Monday, November 25, 2013

What are Republicans Thinking?

This article is not about Republicans in general. Rather it is particularly about the Republicans in the U.S. Congress.
The record of these Republican Congresspersons over the last three years has been quite consistent: they have almost unanimously opposed nearly everything the President has proposed.
There has always been political division in the country, but perhaps there has never been as much polarity as there is now.
In the Senate, the Democrats became so frustrated last week that they even used the “nuclear option” and changed the rules for approving nominations for executive and judicial positions.
That was not necessarily a good thing. But neither is the ceaseless obstructionism that led to that extreme, and possibly unwise, decision.
In particular, I am raising the question about what are Republican lawmakers thinking in their ongoing, obdurate opposition to positions that the large majority of U.S. citizens, including Republicans, are for.
Consider four such issues: (1) legislation to outlaw hiring/firing discrimination against gays/lesbians, (2) immigration reform, (3) background checks for those who want to purchase guns, and (4) raising the minimum wage.
(1) On Nov. 7, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) by a vote of 64-32. (One of the negative votes was by Republican Senator Blunt of Mo.) But at this point, Rep. Boehner has refused to bring the bill up for a vote in the Republican dominated House.
A recent Gallup poll found that nationwide ENDA is supported by 63% of the citizens nationwide, with only 31% opposing it. Even among Republicans, there were 58% in favor and only 36% in opposition.

(2) Back in June, the Senate passed an immigration bill by a 68-32. (The negative votes were all by Republicans, including Senator Blunt.)
But it has yet to be approved by the House, even though earlier this year a CNN poll showed that 84% of the public (78% of the Republicans) backs a program that would allow undocumented workers to stay in the United States and apply for citizenship if they have been in the country for several years, have a job, and pay back taxes.
(3) The tragic school shootings at Sandy Hook were nearly a year ago. There were outcries across the nation for more stringent gun control. In April the Senate bill to extend background checks received 54 votes—but was killed by a Republican filibuster.
A subsequent Gallup poll then indicated that 65% of Americans thought that Senate bill should have passed; only 29% thought it shouldn’t have.
(4) Back in March, Senator Harkin (D-IA) proposed the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, calling for an increase from the current $7.25 to $10.10. This month after passing ENDA, the Senate began to consider Sen. Harkin’s bill along with other possibilities.
This month, a Gallup poll indicated that U.S. citizens favor raising the minimum wage to at least $9.00 by a margin of 76% to 22% (and 58% to 39% among Republicans). But the Senate has yet to come up with anything that they think will be able to clear an expected Republican filibuster.
So here are four hot issues with overwhelming public support for change but which are opposed by Republicans in Congress—which leads again to my question: What can they be thinking?
And how can they claim to be representing the citizens of the country when they keep opposing what a large majority of the citizens are for?
Of course another pertinent question is this: Why do people keep electing lawmakers who do not vote according to the desires of the majority of the American people?


  1. Good questions, Leroy. I'm going to repost your excellent succinct piece.

  2. Thanks again for ongoing significant insights. Your thoughts deserve consideration simply on practical bases. Also, Christians need to review them from our foundational concerns--responsibilities for the governance of a democracy.
    Les Hill

    1. Thanks for your comments, Les. Good to hear from you again.

  3. Thinking Friend Eric Dollard made the following comments:

    "Thanks, Leroy, for your comments below. I fully agree. What we are also seeing is the increasing trivialization of politics. Non-issues have become the hot topics when we have far more serious issues to discuss."

  4. The actions of the Republicans in Congress appear more logical if the poll numbers are restricted to the people living within their districts. Their actions are even more clear if the poll numbers are restricted to the registered Republicans in their districts. They are representing their districts, not the nation as a whole.

    If the polarization is to be ended the mind set of the white rural populations (i.e. red states) will need to change. That's where some missionary work is needed.

    1. Clif, thanks for pointing out what I hoped someone would. Most in the House are probably voting the way most of the people in their districts want them to vote.

      This is the point made by Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in an email received yesterday: "Sadly, Republicans have redistricted so many states that they may continue to control the House, notwithstanding the popular vote."

  5. One of the books in my stack to read is "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu. I have run across enough references to it over the years to gather it would help me understand Republicans. A quick peak at Wikipedia reveals Coach Belichick uses it, too, so after last night's game, the Denver Broncos may want to check it out as well!

  6. Local Thinking Friend Temp Sparkman sent the following comments which deserve consideration:

    "Right on! I generally shy away from suggesting that elective representatives vote with the majority of the American people, preferring rather that they vote according to a larger purpose. I came to this distinction back when our local congressman held a public meeting to determine their opinion on whether president Obama should bomb Syrian sites. I wanted to tell the Honorable Cleaver that once elected he does not represent the opinion of the electorate but that his responsibility is to find the public good. My thinking on this matter does not negate the central message of your blog.:

    1. Thanks, Temp, for your comments, which, as I indicated above, are well worth considering.

      It might be argued that since the members of the House are called Representatives, they ought to represent the majority position of the districts they are from.

      But as you suggest, perhaps especially the Senators have a responsibility to seek that which is best for all the people of the nation and to vote accordingly. Accordingly, they may need to vote, at times, in ways that do not necessarily represent the majority opinion.

      Perhaps that is what the Republican Senators think they are doing. But it seems to me that in the four issues I mentioned in this blog, the majority of the people in the country have it right and the Senators have it wrong.

  7. Local Thinking Friend Will Adams is a retired political science professor. Thus, Dr. Adams's comments are instructive for those of us who do not have as full an understanding as he does:

    "The founding fathers were not democrats. They distrusted majority rule. They also distructed rule by monarchs, lords, and other wielders of power not responsible to the people. So they fragmented power between three branches (executive, a two house legislature, and courts). Only one of these four institutions, the House of Representatives, was elected by the people (the Senate was chosen by state governments until the early 20th Century).

    "They also divided power between two levels, federal and state. Since each of the 50 states has 3 branches, that makes 153 power wielding institutions. What are the odds they will ever agree on anything?

    "The rule makers in each of these bodies have been good at inventing still more barriers to getting anything done. The fillibuster, and the 60 vote rule to close a fillibuster, are two good examples. So is "Senatorial courtesy," a custom by which an individual Senator can veto a presidential appointment in his/her state. Perhaps the wonder of the US system is that anything ever gets done at all.

    "If you want a model of majority rule democracy, look at Great Britain. There are no states (though England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are strong regions), and a vote in the House of Commons settles any political dispute. For example, in 1947 a majority of voters elected the Labour Party to a majority in the Commons on a platform, among other things, of socialized medicine; and the voters got what they wanted.

    "In the US, Presidents Teddy Roosevelt (in 1906), Truman (1947), Nixon (1973), Clinton (1993), and Obama (2007) gave called for some sort of federal action on health care, and we're still fussing about it.

    "Of couse the British system would not work in the US. But we're stuck with a system which barely works at all. That was the intent of the founding fathers."

    1. Dr. Adams, your point is well taken.

      Still, the 112th Congress was the most unproductive (in terms of substantive bills passed) U.S. Congress since 1948, and the record of the current 113th Congress is probably going to have a worse record.

      The system may only barely work, but it has usually worked better than it is working now.