Monday, December 5, 2011

Watching Republican strategies backfire - a reflection on means and ends

I have mentioned before that I used to spend time wondering what the Republicans would do once Bush/Cheney had so thoroughly shown the complete disaster of their agenda. It didn't take long to find out. They dug in deeper. Their strategy was to use their media outlets (Faux News and talk radio) to stir their base into a frenzy, push their failed agenda even harder, and obstruct everything President Obama and the Democrats tried to do. It seemed to work to gain them victories in the 2010 midterms.

All of that is coming back to haunt them now.

As I said before, what we're seeing in the GOP primary is a base unleashed to their most insane extremes. We don't know what the outcome of that is going to be, but the "inevitability" of their establishment candidate - Mitt Romney - is certainly in doubt.

They're having problems in Congress too. After getting outsmarted in their hostage-taking over and over again, we've watched as approval of Republicans in Congress has dipped to its lowest point in history. And now, their strategy of total obstruction all the time is causing a split between Republican leadership and their rank and file members over the one issue that has seemed sacrosanct to cuts.

Deep rifts among House Republicans over a payroll tax break became evident Friday as rank-and-file members of the caucus told their leaders that they did not want to extend the cut in Social Security taxes for another year, as demanded by President Obama.

Given the effort Democrats are making to capitalize on the issue, Speaker John A. Boehner warned Republicans they would run political risks and could be accused of allowing a tax increase if they blocked the continuation of payroll tax relief set to expire at the end of the year. Lawmakers coming out of the caucus meeting Friday said they had had a spirited debate.

“Most people standing up to speak were troubled” by legislation to extend the payroll tax cut, said Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona. “There was a divide between the rank and file and the leadership. There was a lot of disquiet in that room.”

What the Republican leadership knows is that the last thing they want to see happen going into the 2012 election cycle is for Republicans to be cast as the party that fought to the death to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy and at the same time were opposed to tax cuts for the middle class. But their rank and file members seem to see that as a betrayal of their total obstruction all the time strategy.

And so on every level what we see is that the strategies employed by the Republicans are backfiring. And if not mitigated, could very well deal a fatal blow to their party.

There have been those on the left who have suggested - as this battle looked grim - that Democrats should mirror these strategies. I, on the other hand, think about the wise counsel of Dr. Martin Luther King.

One of the great philosophical debates of history has been over the whole question of means and ends. And there have always been those who argued that the end justifies the means, that the means really aren’t important. The important thing is to get to the end, you see.

So, if you’re seeking to develop a just society, they say, the important thing is to get there, and the means are really unimportant; any means will do so long as they get you there? they may be violent, they may be untruthful means; they may even be unjust means to a just end. There have been those who have argued this throughout history. But we will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.

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