November 20, 2013
President Obama at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council annual meeting yesterday. (Drew Angerer/Bloomberg)
President Obama at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council annual meeting. (Drew Angerer/Bloomberg)

Yes, the headline is rather hyperbolic. It’s as over-the-top as some of President Obama’s most unhinged critics, who believe he is running the nation without care or concern for the Constitution. But when you look at the actions of the Republican Party, particularly its members in Congress, my headline seems appropriate.

Three different pieces highlighted how the GOP is grinding just about every sector of the federal government to a halt. And it is doing it through a cynical combination of obstruction, saying no and failing to have viable alternative proposals worthy of national debate. Whatever political gains Republicans achieve in the short-term come at the long-term expense of the country. That’s simply unacceptable.

Even though the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) is much more than a Web site, the disastrous roll out of Healthcare.gov has done a number on the president’s standing with the American people. According to the latest Post-ABC News poll, Obama’s overall approval rating sits at 42 percent. His 55 percent disapproval rating is the highest of his presidency. This would be the perfect time for the opposition to step forward with those alternative proposals. But the GOP is “The Party of Zilch,” as Ron Fournier so accurately described.

Rather than be the party of solutions in a gridlocked capital, appealing to a leadership-starved public, the GOP is the party of obstruction, ensuring that its putrid approval ratings nose dive apace with Obama’s.

The country needs sensible immigration reform that brings 11 million or so undocumented residents out of the shadows. No, says the GOP

The country needs to tame a massive debt that will be 100 percent of the gross domestic product by 2038 unless Congress raises revenue and trims entitlements. No, says the GOP.

The country needs fair debate and compromise around existential issues such as climate change, income inequality, and a deteriorating 20th century infrastructure. No, says the GOP.

“Other than hard partisans on the left and right, the majority of the public—moderate, fix-it Americans who simply want a sensible government—now have nowhere to turn, because the GOP is the party of nothing,” Fournier correctly concludes.

The New York Times editorial board delivered its own party-of-zilch disquisition using opposition to the ACA as the jumping off point.

What is the Republican alternative to this government program, flawed as it is right now? There is none. Party members simply want to repeal the health law and let insurers go back to canceling policies at the first sign of a shadow on an X-ray. They have no immigration policy of their own. They have no plan that will stimulate job growth. They are in favor only of shutdowns and sequesters and repeals, giving the public no reason to believe they have a governing vision or even a legislative agenda.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

That congressional Republicans have no “governing vision or even a legislative agenda” was proven in a Politico story on Sunday. The headline said it all: “House GOP 2014 agenda starts with blank slate.”

Last Thursday, a group of House Republicans filed into Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Capitol office suite and received a blank piece of paper labeled “Agenda 2014.”

The blank slate just about sums up where Republicans find themselves after a year marked by the first government shutdown in 17 years, futile efforts to repeal Obamacare and the inability to pass spending bills at the levels set by Republican leaders.

As bad as that is, what a Republican aide said is worse. “What we have done so far this year clearly hasn’t worked,” the GOP aide involved in the planning sessions told the Politico reporters. “Cantor wants to take us in a new direction, which is good. The problem is we don’t know where we are headed, and we don’t know what we can sell to our members.” This no way to run an enterprise as large and as important as the United States.

The Capitol (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
The Capitol (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

The judicial branch is crippled as qualified nominees go unconfirmed due to “unfair hurdles in the Senate.” As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the nation’s second-highest court, has three vacancies on the 11-seat court that handles cases involving federal regulations and national security. Half of the legislative branch is in thrall to a band of right-wing zealots unmoved by facts as much as they are motivated by hatred of the president. As a result, the threat of government shutdowns and default is constant. Inaction on pressing issues is now routine. And the executive branch finds its agenda held hostage by an opposition that schemed against it since before its inauguration in 2009, even though said agenda was approved by the American people — twice.

That the Obama administration has been able to get as much done as it has speaks to the president’s determination to move this nation forward. Yet it’s not enough. Ours is a government that requires two functioning parties that produce good public policy through the necessary friction of governing. Neither party is perfect nor has all the ideas or the answers. But no good comes from a party that gives up completely on governing.

At the end of its editorial, the Times noted, “Democrats may be stumbling right now, but at least they are trying.” Would that Republicans did the same. It is long past time they did.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.