Opinion

GOP now the party of change? | Rich Elfers

Did you know that President Obama is a conservative and the Republicans are activists, wanting to change the government? You’re probably not aware of this but it’s true.

The New Deal policies initiated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s – Social Security and favoring of labor unions – have been the norm since then. Democratic President Lyndon Johnson created Medicare and increased welfare in the 1960s, adding to FDR’s initiatives.

These are now the standards.

Twenty-first century Republicans now want to change the government to something entirely different. Republicans want major alterations. They back small government, with less regulation and government oversight. They would like to privatize Social Security and cut Medicare. Obama and the Democrats are trying to preserve the status quo and Republicans favor radical change.

President George W. Bush appointed two Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito, during his administration from 2001-2009. He also appointed 62 Federal Appeals Court judges and 261 District Court judges.

Judgeship appointments are far more important to the Republicans than to the Democrats. It has become clear that Republicans see the appointment of activist judges as the way to change the government (Toobin, Jeffrey. “The Oath”).

It was Democrat Sen. Barry Feingold along with a moderate conservative John McCain who passed the McCain-Feingold Campaign law in 2002. The activist Republican Supreme Court Roberts majority struck down part of it with its decision in the Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission in 2010. This decision drastically changed how much money individuals and corporations could contribute to campaigns. Democrats and Obama were put on the defensive. And while Democrats struggled against superior amounts of money during the 2012 presidential election, they were able to fight off the political attack that came as a result.

The recent government shutdown was due to an activist Republican majority in the House who fought to end Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The president and the Democrats had to hold the line against an attack on Obama’s signature legislation. The Republicans failed, but the ferocity of the Tea Party conservatives and the support from Speaker Boehner was certainly a frontal attack on established Democratic legislation.

The Republican Senate has used its power to confirm executive branch appointments by threatening filibuster and delaying decisions on both judicial and agency appointments. The president has claimed that the obstructionism is unprecedented, even though he has also not been aggressive with court appointments: “Obama made 212 nominations with an average wait of 224 days until the confirmation phase” according to a USA Today study compiled in November 2012. It took George W. Bush an average of 176 days for appointments to be confirmed and Bill Clinton 98 days.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that: “President Obama is the only one of the five most recent presidents for whom, during his first term, both the average and median waiting time from nomination to confirmation for circuit and district court nominees was greater than half a calendar year (i.e., more than 182 days).”

Whether you side with the Republicans or the Democrats, you will have to agree that the Republicans are now agents of change while, paradoxically, the Democrats are in favor of maintaining what has become the norm. What is clear is that President Obama and the Democrats are the ones on the defensive while the Republicans are trying to batter down the doors and bring about change. The Republicans lost their last siege with the government shutdown, but we only have to wait until January and February to see if they will renew their attack. The 2014 Congressional races will determine whether this trend will continue or end. It is ironic that Obama was elected as the candidate of change in 2008, but he has now become the president of holding the line.

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