Mechanical Dances

Procedurality and the American Right

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Theda Skocpol makes an interesting observation about the Tea Party:

“Opinionated, educated liberals often have no idea what happens in state legislatures, local government boards, or political party committees. Grassroots Tea Partiers, by contrast, know the rules and procedures for passing bills and advancing regulations in detail—for local, state, and national government. But at the same time, they hold wildly inaccurate views of what is in, or not in, public policies or legislative proposals. They know process, but flub content—the exact opposite of the academic liberals.” Skocpol, Theda; Vanessa Williamson (2011-12-02). The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism (p. 198). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

This commitment to procedure combined with an ideologically motivated ignorance of substantive issues (e.g. climate change, evolution, basic macroeconomics) seems to be true not only of the so-called “grass roots” Tea Partiers but also of the educated elites of the American Right. A current example is the latest court challenge to the Affordable Care Act based on the wording of one clause regarding health-care subsidies. The legal minds for the Right have made a case grounded entirely on procedure not substance, since it is idiotic to think that the Democrats (who passed this law) intended to exclude the federal health exchange. This commitment to procedure and process is something that we see in a variety of moves by the Right: for example, in the creative, constantly morphing proposals to restrict abortion, in Boehner’s move to sue the President, in the endless votes to repeal Obamacare in the House, etc.

The Republicans have become the party of procedurality.

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