1994 revisited

The Republicans are in the grip of a powerful dream, a nostalgic, seductive memory that entices and beckons. If they plan well and stay united, they will witness the resurrection of 1994 in the fall of 2010 and it will be déjà vu all over again.

The outcome may bode well for their party; it spells disaster for America.

In 1994, Bill Clinton's presidency was still nascent. Hillary Clinton's healthcare reform, derisively called Hillarycare, failed. Spectacularly. No vote was ever taken. Inspired, the Republicans double-downed on what was a huge loss for the Democrats and during the 1994 mid-term campaign proposed a "Contract With America," its main architect Newt Gingrich. It proved an effective piece of political theater and, on Nov. 8, 1994, the Republicans took control of the Senate and, for the first time since 1954, the House of Representatives.

For the Republicans it was a sweet moment — some called it the Republican Revolution — and it's memory still lingers. And so the Red Dogs have concluded that, strategically, all they have to do is obstruct any and all legislation proffered by the Obama administration, brand the Dems as being incapable of governing and make healthcare, as stated by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Obama's "Waterloo."

How do the Republicans effectively shut down the Dems? In a word: the filibuster. It's scorched earth politics, party before country, and it thwarts the will of the people. Recall: We had an election and they lost. Decisively.

In a nutshell, the filibuster works like this: In the Senate a bill is mustered out of committee and handed up for debate and a vote. Before a vote is taken, any senator can, anonymously, block the vote by invoking a procedural filibuster. He or she does not have to actually speak nonstop on the senate floor ala Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

Just invoking the filibuster is enough to block a bill from coming before the Senate for a vote. To override the filibuster, a 3/5 majority (a supermajority of 60) is needed. If the legislation's advocates don't have 60 (Democrats now have 59), the legislation is relegated to political purgatory. Nothing happens. The procedural filibuster was invoked more than100 times in 2009, an unprecedented number, crippling the Senate's ability to address exigent problems.

And while the Republicans use the stealth filibuster, they repeat their talking points regarding the fiscal irresponsibility of the Democrats who are, so they say, orchestrating a government takeover of health care (death panels); are soft on terror (refusing to use torture); reading captured terrorists their Miranda rights (no matter that the Bush administration used the judicial system to prosecute Richard Reed, the shoe bomber, and many others); insist that the stimulus bill created no new jobs (it's created millions); ridicule global warming (it's been a cold winter on the East Coast); claim going green (cap and trade) will mean loss of jobs and increased energy costs; and repeatedly brand the Democrats as the party that is incapable of getting anything done. Come this November, so the game plan goes, they will be restored, once again, to power.

They are, of course, gambling that America will ignore the last decade and accept their latest populist reincarnation.

Simultaneously, the Republicans are embracing the Tea Bag Party.

The Baggers' platform, such as it is, was captured best by Tom Tancredo, former Republican Colorado congressman, who stood before their recent convention and, to a cheering audience, said, "People who could not spell the word 'vote' or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House — his name is Barack Hussein Obama. The revolution has come. It was led by the cult of multi-culturalism, aided by leftist liberals all over who don't have the same ideas about America as we do." More cheering.

This is the group the Republicans now count as political brethren: reactionary, scary-angry, anti-minority, anti-immigration, born again birthers who yearn for a Jim Crow America, a place where people of color are again denied suffrage by using the insidious literacy test. And how else to interpret the term "cult of multiculturalism" than code for white Anglo-Saxon supremacy, disguising their fear that America soon will be a thousand shades of brown, latte, cappuccino, terra brun, mocha, soft sand and sienna, with white being an ever narrowing band in our national profile.

Meanwhile, as we watch these familiar drag and stall tactics, this blatant undermining of the will of the majority, it's business as usual and days and months and years slip by. And America is not moving forward. Instead we are paralyzed. Crossroads issues are ignored. Another lost decade looms large. But know that China and Europe and Japan are not standing still. They see the future and it is them. They are in the hunt while the Red Dogs play for time in hopes of resurrecting 1994.

Chris Honoré is a freelance writer who's lived in Ashland since 2003.

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