The party that forgot how to govern

His party holds enormous power.  But can they wield it?

His party holds enormous power. But can they wield it?

First a bit of historical trivia.  Many of the Founding Fathers actively loathed the idea of political parties or “factions.”  But almost from the start, those same political leaders found that the jostling interests of the new Republic demanded some kind of organizing principle.  A factionless state might be fine in theory.  But to actively govern, to organize reasonably like-minded citizens into coherent movements, and establish clear lines of engagement on the big issues of the day, we needed relatively stable, recognizable and coherent parties.

I mention this context because it’s important to remember that almost from the start political parties have served as a clumsy but apparently necessary tool for channeling our idealism and our often conflicting visions of America into real-world platforms and workable policies.  And it’s also clear that in these first decades of the 21st century, the Republican Party has lost much of its capacity to fulfill this most essential responsibility:  converting passion and ideological zeal into something like a real capacity to govern.

The obvious case in point is the battle over funding for the Homeland Security department.  A small faction of Republicans have insisted upon linking the DHS budget to the issue of illegal immigration.  Rather than create some kind of legislation that would resolve the nation’s immigration woes, the GOP essentially took part of the government hostage.  By the end of the week, the best that Republican leaders could muster was a bill extending Homeland Security’s budget by a meager seven days.

As North Country congresswoman Elise Stefanik put it, “a one week extension is not the way to run our government.”  Indeed, much of the commentary on the DHS-funding fiasco has centered on the political blunder it represents and the circular firing squad sensibility that colors so much of the Republican Party’s internal politics.  But it’s more important, I think, to grapple with the challenges that emerge when one of our two major governing parties has ceased to show any kind of ability to actually use government as a tool at the national level.

Gridlock within the GOP

Consider the state of play of healthcare.  Republicans have known for more than half a decade that the Affordable Care Act was anathema to their world-view.  Which is perfectly fine.  They may be right that there were better ways to improve and extend access to healthcare for more Americans.  But the GOP has made no meaningful effort to come up with a workable alternative.  The party is so weak in its capacity to marshal itself for collective action, that it’s doubtful that the various rivaling factions could rally behind any one plan.

That very thing happened with immigration reform.  Republicans in the Senate achieved a compromise bill, working with Democrats and the White House, only to see their work scuttled by a clique of GOP conservatives in the House.

Put bluntly, a big part of what political parties do is help find the center, while relegating “back benchers” and party radicals to, well, the back benches.  This still happens regularly with the Democrats.  Liberal firebrands influence policy and their voices are heard.  But at the end of the day, the Democratic Party rallies around centrist legislation, often including a wide range of conservative and Republican ideas.

Republicans used to do the same.  From Richard Nixon’s move to create the Environmental Protection Agency to George H. W. Bush’s support for the Americans With Disabilities Act and his ban on the importation of assault rifles, there is a long history of GOP compromise and governance.  But the anti-government rhetoric has gone so far within the GOP that it’s far safer politically for members of the national party to talk about secession than about compromise.

When secession is okay but compromise is a sin…

Just last month, libertarian favorite Ron Paul gave a speech where he once again called for “nullification, the breaking up of government, and the good news is it’s gonna happen. It’s happening.”  That kind of blunt, scorched-earth view of the practicalities of government, from one of the GOP’s most influential faction leaders, drew no critical response, no backlash.  Yet when Mitch McConnell brought forward a bill that would keep DHS funded through September, a critic accused him of “capitulation.”

It’s important to remember, as we score the Republican Party’s efforts to lead Congress — with dominant majorities now in both chambers — how this is supposed to work.  Both sides, Democrats and Republicans, are supposed to offer up the things they want.  Then they horse-trade, finding out exactly which priorities and principles are essential and which are battles that can be fought another day.  That’s how two-party governance works.  You win a little, you lose a little.

From immigration to healthcare reform to the Keystone XL pipeline, the GOP should make demands and fight for them, but also be ready to listen to the other side and make concessions and give Democrats and the White House something worth swapping for.  On the pipeline project, for example, why not trade approval of Keystone XL for a huge new national investment in renewable energy?  Why not link changes to unpopular and broken parts of the Affordable Care Act with an agreement to help bolster and improve parts of the law that work?

