Thursday, September 29, 2005

THE "BALKANIZATION" OF CONGRESS?

There is a good Washington Post article at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9521320/ by Dan Balz, 9/28/05. To summarize it as I see it, it begins with what I think is a premature epitaph for Tom DeLay... I fear that with his power and connections he could come back like a bad dinner. The author brings up some good points about how the current situation is both similar to and different from the way Republicans swept into Congressional power in the 1994 elections.

Here are some excerpts:
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Former representative Vin Weber (R-Minn.) said yesterday that he thinks DeLay and Frist are victims of "bum raps," but nonetheless said Republicans should be worried by the prospect that the issue of corruption will become a central theme in the upcoming campaigns.

"I think that the Democrats are unable to exploit issues like energy, taxes and Iraq because they have nothing to say," said Weber, who remains an important GOP strategist. "The problem with the issue of corruption is the opposition party doesn't have to have anything to say. All you've got to be is the other party, so it worries me."
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"Tom DeLay was like Tito in Yugoslavia," said James A. Thurber, a professor of government at American University. "He ruled with fear and also resources to reward people. Now without DeLay, the House will be balkanized."
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But former House Democratic whip Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), who left Congress under an ethics cloud in 1989, said Republicans now face the prospect of being branded by the same term Gingrich used against the Democrats: the arrogance of power. "He [Gingrich] used that against [then-House Speaker] Jim Wright and the Democrats," Coelho said. "That phrase is now coming back to haunt them. It is not whether anyone did anything wrong; it is the perception that develops, and there is nothing that they can do about it."
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Tim Hibbits, an Oregon-based pollster, said the DeLay indictment by itself may be less significant in shaping the partisan environment than some others suggested, but he argued that it will deepen the disenchantment of swing voters toward the political system. For a multitude of reasons, he said, Republicans have much to fear about the year ahead. "I think the Republicans at this point are in more trouble than they realize," Hibbits said.

For Democrats, there were many cautionary notes yesterday, despite their obvious glee over DeLay's indictment. On a practical level, the House is now so gerrymandered by redistricting that far fewer districts are genuinely competitive, making the Democrats' task of scoring big gains there more difficult. Nor is there much evidence yet that the voters see Democrats as an attractive alternative, no matter how sour they may be about the Republicans.

But the DeLay indictment represents a powerfully disruptive force inside a party whose success has been built on discipline, cohesion and the mastery of the mechanics of politics at a time Republicans can least afford it.
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Snave's notes: I would agree that any celebration for the actual demise of Tom DeLay's political career may be a bit premature, but I think his indictment is indicative of what I see as a trend in the right direction. As the cracks start to appear in the facade, the GOP will have to scramble to fix a number of its big problems, all at once.

The more this stuff gets talked about, the greater the public perception that the "arrogance of power" is indeed at work in the Republican party. The people on the street might first begin to say things like "Whoa, those guys are crooked." That might expand to "Whoa, the Republican party is crooked." The old "guilt by association" thing. It might then expand to "Whoa, we had better get those guys out of office ASAP." While there might be some good moderate Republicans who will be harmed by this, it may serve to help Congress and the Senate to be rid of some of the more radical members. I don't know about you, but when it comes to the GOP I prefer the moderates to the radicals. That also goes for some Democrats.

The GOP spinners will be burning the candle at both ends to hoodwink as many people as possible... I just hope the public hears enough about big GOP problems during the next month that no matter how successfully Republican candidates try to separate themselves from Bush, they won't be able to do the impossible: separate themselves from their own party!

8 Comments:

Blogger Tom Harper said...

