For the Republican Party in Orange County, California and nationally, “compromise” is still a dirty word. In the view of our friends on the right, “compromise” increasingly means “do things our way.” No give and take, just take.
As Congress debates the debt ceiling and the defunding of Obamacare, a new poll suggests that 4 out of 5 Americans are against a government shutdown and will blame Republicans for it. From the story in the New York Times:
“Americans see Republicans as somewhat more inflexible in the debate: just 1 in 4 say that Republicans in Congress are working with Mr. Obama. In the poll, Republicans themselves are divided as to whether their party is making efforts to work with the president. Nearly half of them say that Congressional Republicans are not working with Mr. Obama, and about 4 in 10 say they are.
But nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and three-quarters of independents say that Republicans in Congress are not making any attempt to find common ground with the president.
Mr. Obama is seen by half of Americans as trying to get things done with the Republicans. But that is down from 6 in 10 who said the same thing in January 2012 and three-quarters who said he would work with Republicans in 2010 and 2011.
Americans split along party lines about whether the president is reaching out to his political opponents. Just 1 in 5 Republicans say that. But nearly 8 in 10 Democrats say he is taking a bipartisan approach.
And what do independents think? They are split: 50 percent say he is not trying to work with Republicans, but 4 in 10 say he is.”
This debate is a replay of one from the summer of 2011 and the stakes are even higher today. This clip from the HBO show, “The Newsroom” spells it out perfectly in two minutes.
Nicholas Kristoff, a Times Op-Ed columnist, suggests the Republican Echo chamber — something we see all the time in OC via people like Jon Fleischman, Jim Righeimer, Jerry Amante, Don Wagner and Jeff Lalloway — is a real problem for Republicans nationally. They are so convinced that not only are they right but that the vast majority of Americans agree with them.
“The right-wing echo chamber breeds extremism, intimidates Republican moderates and misleads people into thinking that their worldview is broadly shared.
That’s the information bubble that tugs the entire Republican Party to the right and that transforms people like (Ted) Cruz into crusading Don Quixotes. And that’s why Republicans may lead us over a financial cliff, even though polling suggests that voters would blame them.
Research suggests that the echo chamber effect is disproportionately a problem on the right, leading inhabitants to perceive a warped reality. Many Republicans were shocked that Mitt Romney was defeated last fall because they had been assured that he would win. And a Pew survey last year found that the proportion of conservative Republicans who believe Obama is a Muslim has doubled since 2008 to 34 percent.
Then there was the time Glenn Beck aired the theory that Obama is the anti-Christ (he later said he had been joking).
The right-wing bubble makes it harder to elect Republican presidents by enforcing an ideological purity in primaries that weakens candidates in general elections. Too much time in the bubble also leaves some Republican politicians saying things that just sound nutty to independents. For example, some Republican members of the House are taking seriously the conspiracy notion that the government is buying up bullets so that private gunowners won’t be able to defend themselves.
Yet when Don Cruz of La Mancha and other extremists threaten a cataclysm that could damage the national economy, we have not just self-inflicted harm but a threat to the national well-being.”
Now I’d tell you if you are concerned with the federal government shutting down over the funding of Obamacare, which the American people endorsed by re-electing the President last year, normally, you’d write or call your Congressional representative and weigh in. That simply won’t work in Orange County. Rep. John Campbell, Darryl Issa, Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce are not going to buck their party and not one of them has a clue about what program they’d offer up to replace Obamacare. You’d be wasting your time.
Irvine’s Ezra Klein, who writes for the Washington Post, offered this reminder about the origins of Obamacare last year in this article in the New Yorker.
“The mandate made its political début in a 1989 Heritage Foundation brief titled “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans,” as a counterpoint to the single-payer system and the employer mandate, which were favored in Democratic circles. In the brief, Stuart Butler, the foundation’s health-care expert, argued, “Many states now require passengers in automobiles to wear seat-belts for their own protection. Many others require anybody driving a car to have liability insurance. But neither the federal government nor any state requires all households to protect themselves from the potentially catastrophic costs of a serious accident or illness. Under the Heritage plan, there would be such a requirement.” The mandate made its first legislative appearance in 1993, in the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act—the Republicans’ alternative to President Clinton’s health-reform bill—which was sponsored by John Chafee, of Rhode Island, and co-sponsored by eighteen Republicans, including Bob Dole, who was then the Senate Minority Leader.
After the Clinton bill, which called for an employer mandate, failed, Democrats came to recognize the opportunity that the Chafee bill had presented. In “The System,” David Broder and Haynes Johnson’s history of the health-care wars of the nineties, Bill Clinton concedes that it was the best chance he had of reaching a bipartisan compromise. “It should have been right then, or the day after they presented their bill, where I should have tried to have a direct understanding with Dole,” he said.
Ten years later, Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, began picking his way back through the history—he read “The System” four times—and he, too, came to focus on the Chafee bill. He began building a proposal around the individual mandate, and tested it out on both Democrats and Republicans. “Between 2004 and 2008, I saw over eighty members of the Senate, and there were very few who objected,” Wyden says. In December, 2006, he unveiled the Healthy Americans Act. In May, 2007, Bob Bennett, a Utah Republican, who had been a sponsor of the Chafee bill, joined him. Wyden-Bennett was eventually co-sponsored by eleven Republicans and nine Democrats, receiving more bipartisan support than any universal health-care proposal in the history of the Senate. It even caught the eye of the Republican Presidential aspirants. In a June, 2009, interview on “Meet the Press,” Mitt Romney, who, as governor of Massachusetts, had signed a universal health-care bill with an individual mandate, said that Wyden-Bennett was a plan “that a number of Republicans think is a very good health-care plan—one that we support.”
What’s clear is that as Republicans move further to the Right, they are driving their party off a fiscal and partisan cliff and they are intent on taking the rest of the country with them.