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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

WASHINGTON — After he won re-election last November, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made two sets of comments reflecting the dueling impulses of the Republican Mind. Freud fans might refer to the superego, aka the conscience, and the id.

The Kentucky Republican got the most attention for gracious words to reporters the day after the election. “When the American people choose divided government, I don’t think it means they don’t want us to do anything,” he said, promising no government shutdowns and debt-ceiling disasters on his watch. “I think it means they want us to look for areas of agreement.”

But his victory speech the night before was, well, not as gracious.

“For too long, this administration has tried to tell the American people what’s good for them — and then blamed somebody else when their policies didn’t work out,” he told his raucous supporters.

And the man who has spent the vast majority of his working life in the nation’s capital added this: “What the current crowd in Washington is offering is making us weaker both at home and abroad. … Friends, this experiment in Big Government has lasted long enough!”

In the spirit of the first McConnell quotation, we might let his election night combativeness go as one last run for a campaign stump speech riff that came to him by reflex.

But maybe not, and that’s the issue — for the short run and the long run. McConnell certainly knows that the battle House Speaker John Boehner’s caucus wants to have with President Obama over his executive actions on immigration is doubly counterproductive.

Most Republicans realize that one of the biggest obstacles to their building a majority in presidential elections is the fact that Latino Americans have come to feel that the GOP just doesn’t like them very much. As the party’s now much neglected “Growth and Opportunity Project” autopsy after the 2012 election put it, “if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”

In any event, Republicans hold the patent on government shutdowns, so they can forget about shifting responsibility for any interruption in services at the Department of Homeland Security to the president or the Democrats. A CNN/ORC poll this week brought this home: It showed that 53 percent of Americans would blame Republicans in Congress for a DHS shutdown; only 30 percent would blame Obama.

But it’s not just this fight that matters. The larger danger for Republicans is that voters continue to see them as far more devoted to corporate interests and to succor for the wealthy than to the concerns of working Americans. Republicans hate it when Obama notes that in the 2014 elections they just won, nearly two-thirds of Americans didn’t vote. But that’s true; it was the lowest turnout since 1942. Not every election will be in large part a canvass of the Republican base. (Just ask Mitt Romney.)

Don’t believe me on this. In January of 2014, then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor made a point that is enlightening even if he later lost a Republican primary: “Ninety percent of Americans work for someone else. … Their dream is to have a good job, with an income that will allow them to support their family. We shouldn’t miss the chance to talk to these people.”

The Washington Examiner put a report about Cantor’s remarks under one of the best headlines ever: “The House GOP’s incredible, amazing discovery: Most Americans aren’t entrepreneurs.”

So instead of starting this session of Congress with confrontations over immigration and the Keystone pipeline, Republicans should have opened with proposals to help working Americans advance — preferably ideas congenial enough for Obama to allow McConnell to make good on his let’s-find-agreement pledge.

Rather than bashing Obama on his free community college proposal, come up with an alternative he can work with. Obama and many leading Republicans agree on the need to raise the incomes of low-paid workers with expanded child and earned-income tax credits. Why not go there? Why not link a minimum-wage increase with benefits to businesses that help workers upgrade their skills?

It’s wise to be suspicious when you hear talk about “bipartisanship” in Congress, since it usually kicks in on behalf of interests that make big donations to both parties. Perhaps it’s naive to cling to the hope that Washington can occasionally side with those who don’t finance giant PACs or hire lobbying firms. I’m waiting for Mitch McConnell’s superego to surprise me.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected] Twitter: @EJDionne.

Photo: Talk Radio News Service via Flickr

  • Independent1

    “Keystone pipeline, Republicans should have opened with proposals to help working Americans advance — preferably ideas congenial enough for Obama to allow McConnell to make good on his let’s-find-agreement pledge. Rather than bashing Obama on his free community college proposal, come up with an alternative he can work with. Obama and many leading Republicans agree on the need to raise the incomes of low-paid workers with expanded child and earned-income tax credits. Why not go there? Why not link a minimum-wage increase with benefits to businesses that help workers upgrade their skills?”

    McConnell act congenially?? I doubt he knows how; and if he did really be willing to. Like everything else Mitch comes out with – it’s a charade.

    Rather than bash Obama, come up with an alternative he can work with.

