Newt's Legacy

John Sides links to a discussion on the breakdown of legislative norms, when debate in the House denigrates to a fight that has nothing to do with policy or problem solving or even reality.  Barry Pump traces the tactic (yes, tactic) back to Newt Gingrich and two hours of "schoolyard taunting and bullying" in 1984.

2. Gingrich prepares a massive speech attacking Democrats by name (such as former appropriations chairman Dave Obey of Wisconsin and former Oakland mayor Ron Dellums) and accusing them of spreading communist propaganda in the Speaker’s Lobby. He writes a letter notifying the Democrats that he was going to name check them, but the letter was not delivered in time for the Democrats to respond on the floor during Gingrich’s speech.

3. Gingrich gives the speech while most members have gone home for the weekend. Dellums says he was on a plane back to California when Gingrich was on the floor impugning his patriotism, and he didn’t find out about it until he landed.

Pump outlines in 10 steps how Gingrich attacks the patriotism of Democrats outside of legislative protocol "norms," elicits an angry response from Speaker Tip O'Neill -- who orders newly installed television cameras to pan, showing Gingrich speaking to an empty chamber, and calls Gingrich out of line -- and then plays the victim, claiming the speaker abused his position for criticizing him publicly.  Gingrich and his "young turks" brought the legislative process to a halt with hyperbolic antics.  The goal was no longer policy or ideological agenda, but simply majority status at any cost.  By the end of the 80's, the Republican Party was sold, and a 30 legislative strategy had begun.

By selecting the aggressive Gingrich over his mild-mannered rival, Illinois' Edward Madigan, House Republicans signaled that they want more lash in their whip. "We had a choice of being attack dogs or lapdogs," said a G.O.P. lawmaker. "We decided attack dogs are more useful."

Flash forward to the 112th Congress.

For all the hints at Boehner's lack of control as speaker after several unexpected failures, I wouldn't hold my breath.  This isn't an intra-party rebellion; this is just blip in party message control.  Leadership and the freshmen tea baggers won't part ways given a choice between governing or the perpetual campaign.  "Principles," half-baked or not, will be set aside faster than a Gingrich mistress when leadership reminds the newbies elections still happen, and even the slightest nod at actual problem solving is out the window when the newbies remind leadership they are all Newt spawn.

For Republicans, this hasn't been about governance or representation for a very, very long time.

From the poll tax to the literacy test, using the law to create a structure that systematically disenfranchises people unlikely to vote for you has a long tradition in America’s political warfare. The latest “anti-voter fraud” laws pushed by Republicans are hardly different. By taking away same-day registration and requiring photo IDs to vote, they are making it harder for traditionally Democratic-leaning groups — students, young people, the poor, and some minorities — to exercise their right to vote. The basic strategy is if you can’t win their vote, keep them from voting altogether. While these actions have gained publicity in Wisconsin, the same tactic is being pushed by the GOP in places like Kansas and New Hampshire.

To the GOP it's a decades long war to be won and the ends will justify any means.

Tags: House of Representatives, Republican Party, Legislative Norms, newt gingrich, newt gingrich, GOP Political Warfare (all tags)

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