate effort to goad Trump into sliding into full-blown authoritarianism, and to provide the air cover for him if he does do so.

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GOP civil war, or triumph of the will to a Trump authoritarian cult of personality?

Steve Benen noted the other day The unusual nature of the Republican Party’s ‘civil war’:

[T]he Republican Party is apparently experiencing one of those weird civil wars in which everyone agrees with one another.

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It’s probably safe to say the three most vocal Trump critics among Senate Republicans are John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Bob Corker, each of whom have gone to surprising lengths recently to express their contempt for the president. But if we consider their voting record, McCain has voted with Trump 84% of the time this year. Corker has voted with the president’s position 86% of the time. With Flake, the number rises to 90%.

Tallies like these hint at a possible contradiction: if the Republican trio were really offended by Trump, they wouldn’t keep voting the way he wants them to.

And while there may be something to this, it’s worth appreciating what makes the GOP’s civil war so bizarre: the factions are divided by style, tone, and demeanor, but when it comes to public policy, they’re all roughly on the same page.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post follows up today, The Trump authoritarian cult:

The Glorious Republican Civil War of 2017 isn’t really a battle over policy or ideology. It isn’t even quite the clash of grand agendas we constantly read about — the supposed showdown between populist economic nationalism on one side, and limited government conservatism, free trade and internationalism on the other.

Instead, the GOP civil war is really a battle over whether Republican lawmakers should — or should not — genuflect before President Trump. The battle is over whether they should — or should not — applaud his racism, his authoritarianism and his obvious pleasure in dispensing abuse and sowing racial division. It’s also over whether Republicans should submit to Trump’s ongoing insistence that his lack of major accomplishments is fully the fault of Republicans who failed his greatness.

The Post reports that allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have hit on a new strategy for countering Stephen K. Bannon’s insurgency. Bannon’s challengers are running on the idea that they constitute the true bearers of the Trumpist banner against a GOP establishment that has allegedly betrayed Trumpism. The strategy is to walk a careful line, avoiding attacking Trump while linking Bannon’s version of Trumpism “to white nationalism to discredit him and the candidates he will support.”

The notion that the GOP civil war is really about whether to genuflect to Trump’s racism and authoritarianism helps resolve some glaring disconnects in our politics that make little sense under any other interpretation.

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