Wednesday, September 5, 2012

An Exercise In Irony

Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. As such he is no left-wing firebrand. Indeed, the AEI is one of the hallmark institutions of contemporary American conservatism.

In April of this year he joined with Thomas E. Mann who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Together they penned an editorial for the Washington Post titled, “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem”.

In the book they summarized their views as follows:

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country's challenges.

(See the video interview of Ornstein and Mann at the end of this post)

Today’s Republican Party, as many have said, is not the Republican Party of one’s father or grandfather. I can think of no better way of illustrating this than harking back to what the Republican Party once was. What follows are excerpts from the Republican Party platform of 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower was seeking his second term as President. What a difference a couple of generations can make.

Excerpts From The Republican Party Platform of 1956
August 20, 1956

Our Government was created by the people for all the people, and it must serve no less a purpose.

The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.

Our great President Dwight D. Eisenhower has counseled us further: "In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human."

We shall ever build anew, that our children and their children, without distinction because of race, creed or color, may know the blessings of our free land.

We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs—expansion of social security—broadened coverage in unemployment insurance —improved housing—and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people.

In four years we have achieved the highest economic level with the most widely shared benefits that the world has ever seen.

We firmly believe in the right of peoples everywhere to determine their form of government, their leaders, their destiny, in peace. Where needed, in order to promote peace and freedom throughout the world, we shall within the prudent limits of our resources, assist friendly countries in their determined efforts to strengthen their economies.

We support this and his further offer of United States participation in an international fund for economic development financed from the savings brought by true disarmament.

We shall continue vigorously to support the United Nations.

That men are created equal needs no affirmation, but they must have equality of opportunity and protection of their civil rights under the law.

Further reductions in Government spending as recommended in the Hoover Commission Report, without weakening the support of a superior defense program or depreciating the quality of essential services of government to our people.

Further reductions in taxes with particular consideration for low and middle income families.

Initiation of a sound policy of tax reductions which will encourage small independent businesses to modernize and progress.

Continual study of additional ways to correct inequities in the effect of various taxes.

We also propose:

Legislation to enable closer Federal scrutiny of mergers which have a significant or potential monopolistic connotations;

Procedural changes in the antitrust laws to facilitate their enforcement;

Simplification of wage reporting by employers for purposes of social security records and income tax withholding;

Continuance of the vigorous SEC policies which are providing maximum protection to the investor and maximum opportunity for the financing of small business without costly red tape.


Under the Republican Administration, as our country has prospered, so have its people. This is as it should be, for as President Eisenhower said: "Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country—they are America."

Furthermore, the process of free collective bargaining has been strengthened by the insistence of this Administration that labor and management settle their differences at the bargaining table without the intervention of the Government. This policy has brought to our country an unprecedented period of labor-management peace and understanding.

We applaud the effective, unhindered, collective bargaining which brought an early end to the 1956 steel strike, in contrast to the six months' upheaval, Presidential seizure of the steel industry and ultimate Supreme Court intervention under the last Democrat Administration.

The Eisenhower Administration will continue to fight for dynamic and progressive programs which, among other things, will:

Stimulate improved job safety of our workers, through assistance to the States, employees and employers;

Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers;

Strengthen and improve the Federal-State Employment Service and improve the effectiveness of the unemployment insurance system;

Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits;

Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;

Clarify and strengthen the eight-hour laws for the benefit of workers who are subject to federal wage standards on Federal and Federally-assisted construction, and maintain and continue the vigorous administration of the Federal prevailing minimum wage law for public supply contracts;

Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable;

Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex;

Provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment;

Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public. The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration. In 1954, 1955 and again in 1956, President Eisenhower recommended constructive amendments to this Act.

The Republican Party believes that the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the people is as important as their economic health. It will continue to support this conviction with vigorous action.

Republican action created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years, to raise the continuing consideration of these problems for the first time to the highest council of Government, the President's Cabinet.

Through the White House Conference on Education, our Republican Administration initiated the most comprehensive Community-State-Federal attempt ever made to solve the pressing problems of primary and secondary education.

Four thousand communities, studying their school populations and their physical and financial resources, encouraged our Republican Administration to urge a five-year program of Federal assistance in building schools to relieve a critical classroom shortage.

