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July 23, 2011 11:20 AM ‘Worst. Congress. Ever.’

By Steve Benen

I don’t think it’s online anymore, but Matt Taibbi had a fantastic cover story for Rolling Stone in October 2006 about the Republican-led Congress, shortly before Democrats won both chambers.

“These were the years,” Taibbi wrote, “when the U.S. parliament became a historical punch line, a political obscenity on par with the court of Nero or Caligula — a stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable.”

The article included one of my favorite all-time quotes: Jonathan Turley told Taibbi, “The 109th Congress is so bad that it makes you wonder if democracy is a failed experiment.”

It seemed literally impossible at the time, but five years later, we appear to have found a Congress that’s even worse. Norm Ornstein, a respected congressional scholar, argued this week, “Americans have complained for years that their government is broken. This time they’re right.”

Dana Carvey had a character during his years on Saturday Night Live who was a crotchety old man complaining about how much better everything was “in my day,” the imagined halcyon times of his past. After almost 42 years immersed in the politics of Congress, I have to check myself regularly to avoid falling into the same trap. When I came to Washington in 1969, for example, the city was riven with division and antagonism over the Vietnam War, which segued into the impeachment of a president, followed by many other difficult and contentious moments.

In this case, though, Carvey’s old man would be right: The hard reality is that for all their rancor, those times were more functional, or at least considerably less dysfunctional, than what we face with Congress today.

Ornstein wrote this last week, before Congress set itself on a path to crash the American economy on purpose.

His piece is well worth reading, and shines an important light on structural impediments that prevent the legislative branch from functioning as it should.

But from where I sit, Ornstein goes a little too easy on congressional Republicans. Congress is still capable of functioning as an institution. Indeed, over 2009 and 2010, we saw our share of frustrating legislative disputes, but an enormous amount of successful policymaking was completed. Had the Senate been able to operate by majority rule — the way it used to — the 111th Congress would have been even more impressive.

The problem with the 112th isn’t a structural impediment; it’s the result of a radicalized Republican Party that has no use for compromise, evidence, or reason. We have a congressional GOP abandoning all institutional norms, pushing extremist policies, rejecting their own ideas if they enjoy Democratic support, and engaging in tactics that were once thought unthinkable from policymakers who put the nation’s needs first.

Is this the “Worst. Congress. Ever.” as the headline on Ornstein’s piece argues? After six months on the job, that seems extremely likely. Indeed, if this Congress deliberately causes a global economic catastrophe, the competition for the worst Congress ever will end quite quickly.

But the public needs to understand that Congress, at an institutional level, doesn’t bear all of the blame. The stark raving mad Republican Party does.

Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert, Trent Lott, Bill Frist … who wouldn’t trade the current crop to get those guys back? I’d do it in a heartbeat.

To borrow from Turley, I’ve never been more inclined to wonder if our democracy is a failed experiment than I am now.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • DAY on July 23, 2011 11:22 AM:

    The meme in the world(s) of the addict, is that you have to hit absolute bottom, before you can begin the climb back to 'normal'.

    One wonders if this applies to our "Democracy".

  • Mark-NC on July 23, 2011 11:28 AM:

    I am a bit reluctant to make this comment - but I've been wondering if this doesn't mimic 30's Germany.

    That bunch was deeply tied to the Catholic Church, they were hard Right in ideology, they hated unions, liberals, gays, etc. They were led by a press that understood and used propaganda as a routine.

    AND, as their leadership got nastier and nastier, they didn't give a damn and obediently followed into the sewer with a grin on their faces.

    Isn't that what Republican is today? Seems like the same thing to me - VERY scary.

  • Danp on July 23, 2011 11:28 AM:

    Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert, Trent Lott, Bill Frist … who wouldn’t trade the current crop to get those guys back? I’d do it in a heartbeat.

    That's ridiculous. They gave birth to this movement. Imagine if they had the assistance of today's media. We should be a little grateful the current batch are sufficiently incompetent.

  • Davis X. Machina on July 23, 2011 11:28 AM:

    Norm's getting sloppy

    Worst Republican Party ever.

    Fixed on edit.

    Between the few remaining Blue Dogs, and the GOP members, conservatives have damn near a supermajority in the House. Which could deliver most of what a conservative party would want.

    But not a revolutionary party.

