Political Animal

Blog

January 12, 2012 1:20 PM Why we can’t have nice things

By Steve Benen

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) appeared on MSNBC this morning, and spoke briefly about his perspective on the nature of compromise.

“[S]aying to compromise now, and I use this analogy a lot, is just like a coach telling his team to go out and work with the other guys and cooperate with them. The Democrats are there to beat us. Every policy that they introduce is to centralize power. They are completely incapable of cutting spending because their constituency is based on dependency on government and those who want more from government.”

As a matter of policy, we know DeMint isn’t telling the truth. Democrats in the Obama era, much like Democrats in the Clinton era, have cut quite a bit of spending. And as part of the “grand bargain” offer and the so-called super-committee process, Dems were prepared to cut even more, in exchange for some concessions from Republicans. GOP leaders refused.

But it’s that first part of the response that stood out. As Kate Conway put it, “Perhaps governing is all a game to DeMint, but his analogy should worry the real people who have elected him to represent their interests. Viewing his job as inherently combative in nature means rejecting one of its primary objectives — keeping the federal government up and running.”

That’s not an exaggeration. The American system of government, especially at the federal level, was developed after a series of compromises, and relies on additional compromises to complete even the most basic tasks. At a basic, structural level, the story of “how a bill becomes a law” is a story about … you guessed it … compromise.

Take the existing landscape, for example. First, House Republicans have to compromise among themselves, and maybe consider dealing with House Democrats. From there, the House and Senate have to compromise. In time, Congress and the White House have to compromise.

We don’t have a parliamentary system; we have separate branches with a variety of choke points. Compromise is built into the cake.

Except as DeMint helps remind us this morning, congressional Republicans no longer see it that way. Every conflict is a zero-sum game in which elected officials from the other party aren’t just rivals, but practically enemies. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) made the case against compromise last week, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) didn’t even want to say “compromise” out loud a year ago, adding, “I reject the word.”

Of course, if Democrats approached every policy dispute with the identical attitudes, our system of government would shut down.

DeMint wasn’t asked this today, but I’d be curious how he envisions Congress making any laws at all. If compromise isn’t an option, could Washington only function when one party has the White House, the House majority, and a filibuster-proof Senate majority?

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.

Comments

Post a comment
  • Perspecticus on January 12, 2012 1:34 PM:

    In a sane world, the outrage from all corners would result in Issa's resignation by nightfall. In the world we live in, he will be hailed as a hero on the right, ignored by the media, and the left's outrage will be brushed off as partisan politics.

    And since we are talking terrible analogies, I liken the GOP's X-Games meets Thunderdome theory to governance to the dog who doesn't know when to stop playing. You know the dog. You get playing with him but it's time to calm down and get serious but the dog fails to acknowledge the shift so he keeps biting at your sleeves and jumping all over the place until a stray tooth draws blood and the lamp shatters on the marble floor. That's what the GOP is like.

  • c u n d gulag on January 12, 2012 1:35 PM:

    "DeMint wasn’t asked this today, but I’d be curious how he envisions Congress making any laws at all."

    That's simple - when the Democrats capitulate completely to their Republican betters, and make a big show of it by bowing, genuflecting, and kissing their rings and feet, and are therefore allowed to stay alive another day to help their betters craft more laws.

    Now THAT'S how Congress would work, "DeMented Style!"

    And will, if Republicans ever get in complete charge before some degree of sanity enters their steel-reinforced heads and hearts.

    PS:
    American voters - putting religious absolutists in power is no way to run a country. And if you can't see that, then you're either one of them, or F'IN BLIND!!!

  • RepublicanPointOfView on January 12, 2012 1:39 PM:

    Washington DC should only function when the republican party has the White House, the House majority, and a Senate majority. We do not need a filibuster proof majority in the senate because we have enough corporately owned democrat senators to get our way.

  • Mike on January 12, 2012 1:40 PM:

    I wish the Jim DeMint of this morning could take a lesson from the Jim DeMint of last night from The Daily Show's extended interview.

    I guess it just shows how shallow his intellectual depth really is (he didn't want to get reamed by a comedian) or how shallow his "beliefs" are compared with his desire to sell books (he wanted to sell books and being a firebrand wouldn't have gone over well)...

    either way, what a sad representation of a man that holds a position of power previously reserved for people of intellectual heft.

  • TCinLA on January 12, 2012 1:41 PM:

    Someone is surprised when some brain-dead white dumbass from South Carolina, the heart and soul of everything bad about America ever since 1715 (white supremacy as a defense of slavery, the genocidal form of "manifest destiny," out and out treason, etc., etc.), says something like this? "South Carolina, too small for a republic and too large for an asylum," as William Pinckney said in 1860.

