(Cue infomercial narrator voice)
How many times has THIS happened to you?
“I do not like the politics! This is because of anecdotal reasons!!” – Apathetic friend
“But, friend, you should care about the politics!!! The politics are very very important!!! This is because of better reasons with actual facts!” – You
“Well, I would do the politics and the voting at the times when I should do the politics and the voting if it wasn’t for the political parties! They are both exactly the same at being the worst! This is because of reasons that someone told me were good reasons!” – Apathetic-and-uninformed friend
“Amigo, while it is a truth fact that neither party is perfect, one party is far more good! Please look at the reasons outlined in this spreadsheet!” – You
“No. Spreadsheets are lies. Numbers are lies. It’s my opinion that your facts are wrong. Both of the parties are the same bad. This is because of wholly unprovable reasons that contradict some of the other wholly unprovable reasons I have repeated.” – Apathetic-and-uninformed-and-increasingly-irritated friend
“But…” – You
“I AM ENLIGHTENED AND GOOD AND SMART AND FAIR BECAUSE I DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE POLITICS BECAUSE BOTH PARTIES ARE IDENTICAL AND EVIL AND NONE OF THE WITCHCRAFT YOU CALL STATISTICS WILL CHANGE MY MIND! GOOD DAY SIR!” – Your former friend
Okay, so it probably doesn’t play out exactly like that, but you get my point. There is a fallacy of equality in terms of many things in America, but chief among them is the myth that “both parties are equally responsible” for the current legislative morass we find ourselves in.
This is not only false, it is 100% completely unprovable. You cannot find one objective number, statistic, or fact that would support the assertion that, over the last 6 years, the Democrats have been as responsible for the gridlock in Washington as the Republicans have.
Sure, you can find things that suggest that Dems may be PARTIALLY responsible on SOME occasions. But the overwhelming mountain of evidence conclusively proves that the current makeup of the Republican party has created an environment where progress is impossible, compromise is seen as toxic, and benefits to the general public are nonexistent.
I have had variations of the fake conversation above with so many of my well-educated, smart, kind friends. We have been trained in various personal interactions and other exchanges with people that it is admirable to suggest “both sides” are to blame for something. It is seen as more enlightened and educated to suggest that both sides share equal responsibility. It’s just, sometimes that’s not true. If you are sitting in a parked car and someone slams into you, you are not equally to blame for simply having been in your car.
Yes, I just suggested that the GOP is like a drunk driver pinballing off of immobile automobiles. Ted Cruz is probably driving.
I understand that convincing dyed-in-the-wool Republicans that their party is the one hijacking the American political process has the same success rate as setting up a Unicorn trap. But I think there are a lot of people who call themselves Independents or who sit out the process entirely who need to be persuaded to see the truth. Just having talking heads on cable news suggesting the parties are both bad is not helping. Mostly because that is a big-ass lie.
Let me show you.
Incontrovertible proof that the GOP is responsible for congressional gridlock and lack of legislation
If there’s one thing that’s killing the legislative process, it’s filibusters. The oft-heard claim is that Democrats “think it’s okay for THEM to use the filibuster when THEY are the minority but it’s NOT okay for the GOP to use it when THEY are the minority.” I’m going to dismantle this with two arguments:
1.) The GOP has recently abused the filibuster to an absurd degree.
2.) Yes, it’s more okay for the Democrats to use the filibuster than the Republicans because they do a better job of it.
Let’s start with number one. There have been 546 filibusters in the Senate since President Obama took office. For reference, there were 563 filibusters from 1991-2008. So, we’ve had almost the same number of filibusters in the last 6 years as we did in the previous 18 years.
Everyone explains filibusters as being “designed to protect the minority party.” That’s only kinda true. Filibusters allow the minority party to derail the legislative process TO PROTECT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. That is not a minor distinction at all. The filibuster isn’t a tool designed to keep a party in the news. It is not designed to let a minority party advance their agenda. It’s a failsafe to guarantee the American people don’t get screwed by bad bills because one party is abusing their majority position.
Let’s look at what “horrors” the GOP filibusters have “saved” us from. Here are bills blocked by the GOP.
