Utne Blogs > Politics

The Republicans’ Radical Nihilism

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: politics, media, media criticism, obstructionism, polarization, compromise, government, Washington Monthly, Democracy Journal, Media Matters, Keith Goetzman,

Sen. Mitch McConnell 

Conservatives cannot govern well,” wrote Alan Wolfe in a widely circulated 2006 Washington Monthly essay, “for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.”

Now that Republicans control the House of Representatives, thanks in no small part to the rabidly anti-government Tea Party movement, Wolfe has updated his thesis. Conservatives, now that they have a chance, simply won’t govern.

He writes in Democracy Journal:

Every indication we have suggests that in the wake of their midterm success, Republicans will continue on the same path of just saying no. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all but gave the game away when he announced that “the single most important thing we want to achieve” was not the recovery of the economy or passage of any particular legislation but “for President Obama to be a one-term president.” The United States now has a major political party that has dropped policy entirely in favor of politics. The consequences for the future of American democracy will be serious indeed. …

It is commonly said that polarization has become the country’s most serious political problem. But polarization implies two poles, each of which is organized around ideas. The newfound opposition for the sake of opposition characteristic of the conservative movement suggests a far greater danger to democracy than polarization. That danger is not cynicism; even a cynic cares. What we witness instead is nihilism—and in the most literal sense of the term. Nihilism is a philosophical doctrine holding that because life lacks meaning and purpose, it is foolish to believe too fervently in anything. … Right-wing firebrands in the House promise that come hell or high water, they will not compromise. In any democratic political system, but especially in one with divided powers, no compromise means no governance. We can expect a significant number of House members to stand firm in their denial, no matter what happens to the economy, the environment, or the country.

Over at Media Matters, Eric Boehlert accuses the media in general, and the New York Times in particular, of “giving Republican obstructionism a pass.”

“Republicans,” he writes, “have been practicing an unprecedented brand of obstructionism since Obama’s inauguration, but the press has been treating it as normal. It’s not. It’s radical.”

Source: Washington Monthly, Democracy Journal, Media Matters 

Image by Gage Skidmore, licensed under Creative Commons. 

rodeen
3/21/2011 10:48:46 AM

One of your better post occum! I wish I could say the same for Brianz.


occum
3/10/2011 4:01:18 PM

P.S Pardon the spelling and grammar I did this off the cuff.


occum
3/10/2011 3:58:55 PM

You have two children and over the course of several years they have both been given the choice of vacation spots. They initial pick was based on a coin tose and the first winner choose The Biggest Rubber Band Ball attraction. The following year the second chose Disneyland. You went to both. Sometime into year three the family debriefed and decided Disneyland was awesome and something of its kind would be perfect. However, child number one insisted it was his/her choice and The Big Rubber Band Ball was it. Not based on fun factor but on ego. Discussion was shelved because number one brought up a point of parliament about turn selection rather than what would be beneficial to the entire group and what they had learned in their vacation experiences. We balk at dictators, free repressed nations, declare war on idealogical zealots because they have the arrested development of ten year old children. Then we do it. Now that's leading by example.


brianz
3/3/2011 1:34:38 PM

The simple explanation is that fortunate sons and daughters above will never give up their comfortable lives of opulence by spreading the wealth around. Freedom, equality and justice are an Amerikan myth maintained in one sided historic story books and are also a great sound bite that fortunate sons and dauthers like to repeat to themselves ad nauseum to clear their conscients. Denialism would be a better term to describe their states of mind.