Sunday, January 31, 2010

Two Possibilities

I have to come to one of two conclusions about Republicans, based on their incredibly solid opposition to every major policy initiative from the Democrats in the recent years, but particularly after Obama took office.

The first one is they are unpatriotic. This conclusion supposes that at least some Republicans actually agree with the Democrats enough to vote for those bills, but do not because they are more willing to see Obama fail, even if it means the country fails along with him. Or, they are more afraid of their party leadership than they want to see the country move in the right direction. It is otherwise impossible for 41 Republican senators to always vote "no" on important issues, when even they would admit the status quo is unbearable. If they were patriotic and reasonable, surely they would rather accept an imperfect bill to inaction. Although I cite this as the first conclusion, I don't actually believe it to be true.

The second one is that they are without exception politically quite a bit to the Right of the country as a whole. In the Senate, which is already a body that gives disproportionate weight to the more conservative inner states, 59 Senators can still be found to support the Health Care Reform Bill. This number is conclusive proof that the political center of the country must be somewhere among those 59, and not among the 41 Republicans. (Put another way, Republicans represent only the most conservative 20 states, which have relatively small populations.) One would've expected that the most right-wing Democrat would be somewhat to the right of the most left-wing Republican, if both parties are to have some claim to the political center.

It is the second conclusion that seems more plausible. The Republicans do not only lean Right, they have left the center entirely. When Senator Reid watered down the HCR bill to pacify the right wing of his party, the resulting bill satisfied no Republican enough to defect. So if we are to reject the conclusion above that Republican Senators are all unpatriotic, then they must sincerely believe that Reid's concessions are not enough. If they do, however, then all 41 of them are to the right of Senator Nelson, who is pro-life, endorsed by the NRA, supported Justice Alito's nomination, the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, and voted with Republicans on bankruptcy reform, environmental protection, stem cell research, and so on.

If so, it means that the two major parties are politically disjoint, which is a dangerous situation. It is increasingly hard for Obama to believe that any Republican will sincerely work with him, rather than set a trap to embarrass him. If none of them can be brought over either because they are unpatriotic or because they are ideologically too far away, the country is going to suffer.