Responding to the Tea Party’s Secession By Other Means
October 13, 2013
In considering the root of the current divide that has led to the government shut down, I am reminded of a 1994 visit I made to a German refugee center where immigrants from the former Soviet bloc with some minimal German ancestry could claim their German citizenship. This was a privilege that was not extended to the Italians, Turks and other immigrants who had came in and rebuilt Germany after the war. At this time, Europe was seeing a resurgence of xenophobic right wing parties (such as the National Front in France) as part of a backlash against increased immigration.
It occurred to me at that time that one major advantage that the United States has over other countries is that we define American not by ethnic characteristics but by our shared beliefs. I anticipated that Germany and other Western European countries could face turmoil in the coming decades as they struggled with what it meant to be “German” or “French”, while in the United States we would be standing tall as one nation, indivisible throughout.
As the current government shutdown approaches its third week, it is clear that this is no longer the case. A recent Pew survey shows a surge in partisan polarization in the past decade fueled largely by a sharp turn to the right by Republicans with dramatic drops in support for a labor unions (down 17%), a social safety net (down 28%) and environmental regulation (down 39%). Other recent polls show the GOP taking more extreme ideological positions that ignores all evidence to the contrary.
For example, polls show Republicans believe:
- the theory of evolution is wrong (68%);
- President Obama was born in another country (64%);
- global warming is a hoax (58%);
- ACORN, which folded in 2010, stole the 2012 election for Obama (49%); and
- Obama is the anti-Christ (20%)
As Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein write in It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, the Republican Party has become
ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
To this very point, fifty-seven percent (57%) of Republicans think President Obama should be impeached (presumably for the high crime of whooping their behind in consecutive elections), while twenty-five percent (25%) of Republicans stated that they would like their state to secede following Obama’s reelection. It is worth nothing that a significant portion of the Republican’s Dixie base remains ambivalent about the last secession, with a plurality of Mississippi Republicans still wishing that the South had won the war and believing that interracial marriages should be illegal.
Having failed at the ballot box and been unsuccessful in their 40-plus attempts to repeal Obamacare, Republicans are now openly engaged in sabotage through a legislative coup attempt which Bill Moyers calls “secession by other means.”
The question then turns to how do we avert another Fort Sumter? Just as General Grant’s victory at Vicksburg gave the Americans control over the Mississippi River and divided the Confederacy in two, Democrats must reach out to reasonable Republicans to find a solution that strengthens their hand at the expense of the tea party radicals. Both will want to avoid the United States defaulting on its obligations and both have an interest in ensuring that the result is seen as a defeat for the tea party.
Republicans should heed the words of their first President, Abraham Lincoln, who warned
we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. . . . The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation
The tragedy, however, is that responsible Republicans may be too few in number or lack the courage to take on their bomb-throwing colleagues, leaving the nation trapped in gridlock until elections thirteen months away.
Should that happen, President Obama should stand before Congress and call out this insurrection for what it is and tell the Tea Party they cannot wear both the blue and the grey. He should appeal to the American people to unite based upon values we agree upon, with the most important one being majority not minority rule and that no party or faction can hold the American people hostage.