But at this point, that kind of productive realpolitik seems all but inconceivable for the Party of Lincoln.  The idea that all sides would sit down and hash out a sane, complex and dissatisfying-for-all-parties immigration reform package seems as remote as the conservative utopian Ayn Randian vision that so many Republicans seem to think is right around the corner.  Indeed, it’s unclear whether Republicans, after years in the opposition, still have the kind of old-fashioned, nuts-and-bolts legislators — men like Denny Hastert and Newt Gingrich — who could bridge the worlds of ideology and active governance.

A House of Representatives divided against itself

The truth is that these days the Republican Party’s various factions loathe one-another.  At CPAC, the conservative conference held this week, speakers heaped scorn on President Obama, but they also savaged one-another, expressing a kind of visceral disdain.  Ronald Reagan’s famous 11th commandment — “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican” — has been abandoned by the tribal leaders of the modern party.  And many conservative Republicans are convinced that Democrats and the people who elect them are un-American, enemies of the Republic, miscreants and traitors not to be trusted.  They live within an ideology where the American government itself is viewed as a hostile, occupying force, where a citizen buys a handgun or an assault rifle not just for sport or personal protection, but as an expression of armed political resistance.

That all worked fine so long as Democrats were the party in power and Republicans could revel in the role of political bomb-throwers and evangelical speech-makers.  But now that the GOP holds defining power in Washington, this stridently anti-government mindset is being tested against reality.  So far, the results for all Americans haven’t been pretty.

58 Comments on “The party that forgot how to govern”

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  1. Pete Klein says:

    Right on, Brian.
    And it would be fair to ask some Republicans, “If you hate this country so much, why don’t you just go live some place else.”
    When you start talking and acting as though you think everyone but you is evil, aren’t you acting like an Islamic terrorists?

  2. Jim Bullard says:

    This strong central government vs one that could be “drowned in a bathtub” debate was at the core of what was hashed out in the constitutional convention. There were plenty of ‘bomb throwers’ there too, a few even left before the convention was over in order to go back home and build resistance to ratification of the constitution. In the end, those who stayed *compromised* on a system that has worked for over 200 years, a system that was ratified by all the states because when it came down to it they recognized that a weak central government wouldn’t work. Under the Articles of Confederation the former colonies were in grave danger of falling apart economically and politically. Since then the union has not only grown in size but in complexity and the libertarian vision is a fantasy. I’m pleased that Brian referred to Ayn Rand as a utopian because that is what she was and utopians all share the same flaw. They have an (unsubstantiated) belief that if the system they believe in, be it political, economic, philosophical or in the case of B.F. Skinner, psychological, that everyone will just fall into place within that system and everything will be peachy. NOT! The only systems that have worked are compromises and compromises only work until a significant segment takes the position of “my way or the highway”. The problem is though that they always want everyone else to take the highway so Pete should not expect them to go someplace else soon.

  3. Peter says:

    There’s not a dime’s thickness of difference between the two parties and if you don’t think they are equally culpable for the ineptitude and incompetence of governance, then you are fooling yourself.

  4. Brian Mann says:

    Peter –

    I don’t think what you’re saying can be supported by the facts. Democrats, working with some Republicans, have worked out a number of complex, specific policies which they were ready to make political sacrifices and compromises to achieve. The Affordable Care Act is an example. That’s a policy that many hard-line liberals and progressives hated because it wasn’t “single-payer” and it included too large a role for corporations and for-profit insurers. But they compromised and enacted it.

    Democrats also aligned themselves with a specific set of immigration reforms, despite the fact that some of the changes demanded by Republicans in the US Senate made them deeply unhappy. That bipartisan bill was passed by the US Senate and scotched by Republicans in the House.

    Under Barack Obama, Democrats also pushed through a series of economic stimulus plans that were shaped in great portion by Republican ideas and policies that many Democrats deeply dislike (tax breaks instead of increased deficit spending, for example, and much smaller packages).