  • markg8 on July 23, 2011 11:28 AM:

    A little reminder of some accomplishments in congress during 2009 and 2010 in the face of unrelenting opposition from the GOP:

    Health care reform (which Democrats have been trying to pass since Truman in 1948 and Teddy Roosevelt proposed in 1911) Financial reform (written in part by Barney Frank with Elizabeth Warren forming the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), DADT repeal, Obama saving approximately 4 million jobs in manufacturing industries by forcing GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and within 6 weeks resurrecting them with union representation on the board (taxpayers are on track to make money on that one and GM has hired back just about everybody laid off in 2009), making sure all the TARP money is paid back and recycling it back it into the economy (with $26 billion in profit so far to the American taxpayer, raise your hand if you think George Bush would have pulled that off, or even tried), 2 more women on the Supreme Court, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, more private sector jobs created in 2010 than in the entire 8 years of the Bush administration, expansion of: Medicaid, mental health care for veterans, and Pell Grants, the Recovery Act which by itself is the single biggest accomplishment by a Democratic president since FDR (not my opinion - Rachel Maddow's) the START treaty, and in general dragging us back from the brink of another Great Depression, hmmm...what am I missing? Oh yeah Obama got Osama bin Laden.

    Some things Obama has done by presidential fiat: raised fuel efficiency standards, removed Bush ban on embryonic stem cell research, provided federal benefits for same sex couples by executive action. The new food safety law so you don't buy poison eggs, spinach etc. Monday July 11, 2011 the Obama Administration announced that it would require gun dealers in states bordering Mexico to report to law enforcement multiple sales of certain semi-automatic rifles.

    Imagine what more could be done with a Democratic house and a filibuster proof senate. We need to pass this info along to all the disgruntled people who say they'll sit out 2012.

  • Jamie on July 23, 2011 11:30 AM:

    I'm not sure they could beat the 1858 congress for that title. But it would be close.

  • g. powell on July 23, 2011 11:32 AM:

    Just returned from Beijing, and let me tell you, they're laughing at us over there. They think we're a bunch of idiots. And I couldn't disagree. It's absolutely disgusting -- I was in an authoritarian police state and could not defend democracy.

  • Varecia on July 23, 2011 11:52 AM:

    What you're describing isn't merely a dysfunctional Congress, but the progressive phases of a wingnut, 'bloodless,' coup d'etat. It isn't Congress deliberately causing a global economic catastrophe, it's an extremist wingnut faction of Congress. If it's not treason then what is? Why aren't they being treated as such?

  • c u n d gulag on July 23, 2011 11:54 AM:

    It's also a major problem because of our cowed, complicit, and compliant MSM, who can't point out who's disfunctional and intransigent, but intead says that 'both sides are to blame.'

    No, both sides are not.

    There is NOT ONE Liberal that is comparable to hundreds of Republican Congressmen and Senators.

    NOT ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous on July 23, 2011 12:02 PM:

    "If it's not treason then what is? Why aren't they being treated as such?"

    It is treason, but it's treason within the law. Liberals want to figure out how to fight it within the law, and so far, they're winning. There's a bloodless war, but we're still winning. We just have to persuade people who might be on our side that, yes, this is a war, and we really do have to win if we want a country that "promotes the general welfare".

  • red*cted on July 23, 2011 12:07 PM:

    McConnell has made it clear that the number one priority of the GOP is to make Obama a one-term president. Obama is at least popular enough that it will take crashing the entire US, and by extension, world, economy to do it. The party that gave us "Iraqi weapons of mass distruction" has no limits on what they will do to gain power. It's what they do, it's who they are.

  • delNorte on July 23, 2011 12:08 PM:

    The problem with the 112th isn't a structural impediment; it's the result of a radicalized Republican Party that has no use for compromise, evidence, or reason.

    And this isn't just some accident of nature - the powers that the Republican party represents have systematically chipped away at our democracy, and have produced politicians who will exploit any loophole or flaw in the system in order to keep the money and power in the hands of their masters.

    I posted this quote from Abe Lincoln a few days ago, but it's worth repeating:

    "It is the eternal struggle between these two principles -- right and wrong -- throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, 'You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle."

