Friday, October 18, 2013

Two Laments

I have two laments. One, for the state of the Republican party as it exists today. Two, for the evil that is the Hastert Rule, and how it can bring our country to this kind of stupid, completely preventable crisis.

We don't have a party that represents the middle class. I wish we did, or that we could abolish all parties. But that's not the state of affairs we're in.

The conventional wisdom is that when a third political party enters the scene, it acts only as a spoiler. You have party A and party B, but now suddenly there is party A1 and A2, they split their votes, and only part B wins. A2 is not really a viable party, and it ruins A1's chances of winning.

But something insidious has happened here. Instead of creating a third party, a small, highly vocal, and incredibly extreme faction has remained within the larger party. The party has been hijacked from within, while nobody was watching. This was made possible by the establishment underestimating them, leading to unexpected wins. These wins were followed by unusual redistricting, which, instead of making them more competitive in districts they usually lose, completely locked down a few districts so that the other party is irrelevant in those places. They may never win a majority in the Senate again, or win the Presidency again, but they can never lose those districts.

That, coupled with party loyalty (the Hastert Rule), has created a tyranny of the super-minority. You should know about the Hastert Rule.

The Hastert Rule (an informal practice since the 90's) means that no Republican Speaker of the House will bring anything to a vote unless a majority of the Republican party says they'll vote in favor. Everyone says they want bipartisanship, but that's the most blatantly partisan practice in our government today. Something needs to be done about House rules, permanently, to make this impossible.

As long as Republicans hold 51% of the house, then 51% of Republicans (or a minimum of 26% of the House) can wreak havoc. That's what happened this month, in case you weren't paying attention. The Hastert Rule makes compromise impossible, especially when you have people whose seats are impervious to challenge coming to the bargaining table with nothing to offer except agreement to things that everyone wants, even them.

The worst part of this, to me, is seeing people's blindness. Their failure to see what's going on. Out of blind loyalty to the name Republican, many people just automatically pick that side. They don't realize their own party is no longer recognizable, because it has a cancer. They can't see how irresponsibly it's acting.

A news article I just read calls the Republican party "splintered." Let's hope it breaks completely. Then we can see compromise again. We can see progress again. We can see real, good-faith negotiation again.


  1. My question is, do the mainstream Republicans understand what the fringe element is doing to their party? Have they made some (erroneous) calculation that openly contradicting the nutters can't happen because they'll lose those votes? And in so doing, not realizing that the crazies will ultimately cost them, particularly since women and non-whites are allowed to vote? Surely they're not that bad on strategy?

  2. I think the mainstream Republicans know perfectly well what the tea party is doing to their party. But they don't know what the hell to do about it. A tea party primary challenge will be mounted if they step out of line, and in most parts of the country the tea party challengers seem to be winning those primaries.