    Finally, it’s worth noting that Democrats participated closely in the waging of an active and — for many liberals — deeply controversial war effort in the post-Bush era, from the surge in Afghanistan to the accelerated campaign of drone strikes. In carrying out these policies, Obama employed not one but two Republican defense secretaries, while also appointing a Republican congressman to serve as Secretary of the Army.

    You may dislike the policy ideas that resulted from these compromises, but they fall well within the long-standing tradition of bipartisan compromise in modern US politics. What is aberrational, historically speaking, is a political party that views any negotiation or compromise with Democratic leaders as something akin to treason.

    –Brian, NCPR

  5. Mr. Kent says:

    The modern Republican Party is the illegitimate son of President Ronald Reagan fully grown. He planted the seed when in his first inaugural address he stated ” Government is not the solution to our problem Government is the problem.” He had some of the great speech writers of our time, Khachigian, Noonan, and Peter Robinson who wrote the ” Tear down this wall..” speech for him. Reagan, being an actor at trade, delivered his lines well. And then he went on to do just the opposite; He doubled the size of Government and tripled the deficit in his eight years and sold weapons to our great antagonist Iran to fund a secret war. By executive order he granted amnesty to millions of “illegals.” All facts lost to those that followed him, and now every republican declares themselves to be a ” Reagan Republican.” It is an oath one must take. Even the catch all now used by any republican is that all you have to do is use the word” Liberal” to describe an idea and the conversation is over. No debate needed. Never mind that our country was founded by liberals. It is the essence of liberty.

    And now the Republican party has as it’s platform the destruction of government as it’s goal. Often clearly stated by it’s leaders. ” If elected I will eliminate the EPA.” ” …I will eliminate the department of education…Commerce..Energy…..Education…” It is to the point they cannot even remember all the departments they want to eliminate. Ooops!

    And that has led us to where we are today. Why would republicans want to govern when so many of them do not believe in government? They wish to make inoperable those things they cannot eliminate. The right wing “conservatives” now compromise one-third of the party and until the other two-thirds of the party sets their naughty little boys in the corner with their well deserved dunce caps on, then nothing will change.

    This whole immigration debate is simply this; Republican leaders do not want any form of legal status allowed because it would/could lead to citizenship and their pollsters have told them those citizens would probably not vote for republicans in the future. That is it in whole. They prefer holding office over providing any solutions.

    Then there is this possibility; Maybe they have no solutions to offer up? so the mission now is ” search and Destroy.”

  6. Brian Mann says:

    Mr. Kent –

    I think the ideological tension that you describe is a real thing. Reagan’s ‘government is the problem, not the solution’ argument shaped the political sensibilities of a lot of today’s congressional leaders.

    That said, it’s fair to point out that as recently as the Bush years (the second Bush), Republicans were still pushing through complex, compromise-based policies, including the prescription drug benefit and No Child Left behind.

    The elder George Bush compromised on tax increases and pushed through immigration reform that was bipartisan. So the history of how we got to this place is complicated and full of weird detours.

    How we got to a place where Republicans can’t even reliably fund a part of the government that their party created and devoutly supports? I’m still struggling to understand that.

    –Brian, NCPR

  7. PirateEdwardLow says:

    Not funding Department of Homeland Security, when your rhetoric has made the need for security at home, is obtuse.

    Republicans are quick to shoot their mouths off about so many things, in ways that are factless beyond belief.

    They take the figurative cliche of ‘shooting oneself in the foot,’ and turning it into a literal statement that appears to be the foundation plank in the Goofy Obstructionist Party (GOP) platform

  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    BM: “I’m still struggling to understand that.”

    We are living in a fundamentalist era. Fundamentalist Islamists, Jews, and Christians (some atheists and Buddhists, too) alike have gained a disproportionate voice in civil society across the world. Not that they are the majority, but they have enough numbers to skew the rest of society. And the problem with fundamentalists is that they do not care about the sort of ideals that make modern civilizations work so they are willing to let the current status collapse or even work actively to make it fail because they believe it is their interest for that failure to happen and then they will pick up the pieces.

