GOP: Governing vs. imploding

By Bill Kaplan

"We invented the revolution, but we don't know how to run it" 
- Marat / Sade, play by Peter Weiss 

Many in the GOP seem hell-bent in rejecting the building blocks of governing - compromise, forbearance of the magic wand, negotiation and respect for opposition - and instead embrace imploding:

• Washington Post political writer Dan Balz opined: "What this year so far shows is that Republicans may be paying a price for their own anti-government rhetoric. They have debased the currency of governing to the point that right now experience in office produces no dividends";

• Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin listed some lessons from Gov. Scott Walker's inglorious presidential campaign: "Walker's failure to master policy issues beyond his state...frequent flip-flops (likely born of indecision about policies he did not know well)...He seemed small, skittish and out of his depth";

• And, the New York Times commented on California GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy's "abrupt withdrawal" from the House speaker's race: "Republicans expanded their numbers in the House and won the Senate in 2014 by asking voters to give them control of Congress and let them prove that they could govern the country. Right now they appear unable to govern themselves".

The GOP is a sharply divided party. There is the incurious Walker, who proclaims his fidelity to President Reagan, but is clueless to the Reagan governing record:

• Raised taxes 11 times - New York Times;

• Raised gas tax to pay for road repairs and new highways - Washington Post;

• And, increased the debt ceiling 18 times - PolitiFact.

And, then there are the rabble-rousers who have thrown the House into chaos. It's been one manufactured crisis after another over the Affordable Care Act, the federal budget, increasing the debt ceiling and now Planned Parenthood. They even shut down the government in 2013, unmindful of harming the economy. Their guillotining of McCarthy could lead to another GOP-led federal shutdown.

There is another way. Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich has a record state approval rating of 62 percent, despite running for the presidency. Why? He governs: expanded Medicaid, accepted a state minimum wage increase, proposed an increase in the state's tax on oil and gas resources and declared no more crusades against unions.

Finally, conservative pragmatic House GOP reps. joined with Democrats in successfully forcing a vote in late October to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. All Wisconsin Democratic reps. supported the move. However, Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan and the other Wisconsin GOP reps. did not. Crocodile tears about the lost GE jobs in Waukesha. But Tennessee GOP Rep. Stephen Fincher, who led the effort to get a vote on the Export-Import Bank said: "I am putting jobs over ideology" (the bank provides loans to foreign buyers of U.S. goods and credit insurance to U.S. sellers).

The bottom line question is: which wing of the GOP is in the ascendancy? And, does Rep. Ryan want to be a conservative pragmatic problem solver GOP leader?

- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.

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