What many fail to understand is that being opposed to nearly everything the Democrats are currently pushing through does not mean being opposed to everything, and one has to at least concede the possibility that the Dems are deliberately proposing wild things so that the GOP must remain the “party of NO” and so allow this label to be used against them.
The narrative I hear from many of those on the left (and from quite a few in the middle) is that the GOP is opposing everything for the sake of opposition, and are not really as dead-set against many of the controversial bills in question as they behave. Also, I hear that the GOP never offers any counter-proposals and refuses to negotiate.
Strictly speaking, this is not true. When the original version of the health care bill (HR 3200) was in the house, the Republicans submitted their own version (HR3400). I don’t know what was in it – it too was monstrously long – but the media never really picked up on this fact.
In addition, sometimes the best thing to do – in governance as well as life – is to do nothing. People sometimes forget that doing nothing is not only a legitimate option, but often the best option in the face of imperfect knowledge. The Republicans are not wanting for answers; it is merely that their most common answer right now is to let other forces work things out. This fits well with the ideology and biases of the libertarian wing of the GOP which now seems to be ascendant. “The government which governs best is the one which governs least,” they are fond of quoting.
All this being said, the GOP is not exactly helping its image when it refuses to sign a civility pledge or when it refuses to attend a negotiation conference on the health care bill. Of course, their claim that the Democrats will use the pledge as a rhetorical tool to bash any Republican who later dares to speak the truth is probably true – but it shouldn’t matter. The Democrats will find ways to twist the meanings of words and bash Republicans in any case and the fact that the Republicans have not signed the pledge is now being used against them. Don’t they understand how it looks to those in the middle when they refuse to support civility even symbolically? Right now, they are playing right into the Dem’s hands. As for the conference, I find the claim that attending it grants some sort of tacit endorsement of the then health care bill (now law) to be a bit of a stretch. Although it is almost certainly true that the Dems had no real intention to negotiate, and only meant it as a PR stunt to show they were willing to negotiate, by not attending, the GOP merely reinforces the lies being told about them. Considering this pattern of behavior, one has to begin to wonder if there may be a grain of truth to these lies after all.
Nevertheless, I hope this post clears up some misconceptions that are currently holding back progress. We need to start working together. One way to begin is to stop complaining that the other side isn’t even trying.