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Posted at 4:34 PM ET, 02/25/2011

'American politics increasingly resembles a kind of total war'

By Ezra Klein

Ron Brownstein's column on the unusual role Republican governors are playing in Washington's conflicts is important to read. His conclusion is both chilling and obviously, undeniably, true:

Whatever the governors’ motivations (one man’s posturing, after all, is another man’s principle), their unreserved enlistment into Washington’s wars marks a milestone. It creates a second line of defense for conservatives to contest Obama even after he wins battles in Congress. It tears another hole in the fraying conviction that state capitals are less partisan than Washington. And it creates a precedent that is likely to encourage more guerrilla warfare between Democratic governors and a future Republican president.

American politics increasingly resembles a kind of total war in which each party mobilizes every conceivable asset at its disposal against the other. Most governors were once conscientious objectors in that struggle. No more.

And it's not just the governors. It's the courts, too. The individual mandate has now been upheld by three district judges appointed by Democrats and overturned by two district judges appointed by Republicans. It's a perfect partisan record -- which is not what most legal scholars and analysts predicted. Dahlia Lithwick went back to the initial coverage of the GOP's lawsuits. "It was an article of faith among court watchers that President Obama's health care reform plan would be upheld at the Supreme Court by a margin of 7-2 or 8-1," she concluded. Lee Epstein, a law professor at Northwestern University, told me the same thing. "Even my very, very conservative colleagues last year said that if the Court follows existing precedent, this is a no-brainer."

Epstein is known for her empirical work examining the way justices make decisions. She's the co-author of "A Realistic Theory of Judicial Behavior," and lead investigator for The Supreme Court Database. But even she was caught by surprise by the emergence of a partisan split in the District Courts. "At the district level, you tend to see much less of this," she says. "The justices don’t vote with their ideology or partisanship to the same degree they do on the Supreme Court, where you do see a fair amount of voting in line with the Justice’s partisanship or ideology."

In other words, partisan polarization, which has long been evident on the Supreme Court, is spreading deeper into the court system. And conservative groups, sensing they may have stumbled on a good strategy, are looking to replicate their success at casting doubt on the constitutionality of health-care reform by doing the same to the financial-regulation law.

As Brownstein said, "every conceivable asset."

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 4:34 PM ET
Categories:  Legal  
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No. It is not partisan and it is not polarization. The "total war" is totally one-sided, conservatives and Republicans pulling out the stops, to stop any Democratic initiatives. Even things they once supported (like individual mandate). Even things they still support -- Republicans have filibustered bills they later voted for.

Democratic-appointed judges backing the individual mandate are not partisan Democrats. They're supporting a Republican idea.

This is Republican political terrorism -- asymmetric warfare, not total war.

Posted by: jtmiller42 | February 25, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I blame it all on Tonya Harding.

Posted by: willows1 | February 25, 2011 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"This is Republican political terrorism -- asymmetric warfare, not total war."

i agree.
this was an excellent column, also.
we are being chillingly swept back into the dark ages.
fueled by some of the most unintelligent and ruthless leadership, i have seen in my lifetime, in this country.
the united states will suffer tremendously, because of it.
many of the people, who stand the most to lose,
are fueling it,
under a banner of religion and patriotism.
one can hope that goodness and intelligence will prevail.
one can work toward it.
and keep hoping.
and hoping.

when mccain unleashed sarah palin, i remember thinking,
"something wicked, this way comes."
and it has surely come.
it is like flying things from another principality have landed here.
it feels like a science fiction parable. but it isnt.

it is hard to believe that this is the face of the 21st century.
i thought we would be so far along the road to energy efficiency...our schools and educational system would be modernized, improved...that the battle for civil and equal rights, after all of the strides in the last century, would no longer be part of a new agenda.
i had such great hopes for the 21st century.
we seemed to have every opportunity for peace and progress.
it seemed we were on the way to creating a true global which everyone would benefit, after the cold war.
but we are plunging deeper into a very coldhearted and chilling darkness. something to make anyone with a heart, very sad.
not knowing what to do next.
instead, as we have become a global village, the prevailing voices are xenophobic, bigoted, hateful, paranoid.
all things that it seemed, we could finally evolve beyond.
a house completely divided against itself.
i dont think this was the world that lincoln intended for us.

all of the worst instincts are prevailing now.

Posted by: jkaren | February 25, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Total war is in fact a very good term for what the republicans are doing, because the total war phase IS always one sided.

Total war is Sherman's progress from Atlanta to North Carolina. Spread out and devastate the enemy as thoroughly as you can.

Total war is Patton overrunning France in a summer.

Total war is destroying everything your enemy has and everything he stands for.

But total war is about enemies, first and foremost.

Republicans have enemies.

Democrats have opponents.

Republicans have embarked on total war and left the democrats with no way do merely work with their opponents.

Posted by: ceflynline | February 25, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

--*It tears another hole in the fraying conviction that state capitals are less partisan than Washington.*--

What do you *expect* when the feds impose more and more nonsense on the states, eh, Klein?