- Manchin-Toomey Background Checks: No matter what side of the gun debate people fall on, almost EVERY AMERICAN agrees that we need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. This was a bill designed to require basic background checks for everyone, close gunshow loopholes, and did NOT require a national registry as some suggested. The American public was in favor of this by a margin of 91%. The vote was 54-46. It is not law because of a GOP filibuster that stands in direct opposition to the will of the people.
- Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013: This would have kept student loan rates at 3.4%, which is still higher than the rate giant banks with trillions of dollars in profits are able to borrow money at. It passed 51-49 and was blocked by GOP filibuster.
- Sequestration Replacement: The sequester, which is still in effect and hurting various individuals, would have been ended. It would have required millionaires to pay at least 30% in taxes (many pay less than middle class folks do). It passed 51-49. It isn’t law because of a GOP filibuster despite 2/3 of Americans supporting it.
- Bring Jobs Home Act: One of the many jobs bills killed by the GOP, this one would give businesses a tax credit for eliminating a US-based business located overseas and relocating it here. It would also have killed tax deductions for outsourcing expenses. It passed 56-42 and was defeated by GOP filibuster.
- Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act: A seeming no-brainer, this one would have let small businesses get a tax credit if their 2012 payrolls were higher than their 2011 payrolls. So, if you paid your workers more, we’d try to help you with that. It passed 53-44 and was killed by GOP filibuster.
- Paycheck Fairness Act: A personal favorite of mine, this would have made employers pay the same to males and females doing the same job. More than that, it would allow employees to discuss salaries without retribution. That may have come in handy for the editor of the New York Times… Passed 52-47. Killed by the GOP.
- DISCLOSE Act: Overwhelmingly supported by the American people, this would make companies, super PACs, labor unions, and other groups to disclose donors who give more than $10,000. This actually got two votes! It passed 51-44 and then again 53-45. GOP killed it to keep secrets.
- Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act: This one would have repealed that thing we do where we just give oil companies tax breaks for no reason. It passed 51-47. I wonder why the GOP killed it?
- DREAM Act of 2010: Perhaps the most famous. It would have allowed the children of illegal immigrants to get an education. It passed 55-43. It was killed because the GOP treats the children of immigrants worse than unborn fetuses.
There are more. Lots of jobs bills and such. But these are ones I chose to highlight for one simple reason: Americans wanted them. Not kind of. Not a little bit. They wanted them by margins of at least 2-1.
So, to recap point one: The GOP has used the filibuster to a staggering degree and has used it on things Americans actually wanted.
That explains the second point I’d like to make. Slate looked at the numbers and concluded something that is the diametric opposite of what you see above. When Democrats have used the filibuster, by and large, it was to support a position held BY THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS.
That is a HUGE point to make. It is not in any way hypocritical to suggest that there is, in fact, a problem with how the GOP has been using the filibuster. Look at the data and you see without any possible evidence to the contrary that they are using this stalling tactic to stunt legislation that Americans want passed at a rate unseen in political history.
The way government is supposed to work is that the two parties negotiate a middle ground.
Like, at all.
The biggest reason for this is the chart below.
Now, look at it carefully. You see how the GOP side SPIKES up? I can’t deny that the Democratic chart doesn’t trend more liberal. But the GOP is the most conservative in all of history and has gotten there at a faster clip and remains more extreme. It’s hard to bridge a gap. It’s impossible to bridge a canyon.
But still, the Dems are TRYING. There’s a reason I keep pointing to the Senate, as the GOP-controlled house just pass whatever they want. But let’s see how bipartisan each party truly is: In the House, of the top 100 Representatives who work with the other side, only 4 are Republicans. That’s right, 96% of the top bipartisan individuals in the House are Democrats. Still believe “both sides are equally to blame?”
In an era dubbed “the worst congress ever,” it’s not just important to understand why this is happening it is LITERALLY the only way to fix it. I know it sounds good to say “both sides suck.” I know that it’s not always easy to distill the information down. So let me give you a concise summation:
TOO LONG DIDN’T READ
Both sides are not responsible for our current awful congress, as the GOP has overwhelmingly blocked bills that the vast majority of the American public supported and refused to engage in bipartisanship to a much greater degree than Democrats.
Those are just the facts. If those things still matter to you.