  • Anonymous on January 12, 2012 1:43 PM:

    @Perspecticusso he keeps biting at your sleeves and jumping all over the place until a stray tooth draws blood and the lamp shatters on the marble floor. That's what the GOP is like.
    Except the dog would blame YOU for the broken lamp. And complain as you cleaned it up.

  • Anonymous on January 12, 2012 1:44 PM:

    "Of course, if Democrats approached every policy dispute with the identical attitudes, our system of government would shut down."

    Or maybe it wouldn't.

    If Democrats approached policy disputes with identical attitudes, Republicans might begin to see that Democrats are not weasels without a backbone willing to cave at any moment. Maybe Democrats would get a more progressive agenda enacted.

    Republicans take their attitude largely because it's worked for them.

  • JJF on January 12, 2012 1:45 PM:

    "Of course, if Democrats approached every policy dispute with the identical attitudes, our system of government would shut down."

    Or maybe it wouldn't.

    If Democrats approached policy disputes with identical attitudes, Republicans might begin to see that Democrats are not weasels without a backbone willing to cave at any moment. Maybe Democrats would get a more progressive agenda enacted.

    Republicans take their attitude largely because it's worked for them.

  • newinfluence on January 12, 2012 1:49 PM:

    Steve, you forgot to include that Boehner, (I believe on 60 Minutes,) said that this actually IS how they see government to have been designed. He said that the founders purposely made it messy so things wouldn't get through. He said, though I truly doubt that he really believes, that the way the House GOP is leading is working.

  • Quaker in a Basement on January 12, 2012 1:49 PM:

    Ditto gulag. He's faster than I am.

  • Liberal Sandlapper on January 12, 2012 1:49 PM:

    Speaking as a South Carolinian, I wish Demint would simply go away. He's an embarrassment to the human race.

    However, people like TCinLA are no better than Demint. Condemning an entire state for the actions of some a$$hole like Demint is no better than his statements on issues like gay rights or liberals. GFY.

  • SW on January 12, 2012 1:49 PM:

    Well he just told you is you are too stupid to understand English. You can't work with these people. You have to beat them. It is long past time to start beating the holy living shit out of them.

  • stormskies on January 12, 2012 1:50 PM:

    If compromise isn’t an option, could Washington only function when one party has the White House, the House majority, and a filibuster-proof Senate majority?

    **********

    This of course is exactly the goal of these Repiglicans. So of course they are doing all they can to make that happen including suppressing the vote of millions of Americans. If they actually arrived at their goal, at that point, they would then proceed to eliminate even more voters who were not 'like them'. For example, only allowing people to vote who owned property. Or to pass this or that test. Or to have a certain net worth. These pigs don't want a Democracy. They want a fascist Plutocracy.

  • Josef K on January 12, 2012 1:51 PM:

    Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) appeared on MSNBC this morning, and spoke briefly about his perspective on the nature of compromise.

    Why this man - or any of his caucus come to it - are allowed out in public without a leash and muzzle escapes me.

  • stormskies on January 12, 2012 1:57 PM:

    Why this man - or any of his caucus come to it - are allowed out in public without a leash and muzzle escapes me.

    he and his caucus also need rabie shots ......

  • Hmmmmm on January 12, 2012 2:08 PM:

    I found this part of the quote quite maddening:

    "They [Dems] are completely incapable of cutting spending because their constituency is based on dependency on government and those who want more from government."

    More implied stereotyping on the first charge (dependency: poor, minorities) and dead wrong on the second - of course people want things from their government, including those who can afford the moon.

    But in fact, isn't the war machine and its supporters/cheerleaders completely dependent on government spending? Better watch it DeMint. Some astute reporter might catch you on that one... naaaaah...

  • Hmmmmm on January 12, 2012 2:16 PM:

    Adding to my comment above:

    And aren't the Repubs the ones who refuse to cut military spending? Of course they always point to national security, war on terror, etc. Never a mention that some of their biggest supporters might lose money.

  • john sherman on January 12, 2012 2:17 PM:

    DeMint is even wrong about games, which assume substantial agreement on rules and conduct, sometimes--most famously cricket--rules that are not spelled out. What he is describing is a bar fight in a particularly awful bar.

  • penalcolony on January 12, 2012 2:26 PM:

    Doubtful that DeMint perceives governing as a "game." Instead, like most Johnny Reb degenerates, he sees it as the continuation of the Lost Cause by other means, proceeding from hatred of everything in the world that isn't Southern and white.

  • Kiweagle on January 12, 2012 2:27 PM:

    @Hmmmmm on January 12, 2012 2:16 PM: Exactly what I was thinking when I read that quote, which is that it is the GOP who fervently believes in socialism for corporations and wealthy. Went bankrupt through investments aimed at ripping off their clients and outright fraud? That's okay, we'll bail you out! Make over a million dollars and hate paying taxes? That's okay, we'll lower your tax burden and make the middle class pay more!