And don't fool your stupid self, the last stop on the railway line of misguided intentions *is* war.

You can only steal so much, distort the economy so much, redistribute to preferred constituencies and the political class so much, before people begin to get up in arms about it.

People happen to like their freedom, and they don't happen to like ignoramuses parading around under authority of the state trying to take it away from them.

Posted by: msoja | February 25, 2011 7:04 PM | Report abuse

As the Chinese said...

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | February 25, 2011 7:14 PM | Report abuse

May you live in interesting times. (meant as a curse)

I think my grandchildren may be amazed that I lived through this era. Grandpa was the Tea Party really that insane? Did they really think global warming was a hoax? Did they think the Earth was flat?...

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | February 25, 2011 7:18 PM | Report abuse

msoja once again proves his complete lack of intelligence.

Posted by: mynameisblehbleh | February 25, 2011 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Well lets look at the November election and this should be no surprise. Everyone always has their focus on the gains the Republicans made at the Federal level. The real story is the gains they made at the state and local level Where the Governor is the executive.

Republicans gained almost 700 seats at the state and local level. Flipped around 10 Govenorships and many local house and senate chambers.

This isnt a war. The fact of the matter is the Govenor and the state legislature is going to reflect the people who put them there.

Posted by: bjeagle784 | February 25, 2011 8:40 PM | Report abuse

--*Grandpa was the Tea Party really that insane?*--

Tea Partiers are only insane in thinking they can vote all of us out of the mess we're in.

And you, Richard, are insane for thinking that you've lived through something that we haven't even reached the worst of, yet.

When people fully come to grips with the fact that they are not able to vote themselves out of the death grip of the welfare state, and that there is no other recourse than massive civil disobedience, then you will live in interesting times, though I daresay you will no longer view it as slightly amusing.

Posted by: msoja | February 25, 2011 10:13 PM | Report abuse

"every conceivable asset."

You talked about Governors and Court.

What about Media? Can Roger Ailes be any different than a 'disciplined solider of GOP'?

Posted by: umesh409 | February 25, 2011 10:38 PM | Report abuse

If this were truly a matched war of partisans, each fighting as dirty and hard as the other, then Bush and Cheney would be charged with war crimes, and Obama would be flogging Wall Street insiders as criminals instead of breaking bread with them. Instead, Obama took a lot of grief from his own partisans for not doing either of those things, naively thinking he could reach out to the other side.

Posted by: ciocia1 | February 25, 2011 11:22 PM | Report abuse

"When people fully come to grips with the fact that they are not able to vote themselves out of the death grip of the welfare state, and that there is no other recourse than massive civil disobedience, then you will live in interesting times, though I daresay you will no longer view it as slightly amusing"

It appears the wealthy have forgotten that the welfare state (social safety net) is in place to keep the peons from starving and dying. It is actually the wealthy's safety net, for as long as it works, it keeps the underclass from picking up pitchforks.
For some reason, the wealthy have forgotten the lessons of thousands of years re: living off the backbreaking labor of the poor and inevitable revolts that follow.

Posted by: Boudica20 | February 26, 2011 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Given the low and skewed voter turnout last fall, this should not come as a surprise. It's highly likely that we will see recall initiatives launched at the state level by voters who are aggrieved at the tack their state leaders are taking having not campaigned on these particular issues.

Posted by: agoldhammer | February 26, 2011 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Modern day neocons will always be at war with America so long as we keep rewarding them at the polls.

The neocons impeached Clinton, not because he was stealing anything from the states, but simply because the neocons could do it.

The neocons (see my team B link below) have been acting to subvert good governance since the Nixon days, when they tried to sabotage various treaties, and actively encouraged unilateral war against our enemies, including a nuclear war against the Soviet Union, which team B believed they could win.

Team B's lies are in large part responsible for Reagan's sudden fear of the Soviet Union and his desire for SDI and debt creating defense buildups.

Team B's descendants are also largely responsible for the CIA's proven ability to lie on behalf of Republican causes, such as the way it lied to justify the Iraq War. Many, maybe most, within the CIA are helplessly aghast at these thugs and liars who were embedded there by Republican political leaders.

You can also google for PNAC at wiki and learn how modern neocons (Republicans) rely on force or threat of force instead of diplomacy or compromise to achieve their ideological ends. The Iraq War is proof of that.

They employ the same asymmetric warfare theories here at home to win elections, and such events as the impeachment, and widespread vote cheating, and media corruption, and Jack Abramoffs massive and dangerous schemes and Tom Delay's gerrymandering visions, and the recall of Gray Davis, and the theft of the 2000 election and Citizen's United are all part of this political warfare.

