GOP: Don’t ask us to gov­ern

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - EJ Dionne Colum­nist E.J. Dionne is syn­di­cated by The Washington Post Writ­ers Group.

The most de­press­ing news from last week did not come from the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. It came in­stead from Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz, who told us what a Repub­li­can Congress would be all about: in­ves­ti­gat­ing a Pres­i­dent Hil­lary Clin­ton, start­ing on or about Jan. 20, 2017.

“It’s a tar­get-rich en­vi­ron­ment,” the Utah Repub­li­can who chairs the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee cheer­fully told The Washington Post’s David Weigel. “Even be­fore we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of ma­te­rial al­ready lined up. She has four years of his­tory at the State De­part­ment, and it ain’t good.”

The party’s post-elec­tion slo­gan: For­ward into the Past!

So, no time to see if we might first re­fur­bish our in­fra­struc­ture, im­prove ed­u­ca­tion or find a com­pro­mise to re­pair the Af­ford­able Care Act. No need to act on im­mi­gra­tion re­form.

And, no, we won’t start a Clin­ton term by do­ing more to lift up Amer­i­cans who have been ham­mered by eco­nomic up­heaval. It’s an en­deavor that could use­fully draw Amer­i­cans closer to each other across some of our deep­est chasms, since both in­ner-city African Amer­i­cans and Don­ald Trump’s white work­ing-class sup­port­ers have been hit hard by de-in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion.

But a Repub­li­can House seems to feel no obli­ga­tion to bring us to­gether. The plan, ap­par­ently, is to at­tack, at­tack and at­tack again, as if the elec­tion never hap­pened.

And when you think about it, hat­ing the Clin­tons is one thing that can bring a badly di­vided Repub­li­can Party to­gether. The term “civil war” may have been overused about the GOP, but this time, there is no deny­ing that the bat­tle for the party’s fu­ture and its soul is on.

If the Repub­li­cans hold one or both houses of Congress, they will be di­vided on all man­ner of is­sues ac­tu­ally re­lated to run­ning the coun­try. So what bet­ter way to unite the party than to put gov­ern­ing aside as much as pos­si­ble and spend the two years be­tween now and the 2018 midterm elec­tions try­ing to de­stroy Clin­ton? Trump and his fol­low­ers would love it, and the es­tab­lish­ment would not be re­quired to show its hand on any mat­ters of im­por­tance.

This is an out­rage for any­one who thinks we need a func­tion­ing gov­ern­ment. But it is also dis­ap­point­ing to those in­side and out­side the GOP who hoped the Trump ex­pe­ri­ence might lead to some se­ri­ous re­think­ing about what the party is.

Some Repub­li­cans seem gen­uinely se­ri­ous about the need to do ex­actly this, and the Chaf­fetz in­ter­view broke just a few days after the flag­ship mag­a­zine of Amer­i­can con­ser­vatism, Na­tional Re­view, hit the stands with a new is­sue that in­cluded gen­uine soulsearch­ing — lit­er­ally so in the case of Ian Tut­tle and his re­flec­tions on “The Re­li­gious Right’s Demise.”

Tut­tle speaks frankly of the cri­sis among Chris­tian con­ser­va­tives who were “of­ten be­holden to nos­tal­gia for a post­war cul­tural con­sen­sus that in re­al­ity only ever half-ex­isted.” As a re­sult, “evan­gel­i­cals quickly be­came re­flex­ive Repub­li­can par­ti­sans” and “the re­li­gious right be­came more right than re­li­gious.”

Tut­tle urges con­ser­va­tive Chris­tians to think first about the “in­tegrity” of the faith and be­come “an au­then­tic Chris­tian voice cry­ing in the wilder­ness, wield­ing a moral author­ity in­de­pen­dent of party pol­i­tics, pre­par­ing a way for a re­newed pub­lic life.”

Meantime, Tim Al­berta, the mag­a­zine’s chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent, pro­vides an un­flinch­ing and use­fully de­tailed look at the GOP’s chal­lenge as the United States ex­pe­ri­ences “a sweep­ing and un­prece­dented de­mo­graphic trans­for­ma­tion.” He pays par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the growing Latino share of the vote in states like Ari­zona, Texas, Colorado and Ne­vada.

Al­berta writes that “if the GOP con­tin­ues to re­pel non­whites, it will cease to be com­pet­i­tive.” He also notes that in nom­i­nat­ing Trump, the party chose a man “who in­dulges the fan­tasy of re­turn­ing to an Amer­ica that no longer ex­ists.”

But soul-search­ing is painful, and ac­knowl­edg­ing that the coun­try is chang­ing plays badly with the party’s base. It’s so much eas­ier to in­ves­ti­gate Beng­hazi for the umpteenth time and to dig into the nooks and cran­nies of a job that Clin­ton left nearly four years ago. It makes you re­al­ize that Washington Repub­li­cans are so out of the habit of gov­ern­ing that try­ing to tear down Demo­cratic pres­i­dents is the only thing they know how to do.

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