How Broken Are We Politically

As the nation was mired in the Great Recession, the number one priority of Congressional Republicans was not fixing the economy, but rather attempting to make damn sure Obama was only a one term president.  The result of this priority?  What may be the most unpopular Congress in history A historic amount of filibusters.  A tepid recovery while Republicans grind the legislative process to a halt.

And with Romney’s main attack on the President being how he failed to fix the economy, this strategy may actually pay off.  Think about what that could mean for our system of politics in the future.  With this being a proven strategy, gridlock could become the norm.  Anytime the opposition party claimed control of the House, or at least kept the Presidents party from obtaining the votes required for cloture in the Senate, they could effectively shut government down and lay the blame at the Presidents feet.  Yes, many of them will get thrown out as well, but in the larger picture, they would really just be “taking one for the team.”

And how does one get elected to Congress in the brave new world that Citizens’ United has created?  Let’s look to Ohio, where Sen. Sherrod Brown is in a very close race for re-election against Josh Mandel, who may be the single worst Senate candidate in America this year.  As the Youngstown Vindicator wrote in their endorsement of Brown:

If there were a dictionary entry for such political mendacity, it could carry the picture of Josh Mandel, Ohio’s current treasurer and the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.


Mandel was asked about an issue that he has been quite vocal about, the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler Corp. In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Mandel called Brown’s vote for the bailout “un-American.” But he refused to answer the simple question: Had he been in the Senate would he have voted for or against the bailout? A yes or no would have sufficed. He would have been welcome to explain his answer at length — had he chosen to answer. We can only wonder if his tortured evasions of the question were as painful for him as they were for the editors.

There have been three debates between Sen. Brown and Mandel, and unwillingness to answer direct questions seems to be one of Mandel’s few constant features:

When Mandel was asked directly if he would have support the Ryan budget that his own party has endorsed, the 35-year-old newcomer to national politics didn’t give a yes or no

This race should be a blow out.  But….  As read at the Daily Kos:

Watching Josh Mandel stumble through three debates with shifting policy positions and a lack of command of the issues, you have to wonder how this has become a single digit race for Brown. Here’s how: more than $26 million in dark money spent on ads attacking Brown, $20 million of it from secret groups that are concealing the identity of their donors.


In an election-year awash in money coming from mysterious groups such as American Commitment, Ohio has become the epicenter of secret money and Brown the favored target. Outside groups have spent more than $26 million against him, both parties said. Of that, more than $20 million came from groups that hide the identities of their donors.

It’s an emblem of what has happened in the aftermath of court rulings that have paved the way for unions, corporations, and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.

“This would not be a race if it were not for that $25 million,” Brown said in an interview. “It would not be on anybody’s map.”

An Ohio resident who comments at the Kos, frenchconnection, spells out why this is so disturbing:

I get the feeling that this whole campaign is Rove and Dick Armey (never has a name been so fitting in the history of names) trying to see if they can just up and buy a Senate seat. They could not have chosen a candidate that is more unqualified and unappealing. Mandel is angry and makes blunders at every move. Nobody likes him, but the dark money has flooded Ohio with so much negative imagery of Brown as a socialist and a radical. I fear that if they are able to make this happen that they will have a model upon which to draw for future campaigns. They are writing the post Citizens’ United blueprint right here in Ohio

20 million dollars of anonymous money to take down one progressive Senator.  Money spent with no threat of backlash, no strings, no “why are you trying to influence politics in Ohio,” no questioning of ulterior motives.

And now to this political landscape we can add the latest missive from the Tea Party.  While Congressional Republicans will act shocked, shocked and offended I tell you, if you suggest that they are sabotaging the economy for political gain, the Tea Party has positively taken ownership of the idea.  The Tea Party Nation recently sent a message from conservative activist Melissa Brookstone to their members.  As ThinkProgress reports:

Now influential Tea Party leaders are throwing caution to the wind and openly lobbying business owners to stop hiring in order to hurt Obama politically. This week, Right Wing Watch picked up on a message Tea Party Nation sent to their members from conservative activist Melissa Brookstone.

In a rambling letter titled “Call For A Strike of American Small Businesses Against The Movement for Global Socialism,” Brookstone urges businesses “not hire a single person” to protest “this new dictator”:

Resolved that: The current administration and Democrat majority in the Senate, in conjunction with Progressive socialists from all around the country, especially those from Hollywood and the left leaning news media (Indeed, most of the news media.) have worked in unison to advance an anti-business, an anti-free market, and an anti-capitalist (anti-individual rights and property ownership) agenda. […]

I, an American small business owner, part of the class that produces the vast majority of real, wealth producing jobs in this country, hereby resolve that I will not hire a single person until this war against business and my country is stopped.

Brookstone cites Democrats’ support of the Occupy Wall Street movement as proof that Obama, media elites, and the like are “against business, private property ownership and capitalism.” Although she fails to explain how a freeze on hiring would send a bold pro-business message, given that such a boycott would further damage the economy and exacerbate high national unemployment.

But these Tea Partiers are only too happy to put politics ahead of the well-being of 14 million unemployed Americans, not to mention the businesses who are looking for qualified workers.

How broken are we?





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