I’m reading It’s even Worse than it Looks: How the american Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of extremism by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. And yes, it is depressing especially when I’m reading it while also looking at the Republican Platform which has been described by Think Progress as the “most conservative in modern history.” OK so maybe Think Progress is on the left but they have a pretty good summary. Here are just a few subheading from the summary.
NO ABORTION IN CASES OF RAPE OR INCEST
NO LEGAL RECOGNITION OF SAME-SEX COUPLES
REPLICATE ARIZONA-STYLE IMMIGRATION LAWS.
NO WOMEN IN COMBAT
NO NEW TAXES, EXCEPT FOR WAR.
The New York Times said this in an editorial last Tuesday
Over the years, the major parties’ election-year platforms have been regarded as Kabuki theater scripts for convention week. The presidential candidates blithely ignored them or openly dismissed the most extreme planks with a knowing wink as merely a gesture to pacify the noisiest activists in the party.
That cannot be said of the draft of the Republican platform circulating ahead of the convention in Tampa, Fla. The Republican Party has moved so far to the right that the extreme is now the mainstream. The mean-spirited and intolerant platform represents the face of Republican politics in 2012. And unless he makes changes, it is the current face of the shape-shifting Mitt Romney.
The draft document is more aggressive in its opposition to women’s reproductive rights and to gay rights than any in memory. It accuses President Obama and the federal judiciary of “an assault on the foundations of our society,” and calls for constitutional amendments banning both same-sex marriage and abortion.
In passages on abortion, the draft platform puts the party on the most extreme fringes of American opinion. It calls for a “human life amendment” and for legislation “to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” That would erase any right women have to make decisions about their health and their bodies. There are no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and such laws could threaten even birth control.
The draft demands that the government “not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage,” which could bar abortion coverage on federally subsidized health-insurance exchanges, for example.
The platform praises states with “informed consent” laws that require women to undergo medically unnecessary tests before having abortions, and “mandatory waiting periods.” Those are among the most patronizing forms of anti-abortion legislation. They presume that a woman is not capable of making a considered decision about abortion before she goes to a doctor. The draft platform also espouses the most extreme Republican views on taxation, national security, military spending and other issues.
Over all, it is farther out on the party’s fringe than Mr. Romney ventured in the primaries, when he repudiated a career’s worth of centrist views on issues like abortion and gay marriage. But the planks hew closely to the views of his running mate, Paul Ryan, and the powerful right-wing. Mr. Romney has a chance to move back in the direction of the center by amending this extremist platform. It will be interesting to see if he seizes it.
Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia might not have gotten the Vice Presidential nod, but he delivered the platform. He should be proud.
Mann and Ornstein have a long quote from a former Republican Congressional staff, Mike Lofgren, who wrote in 2011 why he was leaving after almost thirty years [pages 54-55] Part of that quote reads
It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe.
Later Lofgren writes
Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.
The platform is the Ryan agenda no matter how much he tries to say that it is Romney who is running for President. Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan and no one can convince me he didn’t know what Ryan’s positions were or what legislation he had sponsored. The Republicans like to say they are for smaller, less intrusive government, but the platform seems pretty intrusive to me. If they have their way, they will be imposing their views on the rest of us.