Monday, October 05, 2009

Do You Know the Enemy?

Paul Krugman does. In today's column entitled "The Politics of Spite", you can't help but draw the parallels between state and national politics.

“Cheers erupted” at the headquarters of the conservative Weekly Standard, according to a blog post by a member of the magazine’s staff, with the headline “Obama loses! Obama loses!” Rush Limbaugh declared himself “gleeful.” “World Rejects Obama,” gloated the Drudge Report. And so on.

So what did we learn from this moment? For one thing, we learned that the modern conservative movement, which dominates the modern Republican Party, has the emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old.

But more important, the episode illustrated an essential truth about the state of American politics: at this point, the guiding principle of one of our nation’s two great political parties is spite pure and simple. If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they’re against it — whether or not it’s good for America.

This is the principle that guides the Michigan Republican Party as well. It's been going on to some extent ever since Granholm took power in '03, and Betsy DeVos immediately started insisting on extreme right wing party purity from the Republicans in the Legislature, at the threat of removal of support and primary challenges to those who would dare reach for compromise. People can blame Michigan's current problems on term limits all they want, but they are remembering a time when negotiation was possible. It really doesn't exist anymore, as proven on a daily basis at both the national and state level alike. You cannot negotiate with people who have no intention of negotiating; doesn't matter if they have been there two years, or twenty.

Republicans oppose at all costs. Period. Setting aside the clash in ideology behind the entire budget battle, nowhere was the Republican attitude of "spite pure and simple" more obvious than the brief shut down that occurred last week. Here's Matt Marsden, late afternoon of the 30th:

Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Michael Bishop R-Rochester, said the Legislature would finish its budgets on time. If not, Granholm will have the opportunity to sign a stopgap budget shortly before midnight.

And when it all went bad on Mike Bishop, when both the House and Senate couldn't pass their budgets on time, he decided to give the whole state a black eye by putting the government into a brief technical shut down, a story that then went out across the nation. Bishop likes to think that he can blame the Governor Granholm and the Senate Democrats for his actions, but in reality, the entire state takes the fall in the eyes of the world. No one really cares about the details. We all pay the price because Mike didn't get his way.

If that wasn't a display of the "emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old", what is? Well, perhaps this. Now that the Democrats have emboldened the opposition, we are going to get more games from the Senate Republicans.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt) said the Senate might hold the remaining budgets throughout October until the continuation budget expires at midnight November 1.

"Why should we send (them) to the governor?" he said. "The governor's said those are budgets she doesn't like. ...I don't see us sending them to the governor at this point."

It's October the 5th, and the Legislature still hasn't finished their job. The thought is that the Senate Republicans will hold these budgets back in an attempt to force their "bipartisan" all-cuts plan through at the last second once again. Dillon professes anger that they would "breach" his deal with Bishop, but how many deals do they have to break until Andy gets a clue? They know the House is whipped and has already surrendered; it's Governor Granholm and her veto pen that is standing in the way of some real juicy campaign slogans next year, as the Republicans are going to try every trick they can to return to power. It that means shutting down the government again, so be it. They want the Governor to fail, they want the Democrats to fail - the future of the state does. not. matter. to them at all. What more proof do you need?

Back to Krugman, who points out that it doesn't matter that GOP policies were soundly rejected in the last election - they are going to continue with this obstruction until someone stands up to them.

The only difference now is that the G.O.P. is in a weaker position, having lost control not just of Congress but, to a large extent, of the terms of debate. The public no longer buys conservative ideology the way it used to; the old attacks on Big Government and paeans to the magic of the marketplace have lost their resonance. Yet conservatives retain their belief that they, and only they, should govern.

The result has been a cynical, ends-justify-the-means approach. Hastening the day when the rightful governing party returns to power is all that matters, so the G.O.P. will seize any club at hand with which to beat the current administration.

It’s an ugly picture. But it’s the truth. And it’s a truth anyone trying to find solutions to America’s real problems has to understand.

Same goes for Michigan, which makes the Dillon Surrender even more disappointing, if not downright despicable. And as predicted before the deadline, the Republicans are now bragging about how they have controlled this whole process, and have indicated in the past few days they have no intention of negotiating anything except for "more cuts".

In reaction, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) all but dared Granholm to issue vetoes.

"She can cut what she wants," he said. "We'd be willing to talk to her about cuts. That's what our plan was from the very beginning. If she wants to cut more out of government, then God bless her. Let her go ahead and do what she has to do. We'll work with her on that."

If Michigan House Democrats refuse to stand up for education, health care and public safety - for the very future of our state - in the next thirty days, the only hope we have left is the creative veto. Veto, and make them override. Make this Legislature own this budget.

For the governor, better a legacy of shut down than a legacy of destruction.

And come next election time, maybe we find ourselves some Democrats who understand the game the Republicans are playing, and are willing to stand up to an enemy that would destroy both our state and our nation out of pure partisan spite alone.