Geof Stone: "The Republican Struggle for 'Ascendency'"

The Republican Struggle for 'Ascendency
Geoffrey R. Stone
Huffington Post
December 8, 2009

They scorned "any idea of moderation" and greeted with contempt any effort "to understand a question from all sides." Their primary goal was "to acquire power" by frustrating those in authority at every turn. If the President "made a reasonable speech," they "took every precaution to see that it had no practical effect." Although "professing to serve the public interest," they in fact "were seeking to win" power "for themselves." In "their struggles for ascendency, nothing was barred."

A description of today's GOP by an outraged blogger? No. This voice of despair speaks across the millennia. It was written more than 2,400 years ago by the Greek scholar Thucydides in his brilliant history of the Peloponnesian War. But it does sound familiar, doesn't it?

Several weeks ago I had dinner with a friend who lamented what he termed the "blatant obstructionism" of congressional Republicans. He said they reminded him "of the Southern Democrats during the civil rights era, because they too used every means at their disposal to block change."

At first, I accepted this analogy, but then I realized it was wrong. The Southern Democrats did, indeed, use every means at their disposal to block civil rights legislation. But they sincerely believed that such legislation was bad public policy and was especially bad public policy for the South. No one doubted the sincerity of their opposition, even if many found it abhorrent. The congressional Republicans of today, however, seem determined to do everything possible to frustrate the President on all issues. Their goal seems less to be to enact legislation that serves the public interest than to make the President seem weak and ineffectual, and to thereby gain political "ascendency" for themselves.

This is not to say that congressional Republicans don't have sincere public policy differences with the President over health care, Afghanistan, the economy, climate control, energy policy, judicial nominations, and taxes. No doubt they do. It is to say, however, that they don't seem at all interested in finding common ground in order to further the public interest, even when the President offers compromises that alienate his own supporters.


Geoffrey R. Stone



The Republican Party is becoming a regional party of Southern white racists, gun-toting cowboys, and Mormons.  Geoff Stone has nailed it.

Ah. . . no.

That's not Stone's argument at all, although I don't necessary disagree with you concerning your conclusion as to the composition of rank-and-file Republican membership, minus the Mormon reference.

Essentially, Stone argues that his friend's comparison of Southern Democrats' opposition to Civil Rights legislation forty years ago to today's GOP's opposition to the current administration's priorities is inapposite because the Dixiecrats were idealogues, while today's GOP is simply committed to weakening President Obama and thereby retaking power. And he's right in part -- today's GOP is unlikely to side with the administration or make any concession in regard to any policy except where forced by circumstance.  Stone's analysis, however, is short-sighted; while recognizing the GOP's obsession in retaking power, he omits the reason therefor and the raison d'etre for today's GOP party leadership, i.e, the continuing ascendancy of the corporate state and the fortunes of its owners.

To be fair, subscription to the notion that the continuing ascendancy of the corporate state is necessary to America's best interests is not solely a Republican province, although Republican idealogues slavishly worship at its alter.  Indeed, several prominent Democrats, including President Obama and former President Clinton, appear to have been infected by the fiction that the welfare of the American people is contingent upon profit accruing to America's corporate interests, especially the insurance, banking and investment sectors.  This is nothing more, however, than yesterday's "what's good for General Motors is good for America" nonsense, and the kind of thinking responsible for Clinton's NAFTA; former President Bush's exorbitant Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act and bailout of the financial sector; and President Obama's recent backroom attempt to buy the silence of the pharmaceutical industry.  Indeed, President Obama's seeming inability to make any decision adverse to the bottom line of America's insurance, banking and investment sectors speaks volumes as to which way he leans and whose counsel he values. 

And the situation is likely to worsen given this morning's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United  invalidating key prohibitions concerning campaign financing, effectively permitting corporations to spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress and overturning twenty years of precedent barring such contributions.  At some point, you might think, Americans would realize that serfdom is a terrible idea, and isn't made any more palatable by the fact that the king works on Wall Street and wears a suit and tie. But as the old saying goes, nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.