    How can a party do either of those when they are clueless?? The GOP hasn’t had a rational idea on how to do anything for America for at least a couple decades (and they’re working hard now to even trash that idea – ACA)…so how are they going to start now?? They don’t have a solution to offer for any problem facing America – all they know how to do is trash every option the Dems put forth and then end up by saying NO!!

    The GOP hasn’t done one thing constructive for the people of America for well over 100 years. How and why would they think about starting now. The truth of the matter is that for more than 100 years, the GOP has FAKED IT!! The party knows absolutely nothing about how to truly run a government. And that can be seen by the fact that by virtually every measure, our economy, its job creation, and the well being of not only t the country itself (its infrastructure) but also its people, suffers every time that a Republican is in the presidency – and even when Republicans control Congress.

    Over the past 100 years, everything about how our nation works has functioned far better when a Democrat has been in office – GDP growth has been far better (4.5% vs 2.46%); and job growth has been far better (in fact, since Reagan was in office, Democrats have produced 100% more jobs than when Reagan and the 2 Bushes were in office and they did that with 2 years less time in office); and even the stock market has greatly outperformed under Democrats- 300% net gain compared to ZERO!!!!! over the past 86 years!!!

    What we need is for the vast majority of Americans to realize just how dismal the GOP’s true performance has been for America since Teddy Roosevelt was in office more than 100 years ago; the American people need to wake up to the disaster that is the GOP!!!

    • Dominick Vila

      What I find perplexing is the fact that millions of Americans continue to believe the message articulated by people like Sen. McConnell after he admitted that the policies of obstructionism, that delayed the economic recovery and caused so much pain to millions of Americans, we designed to make sure Barack Obama was a one term President. That admission alone, should have been enough to send this man – and others like him – packing. Instead, he and his cronies were re-elected by comfortable margins, and those who promised to do the same were elected as well. This says more about the American electorate, than the “Freudian slips” made by the party of NO.

      • Independent1

        Dominick, I agree completely with what you’re saying but it may not be as many Americans who believe in the lies of the GOP as we may be thinking; but rather, it may well be that the GOP won back control of Congress mainly because of their voter suppression and gerrymandering. They won all those Senate seats even though Republicans, even in Red States, may have garnered less than 50% of the total votes cast in 2014 and with less than 50% of Republicans turning out to vote. See my note to Charleo above.

        • Dominick Vila

          There are several reasons for the 2014 electoral debacle. An important one involves the fact that there were many more Democratic seats at play in 2014, many of them in red states, than there were Republicans in blue states. Unfortunately, that’s only part of the story. The fact that dozens of Democrats running for re-election distanced themselves from President Obama was a tacit acknowledgment of the power of persuasion demonstrated by the GOP. Another huge problem for us was the fact that neither the administration nor our political strategists managed to reach Democrats. The fact that so many fellow Democrats decided not to vote should give us time to pause and reconsider what we are doing.

          • Independent1

            Again, I certainly don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, but I think people are focusing too much on those issues as to why Senate seats were lost and they’re not giving enough thought to the fact that it was really voter suppression and gerrymandering (issues that really need to be addressed before 2016) that were the big factors in why many Republicans won Senate seats back; a number of them by the GOP candidate’s skin of his or her teeth.

            (Many of the Senate contests were too close to call at the end of the day and some even went into recounts. And it’s evident that overall, Democrats turned out in far greater numbers in 2014 than Republicans (as with the Senate, the GOP increased its seats in the House even though the Dems had gotten millions more votes). It may be true that Repubs slightly outpulled Dems in Red States, but in the norm, isn’t that to be expected in a Red State? especially when Republican legislatures have enacted so much voter suppression?)

            Also, many are forgetting that the only real victories the GOP had last November, aside from a few governorships, was winning back seats in clearly Red States that had probably only been won back in 2008 because of even a Republican backlash against the GOP allowing the Great Recession to happen. Aside from those Senate seats in red states, the GOP lost virtually every ballot issue (even in red states) and every race in a clearly blue state. So realistically, even the thought of Dems winning those Senate seats back in 2014 was really nothing more than wishful thinking; especially given the 24/7 hate campaign that the GOP has been running the past 6 years, especially in red states.

