As I noted this morning, the primary culprits in the killing of the Toomey-Manchin compromise are the GOP and the 60-vote Senate, despite the best efforts on the part of some to blame Obama’s lack of “arm twisting” for the debacle.
Steve Benen reminds us that the death of Toomey-Manchin is also another reminder of just how radical today’s GOP is in historical terms:
There’s an ongoing reluctance among many to appreciate the scope of Republican radicalization. For many, especially in media, there’s an assumption that there are two major, mainstream political parties — one center-left, the other center-right — and an effective president can govern through competent bipartisan outreach.
Those assumptions are wrong. As we discussed in January, outreach doesn’t work because Republicans have reached an ideological extreme unseen in modern American history. It’s a quantifiable observation, not a subjective one. Even if GOP policymakers were inclined to work with Obama, they realize that they’d be punished soon after by a primary challenge — and they know this to be true because it’s happened more than a few times in recent years (look up names like Crist, Specter, Bennett, Lugar, etc.).
Kevin Drum had similar thoughts the other day that are worth returning to:
Finally, there’s the most obvious change of all: the decision by Republicans to stonewall every single Obama initiative from day one. By now, I assume that even conservative apologists have given up pretending that this isn’t true. The evidence is overwhelming, and it’s applied to practically every single thing Obama has done in the domestic sphere. The only question, ever, is whether Obama will get two or three Republican votes vs. three or four. If the latter, he has a chance to win. But those two or three extra votes don’t depend on leverage. In fact, Obama’s leverage is negative. The last thing any Republican can afford these days is to be viewed as caving in to Obama. That’s a kiss of death with the party’s base.
One thing that continues to get lost in discussions of the demise of Toomey-Manchin is the degree to which it represented a genuine compromise proposal. Remember, after Newtown, one of the few things that was broadly agreed on by many politicians in both parties was that the background check system needed to be improved. A number of Republican Senators agreed with this, and said so publicly. There were various iterations of this — some said we needed to improve state data sharing on the mentally ill with the feds; others said we needed to take a hard look at how to run checks on private sales — but there was genuine consensus around the basic idea that tightening the background check screen was the appropriate way to deal with gun violence, post-Newtown.
The solution to the problem negotiated by Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey was a real compromise offering. It addressed the problem both parties agreed needed to be solved, but did so while showing extraordinary sensitivity to gun owners and gun culture. Both Senators — one a Republican, and one a red state Democrat — came from states with deep gun cultures, and both had “A” ratings from the NRA. The proposal they negotiated was very responsive to not one, but two major objections from the gun rights crowd. Some worried that the proposal would infringe on certain types of casual gun transfers, such as those among family members, friends, and hunters, so the two Senators exempted all private transfers that don’t go through commercial portals at gun shows or over the Internet. Others worried that the additional record keeping under the proposal would lead to a national gun registry, so the proposal strengthened prohibitions against any such registry.
None of this was enough to win over more than four Republican Senators — less than one tenth of the number of Republican Senators who voted against it. Even if every Democrat in the Senate had voted for it, the proposal would have failed.
There have been certain moments during the last few years that have been widely acknowledged as a sign of the radicalization of the Republican Party. Among them: The debt ceiling fights; the absolute refusal of Republicans to accept any tax hikes on the wealthy until the fiscal cliff showdown forced them to; Jim DeMint’s declaration that defeating Obamacare was crucial because it would be Obama’s “Waterloo”; and Mitch McConnell’s claim that the GOP’s single overriding goal should be to render Obama a one-term president. The defeat of Toomey-Manchin should be added to that list. Instead, it’s being widely held up as proof of failure on Obama’s part.