    @john sherman on January 12, 2012 2:17 PM: Having lived in New Zealand I am more than familiar with cricket, but I seriously doubt that even a fraction of the American commenters here would have clue - nor should they.

  • jjm on January 12, 2012 2:38 PM:

    Grover Norquist, touting a permanent Republican presidency, was asked 'what if a Democrat were elected?'

    His response: "We wouldn't let him govern."

  • Peter C on January 12, 2012 2:56 PM:

    DeMint and all the Republicans are using a different paradigm, and we cannot switch the paradigm back.

    We can no longer treat them as 'my friend across the aisle'. They are zealots out to destroy us and they will lie and cheat and steal without qualms. Whenever we treat them as reasonable or honorable or rational, we give them credibility which they do not deserve.

    They've decided that Democracy is about maximizing their power by any means necessary and Capitalism is about maximizing their wealth at the expense of all else, and that is how they will 'play' this 'game'.

  • memekiller on January 12, 2012 3:27 PM:

    Of course, if Democrats acted like Republicans, nothing would get done, as opposed to the way it is now, in which only the Republican agenda gets done, so it would be an improvement.

    The problem is, up until now, the only way anything gets done is with the GOP in total control or giving the GOP partial control and having the Dems play defense and compromise. It is not until both parties play the same game that we reach mutually assured stagnation, and then and only then is compromise the only way to get things moving.

  • Drew P on January 12, 2012 3:33 PM:

    Aside from his deluded perceptions of Democratic goals, Demint can't even get his analogy straight.

    NEWS FLASH TO DEMINT: The U.S. is your team. Both Republicans and Democrats are on this team. Maybe Repubs are offense and Dems are defense, or vice versa, but for crying out loud, Dems aren't there to beat their own team -- and neither are Republicans. Both should be doing their part to help the entire U.S. team win, no matter what side of the ball they are on.

    And guess what: Republicans' attitude and approach is dragging down the entire U.S. team.

  • Savviken on January 12, 2012 4:52 PM:

    The human barriers of Congress should start wearing uniforms of red and white stripes with flashing orange lights on their heads. During the Bush regime the Democrats gave in time and again so as to avoid the label of "obstructionists" , thinking that was a bad thing. Now the GOP have taken the concept of obstructionism to new lows. It will be very interestin�g to see if the electorate rewards or punishes the GOP for the �Republica�n Roadblock� shimmy and shake dance marathon. If the GOP retains control of the House and/or take control of the Senate and/or The White House the message is very clear; we approve and appreciate your playing human sink stopper. Thus will we then encourage all future Congressio�nal minority party�s to play the same role and we can enter a period of permanent gridlock. The only alternativ�e allowing forward motion will then be single party super-majo�rity control of the two branches. This of course eliminates compromise as a requisite tool in the democracy toolbox. Instead of gridlock we wind up with hyper-part�isan legislatio�n shoved down the minority party�s throat. At some point we the people need to stand up and say enough is enough. Maybe we can make every legislator sign a Norquist like Compromise Pledge promising to seek out balanced, nuanced solutions to our nation�s problems.

  • PTate in MN on January 12, 2012 6:28 PM:

    That's an astonishing amount of mean-spirited jibberish to squeeze into 70 words! Demint manages to start with a bizarre, false analogy, move through not one but two paranoid fears and end with a flourish of coded racism. In its own nutty way, that's impressive.

    I wish a reporter would ask Demint to elaborate on the differences and similiarities between a competitive sport like football and democracy.

  • schtick on January 12, 2012 6:45 PM:

    The truth of the matter is that the dimwit dems reduce the size of government and the tealiban increases the size of government. This will never be said in any media because they are run by the tealiban and they are spineless like the dimwit dems.

  • Anonymous on January 12, 2012 7:43 PM:

    DeMint's attitude is common among Republican politicians, but I think it's gotten this bad mostly thanks to the Democratic party's passivity. More and more over the past three decades, the Democrats have stopped representing the working people. Instead, the political left has dissipated its energies in a bunch of "culture war" issues that, in the end, are basically issues championed by wealthy white people -- issues like feminism, gay equality, animal rights, environmentalism, and starving children in Africa.

    Meanwhile, the Democratic party has shifted to the right; it's still on the left side of the Republican party, but both parties are well away from the center. So when Republicans accuse the Democrats of "class war," instead of the Democrats standing up for the principles of social justice we expect them to believe in, they rush to the Republican side to assure them that they don't mean it.

  •  
  •  
  •