  9. Mr. Kent says:

    Mr. Mann-

    You are kinder than I am about this. It is true that GW Bush pushed through a prescription drug benefit , but he never funded it. He not only did not raise revenue to pay for it, he exacerbated the problem by lowering taxes for certain ” segments” and groups. The republican party then blamed President Obama for our “debt” without mentioning that much of that increased debt was due to unfunded programs and the interest accrued during republican administrations. If it was truly a compromise with the Democrats, then he would have raised taxes to pay for it.
    I will never know what to make of NCLB. It is the first time that the federal government has made federal law to assess students and set standards for students and teachers. That is a good thing in my opinion, but again, did it create problems for schools because of unfunded mandates? I don’t know. Maybe it was all just a political stunt because Democrats have traditionally been seen as better for education to voters. GWB approached NCLB the same way he went at the ” Iraq War”- by the seat of his pants. Another endeavor he never paid for. Remember when Democrats were catching ” hell” and being labeled traitors for demanding that GWB include it in his budget or they would not fund it?
    It really is not compromise in my book until republicans decide to look the people in the eye and be honest and say ‘ We will have to raise taxes’ in order to have these programs. I need for them to say ” We believe in increased funding for Defense and will have to raise revenues to pay for it because it is impossible to balance the budget by just making cuts to domestic programs.” Then I would call it compromise.
    That is the only straw that will ever break this camel’s back, and I have yet to hear any republican admit it.
    Regardless, your article is well done. As usual. I thought of the ” Piano Man” lyrics..” while reading it- “Man(n) what are you doing here?” It should be an Op Ed in the NY Times and a hundred other newspapers.
    Excellent work.

  10. Two Cents says:

    ….the party that hasn’t forgot how to make suckey fish kissy noises…..

    what have they become? Canadian parliament?
    Boehner is a boner

  11. mervel says:

    I don’t think it flows totally from Reagan. Reagan was a reaction to the excesses of the 1970’s which indeed were horrible. These guys come from Goldwater, from the John Birch Society, and from the academic’s of the Austrian and Chicago schools’, which indeed say that it is better to have NOTHING get done by government.

  12. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Reagan was a rat who fed the names of fellow actors to the FBI in the 50’s, worked with Hoover to squash the free speech movement in the 60’s and crushed the air traffic controllers union in the 80’s. His actions in helping to arm Iran against our ally, his support for the Contras in which the will of Congress was secretly subverted to help death squads which killed many innocents including Catholic priests and nuns, all along with planting the seeds of new radical fighters in the middle east show that while it wasn’t all Reagan he was certainly a big booster to zealotry.

    Je suis Archbishop Oscar Romero.

  13. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Sorry, Yo soy Archbishop Romero.

  14. Peter says:

    Utter absurdity

  15. Brian Mann says:

    Peter – Can I suggest making an intelligent, thoughtful argument, marshaling your facts, and engaging in actual conversation?

    –Brian, NCPR

  16. DanP says:

    It would seem that a major premise of the article is mistaken.

    The 1st amendment allowed for party like behavior, assembly, press (mass media), petition, but it could easily be applied to issue-oriented groups united by common interests. During ratification, Federalists vs. Antifederalist factions emerged. Early on, Democratic-Republicans vs. Federalists form the axis of alignments. Andrew Jackson’s movement was called the Democratic party; it was opposed by “National Republican Party” (not connected to Democratic Republican or the current Republican parties) who morphed into the Whigs. Around that time, there were the Anti-Masonic Party, the Free Soil party, an abolitionist Liberty Party, etc. The Republican Party emerged in the period leading up to the Civil War, absorbing many of the Whigs along with anti-slavery Democrats, with a lot of other Whigs going to the Constitutional Union Party. To this extent, there really wasn’t a fixed two party system, and especially, there was no legislation that acknowledged specific parties in the election process of the Federal Government until the Federal Government began funding campaigns as a response to Nixon’s corruption, with special consideration to the, then, two major parties. The connections of the modern parties to those that reflected the founders’ ideologies are very tenuous, weaving through a number of turmoils that impact us today, but not in ways always easily visible (the banking turmoils are among the most significant features almost completely hidden; slavery, the civil war, and reconstruction are the most visible). So the Founders also did not create fixed parties. The role of political movements (Nativists, Tammany, KKK and other southern anti-Republican, anti-reconstruction, and racist movements, Silverites, Goldbugs) and another Populist Party rounded out the 19th century. Theodore Roosevelt found himself running as another third party candidate – Bull Moose (in this context, not at all unreasonable). A lot of these movements continued to be reborn and have major impact in the early 20th century.