  • kevo on July 23, 2011 12:11 PM:

    For a nation that has produced scientific wonder - vaccines, electronic apparati, space exploration, resource extraction efficiency, medical intervention techniques, innovations and inventions, and a myriad other modern marvels - it is astonishing that we have allow the regressive crazy gain political normalcy!

    Yes, I can very well imagine the laughter in China (g.powell@11:32am). Our political leaders, particularly the ones of the Republican brand, have provided the Chinese TV sitcom market will easy scripts, and huge entertainment values! -Kevo

  • Johnny Canuck on July 23, 2011 12:14 PM:

    I blame Obama. He should be giving a one hour lecture every week: a different policy issue- an explanation of the problem, possible solutions, why the Republican approach is risible. College age audience; opportunity to ask questions relevant to the topic.

    And a one hour lecture every week on the Constitution and how the federal govt is suppposed to work; compulsory attendance by Members of Congress. Quiz at end of each session with answers given by Members of congress available on line. Voting rights of members suspended until they give reasonable answers.

    Am I on to something?

  • stormskies on July 23, 2011 12:16 PM:

    Our democracy has lead to a controlling oligarchy who are now creating a fascist state. They have accomplished this through the media that they own, the U.S. 'Supreme=Corporate" Court, and organizations like ALEC which is funded by the Corporations to buy the politicians that then need in order to create the fascist state. All the while this occurs in a country where the vast majority of it's citizens are simply stupid: imbecilic. Remember 40% of our population 'believes' the the Earth is less that 10,000 years old, and that humans co-mingled with the dinosaurs. In the end it is AMERICA ITSELF that is responsible for what is now happening. They have elected these corporate fascists into the positions of power that they have. So of course the vast majority of those politicians are millionaires themselves. Corporate cum sluts like Brian Williams et-al are paid millions to do the bidding of the corporations that hire them. So the politicians no longer are elected to reflect the will of the people: they are now elected to do the bidding of the corporations themselves who have bought their souls. And here we are. America has only itself to blame.

  • kevo on July 23, 2011 12:16 PM:

    Oops, glasses weren't on!

    - it is astonishing that we have allowed the regressive crazy to gain political political normalcy?


    . . . sitcom market with easy scripts, . . .

  • Elie on July 23, 2011 12:25 PM:


    Johnny Canuck -- keep your day job :-)


    The Republican gambit failed. They used every possible means for coercion to make Obama do their bidding and he told them to f---k off. There will be some continued risk/damage... Obama may have to lift the ceiling himself using the 14th amendment or some other means. He will be exposed to the threat of impeachment, perhaps, but I think that he has seemed to come to terms with that and what that will mean to fight. He is and was not going to let the orks hurt folks and he will risk his Presidency on it. They know that now. Their attempted coup failed.

  • sapient on July 23, 2011 12:30 PM:

    Yes, the coup has, so far, failed. But they are not yet defeated.

    By the way, Anonymous at 12:02 was me.

  • meander on July 23, 2011 1:10 PM:

    It's amazing that Ornstein is still employed by the American Enterprise Institute. He's been highly critical of the Republicans for years. Perhaps it is because his criticisms are frequently "institutional" -- e.g., Presidential appointments, Congressional rules -- instead of policy-based -- e.g., questioning the idea that tax cuts cause revenues to rise, calling out climate change deniers.

  • dcsusie on July 23, 2011 1:11 PM:

    I just did a quick calculation, and determined that without the states of the Confederacy, Congress would be 157 Democrat to 145 Republican.

    I think I see where things went wrong. We should have just told the CSA not to let the door hit them in the *ss on the way out of the union. Think we could get a do-over?

  • Jim Pharo on July 23, 2011 1:20 PM:

    What if instead of wondering if this is a failed experiment you began to wonder to do if that is true?

    We're all wondering whether the patient is going to recover, and getting skeptical, when in fact the patient has been dead for years.

    That's what the Chris Hedges of the world are trying to determine: given that the current American social experiment has failed, what does that mean? What should we do?

    ...Because it sure as hell ain't ringing doorbells and doing phone banks...

  • Sapient on July 23, 2011 1:41 PM:

    "...Because it sure as hell ain't ringing doorbells and doing phone banks..."

