Every once in a while, I read something that makes me want to pound my head against the nearest wall.
A few days ago, this was the “something.”
The article addressed the dogged determination with which Republicans in Congress have opposed any and every proposal coming out of the Obama White House–even, as we have seen, proposals that had originally been theirs.
That strategy was eventually articulated publicly by former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren.
A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.
…There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters’ confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.” This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s – a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn.
I know this is an era of exceptionally strong partisanship. I also know that both parties routinely engage in behaviors that do not serve the common good.
But I also know–and there is ample research confirming—that trust in the enterprise of government is absolutely essential to the operation of that government. To deliberately undermine popular belief that government as an institution is both necessary and (in the main) beneficial is to intentionally destroy its ability to function.
Accountability is important. No one in her right mind would suggest that every government program is well-run (or even necessary), or that every government official is a wonderful person devoid of self-serving motives, or that we should turn a blind eye to ethical and legal transgressions. We need to identify and correct the very real problems that exist. But with all its imperfections, with all its opportunities for mischief, the American administrative state has served us well.
Making governance impossible in order to gain political advantage so that you can ultimately control the institution you have neutered is rather obviously short-sighted.
If true, it is also–and I use the term advisedly–evil.