    Parties accumulate power by bringing groups clustered around a platform of interests under their umbrellas. In order to be effective, they also need to concentrate their voice and authority – achieved through a party discipline. Parties are at risk if specific groups under the umbrella become too uncomfortable with the platform, and if the party is unable to coerce them to stay under the umbrella without a coup. It used to be that the broad base required to win the general elections pushed candidates towards moderation, whereas the parties’ activist bases tended to be rather less moderate. Now, it appears that a centrist moderate polity isn’t so present, and the party bases are also not so moderate. It is perhaps more visible in the Republican party, but the Democratic Party’s base appears to be involved with more vocal and angry language (check your privilege being used as a tool to silence uninvited dissent).

    Last comment: it isn’t the job of parties to run government. They get candidates elected, and they do establish platforms (a form of exercise of petition). There is overlap – but it really is a job of compromise, and of trying to actually forge good legislation, perhaps at the expense of party ideology, but for the benefit of Americans. Everyone knows how to talk the talk, but most show themselves unwilling to walk the walk.

  17. dbw says:

    It can’t be overlooked that a plurality of Republican membership is in the South these days and as such, what we are seeing appears to be an expression of Southern grievance; states’ rights, secession, Bible Belt fundamentalism, etc. In its anti-government behavior, the Republican Party seems to be streaming George Wallace as much as Ronald Reagan. Political strategist Kevin Phillips and those who hatched the so-called “Southern Strategy” back in the late 60’s are responsible for the direction the Republican Party is headed. Mr. Lincoln must be rolling over in his grave. The gridlock and brittleness of our politics can not have come at a worst time. Beneath the more superficial level of politics, we are in the midst of converging crises caused by overshoot. Conflict continues to grow on an overcrowded planet. As we continue to draw down our remaining finite resources competition for what is left escalates. In the US high energy prices have hollowed out the national economy, and jobs have been sent overseas. A Republican Party capable of governing is essential if we are to have a chance of facing up to these converging crises. As Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself can not stand.”

  18. Peter says:

    Brian referenced the ACA as an example of good/decent/reasonable law. Have you ever read one of the 24,000 pages that was passed with no review? Have you ever read a page of tax code? Have you read any of the completely irrelevant riders in the HSA funding?

    Like I said earlier, both parties are culpable for the antics and IMO their behavior borders on treason: They have no interest in proper governance and they should be held accountable.

  19. Peter says:

    One party refuses to do what they believe is wrong. You oppose that.

  20. Brian Mann says:

    Peter –

    It’s important to react to what I’m actually saying.

    I didn’t write in praise of the ACA. I simply pointed to that law as an example of a party actually governing. Democrats saw a real-world problem (a rapidly growing number of Americans living without the basic dignity and security of health insurance and regular access to modern medical care) and they pushed through a flawed but workable piece of legislation aimed at addressing it.

    (There are roughly 20 million fewer Americans now without healthcare.)

    The ACA is clearly deeply flawed. But a) the sausage-making methods used to get it passed have been typical of the way that American legislation is crafted literally from the time the Founding Fathers pushed through the Constitution, and b) the way that a governing party reacts to flawed policy is by finding ways to pass legislation amending it. Rather than do that, the GOP has stood on a platform that the only conceivable response is to repeal ACA wholesale.

    They’ve maintained that posture despite the fact that they lack the political power to repeal ACA and despite the fact that they’ve come up with no actual governing policy to replace it.

