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Sat Feb 9, 2013, 11:08 AM

Former congressman Tom Allen: GOP speaks a different language



You try serving with these Republicans: I spent 12 years in Congress and lost hope that we could talk to each other

BY TOM ALLEN


Excerpted from "Dangerous Convictions: What's Really Wrong With the U.S. Congress"

Twelve years in Congress. Daily conversations with Republican members of Congress. Bipartisan trips abroad with time to talk at length. Work on legislation of mutual interest with members across the aisle that I respected and admired. But those dozen years left me alarmed and frustrated by the inability of Republicans and Democrats to comprehend each other well enough to work together on our country’s major challenges. We share the same titles and vote on the same legislation, but we see the world through dramatically different lenses.

It’s those lenses that interest me most. To be sure, multiple other factors feed polarization and congressional gridlock. Cable TV 24-7 news has broadened coverage, but the scramble for ratings favors short segments with guests representing both ends of the political spectrum, not the middle. These days, political campaigns never end; there is little breathing space for governing without looking toward the next election. Vast sums of money and highly organized groups create pressure on elected officials not to stray from the party line. House and Senate rules can be used for partisan purposes. Redistricting every decade creates chances for parties to draw lines that favor them for years. But in my experience, our greatest challenge is first to understand and then to bridge the gap between the dominant but incompatible worldviews of the two parties.

Nothing I had learned about politics before my election prepared me for the intense polarization of contemporary congressional politics. When I first went to Washington to work for Sen. Ed Muskie in 1970, Republicans and Democrats debated public issues vigorously, but there was more genuine give-and-take and mutual respect, and the players did not treat politics as a blood sport. Six years on the Portland City Council taught me that most local issues could be resolved without petty or partisan combat.

Dwight Eisenhower accepted the major legislation of the New Deal. John Kennedy started the legislative push for a substantial tax cut. Lyndon Johnson came from a Senate known for working across the aisle. Richard Nixon signed clean water and clean air legislation. Ronald Reagan raised taxes many times to deal with mounting deficits created by his 1981 tax cut; George H. W. Bush did the same, to resounding criticism from the Right. Bill Clinton antagonized elements of his Democratic base by supporting a balanced federal budget, free trade and welfare reform.

George W. Bush was different. His election in 2000 was, in hindsight, stage two of the Newt Gingrich revolution. Senator Lincoln Chafee (R.-R.I.) recalled, shortly after Bush’s election, that Dick Cheney quickly laid out to a small group of moderate Senate Republicans, “a shockingly divisive political agenda for the new Bush administration, glossing over nearly every pledge the Republican ticket had made to the American voter.” In his first term, President Bush abandoned international treaties, invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and drove through two massive tax cuts that primarily benefitted wealthy Americans.

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http://www.salon.com/2013/02/09/former_congressman_tom_allen_gop_speaks_a_different_language/

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Arrow 10 replies Author Time Post
Reply Former congressman Tom Allen: GOP speaks a different language (Original post)
DonViejo Feb 2013 OP
1StrongBlackMan Feb 2013 #1
oldhippydude Feb 2013 #2
Jerry442 Feb 2013 #3
freshwest Feb 2013 #8
mainer Feb 2013 #4
MrScorpio Feb 2013 #5
freshwest Feb 2013 #9
Sadiedog Feb 2013 #6
jerseyjack Feb 2013 #7
DallasNE Feb 2013 #10

Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 12:49 PM

1. Posted to for later reading. n/t

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 01:01 PM

2. worth reading...........thanks

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 01:26 PM

3. The Republican Party was Once an Actual Political Party.

They had an ideology and visions for the future of America -- which I profoundly disagreed with, but still. At some point during Bill Clinton's presidency or so, the Republican Party degenerated into a straight-up criminal organization. They are now nothing but a bunch of thieves and thugs, with no other goals other than grabbing as much power and loot as possible and destroying their enemies.

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Response to Jerry442 (Reply #3)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 02:08 PM

8. +1

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 01:37 PM

4. We Mainers are very proud of our Tom Allen

Rhodes Scholar, Harvard Law graduate, and an all-around nice guy.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 01:46 PM

5. Democrats can't understand Republican insanity and anti-govt shenanigans…

And the Republicans despise Democrats for not joining them in shouting "FREEDOM" as they try to burn the country down on all of our heads.

That's not so hard to figure out.

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #5)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 02:16 PM

9. And unfortunately, some call out Democrats as spineless for not going full metal, too.

That is not respecting the process, which Democrats do, as Obama does, to honor all the hundreds of millions in the USA. This is an area of belief that is exploited by both the extreme right and left to discourage Democratic voters. Allen has seen this happening up close. Taverner wrote an OP that is similar to this:

We are at war. You can pretend we can be one country again, but we can't.


http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002879486

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 02:04 PM

6. Interesting to read.

No wonder things are the way they are now. That was very discouraging to read. I find myself hating the Republican Party more and more and everything it stands for. I used to consider myself pretty much a centrist but no longer. I guess now it begs me to question how to fix, stop this? I come here to educate myself about the issues but sometimes feel so helpless to affect any change. I have no money to donate to any cause just barely making it, I can volunteer some of my time and do write lots of letters, any suggestions will be welcomed from people here. I so want to leave my grandchildren with a brighter future than I see on the horizon.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 02:06 PM

7. The trouble began with Newt.

 

He told his party go work three days and then go home to your constituents. In prior times, there would be the Washington parties and such where members of both parties would socialize. Under Newt's plan, this stopped.

Then --- comes the people who want to be in Congress but don't want to do the job of a representative or senator. They will only act in ways that they believe will lead to reelection.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 03:32 PM

10. On Many Things There Is No Middle Ground

One way works and the other way is a bust. To Tom Allen the middle ground would be a smaller bust, I guess. What would Tom Allen do about Sandy? Estimates are that it will take $60 billion to repair so Tom Allen would say let's do $30 billion -- a smaller bust. Or, take Social Security. People retiring paid all of their adult live into the plan with a promise of a certain level of benefit. Tom Allen would cut that benefit in half so younger Americans could put half of their money into private accounts.

Let's branch out to events that extend beyond our borders, like global warming and what to do about that. Bush abandon the Kyoto Accords so countries around the globe continue to pour CO2 into the atmosphere with clear evidence of more destructive weather patterns, with those patterns changing ever more rapidly. Sea level changes are already 20 years ahead of schedule because the ice in Greenland is melting even more rapidly than forecast. Where is the middle ground -- indeed does a middle ground exits. What would it be based upon -- voluntary compliance on emissions? Give me a break. We are not talking about different world views; we are talking about right and wrong -- good and evil.

I understand what Tom Allen is saying. I just don't see where it makes any sense when practicing what he preaches would leave us muddling along at best. On some of this we have a mountain of data that points to a single conclusion so it is time to accept the truth for what it is. Truth cannot have a middle ground just as rational and irrational cannot have a middle ground. While there can be differences in how to arrive at the common goal what we are seeing today is lack of agreement on the common goal with one side not accepting facts as being facts. Surrender under those circumstances is not an option.

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