But today the Republican Party has been infected by a small but destructive faction that would rather tear down the house our founders built than govern from it. These extremists are more interested in putting on a show, as one Republican colleague put it, than in legislating. That’s why they prevented the Senate from taking action to avert a government shutdown last night – to put on a show today.
It is disturbing that he would resort to the metaphor of infection. Throughout history, it has been a justification for extreme measures against political enemies. You do not negotiate with an infection, you try to eradicate it.
It all starts with President Obama, who routinely accuses Republicans trying to thwart his spending plans by putting “party ahead of country.” Last January, when talking—as Dan Pfeiffer was this week—about GOP insistence on trading spending cuts for agreeing to raise the nation’s debt limit—the president said he wouldn’t negotiate with those holding “a gun at the head of the American people.”
Joe Biden asserts Republicans are holding the country “hostage” with their spending stance, and in a 2011 meeting with congressional Democrats the vice president agreed with the suggestion that Tea Party groups were “terrorists.”
Among Democrats on Capitol Hill, it starts at the top, too.
Last week, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid compared Republican conservatives to “Thelma and Louise,” adding, “America will know exactly who to blame: Republican fanatics in the House and the Senate."
On the House side, such talk has long been a staple for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose default argument on fiscal or economic policy is to impugn conservatives’ patriotism. In 2008, she said it was “very unpatriotic” for Republicans to balk at a big bank bailout. Two years later, she lashed out at those resisting raising the debt ceiling: “Are these people not patriotic?”