I think DeLay's indictment and possible downfall are good things. I'd rather have a Balkanized Congress than one that's under the thumb of a power-crazed megalomaniac.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

I think I've figured out one of the major differences between you and me, Snave: you are quite a bit more optimistic than I, and in ways I have a considerable amount of difficulty believing. You believe this may harm some of the more radical members of the Republican Party, but Gingrich was from one of the biggest Republican strongholds in the South. He won with over 70% of the vote in his last election. I'm sure the same was true of Delay and a huge swath of the influential members of Congress. On the far-left, equivalent dominance has been experienced by Pelosi, Frank, and the Kennedy's. So I feel that the people most likely to be hurt by this aren't the ne'er-do-wells, but rather, the moderates. You feel uncomfortable with radical Republicans, and to a lesser extent, with the radicals on the left. I think both types are worse than useless and are detrimental to our nation, at least when given too much power.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

And the "balkanization of Congress"? I'm all in favor of it, and think it isn't going far enough. In fact, I'm in favor of multiple parties having their own niches so that coalitions would have to be formed to get anything done, not unlike European legislatures.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Thanks for adding "at least when they're given too much power" to your first comment, MC! Without people on the extreme ends of the spectrum being involved in the Senate and Congress, some of those kinds of views might not ever get heard.

For that reason, I think we actually NEED some of the folks on the extreme ends, but I would agree it's icky when they get too powerful. I think that when people with views that are not in the majority or the mainstream achieve power, as Tom DeLay did, others in the party might look at taking a similar approach as being valid, and might just throw moderation to the wind on their way to achieving power. I guess that's what it's probably all about with most politicians... although you are right, when it gets down to it I AM a glass half-full kind of guy.

You may out-curmudgeon me in some ways, MC, but you make intelligent comments. I particularly agree with the idea that a governmental model similar to European legislatures might be a really good way to do things here in America. If we could abolish the two-party system a lot of positive things could happen.

For example, I think a party like the Greens might suddenly gain more membership as those who are basically Green but vote Democrat because they think that's the only way to keep people like Bush out of office... gain more of a voice in the national political system. We would still have the Democrats and the Republicans, but as the Green party would emerge from the Democrats, I'm sure there would be a religious right-wing party that would emerge from the GOP. There might be a couple of other wild-card parties as well... a Constitutional Absolutist party? A Fiscal Conservative party?

Just think, there might be Socialists, Greens, Democrats, Republicans, and Christian Fundamentalists making up five major groups. What would that be like?

Political discussions certainly wouldn't be as black-and-white anymore, and our two current parties wouldn't be able to call the shots as black-and-white as often as they do now, because there would be so many more angles to consider, so many more compromises to be made.

Until then, in a fun and admittedly somewhat disingenuous manner, I will continue to promote the left over the right, not due as much to my believing the left is the "true way" (it leans in that direction, but I certainly don't view it as infallible), but due largely to what I have perceived the GOP turning into over the last 40-50 years. And a large part of that for me is, of course, the influence of fundamentalist religion in the Republican party, particularly during the last 15-20 years. I violently disagree with the marriage of religion and politics, so I will remain a registered Democrat, moderate in some ways, liberal in others. Not toeing the Democratic party line completely is what I believe allows me to be more optimistic... although I do toe the anti-GOP line pretty completely at this point!

7:23 AM  
Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

That's a good article.

I think the truth is that politics is cyclical. Every so often, depending on many factors, the nation gets fed up with the party in power. The main factor in this most likely is, as the article suggests, corruption in the party in power. No matter how well intentioned the party, it's impossible for a party not to become pompous after being in controol for more than a few years at a time. I would say the Republicans are getting that way now. It's similar to the way Democrats were in the end of the 1980's and early 1990's. Republicans SHOULD be worried. The rest of us should do everything we can to help nudge them along to their doom.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

OK, first, I like your button, though I disagree with it with one exception that's far beyond a PG-13 meaning: I think the "L" word is alright, as long as all four women are stunningly beautiful and don't mind posting the footage on the internet. What? You thought I frequented Blondage's site for the incisive political commentary? lol

But seriously, though I welcome the balkanization of Congress for both major parties, I can't see that happening. Even in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, they're evolving to what amounts to two-party states. It's much like gravity. Larger bodies attract smaller ones, though really, I prefer thinking of the two major political parties as warring factions of Borg.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Damien said...

Interesting that the GOP congressional fund was being used to launder cash. Honestly the sheer fact that Delay became house majority leader while being the most corrupt is a subject worthy of deeper thought.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Jolly Roger said...

I think Dale Gribble's epitapth got written today. No matter what happens now, he's too hot for a leadership position. HAHAHAHAHAHA

6:30 PM  

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