    Really? It might not be ringing doorbells and doing phone banks, but it surely is reaching people and getting people excited about issues. That actually happened in 2008. Unfortunately, the American people are impatient and easily frustrated. Things seemed difficult and not perfect from 2008-2010, but in the end a lot of good was done. If that trajectory had continued, instead of having been interrupted, more good would still be getting done. What's sad is that the people who are headed in generally the same direction get distracted by minor disagreements over how to get there. It's like people in the car, fighting over the map. We have to be a little steadier in our loyalties and enthusiasm. For Obama to have taken office during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, at a time when our country had spent 8 years overrreacting very badly to an authentic threat from abroad, really - did we expect that if he jumped up and down hard enough, we'd suddenly have Paradiso? Yet this is what I constantly read from "progressive" activists (some of whom sardonically refuse to "clap louder").

    Obama doesn't govern alone. Even if he could ignore the other two branches, there are other interests - the military, the financial barons, the media, etc. - that are wielding their power to an immeasurable extent. We are so much better off having had Obama as President than anyone else I can think of. We just need to work on reelecting him, and electing a Congress that deserves to work with him. We failed in 2010, and it was our disdain for Obama's failure to magically present us each with our favorite wish.

  • golack on July 23, 2011 1:47 PM:

    I used to think, "hey, it's only 2 years--what kind of damage could they do"....

    Now what's the Keynes quote "The markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent"....just sub in "POG's", "bat-shit crazY" and "country"...

  • spiny on July 23, 2011 2:42 PM:

    Steve, I couldn't agree more about our dysfunctional government- although in the end I would place the blame on the influence of money on our politics- i.e. essentially the legalized corruption that both parties now seem to embrace.

  • red*cted on July 23, 2011 3:03 PM:

    I agree that Obama has been extremely passive in dealing with the nut bars in the Republican side of Congress. Oftentimes I wonder if maybe early on someone sat him down, showed him the Zapruder film, and said "Let's just stop for a moment and take a close look at frame 313...."

  • Meredith on July 23, 2011 3:06 PM:

    These republican congresspeople are committing domestic economic terrorism of the worst sort; I can't understand why they are still walking around free.

  • delNorte on July 23, 2011 3:16 PM:

    We just need to work on reelecting him, and electing a Congress that deserves to work with him. We failed in 2010...

    I'll 2nd that - I don't think it's time to get the pitchforks out yet, but this next election is vital to the nation's future. And getting people out to vote in the next election is key.

    The 2010 Senate race in Pennsylvania really highlights the problem: Republican Pat Toomey won the seat by about 80,000 votes, but was crushed in Philly, receiving only about 67k votes, compared to Joe Sestak's 351k - the problem, though, is that Philly only had about a 40% voter turnout...think about that: the birthplace of American democracy, home of the Liberty Bell, etc, and only 40% of the people bothered to vote.

    As one headline put it: Toomey Didn't Beat Sestak - Democrats Did

    Finally victorious, Toomey thanked his supporters, of course, but he should have also thanked those most responsible for his success: Philadelphia Democrats.

    It was the relatively light turnout in the city that killed Sestak's candidacy. Based on the 77,000 vote statewide margin, out of 3.9 million cast, if just one of ten more Philadelphians voted, Sestak's election would have been a lay-up.

  • red*cted on July 23, 2011 3:23 PM:

    I agree that Obama has been extremely passive in dealing with the nut bars in the Republican side of Congress. Oftentimes I wonder if maybe early on someone sat him down, showed him the Zapruder film, and said "Let's just stop for a moment and take a close look at frame 313...."

  • hornblower on July 23, 2011 3:23 PM:

    Actually, we now have three political parties. The Democrats even those so-called blue dogs can't believe how far these teabaggers are willing to go. They have been upstaged and are getting out of the business especially in the South. In the end the Democrats will be stronger and more focused. The traditional Republicans have lost their way and have sold out to the nutjobs. They are in the process of committing suicide. Once the country can't tell the difference between the the two factions independents will vote democratic for a while. Allowing the House to be run by these people gives the voters a look at how they would govern if they got real power. It's not pretty.

  • T2 on July 23, 2011 3:24 PM:

    "only 40% of the people bothered to vote." yeah. and in state after state, GOP/TeaParty crazies are hard at work making sure that it will be even harder to vote than ever. Especially for the hated Black and Hispanic Americans. They call it Voter Fraud, but that really means is Democratic voters.
    Soft revolution.

