Sunday, October 7, 2012

The problem with Democrats

Posted By on Sun, Oct 7, 2012 at 7:43 AM

DUMB OR DELUSIONAL? Sen. Larry Teague makes nice in a war.
  • DUMB OR DELUSIONAL? Sen. Larry Teague makes nice in a war.
A Stephens Media report on how election outcomes could affect the 2013 legislature provides a crystal-clear example of why the Democratic Party is in peril.

Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, Senate president pro tem-elect, said Arkansas lawmakers have traditionally worked in a bipartisan manner. He said he does not expect that to change regardless of how the November election turns out.

Spoken like a man who got some Republican votes for Senate president and who'll be as useless as teats on a boar hog if the majority switches next year. In short: If he really believes what he said, he's an imbecile or delusional. Democrats, because they are so diverse ideologically, HAVE been prone to compromise and deal-making at times. Party discipline is non-existent. The strict Republican dogma is bright-letter stuff and brooks no compromise. Bipartisanship isn't in the platform. Teague's channeling of Neville Chamberlain gains him nothing in the final days of a bitter war for legislative control.

Indeed, in the same Stephens article, Republican are much clearer, differing only in emphasis, about the sea change they and any sentient being should expect if they rise to power.

Their own party platform endorses a radical change in taxation, favoring a crippling reduction in income taxes which can be paid only through dramatic reduction in support of education, health care, prisons and pubic safety.

They will rubberstamp every piece of legislation possible to end the availability of abortion in Arkansas — no matter how dire the medical emergency facing a woman — and they'll do all in their power to stamp out distribution of birth control pills and condoms.

To the extent possible, they will take statutory steps to encourage religion in public institutions, from daycare to public schools.

They will take all possible steps to punish those in sexual minorities.

They are hungering to stiffen parole and refill prisons that they won't provide enough money to operate.

Public schools will resegregate. Teachers will be devalued. School choice — vouchers for private schools and charter schools — will reign supreme. Years later, we'll learn as every other state has that "choice" is a shell game that produces few student winners, many losers and a windfall for con artists.

Polluters need not fear stronger regulation, already lax, particularly in the Fayetteville shale.

Every step possible will be taken to block implementation of federal health care legislation. The legislasture will reject expansion of Medicaid. This will refuse billions in additional federal money and worsen the deficit in existing Medicaid programs while crippling the medical economy. Nursing home care for the elderly will be reduced dramatically. Local hospitals and medical providers will be forced out of business. UAMS, already in perilous shape, will be thrown into a death spiral. Arkansas Children's Hospital's huge dependence on Medicaid will have to be affected.

The flipside is practiced rhetoric for any Republican: Tough times require tough choices and sometimes bitter medicine.

Republican legislators and voters will tell you this directly, even those who'll suffer. Remember the unfortunate fellow from Paragould who turned up at a Koch elect-Republicans bus tour the other day? He has a low-level state job with good state benefits, plus eligibility for Medicaid, food stamps, earned income tax credit and child care deductions, all targeted by national Republicans for reduction or elimination. He says he just can't vote for Democrats anymore. Too much government spending. He doesn't expect bipartisanship for his vote and he will not be disappointed, though what the hell he'll do when the results trickle down on him is anybody's guess. Make the rounds of local churches for daily alms, I guess.

Fame for the state, more like infamy, will accompany this changeover. Arkansas will become a regular source of national headlines for fodder from the most extreme in the new majority — the Jon Hubbards, Loy Mauchs and Charlie Fuquas. But at least they'll provide some comic relief, albeit the blackest form of humor.

Bipartisanship? If the Republican majority takes over it will be a cramdown — a blitzkrieg to employ one of Mauch's favorite literary devices — held up only occasionally by Democrats wielding the 75 percent fiscal vote requirement to slow the express train temporarily. Gov. Mike Beebe might as well get his golf clubs ready for the Searcy Country Club. He won't have much governing to do.

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