Once More For the People in the Back: You Cannot Negotiate or Compromise With the Republican Party

·4-min read
Photo credit: Drew Angerer - Getty Images
Photo credit: Drew Angerer - Getty Images

Somehow, after everything, there remain creatures in Washington, D.C. obsessed with bipartisan compromise. One of our two major political parties has lined up in opposition to renewing what's left of the Voting Rights Act, which swept through Congress on a strong bipartisan basis in the Bush years, when it actually still had some teeth. The same party's Arizona affiliate is engaged in a circus "audit" of that state's election results because they didn't like who won. They've also responded to the 2020 election, which many Republicans continue to Just Ask Questions about, by passing hundreds of restrictive voter laws in state legislatures across the country. Through this and gerrymandering and court-packing and the undemocratic features of the Senate and the Electoral College, the party has devoted itself, root and branch, to clinging to power without crafting an agenda that actually appeals to a majority of citizens.

But even beyond any of that, they just submarined their own shared Bipartisan Bill to establish a commission to look into an attack on their own place of work earlier this year. If a mob broke into your company's offices and ransacked the place, chanting that they wanted to hang the vice president of the firm, would the VP's putative friends—and brother!—shut down an inquiry into what happened? This is not normal behaviour, and it's not the behaviour of an organisation whose members can be reasoned with. (As David Freedlander pointed out, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy used to back a Commission as a desperate escape from impeaching Donald Trump for his crimes against the republic. Now he's against this, too. It's almost like he's not actually interested in any kind of accountability.) There will be no Bipartisan Compromise so long as the Republican Party clings to the increasingly kaleidoscopic fever dreams blasting out of the right-wing infotainment vortex. As my colleague, Charles P. Pierce, wrote, the Democrats will need to go it alone on a January 6 commission. In truth, they'll have to go it alone on everything.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer - Getty Images
Photo credit: Drew Angerer - Getty Images

This ought to have been obvious before. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell has proven to be the most cynical operator that Washington, D.C. has seen in some time, and that's saying something. McCarthy, in the House, is as craven as he is dense. And the party has a track record, going back to the Obama years, of demanding bipartisan consultation, extracting concessions and watering down bills, then voting against them anyway. This is what happened with the January 6 commission: Republicans got pretty much everything they wanted, and they still shut it down. They will do the same with the American Jobs Plan. As Catherine Rampell brilliantly laid out in the Washington Post, the initial lowball counterproposal they offered was actually vastly inflated. Their aim is to hack away at the bill, then vote against it. And you can probably forget about even that level of commitment to the American Families Plan. Josh Hawley might have some family-benefits proposals, and so might Mitt Romney on the party's other wing, but when it gets to crunch time, you can expect at least the former (and very possibly the latter) to vote against the plan and fist-pump at the faithful.

This is an American political ecosystem where shame has ceased to function as a social force and, in fact, shamelessness has become a political superpower. To survive and thrive in the entirely degraded post-Trump Republican Party—the culmination of 40-plus years of self-replicating insanity—you cannot have any compunction about lying your ass off and acting in continual, ceaseless bad faith. There are people in this party who voted against the American Rescue Plan and then went bragging to their constituents about all the relief they'd brought home. Flip-flopping is passé. You now have to be able to juggle multiple contradictory positions at once. John Katko made the mistake Wednesday of thinking any principle—even that an attack on their own workplace should be investigated by Congress—was durable enough to survive the gauntlet of self-serving nonsense. Democrats should do their own commission, and then they should do their own bills. This will require Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema coming back to reality, and seeing all of the above for it is before signing off on filibuster reform. You cannot negotiate with the void.

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