Eugene Robinson Live: Are Republicans starting to recover their senses?

Nov 27, 2012

Live chat with Eugene Robinson about politics and his latest column

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Hi, everyone, and welcome. I guess the question today is how much the world has changed, post-election. Is the Grover Norquist pledge still binding? Is the fiscal cliff a mountain or a molehill? Is Susan Rice being knocked around because of unkind things she said about John McCain four years ago? Maybe somebody has the answers. Let's begin.

I have seen several articles about how some GOP members are willing to break the pledge. That being said, I doubt any will actually do so...especially in the House.

It will be interesting to see. I agree that there won't be a flood of House members rushing to renounce the no-tax pledge -- they're worried mostly about being challenged in primaries from the right. But there might be enough to join with Democrats in passing sensible tax measures, assuming Speaker Boehner is willing to go that route.

Is it possible that R's 1) know they must vote for tax increases on the wealthy 2) want to limit their primary challenges in 2014 and 3) can still command party loyalty? If so, wouldn't they identify the congressmen in the most *left-leaning* districts and get them to vote for the Democratic position? Everyone else on their side could take the Grover Norquist approved "principled" vote. Seems like this would be fairly painless for them. Some risk, sure, but not as much as any alternative.

I have my doubts about number 3. Party loyalty? I think that's Boehner's basic problem. He certainly understands 1 and 2, but can he enforce 3?

Mr. Robinson, 2 questions, sir. 1. How in the name of Sam Hill did Grover Norquist acquire all of his mesmerizing control of Republican legislators? He is not an elected official, holds no official posting, seems to be quite the narcissist. 2. If the parties cannot agree to stop the train before the cliff, is this not akin to the Republicans raising taxes, which their pledge states that they MUST NOT DO? Red Rover Grover, methinks is riding the fence on this one. YOur take?

I don't blame Norquist; he's just exercising leverage he wouldn't have if Republicans hadn't given it to him. I blame the elected officials who abdicated their responsibility by signing the pledge. Nobody forces them to listen to Grover. Nobody forces them to do his bidding. That said, he may have to interpret the pledge in a way that allows the GOP some wiggle room.

I agree we need more revenue; however I think tax rate increases are counterproductive. I think we need to hold some rates and lower others. We need to cut the rate to help keep our jobs from going to foreign countries. I think the best way would be to eliminate a large number of deductions and tax loopholes. I also think every American should pay, we can reduce our overall rates, and however we need to simplify our tax system. It’s far too complicated. What do you think of Unions that would rather kill a company than work with management? (Hostess Brands).

To take your last question first, in general the U.S. labor movement has been extremely flexible and cooperative in seeking ways to help companies survive and thrive; I've read stories portraying Hostess as a counterexample, but frankly I haven't looked into it enough myself to form an opinion. As for tax rates, we're talking about an increase from 35 percent to 39 percent -- a return to the Clinton-era rates -- on income over $250,000. That's not confiscatory. That's hardly even inconvenient.

Hi, Mr. Robinson, November 6 was barely over before pundits and individuals started talking about the demise of the Republican Party. What's up with that? There are 30 Republican governors in the country, and more than 30 state legislatures are in GOP hands. Anyone who doesn't think this will have an impact should consider that serving as a state legislator is often a path to Congress -- and that the a number of the Republicans being talked about as candidates for the Presidency in 2016 are currently governors. Further, Mitt Romney carried 47% of the popular vote -- there people aren't going to go away, and there is no indication that the sharp divisions in our political realm are about to be healed. I'm a loyal Democrats who viewed Republicans as headed for the dust bin of history in 2008. Then they came roaring back in 2010. History may not repeat itself, but it seems far too soon to be dismissing future prospects for the Republican Party. What say you?

 Obviously the GOP isn't going away -- it controls the House, after all -- but the party does face some serious long-term issues, in my view. It's not just demographics; it's demographics plus policy. The party can't keep losing African-Americans by 94 percent, Latinos by 71 percent and Asian-Americans (the fastest-growing minority) by a stunning 73 percent. That way lies the fate of the Whigs. But it's not just a matter of throwing out a bone or two on immigration. I think the party has to understand these voters -- and how they see the proper role of government. If the GOP is going to be the party of limited access to health care, of unaffordable higher education, of big-money interests as opposed to the small entrepreneurs they claim to love so much... if that's what the GOP continues to stand for, good luck.