    Finally, I’ll observe that it’s language like yours — suggesting that lawmakers in Washington are committing some kind of treason by doing the kinds of muddled, complicated things politicians have done in this country since they first started gathering in New York And Philadelphia — that contributes to our current bind.

    -Brian, NCPR

  21. Peter says:

    So the more relevant question is, who or what is being served by the contemporary law writing / making process?

    That’s the story worth journalistic standards.

  22. Pete Klein says:

    When everyone is in charge, no one is in charge, which is what is going on in Congress these days. All of the Privates have decided they are the Generals. Maybe this situation is the result of so few of our elected representatives having served in the military and being the spoiled brats they are, never learned to take orders for the sake of the whole.

  23. Peter says:

    No one is in charge when Fearless Leader circumvents your authority with his phone, pen, and putter.

  24. Two Cents says:

    off topic, but in response-
    ….maybe he should go to his “dude” ranch an cut brush instead of golfing? how many times was that trip taken?

    if any authority is getting cut, it’s when congress invites a guest for a dinner they didn’t cook or pay for…
    the israeli pm is using our political system like a stick for his own benefit. not cool, or groovey, even in the sixties.

  25. Mr. Kent says:


    Sorry Peter, but the only one refusing to lead and circumventing authority is congress. They have the power to write a comprehensive immigration bill ( the Senate sent them one a long time ago) but they refuse to do it. Instead they circumvent by adding poison pills to a DHS appropriations bill.

    They have the power to write a Health Care Bill or clean up the corners of the ACA, but they refuse to do it and instead the circumvent and use the court system and activist judges to make noise and add poison pills to funding the Government Bills.

    The republican party has refused to do their job. They complain about everything but do nothing to fix anything. They want responsibility for nothing, because everything is bad and they do not want to lose any votes from their angry voters, just keep them angry, about anything, about everything. And that is why President Obama has taken the lead. He is the only leader in DC right now. That is why he said ” OK, congress you refuse to do anything about immigration? then I will.”

    Now, even their own are turning on them. It was inevitable. When hate is what you foster to get control, then eventually it turns on you. The mother eating it’s young. And unfortunately that is the platform of the GOP. Run for election promising to ” Repeal Obamacare” “Stop immigration reform” ” Be mad, be angry be very, very angry” and on and on and on with absolutely no ideas even offered.

  26. Peter says:

    I think we are all being fed “Koolaide” by the media (including by Brian).

    As I stated earlier, there is not a dime’s thickness difference between the two parties.

    Boehner is a narcissistic sociopath and I’ve never heard Pelosi complete a cogent thought.

    Our republic is jeopardized. We need change.

  27. Walker says:

    Change toward what, exactly, Peter?

  28. Peter says:

    A good place to start would be a thorough reading of the U.S. Constitution.

    Question for Brian and the NCPR Administeation please: I don’t see where ” In The Box” is described as editorial. This article is NOT journalism.

  29. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    It is time to stop listening to people who spout nonsense like “there is not a dime’s thickness difference between the two parties.” There are very real and clear differences between the 2 major parties if that weren’t true then nobody would spend millions of their own dollars to get their preferred candidates to win.

    This is not a cogent thought: “Boehner is a narcissistic sociopath and I’ve never heard Pelosi complete a cogent thought,” and it doesn’t deserve any serious consideration.

  30. HCW says:

    Thanks to the majority of writers for providing a thoughtful debate with historical context rather than reactionary fluff. Brian one point I especially agree with is that this should be on the oped page of the NYT.

  31. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    We are supposed to listen to a person who doesn’t know what a blog is tell us that other people should read the Constitution?
    Oh brother!

  32. jeff says:

    I think that until “someone” can describe a national vision for the year 2040 congress will remain stalled. Can someone quickly cite 5 national goals to be reached by 2040- 1 generation away? Exclude national security because that is required. Exclude global warming, poverty and illegal immigration from the 5- yes those take mental and emotional and financial energy, but they are not growth issues, they are status quo.
    Next cite 6-10 elements for each of those goals that will be steps or elements that help us reach those goals some of those may benefit the items exclude by are not solely for the purpose of the excluded items. If congress could do so, they why is the ACA act voted on 40 times?

