Is the GOP Post-Policy?

John BoehnerJonathan Bernstein noted something really interesting at Salon yesterday, GOP Quits Public Policy. In it, he explains that in the House of Representatives, they number bill sequentially. So HR 101 comes after HR 100. But for some time, they’ve reserved the first ten number HR 1 to HR 10 for party priorities. For example, in the 2008, the Democrats used the first two for the stimulus bill and the expansion of S-CHIP. In general, the trend has been to not use all ten numbers, but the process is still used to signify what policies the party thinks are important.

Until now, apparently.

The House majority is currently only using one of the ten slots. And it is for a fairly pathetic initiative: “a bill to force the building of the Keystone XL pipeline.” And even that slot was only filled after a month and a half into this legislative session. So what’s going on?

Bernstein is quick to note that it is a liberal canard that conservatives have no ideas. Let me just say that I mightily agree with him. In fact historically, conservatives have had many clever ideas. Look at the individual mandate that they came up with even as they now say it is socialism. Since conservatives are not willing to support straightforward policies, they have to come up with clever ways of accomplishing things. Needless to say, I prefer the direct approach: if our employment-base insurance-crippled healthcare system is broken, it is best to change it. But I would never say that the clever schemes of conservatives to patch it up with duct tape and bubble gum are not real policy ideas that are even sometimes good.

So if the problem isn’t that conservatives have no ideas, what is it? Bernstein thinks it’s laziness:

My guess is that the Republican-aligned partisan press is just so easy for Republican politicians that they’ve all become lazy. If all you have to do to be a favorite guest on Fox News or on syndicated conservative talk radio is to mutter something vague about Benghazi and make a teleprompter joke, what’s the incentive of doing the hard work of actually writing a bill?

At any rate, this sort of thing just isn’t normal. It’s another good indicator of a broken party, and good evidence that they really just don’t care about public policy very much.

My take, I’m afraid is a bit more partisan. I think that by and large conservatives are almost by definition not interested in improving society. The end of history and all that. So even when conservatives are being very clever with policy, it is all in an effort to do nothing, or barring that, as little as possible. That is after all what the individual mandate was all about: defending against single payer healthcare reform. When that was taken off the table as a threat, the conservatives turned against the individual mandate. At first they couldn’t do nothing, but things changed to the point where they could. Well, not nothing. Now they are down to the brilliant idea of allowing people to buy insurance across state lines. (This wouldn’t really help insurance customers, but it would help the big insurance companies.)

I’m sure that Boehner & Co see their jobs as preventing anything from happening and policies are not necessary to do that right now.


The title comes from Rachel Maddow’s claim that the Republican Party has become “post-policy.”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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