Jan 29 2014

Party self-interest trumps the public interest


Reform Party of California Commentary

The Reform Party of California (RPCA) recently pointed out that an unpleasant manifestation of political self-interest is the willingness of political parties in full control of some states to have legislative agendas that differ depending on whether it is an even-numbered election year or an odd-numbered year with no routine elections. The RPCA cited that as evidence that both political parties and their elected politicians routinely put their self-interest, i.e., re-election, before the public interest. The point of easing off on aggressive partisan agendas in election years is to not offend the electorate so that in the following odd-numbered year, partisans in political control can again safely move aggressively ahead with their partisan agenda.

That evidence is not the only indication of political self-interest by parties and politicians acting without much regard for the public interest. On Jan. 28, 2014, the New York Times (NYT) published an article (pages A1, A12, online here) describing the same strategy being urged at the national level for the same reasons that applied to essentially the same situation at the state level. In this case, the well-known and influential conservative pundit and opinion leader William Kristol is openly urging the republican party in congress to delay any legislative action on immigration reform because it might cause a brutal intramural fight with the republic party, thereby jeopardizing republican chances of making gains in the 2014 congressional elections.

According to the NYT article Kristol characterized the situation like this: “It’s one of the few things that could actually disrupt what looks like a strong Republican year,” said William Kristol, editor of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, calling an immigration push “a recipe for disaster.”

An editorial entitled “Don’t Do It” published Jan. 27, 2014 online by the National Review, another influential conservative publication, was directed at House Speaker John Boehner. That editorial urged Speaker Boehner to wait until after the 2014 elections before doing anything about immigration reform. The National review characterized the situation like this: “The old Reagan catchphrase calling for non-action — don’t just do something, stand there — has never been more apt. Yet the House leadership is about to roll out a set of immigration principles reportedly including an amnesty for illegal aliens, and presumably will follow up with a push to pass them through the House. This is legislative strategy as unforced error.”

Given that evidence, it is more than fair and balanced to conclude this: Nothing whatever is taken out of context in arguing that congressional republicans are being urged to ignore immigration reform in 2014, regardless of how urgent the matter is and regardless how much human suffering and economic uncertainty the current situation will continue to inflict on both immigrants and America’s economy.[1]

Both of these situations are fairly characterized as a tactic that parties and their politicians used to deceive the public into thinking the party in power is something it isn’t. This strategy is employed at the both state and national levels. In RPCA opinion, this well-known practice serves the parties and their politicians at the expense of service to the public interest.

As far as the RPCA knows, no contemporary politician has openly campaigned on an agenda of a full-on partisan agenda in non-election years and a soft, stealth agenda in even-numbered election years. It is very hard to imagine that any ‘normal’ voter consciously wants their elected politician to work one year and then slack off the next. That defies common sense for regular people, although hard core partisans are probably perfectly happy with the every-other-year strategy if they believe that their politicians being AWOL 50% of the time works for them. The whole point of this is intentional deception of the public.

In his State of the Union speech yesterday, President Obama urged congressional action on immigration reform. That obviously is not going to happen because action now does not serve republican party or politician self-interest. Action on immigration reform before the 2014 elections arguably hurts republican political interests. Where service to the public interest is in any of that is far beyond the RPCA’s comprehension.

What is arguably the most discouraging aspect of this kind of arrogant, self-interested political behavior is that it is so open and obvious. These arguments to delay action on immigration reform are not even made behind closed doors. How much respect for the American public does this show? In RPCA opinion, this situation reflects a profound affront and insult to all Americans, excepting of course the blind hard core partisans who think this kind of self-interested sleaze is acceptable and maybe even admirable. Obviously partisans who accept this as acceptable business as usual are dead wrong. Sadly, these blind partisan ideologues[2] have no idea whatever of how much this denigrates and disrespects the American people and the entire concept of service to the public interest.


1. No one who is credible disputes the argument that uncertainty hurts business activities and planning. Uncertainty hurts GDP growth and no one disputes it. Nonetheless, some prominent republican sources are publicly urging both continued economic uncertainty as well as continued human suffering that delayed action on immigration reform will necessarily generate. Apparently, that is just collateral damage that has to arise in service to partisan political agendas. It is no wonder that republicans enjoy little support from minority American voters. If the situation were not so outrageous, it would be just sad and pathetic.

2. Maybe a good analogy here is to look at whatever it was that passed through the minds of the arrogant ideologue partisans who dreamed up the stupid idea of disrupting traffic on a major bridge in New Jersey as political retaliation toward a state politician. Only blind, hard core, “our ends justify any means” partisan ideologues could come up with something that ridiculous. The congressional republican strategy of delaying action on immigration reform for partisan advantage is just as stupid and insulting to the American public as the lunatic Bridgegate scandal. It is even fair to conclude that republicans don’t have enough faith in their own ideology and agendas to raise them to the public in election years. Is that cowardice or something else? You decide.