  • Jimo on July 23, 2011 3:34 PM:

    It seems to me that getting Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment is the GOP strategy here.

    The advantages to the GOP:
    1. No Armageddon to be blamed for.
    2. Unites GOP masses against free-spending Democrats.
    3. Shifts focus from do-nothing Congress to impeachment knowing full well that Democratic Senate won't "convict".
    4. Major funding raising opportunity just in time for 2012 elections.

    I think Obama recognizes this and that's why he keeps poo-pooing the idea without actually dismissing it. The GOP has painted themselves into a corner and now needs Democrats to rescue them. The only issue is whether the rescue will allow them to save face or not.

  • Texas Aggie on July 23, 2011 3:42 PM:

    Del Norte,

    Thank you for the quote. I've been looking for it for a long time now.

  • Trollop (McCain?) on July 23, 2011 3:44 PM:

    I agree with Danp, they were the fathers of this new and even uglier abomination. Thank gawd they do not have access to the media distortion outlets we're battered with today. I think we haven't seen yet the zenith of polarization (for which I am just as much a participant as any other) nor the tenacious vulgarity which assails our inherent and true humanism. Epic fail is only minute away; look at Captcha! I'll never forget Frist's HIV from tears.. What a fucking douchebag!

  • PEA on July 23, 2011 3:53 PM:

    It's not just this congress. They are the byproduct and one tool of the coalition of uber-rich, cult religiosos, and dumb put together by some in the GOP decades ago to rule the country forever through manipulating people's fear. ALEC anyone? (http://www.justice.org/cps/rde/xchg/justice/hs.xsl/15044.htm) Unfortunately, many people did not catch on to this for a long time (me too) or thought they could work with the system. But recently some of the Republican governors have gotten a bit full of themselves and begun to over-reach, and the current Congress has revealed on prime time that it aims to crash the debt ceiling (after all, it will shrink the govmt, won't it) and won't compromise at all. At least O has helped make this obvious. Some of the uninformed public are beginning to realize that all that awful, messy politics stuff can sadly affect their quality of life (stagnant wages, lost or reduced retirement savings, now lost houses & jobs, children with college degrees who are jobless and in debt, etc.) while they see (via TV and internet) just how FAT the uber rich are. (Couldn't we use Youtube to reach more people and better highlight the disparity of rich and poor here, to help them see there are other ways of living, and make people just a bit more mad about being taken advantage of?) Possibly the average guy (and a few journalists) are finally beginning to catch on that the game is rigged, despite the GOP's skill at controlling the narrative in nearly all the media. I used to not want to know about politics myself. Now I realize how it affects me -- yet even if I'm "active", there's not a lot I can do. And many of my friends do not really want to think about it. Like the frog in the warming pot of water, they might be sorry later but for now they manage to ignore it and feel good. I think my European friends are far more aware of what's happening, but they and their families have lived through various wars and hells, so they know. Americans not so much. Well, the next few years will be interesting...

  • Michael on July 23, 2011 4:03 PM:

    No , canuck, what do you think the Iq lowering fox news is for, and why any republican who needs to hear it is watching it with it droning on 24 .7 in the background. They have lowered the iq's already.We need to empower and encourage democrats, like the governors in all the states with republican control have done.

    Remorse is here, it's how much can we limit the damage, before we turn this mess around with majorities in congress.If obama is elected, they will be swept out of power because of what they have caused,starting with the governors, and THIS damage will be remembered for awhile...

  • mgloraine on July 23, 2011 4:13 PM:

    @Varecia:

    Absolutely correct. Persons advocating the default of the US government, such as current Congressional Republicans, are traitors to this country. There is an appropriate penalty for the crime of treason, but I will not quote it here, for fear of being labeled "uncivil".

  • Roddy McCorley on July 23, 2011 4:29 PM:

    It's impossible to say if our democracy is a failed experiment, since at this point nobody is using it.

  • June on July 23, 2011 4:34 PM:

    @markg8 -- excellent compilation. Thanks for posting.

  • rs on July 23, 2011 4:56 PM:

    The "Matt Taibibi" story mentioned above is not in Rolling Stones archives but I found it here....

