OPINION — For Republicans, it’s not a matter of government, a question of politics, a difference of world views and opinions.
It’s a constant battle to win, to dominate, to make sure your policies are enacted. That’s how they have operated for four decades.
President-elect Joe Biden must understand this. He was in Congress as the relationship between Democrats and Republicans soured and became not just distant, but poisonous.
It became war.
For many years, Republicans and Democrats would work together. It wasn’t that amazing, either. It was routines, expected, now the process worked.
In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, worked in tandem to accomplish things both in foreign policy and domestic affairs.
America built interstate highways, launched an effort to go to the moon, began taking meaningful, if plodding, steps towards civil rights for all.
In the 1980s, Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill would battle during the day and sip a drink together at night while striking deals. They were willing to talk to each other and find a way to move forward.
Reagan was a far-right conservative and O’Neill was a liberal from Massachusetts. They differed on many issues— but they had a basic respect for each other and the political process.
Deals were made, the country moved ahead.
Can that atmosphere be restored once Trump is forced, kicking and screaming like a petulant child, from office? In this current climate, it will take some doing.
We are witnessing the latest round of conflict over the election. Biden won, and rather comfortably, setting a record for the most popular votes ever. He will likely wind up with 306 Electoral College votes to 232 for President Trump.
Biden will receive more than 80 million votes and has a lead of more than 5 million in the national contest. Since Hillary Clinton garnered 2.9 million votes than Trump in 2016, this means 8 million more voters supported his opponent in the last two elections.
Still, Trump insists he won, and his kids, inner circle and most rabid supporters, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, go along with the nonsense.
Because it’s war. They intend to win, no matter how.
They act like all the votes should have been counted before they want to bed on Election Night, despite the fact that more than 100 million Americans voted absentee, early or by mail.
Of course it took longer than usual to count the votes. That was apparent for weeks. We knew the numbers would swing as early votes were counted, in most cases after Election Day ballots were tabulated.
They know this, of course. But this is war.
They are determined to win, and if it means disenfranchising millions of Americans, cheating the process and countering the views of the majority of voters, well, that is the cost of war. They are willing to sacrifice principles and laws in order to win.
We have seen this for years. Remember when Barack Obama was elected, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to fight him every step of the way, seeking to make him a one-term president.
“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” the Kentucky Republican told National Journal in 2010.
That failed. But when Obama tried to name a Supreme Court justice following the death of Justice Anton Scalia in early 2016, McConnell told him that the eminently qualified Merrick Garland wouldn’t even be granted a hearing.
There was little question that Garland, the chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was a proper choice. He not only deserved a hearing, he should have been approved.
Instead, McConnell bragged about his efforts to block the appointment.
“One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy,’” he said in a speech in Kentucky in August 2016.
It’s war. There are no rules in war. That’s the GOP way.
For years, while Democrats controlled the Senate and Republican presidents like Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford nominated justices, they were approved. Not in every case — Nixon had two nominees rejected, but his second choices were approved.
All got an opportunity to make their case. But not in 2016. Not when Mitch McConnell was in charge.
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this fall, there was a slight pause as people wondered, will the Senate wait until after the voters determine who wins the election to decide who will name the next justice?
Of course not, not during a war.
Instead, Trump quickly nominated Appeals Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Senate Republicans set a land speed record to confirm her. The hypocrisy was breathtaking.
Now, McConnell is saying he may be reluctant to allow Biden to name the cabinet secretaries he wishes. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the liberal independent from Vermont, has said he would accept the post as Labor secretary if it is offered.
“If I had a portfolio that allowed me to stand up and fight for working families, would I do it?” Sanders told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Yes, I would.”
Will Senate Republicans allow the president to name his own advisers? It’s such an absurd question — but not now. Not in these conditions.
Biden said this week he has yet to talk with McConnell, which seems ridiculous. He also said he was confident they would work together and he would be able to name his cabinet.
“That’s a negotiation that I’m sure we’ll have,” Biden said.
Democrats are hoping they can win a pair of Senate races in Georgia. A pair of runoff votes will be held on Jan. 5, as Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, try to turn back Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
If the Democrats can win both races, the Senate would be deadlocked at 50-50. That would give Vice President Kamala Harris the tiebreaker.
It’s a long shot to defeat a pair of incumbent senators, but Georgia did turn a slight shade of blue this year, supporting Biden in a close vote. Yes, Gov. Noem, Biden did win Georgia.
The odds are, Republicans will hold a slight edge in the Senate when Biden takes office. That’s on Jan. 20, 2021, for those who don’t understand how the process works.
Biden thinks he can work with McConnell. When he was VP, Obama dispatched him to the Senate to try to find common ground.
In 2017, as Biden prepared to depart, he visited the Senate and he and Mitch made nice.
McConnell said Biden was “a real friend ... a trusted partner ... We’re all going to miss you.”
Biden also has expressed his friendship with the Kentucky senator during an appearance in Louisville.
“You want to see whether a Republican and Democrat really like each other,’’ he said. “Well, I’m here to tell you we do.’’
This week, Biden dismissed the last-gasp to deny him victory and laughed off the suggestion that Republicans won’t accept the fact that he is the next president.
“They will,” he said.
President Obama waited for eight years for Republicans to come to the table and negotiate in good faith. He was sure he could reason with them, that they would seek common ground for the common good.
That’s why he ended up unable to name a Supreme Court justice. He underestimated their ability to deny, block and undermine his power and authority.
It’s a war and they were determined to hold their ground.
Now, Joe Biden, with nearly a half a century of national political experience, who joined the Senate in 1973, when there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, when congressional kingpins routinely crossed the aisle to make deals and pass legislation.
It wasn’t perfect. Many of those deals were not in the best interests of the American people. But they were far better than the hyper-partisan political world we live in today.
There was war in Vietnam but the Republicans and Democrats were not openly fighting across the country. Now, with divisive social issues having carved deep trenches of distrust between the parties, and with moderates usually unable to build bridges, we have great stagnation and venomous debates.
Joe Biden, with a mandate to lead America out of this morass, says he can calm the waters and persuade people to lower their voices and blood pressure.
Can he get the GOP to agree to end the war and try to be civil? If so, he will have accomplished more than Trump did in four bitterly divisive years.
To read all of today's stories, Click here or call 642-2761 to subscribe to our e-edition or home delivery.