The Arc of Newt’s Partisan Design

At least by their public statements, GOP public leadership now claims to “get it” : John McCain, Tom Ridge and others last week have publicly stated that the voting population is sick and tired of extreme partisanship, and wants the deadlock to end, and the parties to work together to do citizens’ business.

Without commenting on the third-grade Duh factor of such an awakening, and seeing Newt Gingrich still trying to somehow resurrect a reputation that long ago went down the drain of the House Ethics committee, screwing his secretary, etc. etc. – combined to prompt me to remind folks that this particular arc of extreme partisanship had a well-defined beginning, and it was Newt himself who can take the bow.

Since I am unfortunately old enough to remember such things as though they were yesterday, I’ll remind younger or more forgetful voters that Newt Gingrich was once that House Speaker, and that during his reign he instituted not only the Contract for America, but a military – like voting discipline in the GOP which promised – and delivered – oblivion for any Congressperson who did not follow party orders.

The result of this Newting of the GOP was the removal of a good many GOP moderates by the party itself, who were unerringly replaced by (often more extreme) party – first Yes Men (and women).

A few years of this led to a fiercely discliplined GOP voting block, but no compromise nor interest in any.  This, in turn, had a somewhat polarizing effect on the Democrats, who slowly realized the game in Washington had changed.  The idea was no longer to pass bills, but to screw the other party at every possible turn.

Enter a decade or so of deadlock.

Now, the party that lost in 2006, and which, in Congress at least, is going to get really punished for this behavior (and other lapses) in 2008, is finally waking up to its mistakes. 

I think this is fantastic, and I hope the remake “takes.”  it would be great for the country to have some, or all, of the Old GOP back again.  But as the restructuring goes on, it is worth rembering history, as always, lest we repeat it.

And please tell Newt to just go home.