These people have been wrong time and again, they've created our debt, entrench us in oil, sold off our infrastructure to foreigners, and yet continue to show up in our elected offices and corporate boardrooms. The reason is they are willing to tell any lie to anger whatever group of Americans they can get on their side. Robert Reich had a recent blog in which he describes how they continually split groups of people using provocative and partly fictional issues, then after they succeed, they figure out a way to then split the resulting groups with different issues. For example, they are now dividing us across gvmt and pubic worker lines, or teachers vs everyone else, or hispanics vs everyone else, or union based auto workers, vs non-union based auto workers.

The neocons are the people destroying our country, and almost all Republicans, and conservative Dems, including Clinton and Obama, are among their ranks.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 26, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse

--*The neocons are the people destroying our country, and almost all Republicans, and conservative Dems, including Clinton and Obama, are among their ranks.*--


Posted by: msoja | February 26, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

The people were displeased that obama and the Democratic Party were so slow in digging them out of the hole that Bush and the bankers had got them into.
(There was also a slew of Corporation "we don't have to tell you who" money buying attack ads.)
The Republicans have decided that this advantage is the time to install their corporatist utopia -- no unions, tax only the poor, no regulations on corporations.

They've given up on persuading the people. They're going to impose thier solutions now.

Posted by: fpfrankpalmer | February 26, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse


It's always been total politics, it's just that our democracy won't stand for the corruption inherent in post-WW II Democratic Party politics which is geared toward one thing, paying people to vote for them careless of the harm it causes the poor and vulnerable to say - say - they would assist.

And this is a tipping point; it's all going to unravel from here. Obama is the USA's Dinkins (nothing racist meant at all). It's one last gasp at this fiscal and national defense inanity before the next Reagan/Giuliani or whomever. Democrats went to far with their unlimited Federal power.

Posted by: Commenting1 | February 26, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Democracy requires the ability to work together, but this is not anywhere found in the GOP. The GOP may be surprised at what they get from blow-back. The first problem is that the lazy Dems stayed home during the last election. They will need to work hard now, but at least they are not sitting home thinking Obama can do it all by himself. It took 30 years of Reaganomics to get here and it will take time to undo their many disasters. The red states are 3rd world thanks to their corporate masters. Learn to say "yes sir". First thing would be to eliminate the red state federal subsidies paid by blue states. If their ideas were so great, they would have done them by now.

Posted by: LillithMc | February 27, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

If the Republicans are guilty of practing "total war" in today's polotics, then the Democrats kicked it off in March of 2010 when they mounted a political "blitzkreig" when ramming the health care package thru. A 2000 page bill, that almost no had read, that truthfully, almost no one understood completely, a bill that had most of the difficult provisions kicking in 2014, after the hoped for second term reelection of the current presindent. In my home state, most polls showed surport of around 30% with 70% against. yet all of my Democratic represenitives voted for it,demostrating allegiance first to the party, not their constituants. Is this consent of the goverend?

Posted by: Rightthinkingkindofguy | February 28, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Two thoughts;
1) The GOP has adopted Bolshevik tactics and strategies: the end justifies the means. Total power to remake the country can be achieved by all manner of lies, distortions, propaganda, deceit, betrayals, manipulation of information, violence, intimidation, torture, etc. They are using any means necessary to gain control of the levers of power and government, obliterating all opponents and opposition in order to impose a reign of Ayn Rand like terror. And the wimpy media help while this is all so apparent. Where is Lincoln Steffens now?

2) The GOP flourishes because it is subsidized by the ongoing transfers of blue state money to red states, abetted by untold corporate and wealthy contributions and their lobbyists who are buying and paying for ownership of the government, fair and square.

It is vast and chronic, with the GOP telling its poorly informed followers that the transfer is from the red, hard working, god fearing conservatives to the slothful, welfare ridden lazy socialist blue states. Nothing could be further from the truth.
And I challenge anyone to look at these charts from the non-partisan 73 year old non-profit Tax Foundation and conclude otherwise:

Here for 1981 - 2005 state by state for each year:

Posted by: enough3 | February 28, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Health care has been a big money-maker for Wall Street and impoverished millions not to mention the ones who died under the bus. Congress worked on health care for over a year. Not true that we did not know what was happening. Most read the House bill on-line. It was the Senate in cooperation with Obama and Senator Baucus who stopped the process, rewrote the bill to conform with industry wishes and, at the last minute, passed it. The Democrats have no FOX news and now it is obvious the MSM is following the example of FOX. It is not safe to go to a town hall full of the tea party. Violence works.

Posted by: LillithMc | February 28, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

"And people talk about Ronald Reagan, but I remember Ronald Reagan very well. … But Ronald Reagan would probably not recognize the description of Ronald Regan that is coming out of a lot of the tea party blogs. Ronald Reagan, yes he was very conservative, yes he was a man of principles, and he wouldn’t budge on those principles. But he said something that would be absolutely anathema to many of the tea party people when he said it’s better to get 80 percent of what you want than zero. And Reagan would compromise, Reagan would make deals,"

- former GOP Senator Bob Bennett

(thanks to Andrew Sullivan's blog "The Daily Dish" for this quote)

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 28, 2011 10:13 PM | Report abuse

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