    • charleo1

      I would add in agreement, what we need for the vast majority of Americans especially younger Americans, to realize first is, a democracy doesn’t run itself. If they don’t take the time to vote, they deserve what they get. And, they are probably not going to like it. Secondly. to those who insist on sitting home at election time out of apathy, or out of some misguided notion that, non-votes, or “protest votes,” send the message they want delivered. They don’t. What they are, 100 times out of 100, is a vote for more of what they believed they were protesting against in the first place. As victories in electoral politics will always be decided by those least capable of determining the better course. When those majorities that do know better, stupidly refuse to exercise the Rights, so many have sacrificed so much in order to hand them a democracy. When they can’t sacrifice a half hour in three, and a half weeks, to participate. And so now, we sit aghast at how the Koch Brothers, along with a few corporatist billionaires are able to buy our government? Does it occur to us it is because we, the American People, have been giving them 80% of it every 2 years? And so, now we sit, head in hands, and bemoan our deplorable situation. Our top heavy economy, the stagnant wages, and crumbling infrastructure, the lack of good jobs, and dwindling opportunities. Horrified at the environmental, and financial disasters that increase poverty. And the militarism that adds to the enormous public debt. And decide, well, I’m sitting this one out, in protest? I’m talking about my own Party, and Independents here. It’s how 17% of us decide for the other 83%, that the XL Pipeline is first order of business. That workers need less representation in the workplace, so those that depress wages, and outsource jobs, have more. A hundred years ago there was Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and Laissez Faire, for Wall Street, and the monied elite, and a Great crippling Depression soon followed. Only then, when the American People spoke in unison, was an era of progressivism, and unprecedented prosperity created. Which was replaced by an age of complacency, apathy, and a staggering ignorance of how we attained that prosperity. And so we got Nixon, Reagan, the two Bush Presidencies, and soon a Corporatist Congress. And another Great financial catastrophe soon followed. Where the rich, as usual were bailed out, and the poor left to fend for themselves. Save for the legacy of the now long gone, true Progressives. Who’s initiatives, not yet fully destroyed by the greed of the Plutocrats, worked as intended. But it’s not enough to secure the future for the vast majorities. And our Country’s place in history is never more in doubt for this 21st century today, than since it’s very beginning. When we were a weak, disorganized band of disparate Colony States, hugging the East Coast of a great, but as yet unknown Continent. Or, since an American President wondered aloud whether, “This, or any Nation, so conceived, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, could long endure.” We find ourselves once again struggling with that very proposition at the heart of our democracy, equality. Will the American People rise to meet the challenge, of protecting our democracy against the tyranny of the unregulated greed freaks, who would control it? Who would surely dole it out in small parcels as they seen fit. While protecting their hegemonies against a true democracy. Where the power to govern is not granted by those so governed. But rather, by a small band of super rich ideologues, corrupting, manipulating, and directing it for their own selfish ends? This is the daunting question asked of our generation to answer for the next.

      • Independent1

        I agree completely, and unfortunately what makes what you say especially true is that many of the voting districts that are keeping Republicans in office have been so gerrymandered, that Republicans took back even greater control of Congress than they had, even though in the Senate elections, they received 20 million less votes than the Democrats. And that’s really quite a striking accomplishment if you think about it for a few minutes.

        There are about 205 million realistically eligible/likely voters in America and according to news items, only about 36-37% of those eligible turned out to vote – so that would mean about 75-76 million Americans actually turned out to vote. So if 20 million more Americans voted for the Democrat Senate candidates, that means that about 48 million Americans voted for the Democrats and about 28 million voted GOP.

        That means that Republicans not only won all those Senate seats with votes from under 14% of the total electorate but also only about 36% of the people actually voting in 2014 and only about 36% of Republicans turning out to vote. The Dems actually lost all those Senate seats even though they got 64% of the votes and almost as many votes as there are projected Democrats (they estimate registered Democrats as being about 24% of our population which means there’s about 48 million registered Democrats) ; making it even more clearer what you were saying. In order for, really the majority, to wrest our country back from the minority, we need to wake up voters to the fact that it’s going to take an especially strong turn out in 2016 to accomplish that, because the GOP, like the thieves they are, have greatly stacked the deck against America continuing to be a true Democracy.