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/laamn/message/9833

  • ameshall on July 23, 2011 5:14 PM:

    This standoff was inevitable given the GOP's political strategy since the 2008 election. The GOP and its lackeys at Fox and in talk radio saw in Obama's background and race an opportunity to gin up the fear and loathing of their base and carve out a path to GOP resurgence. Obama's racial background was the gift that kept on giving, allowing the GOP to exploit its base's irrational fear that Democrats want to appropriate tax dollars from hardworking white people and redirect those dollars to indolent minorities, a false premise that serves as the raison d'etre of the Republican party. The GOP served up its irrational hatred with a heavy dose of distortions, "common sense," and falsehoods dressed up as "facts." The problem is that the GOP base, and the freshmen thugs they elected, actually believe this crap, and now there's no turning back. As far as the rabid right is concerned, default would be good for the country because the country will have to "get its fiscal house in order," just like "Aunt Milly." Even better, the economy will remain stagnant or get worse, putting the GOP in a position to oust Obama in 2012, an outcome that is well worth any economic damage the country might suffer in the short term. Rush, Bachmann, Palin, and Fox News have told the Republican base that this debt ceiling "emergency" is a scam, and the base believes it. I hope the GOP's corporate cash machines on Wall Street and in corporate America appreciate the Frankenstein they have created.

  • Pyre on July 23, 2011 5:36 PM:

    "Indeed, if this Congress deliberately causes a global economic catastrophe, the competition for the worst Congress ever will end quite quickly."

    I wonder, could that actually be the temptation? The Tea Partiers, in their first term of actual power, and drunk with it, look at the possible damage, and respond: "Whoa, we can actually do that now? Neat!"

  • Doug on July 23, 2011 5:52 PM:

    Until the national MSM begins to do its job, Republican/Teabaggers will continue to infect our political discourse. As long as radical, fact-denying right-wingers are presented to the public as being on an equal basis with sane politicians, we won't see the end of this. Ornstein's blaming the machinery for the failure of the operators is an excellent example of this.
    Personally, I consider the current Republican/Teabaggers in Congress to be, literally, a boil on the face of our political system. What we are experiencing now in 2011, is the poison in that boil comning to a head, resulting in a lot of pain as it does so. For a human being suffering from a boil, lancing is often used to alleviate the built-up pressure; in our current political economy, I really think the Republican/Teabaggers are going to "lance" the boil themselves.
    Either they will deliberately crash the US, and global, economy and be properly blamed for it or they will step back at the very last minute - and suffer the consequences of that "sanity" by being primaried in 2012. Their replacements will likely be even more radical and, with luck, take the GOP back to the minority status it currently deserves.
    At least, that's what's keeping me going...

  • Varecia on July 23, 2011 6:02 PM:

    Pyre, that's exactly it. Global economic catastrophe will help them complete their coup. They have no sense of limits. They burn with the fire fanaticism, and a lot of them religious fanaticism. Say no more.

  • Ron Byers on July 23, 2011 6:03 PM:

    I actually think that right now the American experiment is doing well. We have millions engaged in the process on all sides. The only shaky parts are our media and the state and local Democratic parties and the Republican congressional leadership all of whom have not shown themselves to be up to the task.

    The media has been in flux for sometime, but things are actually better now than they were even ten years ago when the three major networks took 23 minutes each work day to tell us what to think. Yeh we have to deal with Fox News, but they are amatures when it comes to media manipulation. The three networks were much more stifling.

    The Democratic party is on the mend in the upper midwest. Not so much in the south, southwest and border states.

    The Republican party's piss poor leadership is the topic of the day, and frankly it gives President Obama a leg up in negotiations.

  • Bobby on July 23, 2011 6:17 PM:

    The problems we are having with the radical Republicans comes from the fact that they are the Fox News (Murdoch) Republicans. They only believe in the facts as presented to them from right wing think tanks like the Heritage Founation. They hate President Obama with an upbridled passion because he is 1.illegitimate to be President 2. may be muslim 3. may be a communist 4. at least a socialist and last but not least 5. black.

  • Jack H. on July 23, 2011 6:37 PM:

    Soviet communism was an experiment. If not for the terror of Stalin and unchecked militarism it might have survived, at least longer than it did.

    I wouldn't assume that the U.S. experiment will survive. Someone once famously said that "a nation divided against itself cannot stand." At the rate it's going I have to wonder if it will still be in one piece at the turn of the next century. Perhaps a two-state solution will be advisable to avert another bloody civil war.