    Until congress and the president can look ahead they will remain stalled. Russia is taking land, inserting itself into South America. China is infiltrating Africa for resources and South America as well plus attacking our ships. We do not take land or foreign assets as national policy these days but rely on what companies we have left to gather resources from elsewhere. Our freedom is challenged by governments that don’t have to wait for “consent of the governed.” Our ability, or lack thereof, to foster peaceful co-existence of nations helps world commerce and our own. But WE must survive to do that. I am not saying no one else could “keep the peace.”

    Brian cited the EPA as something innovative by Nixon. Making something out of nothing. OBAMA has made a bunch of national monuments appear (but where is the funding for their protection). The ACA was a major legislative challenge that the Republicans have wasted over 40 votes and substantial time on rather than making something “new” and more effective. Obama suggested 2 years of “college” for everyone. Where does it fit in a 25 year goal? The U.S. Forest Service revises each forest plan every 10-11 years. Congress has no such long term plan.

    Long-range planning could better keep a congress on track and give the press and the rest of us a measure to compare progress. As it stands now, the “back benchers” as Brian called them distract us until the next 2 or 4 year election cycle because no one knows where we could be going. Sure someone will blurt out we should be doing one thing or another, put the big map on the table for all to see. If you don’t have a target, you will hit it.

  33. congressman says:

    I will state my goals:
    “on my honor I will do my best
    to remain gainfully employed on the teet of the nation, until I am old, near death, and able to sleep at my desk in the blink of an eye.
    I will see that my progeny reaps the benefits sifted from the lives of the populous I was sworn to abuse with poorest government skills and my best smiling visage, replete with catchy sound-bytes.
    I pledge to cheat, scam, steal and borrow from future generations and the very salt of the Earth itself, in every way possible.
    so help me god”

  34. Peter says:

    Jeff, I couldn’t agree more with your comments. One of my pet projects is to draft and introduce a bill called “The Incomprehensible Legislation Act”, designed to force law makes to write with economy and clarity so law can be understood by a lay person. I live close to DC and to hear about what really goes on “on the hill” is appalling. I think fundamental change in the process would be a good goal for the next 24 months.

  35. Mervel says:

    It is interesting to me what “governing” means to some people or what does “doing something” mean? I heard Ted Cruz at CPAC state that the test of the candidate should be what they have actually done versus what they have said or made speeches about. Apparently he believes he has “done” something? He would be a poster case for not actually producing anything, not one bill, not one accomplishment for his state, zero, nothing. He has made one long speech that failed. But in his mind that is actually “doing” something. To me it shows however just the very basic differences in some of these guys. Governing to some of them like Cruz means grandstanding with no results, it is better to be utterly impotent, than produce something, if your impotence is strident and pure to your followers.

  36. hermit thrush says:

    i’ve certainly made my share of typos in comments, but if you’re advocating for something called “the incomprehensible legislation act” and want to be taken seriously, you really ought to proofread what you write.

  37. Peter says:

    That’s typing on an iPhone with one finger butt thanxxs four thyne insite. Also noted personnel attax. U doosh

  38. bill shaver says:

    Maby they should take a walk to place Versaille in France , look in the mirrors, stop at YEPRES in Belgium, for 8 pm every night , attend the sounding of the last post, read off the names on the Mehign gate and remember….The repubs can recover for their own greedy self interests if they want to, or forever know as the NASCAR RACE THAT THEY ARE….I’m sure they can regain their integrity at some point instead of being known as the party of no, nothing & never….and its all about me!

  39. bill shaver says:

    You think you’ve problems in USA…Look to the NORTH…PM Harpo the magnificent liar is hard at work in damage control, he wont survive the cooming election in the fall, as they saide when the works all done in the fall, he’ll be out & dare say the philsopher kings son will be in, in at 24 Sussex dr, while Harpo…maby Stornaway house…or perahaps he’ll just dry up & blow away.