  • Dominick Vila

    Unfortunately, for the United States, most Republicans in Congress have no intention to find middle ground or anything that may be interpreted as compromise. From populist issues such as raising the minimum, investing in infrastructure, equal rights for all Americans regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religion; to finding a solution to our immigration problems, the GOP remains entrenched in the same partisan politics that existed before they gained control of Congress.
    Their opposition to President Obama’s policies go well beyond ideology or prejudice, they understand better than most of us do the dangers of successful Democratic Presidents to their chances of ever winning the White House again. The solution to this threat usually involves distorting the record of the opposition to the point that a DEA sting operation becomes evidence that the United States government was involved in selling arms to Mexican drug cartels. That alert IRS officials caught fraudulent right wing organizations lying in their applications for tax exempt status was actually a heinous abuse of power by an evil government against innocent organization that only had the public good in mind. That a terrorist attack against our consulate in Benghazi was an unprecedented event that caused the lives of four Americans. That opposition to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is the reason our economy is not on solid ground. That raising the minimum wage is an evil concept that would cause out of control inflation and cause economic Armageddon. That focusing on finding short and long term solutions to our immigration problem is an attempt to get Latino votes (never mind that at least half of Latinos and Hispanics in Texas, Arizona, and Florida are registered Republicans), and that reluctance to focus strictly on higher fences is undermining our national security. Last, but not least, the fiscal prudence and effectiveness of the Clinton administration, whose policies produced the only Federal government budget surplus in over half a century, and those of the Obama administration, whose policies have reduced deficits by more than half, are disregarded with the usual chants of “tax and spend” Democrats.
    What is really troubling is not Republican Freudian slips, but the fact that a large number of Americans accept the claims they make and vote for them, often against their best interests.

    • FireBaron

      Dominick, as both you and I have seen and commented on over the past couple of years, the Republican agenda appears to be “If Obama likes it, we hate it.” The delicious irony of this is all the things President Obama has embraced that originally came from conservative think tanks – health care reform, immigration reform, tax reform, education reform. The Conservative think tanks wanted Single Payer Health Care, Uniform educational standards, progressive tax fairness, and making it easier for unskilled laborers to get work visas. Amazing how “Conservative” ideas are suddenly objectionable when pronounced by a Democrat.

      • Dominick Vila

        Their flip flops are consistent with the inconsistency of their policies, their record, and their alleged values. In their little world a man born in Hawaii, whose mother was born in Kansas, was not a natural born citizen; while it is OK for a man born in Calgary, Canada, whose mother was born in Delaware to run for President. In the battle for perceptions they depict a TEMPORARY work permit that allows illegal immigrants who entered the USA over 5 years ago, and who have children born in the USA, to stay in the USA without fear of deportation…until Congress passes a law that renders that temporary reprieve null and void; while ignoring that the only AMNESTY was granted by none other than their revered President Ronald Reagan, and that states with Republican governors and GOP controlled legislatures are passing laws that legalize the hiring of illegal immigrants! In fantasy land, the GOP record of deficit spending, accumulation of debt, and record increases in the national debt ceiling, become examples of fiscal responsibility, while depicting the Democrats that generated a budget surplus, or reduced deficits by 2/3, as tax and spend liberals.
        What is really going on is a battle of the minds designed to create perceptions that help win elections, and they are doing a splendid job at it.

  • Frank Hoffman

    “For too long, this administration has tried to tell the American people what’s good for them — and then blamed somebody else when their policies didn’t work out.”

    This has become the GOP’s modus operandi: to blame President Obama for precisely their own screw-ups. They want to blame the President for an economy that was caused by Republican policies and the underregulated actions of their self-interested corporate cronies, blame him for the war in Iraq that George W. Bush instigated unnecessarily, blame him for the Islamist extremists who are now flourishing in Iraq thanks to the destabilizing effects of Bush’s wars, blame him for being autocratic when they are the ones who want their own way or no way, and so on.

    The French have the saying “qui s’excuse, s’accuse” — but every school kid knows that “he who smelled it, dealt it”. The GOP is stinking up the country and claiming that the President is farting.

    • FireBaron

      Good point, Frank. But it is ok for the Republicans to tell people where they can live, who they can marry, or even who they can go to bed with.
      I still remember one Democrat’s denunciation of the Republican Party’s idea of health care – if you are sick, you can die to remove the burden.