  • George on July 23, 2011 7:40 PM:

    Here's a link to Taibbi's masterful article, courtesy of the Wayback Machine:

    http://tinyurl.com/3zc3o6n

  • Shelly on July 23, 2011 8:33 PM:

    Several of us need to get together and pool our ideas about educating voters.

    • markg8: "We need to pass this info along to all the disgruntled people who say they'll sit out 2012."
    • Johnny Canuck: "...a one hour lecture every week: a different policy issue...on the Constitution and how the federal govt is supposed to work..."
    • Jim Pharo: "given that the current American social experiment has failed, what does that mean? What should we do? ...Because it sure as hell ain't ringing doorbells and doing phone banks..."
    • Sapient: "It might not be ringing doorbells and doing phone banks, but it surely is reaching people and getting people excited about issues."
    • delNorte: "...this next election is vital to the nation's future. And getting people out to vote in the next election is key."
    • T2: "...in state after state, GOP/TeaParty crazies are hard at work making sure that it will be even harder to vote than ever."
    • PEA: "I'm thinking some very funny Youtube skits could maybe, possibly, help educate a few people in spite of themselves."

    PEA has a great idea. Going viral is the antidote to Fox News. "Creative people with political knowledge, where are you??" PEA, how can we contact you?

  • Kane on July 23, 2011 9:39 PM:

    "This Democratic Congress is on a path to become one of the most productive since the Great Society 89th Congress in 1965-66, and Obama already has the most legislative success of any modern president -- and that includes Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson. The deep dysfunction of our politics may have produced public disdain, but it has also delivered record accomplishment."

    -Norm Ornstein, January 2010

    What a difference one mid-term election can have.

  • 10leggedshadow on July 23, 2011 11:10 PM:

    im done with this political bs. I will not give Obama one iota of my support in the next election. Phone banking and voting are not the solutions to a broken system. Let the republicans crash the system. Crash the system and the kool aid goes away and maybe then people will finally realized how brainwashed they've been. but voting in the right people will help? Not in this lifetime. OUr system is too corrupted by money.

  • JoyfulA on July 23, 2011 11:39 PM:

    @DelNorte: The Philly moneybags and Philly machine (and Rendell and Obama, etc.) were for Specter 100%. Sestak got very little institutional support and had to spend the summer after the primary raising money. He was a tireless campaigner (who returned to each county after the election to thank supporters) that fall, but in the last week, the DNC and DSCC diverted cash on hand from Sestak and others to Nevada for Reid's campaign. The Sestak TV ads dropped, and of course, the president of the Club for [billionaire] Growth never ran short of $.
    It was the Democratic establishment that threw the election to Toomey. We've been working to push them in a better direction, but it's uphill.


  • Shelly on July 23, 2011 11:41 PM:

    This fellow has something to say about why extremist organizations succeed where democratic movements have a harder time.

    Maajid Nawaz

    Those of us who are looking for a way to change the course of events by engaging voters might find this interesting!

  • yellowdog on July 24, 2011 12:47 AM:

    Education of the electorate? What you have to realize is that Fox Watchers consider themselves fully and properly educated on the issues, thank you very much. They will resent any attempt to be 'educated' by snobby-sounding elites. They have long since stopped paying attention to any non-approved news outlet. They have nothing but ridicule for anyone whose authority is not vouched for by one of the company men/women. They already know who is with 'em and who is against 'em. They will accept being 'educated' about the same time they accept Michelle Obama telling them to eat more vegetables.

    In Fox culture, the smug-o-meter is very sensitive. Anything that comes across even slightly as we-KNOW-better-than-you-know sounds to Foxified ears way too much like we-ARE-better-than-you-are. It may be well meaning, but smarty-pants liberalism can be its own worst enemy at times.

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  • a on July 24, 2011 1:46 AM:

    When does Caesar cross the Rubicon?

  • nk007 on July 24, 2011 2:03 AM:

    @Johnny Canuck,

    I figured by the end of the day some one would end up blaming PRESIDENT Obama. Do you really have an idea the myriad of issues he has to attend to, each and every day? Shouldn't this the business of the media to objectively educate the media of what exactly raising the debt ceiling entails, as well as pointing out that Congress has raised the debt ceiling 89 times without to much fan-fare?

