The GOP’s Politics of Extortion

August 15th, 2011

One of the things that I thought of in the midst of all the debt ceiling BS was: what of the shoe was on the other foot?

In other words, what if Democrats held the Full Faith and Credit of the United States hostage in order to pass an unpopular bill against the will of the people? Remember, the Democrats were elected to 3/5 of the seats in both houses of the legislature and controlled the Presidency in 2008. But when they tried to enact their agenda on health care, it was “tyranny” and Republicans couldn’t wait to go to their local park carrying Obama-with-a-Hitler-moustache signs.

Now, the Republicans control 1/3 of the three institutions that make laws in the United States and they are holding the US economy hostage to force the Senate and President to bend to their will? A rough Democratic equivalent would have been if Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats didn’t take the Senate in 2006, but refused to raise the debt ceiling until the Republican Senate and President capitulated and passed a national health care law.

We know what would happen in that case: Republicans would have been screaming bloody murder, and rightfully so.

As Steve Benen points out, the Republicans have made “extortion politics” the new norm in Washington. They only control one branch of the legislature, but they have managed to force enactment of policies that they couldn’t get passed through legitimate political processes. They have manage to keep not only repeal of Bush Tax cuts for the wealthy off the table but alltax increases off the table, and they have kept the Consumer Financial Regulation Agency effectively neutered, even though none of these positions are popular with the American people. Benen’s take is worth extended quotation:

I think this is arguably one of the more important realizations to take away from the current political landscape. Republicans aren’t just radicalized, aren’t just pursuing an extreme agenda, and aren’t just allergic to compromise. The congressional GOP is also changing the very nature of governing in ways with no modern precedent.

Welcome to the normalization of extortion politics….

The traditional American model would tell Republicans to win an election. If that doesn’t work, Republicans should work with rivals to pass legislation that moves them closer to their goal. In 2011, the GOP has decided these old-school norms are of no value. Why bother with them when Republicans can force through policy changes by way of a series of hostage strategies? Why should the legislative branch use its powers through legislative action when extortion is more effective?

It’s offensive when it comes to nominees like CFPB nominee Richard Cordray, but using the full faith and credit of the United States to force through desired policy changes takes this dynamic to a very different level. And since it’s working, this will be repeated and establishes a new precedent.

Awesome.

Remind me again why these guys are the patriotic ones?

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