      • Dominick Vila

        Should we assume that Sarah’s reference to “death panels” was actually a Freudian slip?

        • Allan Richardson

          Death panels were alive and well inside insurance companies for many years. In fact, they were not even “panels” and did not even pretend to hold “hearings” on patients. They just authorized, and instructed, claims representatives to veto whatever they could POSSIBLY veto, and sales representatives to turn down any applicants they wanted, regardless of the effect on the patients, up to and including death.

          The plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act or to make it unworkable is a jobs program for ONE industry: the FUNERAL industry.

    • It’s the grand Republican tradition of projectionism: Of accusing the Democrats of the very weaknesses and vices that they practice routinely.

      They announced their intent to deny all progress, then cried to FOX News that Obama wasn’t reaching out to them.

      They accused Democrats of “violent rhetoric,” then told their supporters to get “armed and dangerous” and that their opponents needed to be “taken out.”

      They accused Obama of dividing America after they threatened to secede from the union in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

      They tried to have Obama disqualified from office on the grounds that he might be from Kenya, meanwhile they float the idea of a self-admitted Canadian running for POTUS.

      They accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists” then came out in passionate defense of the Hutaree Militia.

      And they accused Obama of being a socialist, even though their 2008 V.P. nominee had once bragged that her state was nicknamed America’s socialist state.

      The list goes on and on. Virtually everything they have accused Obama or the Democrats of doing, they had done before, were in the process of doing, or proceeded to do shortly thereafter.

      Which is why I refuse to leave alone all of these psychotic bastards who accuse Obama of trying to establish a dictatorship and/or destroy America.

  • Wedge Shot

    The Republicans just can’t help themselves. They are slaves to their corporate masters. They are fully owned by the wealthy upper class that thinks of the working class as just poor, miserable, and lazy people unworthy of anything but contempt. The Republicans are determined to keep to their “we are better than anyone else in the US and the world” attitude and will continue to advance their objectives of owning damn near everything worth owning right up until the people have had enough. And have enough they will when they start rioting nationwide. Right now a group of 80 families have a combined wealth of more than 3.5 billion people or half the population of the earth. As for the police, they define themselves more with the working class than the rich and too will join the fight. Just as the French in the late 1700 hundreds had had enough so will the Americans within the next twenty years.

    Enjoy your wealth while you can rich Republicans because the end is getting near.

  • It’s also wise to keep an eye on people in Congress who talk about “bipartisanship,” if only to see if they are actually practicing what they are preaching.

    See, the G.O.P. is caught between the greater American majority, who want actual bipartisan progress but habitually lean to the left, and the minority Tea Party that hates government, hates America, and wants the G.O.P. to do everything it can to ruin the country just because a non-Republican presently holds the top office.

    And the G.O.P.’s problem is that, instead of choosing a side, they think they can dupe the American majority into supporting them just by CLAIMING to want bipartisanship while they freely pander to the extremist minority.

    So when Mitch McConnell says he wants bipartisanship, that just means he’s gearing up to cause something catastrophic that he plans to blame Obama for the very second after it hits the fan.

    • Allan Richardson

      The last time the GOP held both houses of Congress and the White House at the same time, the meaning of bipartisanship was “Republicans support all Republican positions, and Democrats cave in completely and do exactly what Republicans want.” Whenever Democrats objected to ANYTHING Republicans want, they were accused of “not being bipartisan” or “obstructing.”

  • fortunev

    You’re going to be waiting a long time. Surprise!

  • Whatmeworry

    Is the author serious? We have a president that tries to govern by fiat. Its a shame that he has never read the constitution otherwise he wouldn’t continue to loose all these suits in court

    • Whatmeworry

      The author is serious? We have a president that tries to govern by democracy. Its no doubt that he has read the constitution otherwise he would continue to win all these suits in court

      • Allan Richardson

        Are there two “whatmeworry”s or is someone suffering from multiple personality disorder? Jekyll and Hyde? Or are you pulling our chains by posting contradictions an hour apart?

        If the former, I hope you get professional help. If the latter, thanks for the puzzles and the laughs.

        • Whatmeworry

          My postings reflect a duality of views of people out to get me

    • Daniel Max Ketter

      God bless our trade unions. Vote Democrat.

  • Sterling Harris