  • nk007 on July 24, 2011 2:09 AM:

    Sorry! I meant to say "Shouldn't this be the business of the media to objectively educate the PEOPLE (not the media)"

  • Holmes on July 24, 2011 2:57 AM:

    There's nothing contradictory about blaming Republicans in Congress ever for their utter cynicism, if not nihilism, and also blaming Obama for putting the key accomplishments of the Democratic Party on the chopping block, not to mention continuing Bush's wars and national security state excesses and abuses.

    I voted for Obama but I agree with Krugman: Obama's proposed rise in the age of Medicare eligibility was a real betrayal of both Democratic principles and good government. The White House has been reinforcing the phony Republican message that the deficit rather than putting Americans back to work ought to be first priority.

  • nk007 on July 24, 2011 4:35 AM:

    @Holmes,

    I wish you, and the eminent Professor Krugman, would try your hand at governing a diverse country where progressives are not in a majority in either houses of Congress! I am on medicare and I would rather see it sustained, over the long haul, even if I have to sacrifice a little, than simply holding on to phony unspecified "Democratic principles."

    Where were you when Tip "O'Neal, Pat Moynahan and others compromised with Ronald Reagan to make changes in Medicare? Where were you, and Professor Krugman, when Bill Clinton made changes in medicare, and practically did away with AFDC and gutted Affirmative Action? Is Bill Clinton a Democrat in good standing? If he is try checking out his record and compare it to that of President Obama.

    I am just so sick and tired of "holier than thou" Democrats who are just as vicious in attacking this President as the teabaggers. I don't think any fair minded person who listened to President Obama last night, and who is not beholden to Krugman, Hamsher, Green and Greenwald, would agree that President Obama is betraying "both Democratic principles and good government." By the way, what exactly do you mean by good government? Does that include accumulating massive deficits?

    I say to you and Professor Krugman, please run for office and show us how it's done to advance pure progressive ideas. Please do it! Put your money where your mouths are. Show us how you would enact progressive ideas in a House of Representative dominated by not just conservatives but by radical right wing anarchists.

    It is really amazing that President Obama has been able to get anything done given the non-stop vicious attacks, from both the left and the right, that he has been subjected almost from day one of his presidency.

  • j on July 24, 2011 6:11 AM:

    And now from Boehner, McConnell & co.
    WORDT PROPOSAL EVER =BECAUSE THEY ARE COWARDS THEY ARE PROPOSING THE FORMATION OF A 'SUPER CONGRESS= TO ENABLE GETTING THINGS THROUGH EASILY - BECVAUSE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE LOTHE TO GIVE UP THINGS LIKE SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE!!! IS IT TIME FOR THE REVOLUTION YET

  • mr.irony on July 24, 2011 6:27 AM:

    "We are not going to be any different than we have been."

    - House Minority Leader John Boehner 9/23/10

  • Shelly on July 24, 2011 7:56 AM:

    @yellowdog: Full agreement, 100%. We're not interested in educating Fox Watchers. We want to get the word out to people who CAN hear the message, but who are turned off by politics. The people whose voting rights are being pulled out from under them. The people who depend on the media who aren't therefore getting the full story. We can start by putting a link to Washington Monthly in our email signatures.

  • jhand on July 24, 2011 8:34 AM:

    For some reason, the idea of "worst congress ever" got me thinking about historical parallels, and the era of Cromwell in England came to mind. A quick tour of "Cromwell" in Wikipedia told me that these right-wing religious fanatics not only managed to overthrow a king, but also practice nascent forms of genocide on Scotland, and especially Ireland (severe religious differences, you know). As Cromwell emerged as the great leader of this movement, Parliaments evolved from the Long to the Rump to, finally, the Bare Bones Parliament. Even this form of representative rule was too much for the pathological religio-political leaders of the English Republicans, who then named Cromwell the Lord Protector, or dictator, until his death. A good example of how fruitfully politics and religion mix to produce a society of domestic tranquillity.

  • Sapient on July 24, 2011 8:38 AM:

    Thank you, Shelly. The Washington Monthly signature idea is a move that could be very effective.

  • Velcro on July 30, 2011 1:03 PM:

  • Velcro on July 30, 2011 1:07 PM:

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