As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Those Who Fail To Learn History

It's hard to actually single out the dumbest conservative tripe you hear in a given day, but this is pushing it.

President Obama might not be aware of this but FDR passed Social Security with massive Republican support -- 81 Republicans voted in favor of the measure in the House and only 15 against while 16 Republicans voted in favor in the Senate and just 5 against. Johnson's Medicare package was only marginally more contentious. Just 13 Republicans voted in favor of Medicare in the Senate to 17 against, but in the House, more Republicans (70) voted for Johnson's Medicare plan than against (68).

Scott Lemieux' Shorter version might suffice, but just to expand a bit. In the 1930s and 1960s there were progressive Republicans and Dixiecrats. The same Southerners yelling that Obama is a Birther would probably be Democrats 40 years ago. Mississippi's James Eastland was far crazier than anyone serving in Congress today, and he was a Democrat. You can take African-American Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke, a Republican, or John Lindsay or Mark Hatfield, as the example on the Republican side.

The parties did not experience much ideological purity until post-Nixon's Southern strategy. Hell, even in 2004 Zell Miller was still a Democrat. It took a long, long time, but this has pretty much finally shaken out, and now you have an arch-conservative Republican Party. Finding votes among them is an impossible task for any Democrat. Meanwhile, not only has political polarization increased over time, but Republican moderates have been purged from their party:

It’s also worth noting that if you look specifically at, say, Barack Obama’s success in wooing moderate Republicans from New England he’s doing a great job. His stimulus bill secured the support of literally 100 percent of the GOP congressional New England caucus. And the odds that his health care bill will secure the support of 50 or 100 percent of New England Republicans remains good. The issue is that there are only two of them. And this is no coincidence—very recently there were a lot more. I think it’s quite plausible to speculate that had Robert Simmons and Chris Shays spent their time swearing up and down Connecticut that they were eager to vote for universal health care and a tough cap and trade bill and were just chomping at the bit to find a President they could work with that those two gentlemen would still be serving in the United States House of Representatives.

By the way, Matt Y. also offers the lesson of James Eastland, who was the Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 1960s:

Another moral of the story is that Eastland’s chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee obviously made passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 impossible. Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and President Lyndon Johnson dealt with this by just . . . not letting the bill get bottled up in committee and bringing it to the floor instead. The sky didn’t fall! Leading politicians decided that justice was more important that the dead hand of Senate procedure and they brought the bill to the floor where it was voted on.

Somehow, this leads me to think about Max Baucus and the Senate Finance Commitee...

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