Gov. Arne Carlson Blog: Do you want to be represented by Michele Bachmann? — Part One

Since taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January of this year, Republicans have brought the nation to the brink of a government shutdown three times. The overall result has been a continued loss of confidence in our ability to govern ourselves in a stable and predictable fashion. Both global and domestic markets reflect this instability and the consequences are being felt in everyone’s retirement accounts as well as a diminished reputation overseas verified by a serious downgrade in our national credit.

When analyzed in a political science sense, it goes back to the midterm elections of 2010 and the increased influence of the Tea Party. No matter how you look at it, their impact far outweighs their numbers. The House has 435 members with Republicans numbering 242. Of this, 56 are part of the Tea Party caucus organized by our own Michele Bachmann. That means the Tea Party caucus possesses less than 25 percent of the Republican vote in the House but yet dominates the agenda.

Yes, their tactics include demonizing compromise and cooperation with Democrats. But that does not explain their disproportionate influence relative to their numbers. The sad reality is that others created a vacuum and the Tea Party stepped in.

I would contend that it started with President Obama’s failure to accept and endorse the report of the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Reduction Commission. By all standards of competence, it was a solid bi-partisan effort. Its recommendations if pushed by the Obama administration would have put the United States on a more successful path to recovery while protecting the integrity of the entitlement programs. Nothing since has been proposed that matches Bowles-Simpson in quality and bi-partisanship.

Once the President ignored that report, the Tea Party stepped in and filled that void. They have controlled the debate ever since.

Following the President’s inaction on Bowles-Simpson, the challenge fell to House Speaker Boehner and the House Republican majority. However, instead of building a governing coalition with moderate Democrats, Boehner opted to surrender to the uncompromised demands of the Tea Party. Their prime goal was not to govern but rather to make certain that Obama was a “one-term President”. That type of goal casts aside all commitment to governance and quality of public policy and substitutes a new version of brutal partisan politics including questioning the loyalty and nationality of the President. In their eyes, the only loyalty that counts is their loyalty.

The overall result is that the Republican Party is now being absorbed by the Tea Party and all GOP Presidential candidates with the exception of Jon Huntsman have surrendered large parts of their philosophy and intelligence to the Tea Party. Climate change has now become a scientific fiction. Lower taxes for business accompanied by far less regulation is the only panacea for economic recovery for an economy that soured after the Bush tax cuts and the failure to regulate Wall Street.

The ultimate oddity is that small minorities of Tea Party members of Congress now control the House and believe that they have the power to dictate American politics regardless of the will of the Senate and the President. They literally have no concept of shared governance and are willing to sacrifice the well being of the nation in order to have their way.

However, this is not without consequences. When Republican members of Congress yield their vote to the Republican caucus and that caucus is controlled by the unyielding Tea Party members then it stands to reason that they should be held accountable for the consequences. After all, the tail cannot wag the dog without the dog’s consent.

I would submit that this subservience to the Tea Party will only strengthen the hand of the President and make Republican members of Congress appear to be weak and so intimidated that they cannot or will not represent the best long-term interests of their district. In essence, they have become agents of the Tea Party and the result may well be that they will bear responsibility for even the most outrageous views of the extreme Right.

In 1950, when Richard Nixon sought the Senate seat in California, he compared the voting record of his opponent, Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas with that of an alleged “communist” House member, Vito Marcantonio. The campaign slogan was essentially “should California send Vito Marcantonio to the U.S. Senate.” Although the comparison was grossly unfair, the voters chose Nixon.

Similar comparisons may well take place here and with some justification. Michele Bachmann as a congressional Tea Party leader may well find herself in many Democratic ads with the question: “Do you want our District to be represented by Michele Bachmann?”

You judge.

This post was written by Arne Carlson and originally published on the Govenor Arne Carlson blog.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/28/2011 - 08:51 am.

    Arne, the commission report you endorse states:

    “Protect the truly disadvantaged. We must ensure that our nation has a robust, affordable, fair, and sustainable safety net. Benefits should be focused on those who need them the most.”

    “Cut spending we cannot afford – no exceptions. We must end redundant, wasteful, and ineffective federal spending, wherever we find it. We should cut all excess spending – including defense, domestic programs, entitlement spending, and spending in the tax code.”

    Those two statements represent *exactly and precisely* what the Tea Party stands for…and *who* is standing in the way?

    Look, I understand you are working hard to make your new bestist friends happy, but honestly, take a moment to proofread your posts before glugging down the morning kool-aid.

  2. Submitted by Andy Morse on 09/28/2011 - 09:49 am.

    More babble from a right wing republican ex-governor who was responsible for starting the attack on public education in Mn. When will we hear Arnie endorse cancelling the tax cuts for upper level earners, closing the loopholes on corporations opened by his Republican buddies and showing some remorse for HIS actions instead of another sexist attack on this woman?

  3. Submitted by David Koorman on 09/28/2011 - 09:59 am.

    It might improve the former governor’s analysis to understand that there never was an approved report by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (the “Bowles-Simpson commission”). The intent and design of the commission was to require approval of any report by 14 out of 18 commission members. The draft report that was submitted by the co-chairs of the commission failed to achieve such approval. Criticizing the President for failing to act on it is analogous to criticizing him for failing to sign legislation that failed to pass both houses of the legislature.

    Perceptions of the report’s quality and bi-partisanship are debatable, but ultimately irrelevant. There may have been a “void” to be filled on this issue, but this void did not result from failure to act on the report passed by the commission, for there was never such a report.

  4. Submitted by Moira Heffron on 09/28/2011 - 12:15 pm.

    David Koorman’s comment was helpful in thinking about this; but I appreciated the analysis Carlson gave. We all have been hearing a variety of analyses for the observable dysfunction, and his was thought-provoking. I found nothing sexist in his comments: he identified Bachmann as the head of the Tea Party coalition and he pointed out the impact of that group’s dominating the conversation and representation by some in the caucus…some of whom are indeed between a rock and a hard place.

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/29/2011 - 07:09 am.

    You know those e-mails you get from crackpot relatives and friends and acquaintances whose company you enjoy, but with whom you never, ever discuss politics or religion? The e-mails that you think almost certainly aren’t true, but you can’t be sure, so you check out the “source” cited in the e-mail or head over to Snopes to verify or debunk? Bachmann actually believes this stuff.

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