  40. Jeff says:

    Shaver- Our son just told us this morning he cannot buy chocolate milk from the milk machine until after 3:40 p.m. per the sign on the machine “due to Healthy Food Policy.” Makes it difficult to get some nourishment before sports practice. No walk across the Maginot line is of any value for the ridiculous nature of that policy. Nanny State. Mayor Bloomberg’s soft drink policy… Government is the problem. It is not government it is micro-management. That policy may not be what is in the Federal Regulation, but by the time it filters down to users, this what it can like. It is why people like Rand Paul get attention. Lack of long range thinking.

  41. Mr. Kent says:


    It sounds a little like the “Nanny State” is closer to home. A child now needs to have his chocolate milk, available at school, before he can be nourished enough to practice? You got to let that thought spin around a bit to take in it’s totality. It sounds like you believe the ” State” is now responsible for your child after school.
    How did previous generations survive? Here is a thought-instead of blaming the ” State” because your sons needs are not met after school, pack him nutri bars, or candy bars or whatever he likes and as far as I know, the water fountains never shut down and is required at every practice and game by law.
    It is you who have allowed some ” healthy food policy” to control you. Those policies limit what the State can do, but they do NOT legislate that YOU cannot do something. Notice the difference. Personal responsibility is taught and learned at home. sounds like one of those ” teachable moments” where the problem solvers of tomorrow begin by solving small problems today.
    Rand Paul gets attention because he is a character. Not always truthful or consistent, but a definite character.

  42. bill shaver says:

    paul rand is the problem….bar none…Nothing to stop you packing a lunch for your children, why rely on the school, oh its convient, yeah….nanny state, where…oly if you let it be…where is your dignity, i’ve never lost mine, no one mandadted me to get rid of it…..its called self responsibility. Govt is not always the problem, some miscreants that mannaged to get elected…are the problem….they are only there to collect their pensions & gold brick heathcare, and before long all will have medicare for all and it’ll get better not worse, the sun will shine tomorrow!

  43. Two Cents says:

    it all started with the mandatory seatbelt and helmet laws….and if up to brian, mufflers required on motorcycles. (spring soon brian, get ready!)

    I like the congressman’s pledge above. sounds about right.

  44. Jeff says:

    Mr. Kent: Not at all. He gets food to take along. His backpack has no room for a Thermos because it is full of books. Sure, he drinks water. But the machine is there, the milk is cold, let ’em buy it if they wish. It is abuse of government.

  45. Mervel says:

    But I think those are two different issues. One is the idea of continual government meddling in our day to day lives, our essential liberty about what we can and cannot choose to do in our society, the other is basic government responsibility of keeping our infrastructure running, its over used, but keeping the trains running on time. Things like good schools, quality health care, good roads, public safety, national defense, and making sure that the poorest people among us don’t starve. Even Libertarians allow an important role for government, its just much more limited.

  46. Peter says:

    It’s all about the quality of governance and currently the quality level is quite low, unacceptably low.

  47. bill shaver says:

    no matter what the fed or stste does, your still responsible for yourselves, dignty not for sale at any time, they have programs to help you not hinder you… heathcare, ( medicare for all)

  48. bill shaver says:

    so nanny state notwithstanding…..

  49. Jeff says:

    Shaver. The issue was congress not governing and my point is it does not take a long range view thus it spends exorbitant amounts of time on piddling stuff, finding causes to justify themselves spending exorbitant amounts of time. Stuff like the chocolate milk-school food come from regulators which although in the executive branch must run their regulations past congress.

    The president doesn’t believe we are responsible for ourselves. How far is it from telling me I can’t have a 20 oz. bottle of pop to calling me to get me up for work? What dignity is there in not being allowed to make decisions for oneself? If we are supposed to be responsible for ourselves, why are they getting in the way?

  50. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I think it was James Madison in Federalist Paper 33 1/3 who first stated that all internal combustion engines used for transportation should, for the protection and welfare of the citizenry and the insurance of public safety when on horseback or behind a cart, be fitted with a well and properly functioning muffling device to reduce the danger of unrestrained noise and backfire; though this restriction of personal liberty shall not be imposed on bi-wheeled conveyances, since Man is bipedal and Beast is quadruped.

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