The Negative Consequences of Friendship

Congratulations Barack Obama! Your second inaugural was sublime and passionate, and the weather offered a beautiful, brisk day. But I’m thinking about poor William Henry Harrison in 1841, who spoke for two hours in the cold without a hat or coat during his inaugural. He died thirty-two days later, from complications of pneumonia.

His impulse of the ridiculous lives on in the attitudes of today’s Congressional Republicans. They too have Harrison’s meaningless tenacity and his willingness to ignore the impending damage. In this vein, the first bill the House will consider is one that cuts off the salaries of Senate millionaires.

Michelle Obama was right to roll her eyes. The Boehner-directed legislation that demands a budget resolution also raises the debt ceiling for three months. During his tenure, Boehner has turned the House into a legislative assembly line, passing versions of the same bills over and over, including the repeal of the Affordable Care Act thirty-four times!

Boehner’s dysfunction is accepted as a part of the political game, the differences between the parties. It’s not. The real difference between the parties is in their commitment to differences in ideology. The Republican positions are mistaken for policy, as variations of a broad approach to governing that reduces government spending and oversight. This persistent idea is absolutely contradicted over and over by the words and actions of Republicans themselves; their policies’ common feature is its ideology of power, power in its worst and best cases, its hidden relationships, its strategies and paradoxes, its pursuit as the prize.

That’s why the bill to temporarily raise the debt ceiling for three months has a provision to block the Senate’s salaries unless it meets the House’s demands. That’s not about policy; it’s a blatant, bruising bill that asserts power and challenges the Senate, dictating the terms and conditions they must meet, or accept a House-imposed-and-passed personal penalty.

Even a divided, smaller Republican party would have many tools left to further its drive for power. First, the Republican Party has well financed outside help. From organizations such as the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity to the Jim DeMint-headed Heritage Foundation to its large individual donors, Republicans have an ever-expanding cache of money to use to advance its pursuit. Too often, Democrats and progressives decouple money from politics after elections, without recognizing that for Republicans the funding cycle never ebbs. Continue reading The Negative Consequences of Friendship