I think you vastly underestimate Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform. They essentially own the Republican party on the issues of taxes. If anyones breaks their pledge, they'll pour millions into a primary to defeat them. They've threatened before and come through. I don't see anything changing anytime soon.

If Republicans in Congress are seen as blocking an ageement on taxes and spending, solely because they insist on tax cuts for the rich, they will lose seats in 2014. Maybe redistricting will save their majority; maybe not. But I'm willing to bet that going down with a sinking USS Norquist is not going to appeal to many Republicans.

Interesting topic and I'm curious to read your insight and about other people's experiences. I'm an independent with an equal number of Democrat and Republican friends and family members and no one I know of is recovering. Lots of talk about seccession, how this election was stolen and that the only people who vote for a Democrat are fools or parasites or both. Unless Republicans take a long hard look at themselves and confront reality nothing will change,

I know quite a few Republicans who believe there are lessons to learn from this election. But there are going to be battles within the party about what it all means. I have to believe Republicans will ultimately decide that "half the voters are parasitic fools" is not a winning message.

What did you think of any mention of Frederick Douglass in the new "Lincoln" film by Steven Spielberg? Just curious. John Hope Franklin credited him with the phrase, "a new birth of freedom" among others perhaps in the Gettysburg Address. And of course, he's credited with convincing the President with allowing Blacks to fight in the Civil War. Your thoughts?

"Lincoln" is a great movie, but yes, I regretted that there was no mention of Douglass. He was an important public figure who played a big role in the fostering the evolution of Lincoln's views about slavery and emancipation.

To you is it likely that nothing is done on taxes before 1/1/13, the rate increases for almost all become reality, and then the GOP can sell themselves as heroes for restoring whatever tax cuts that they can get retroactive to 1/1?

That's possible. But of course, the GOP would want to reinstate all the Bush tax cuts and the Democrats would insist on exempting income over $250,000 (or some other negotiated figure). Which is where we are now, isn't it? 

Susan Rice is in the middle of what seems to be a cover-up or at best some incompetence. Someone changed the wording on the CIAs assessment of the incidence in Libya and she went on national television telling everyone it was the video not a terrorist attack. After our President said she had no knowledge of what happened, why was she sent in the first place? Seem it should have been Hilary Clinton. Maybe this is a case of plausible deniability?

Um, so Susan Rice went on some Sunday television shows and trumpeted talking points that turned out not to be accurate? And this is some kind of big scandal and/or cover-up? Why would you expect her to say anything other than what officials were being told by the CIA? Is it your impression that initial intelligence estimates are always 100 percent accurate, or do they sometimes change as more information becomes available? In fact, do they always change as more information becomes available? Let me try another line of inquiry: Susan Rice has been UN ambassador for four years. Do you object to something she has done in her job? Anything?

I don't know if they are starting to recover their senses or not. Already the Club for Growth and others are talking about running someone in the primary against Shelley Capito for the Senate. Capito is their most electable candidate (shades of Castle (De), Lugar (In), etc.) How is that recovering their senses?

Well, it's not. Capito would be their best WV candidate, and if they try to take her out from the right, we'll know that the GOP is still working through some fundamental issues.

Former Republican former Governor of Florida Charlie Crist, as well as an erstwhile Florida GOP honcho, are alleging that Republicans strove mightily to put in place voting procedures to suppress turnout among likely Democratic voters in Florida: Link

Similarly, Pennsylvania State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai crowed earlier this year re how PA's. new Voter ID Law would assure a PA. victory to Romney (oops!). How likely do you now think it is that the Department of Justice will investigate efforts in these and several other states to suppress voter turnout?

I've written quite a bit about the GOP voter-suppression campaign. The Justice Department closely monitored these efforts in various states and helped ensure that this shameful attempt did not succeed.

It seems that in the wake of November 6, Republicans are blaming everything for their Presidential loss (and lost seats in the House and Senate) EXCEPT the most obvious thing: What the Republican Party stands for. There must surely be reliable polls that show that the majority of voters disagree with most of the more extreme-conservative tenets of the GOP's party platform. I think those, as well as the politicians who voiced those views, caused the Republican Party to lose this time.

I'll say it again: This is what the GOP needs to think about. If people disagree with your policies, they probably won't vote for you. The legendary California political operative and trickster, Dick Tuck, once lost an election. His concession began: "The people have spoken. The bastards." He could do that, because he never intended to run for office again. But I don't think the GOP is planning to retire from politics.


That's it for today, folks. Thanks so much for participating, and I'll see you again next week.

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Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards.
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