I rarely comment on a particular pundit, but am making an exception in the case of Marc A. Thiessen’s September 22 column in the Washington Post. Syndicated, he is read all across the country, and is especially popular with right wingers who treasure his words of encouragement, even if they appear in the “fake news” of the local paper.
His column warns that a Biden victory and Democratic majority in the Senate would result in one party rule of an unstoppable Democratic juggernaut that could never be broken, and what a terrible thing that would be for democracy. Never mind that manipulative redistricting and voter suppression have been the decades long strategy for achieving one party GOP rule. No speculation there: it’s what’s written in the public record. Add to it that Trump and allies have spent the last four years doing everything they can to turn the presidency into a second tier dictatorship, and the Republican Party into a bloc more loyal to Trump than the nation. They have tried to do precisely what Thiessen accuses Democrats of possibly doing should they win. Because he appears in the pages of the Washington Post, he’s one of the far right’s important legitimizers, so his voice is important, and sometimes dangerous.
He declares the very tactics the GOP has long employed would threaten the foundations of democracy should Democrats win the White House and Senate. What does he think a solid Democratic majority would do? Among others: eliminate the filibuster; engage in record breaking spending; raise taxes; pass anything without compromise or concession; and pack the courts.
In Thiessen’s view, eliminating the filibuster would allow an “obstreperous Democratic minority” to stop anything the GOP might want to do. How an unstoppable Democratic majority juggernaut becomes an obstreperous minority is unexplained, but obstreperousness has been honed to a crude cudgel used effectively by the GOP’s freedom caucus and fellow travelers, with Thiessen as one of their most ardent cheerleaders. Democrats are more likely to adjust Senate rules to limit filibuster use but not eliminate it.
Democrats have been labeled as the tax and spend party, but record breaking spending has been the GOP hallmark for over fifty years. It’s a consistent pattern. Cut taxes (on the wealthy) promising they will pay for themselves by stimulating the economy. It never works. The deficits just pile up. Add to the losses by increasing defense spending while cutting social programs. Then complain loudly about tax and spend Democrats when they enact responsible tax policy and pay attention to the social and infrastructure needs of the nation. It must be especially galling that it’s under Democrats that robust economic growth has been stimulated, the deficit reduced, and growth in debt slowed. Would Democrats raise taxes? I certainly hope so, where they need to be raised, in a responsible way.
Congressional politics dominated by a refusal to compromise or concede was sown and nourished by Gingrich. It flowered and bore its tea party fruit under McConnell, Boehner and Ryan. It’s possible, but unlikely, that Democrats would respond in kind. Democrats are not an ideological bloc. Negotiations are needed within the party, even when in the majority, so the practice of passing anything they want without compromise or concession is not part of their DNA. As I write, Pelosi has demonstrated a willingness and ability to negotiate within her caucus and across the aisle to reach agreements on a continuing resolution, farm aid, and COVID stimulus, while McConnell continues his practice of, to use Thiessen’s term, obstreperous refusal to compromise or concede.
Would a Democratic White House with majorities in both houses of Congress try to pack the courts? There has been talk of increasing the size of the Supreme Court, and I suppose there could be moves to add to the number of lower courts, but what is the probability? So low as to be little more than Saturday filler on op. ed. pages and fodder for Fox and Friends hysteria. There are other ways to pack the courts. For instance, McConnell refused to allow hundreds of lower court vacancies to be filled in the final years of Obama’s term, making it possible for him to ram through confirmations even as he ground most other legislative business to a halt. The same ploy was used in the Garland matter, and it’s working to his advantage now. No, the courts have been fully packed by the GOP, and who knows what that will mean as time goes by?
Thiessen’s columns are the work of a dedicated ideologue, but, as with his September 22 column, he too often drifts into the realm of propaganda, and that cannot go unchallenged.