Anyone and everyone can easily see that Washington has been in near constant gridlock since Newt Gingrich became speaker. Civility, time honored methods and precedent have given way to a cynical strategy to attain power at any cost.
From the New York Times - "The Last Moderate"
To Cooper, the true villain is not the Tea Party; it’s Newt Gingrich. In the 1980s, when Tip O’Neill was speaker of the House, "Congress was functional," Cooper told me. "Committees worked. Tip saw his role as speaker of the whole House, not just the Democrats."
Gingrich was a new kind of speaker: deeply partisan and startlingly power-hungry. "His first move was to get rid of the Democratic Study Group, which analyzed bills, and which was so trusted that Republicans as well as Democrats relied on it," Cooper recalled. "This was his way of preventing us from knowing what we were voting on. Today," he added, "the ignorance around here is staggering. Nobody has any idea what they’re voting on."
Many people think the current hostilities and disagreements in Washington and state capitols are over honest differences of opinion.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Republicans have a cynical strategy to deliberately make congress, the Senate and government in general look bad. The idea being that if Republicans are "against government" and they frame Democrats as being "for government" when government has a bad Reputation it will hurt Republicans less.
A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.
Of course having informed and representative voters going to the polls can't be allowed if Republicans have their way:
Undermining Americans' belief in their own institutions of self-government remains a prime GOP electoral strategy. But if this technique falls short of producing Karl Rove's dream of 30 years of unchallengeable one-party rule (as all such techniques always fall short of achieving the angry and embittered true believer's New Jerusalem), there are other even less savory techniques upon which to fall back. Ever since Republicans captured the majority in a number of state legislatures last November, they have systematically attempted to make it more difficult to vote: by onerous voter ID requirements (in Wisconsin, Republicans have legislated photo IDs while simultaneously shutting Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in Democratic constituencies while at the same time lengthening the hours of operation of DMV offices in GOP constituencies); by narrowing registration periods; and by residency requirements that may disenfranchise university students.
This legislative assault is moving in a diametrically opposed direction to 200 years of American history, when the arrow of progress pointed toward more political participation by more citizens. Republicans are among the most shrill in self-righteously lecturing other countries about the wonders of democracy; exporting democracy (albeit at the barrel of a gun) to the Middle East was a signature policy of the Bush administration. But domestically, they don't want those people voting.
The Tea Party is the Republicans rabid pit-bull. The only problem is that a rabid pit-bull can be uncomtrollable. Many current Republicans have said that the Tea Party is going too far or that candidates can "go too far to the right." Of course the objection is not because of the political leanings, but because even Karl Rove can see that a "far right" candidate could not win a general election.
You don't want these candidates moving so Right in the Republican primary that it becomes impossible for them to win the general election, because it will become a self-defeating message in the primary.
People want to win. They don't want somebody who goes so far to the extremes of either party that they lack a chance to carry a victory off in November."
This leads to an interesting question: are US political parties close to a schism?
As I see it the current Republican party can easily be split into three new political parties: The Tea Party, Mainstream Republicans (most of the current party) and Social Republicans (most moderate Republicans, like Ms. Snow and Ms. Collins). There is already evidence of instability in the Republican party, so a complete split is not much of a stretch.
The Democratic party has never been a really cohesive political party. The "Blue Dog" (fiscal conservative) Democrats can easily split to form their own party, leaving traditional or "Social Democrats."
Add in a new Progressive party and a Green party and the US can have SEVEN active political parties.
Of course this would be massive political change. This is not completely unprecedented. The US has gone through many political party changes - remember the Whigs, Bull Moose parties/
If change like this happened the US could really have more representative government, as smaller parties could align more closely with people's beliefs. As it is now the choice between "two sides of the same coin" does very little towards true representation and the majority of people in each party do not identify with much that either one stands for.
The multi-trillion dollar question is: how would this help US politics?
To start with, no single party could dominate unless the people of the USA actually chose to elect a super majority of that party to congress. As it is now one party gets elected, more or less in reaction to kicking out the other party. This is repeated in the opposite direction 4 or 8 years later.
With multiple parties the US would have to start the process of having coalition governments like much of the rest of the world. The Greens, Progressives and Social Republicans could form a coalition, Blue Dog Democrats, Mainstream Republicans could align together. Maybe there could be three or four serious candidates for President.