Republican leadership has enlarged Federal assistance for construction of hospitals, emphasizing low-cost care of chronic diseases and the special problems of older persons, and increased Federal aid for medical care of the needy.

We have supported measures that have made more housing available than ever before in history, reduced urban slums in local-federal partnership, stimulated record home ownership, and authorized additional low-rent public housing.

District of Columbia.

We favor self-government, national suffrage and representation in the Congress of the United States for residents of the District of Columbia.

Equal Rights.

We recommend to Congress the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women.


The Republican Party supports an immigration policy which is in keeping with the traditions of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples, and which is based on equality of treatment, freedom from implications of discrimination between racial, nationality and religious groups, and flexible enough to conform to changing needs and conditions.

Guarding and Improving Our Resources

One of the brightest areas of achievement and progress under the Eisenhower Administration has been in resource conservation and development and in sound, long-range public works programing.

Policies of sound conservation and wise development—originally advanced half a century ago under that preeminent Republican conservation team of President Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot and amplified by succeeding Republican Administrations—have been pursued by the Eisenhower Administration. While meeting the essential development needs of the people, this Administration has conserved and safeguarded our natural resources for the greatest good of all, now and in the future.

Our national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges are now more adequately financed, better protected and more extensive than ever before. Long-range improvement programs, such as Mission 66 for the National Parks system, are now under way, and studies are nearing completion for a comparable program for the National Forests. These forward-looking programs will be aggressively continued.

Our Republican Administration has modernized and vitalized our mining laws by the first major revision in more than 30 years.


  1. No Left Wing Firebrand?

    "Ornstein is married to Judith L. Harris, a litigation attorney specializing in regulatory matters. He is a long-time friend of U.S. Senator and left-leaning comedian Al Franken."

    Must be a Liberal interpretation.

    1. And my ex-wife was a Sikh and my best friends are Republicans. SO what does that prove?

  2. Best friends with AL FRANKEN? It proves he's a LEFT WING HACK! C'mon, get real.

    1. Your inability to accept that people who disagree on politics can still be friends says a lot more about you than Mr. Ornstein.

    2. P.S. You must be totally unable to accept that Mary Matalin is married to James Carville.

    3. Oh wait, I understand now. You would also say that Schindler couldn't have been a German because he worked to save Jews.

    4. You're wasting your time Ken. It's people like this who prove that the right has more than its fair share of bigots.

  3. So, O'Brien says that this guy is no left wing firebrand, someone proves he's full of it, and O'Brien and company go on the defensive? For Christ's sake, are you EVER wrong?

    1. Of course I am. I chose to stay in Southbridge, didn't I?

  4. From Slate, regarding Ornstein:

    Make up your own mind--he's not a conservative, so the Matlin/Carville comparison doesn't work.

    1. Consider the source. The author of the piece, Dave Wiegel, is a self-avowed Libertarian.

      The extreme right elements of the conservative movement were apoplectic in their denunciation of Ornstein following this book and the editorial. Unfortunately, conservatism is not a church and you can’t excommunicate someone no matter how much you excoriate them or call them a Liberal.

      Since you chose to cite this particular article, you might also consider the response Weigel published that he received from one of his readers at Even the Conservative American Enterprise Institute....

    2. If you read the article, you'll see Weigel backpedaling saying, "The point I was trying to make was that 'heresy' gets more attention than whether the argument you're making is factually sound."


    3. Nice job of kicking ass Ken. Too bad there are no names to take!

    4. Cathy:
      I have to give credit to the last respondent.
      At the very least she/he/it did some research and attempted to advance a serious argument.
      It's a major advance above the name calling insults, some of which I can't even publish, that I get from most of these right wing partisans.

  5. I for one am a republican and a good friend of Kens, Its not his falt he a liberal democrat and Im a republican we just dont agree with eachothers political views and hes ok with that and so am I, with that aside you couldnt find a more loyal friend than Ken O'Brien. So Ken Im going to void your vote for Obama when I vote for the next President of the United states Mitt Romney cheers buddy.

    1. You're assuming I'm going to vote only once (Ha Ha).

  6. Dont worry Ken were working on voter id for massachusetts buddy

    1. Laugh it up. But when Obama's Americorp youth trooper asks for your papers and you don't have your Democratic Party ID card and you end up in a FEMA internment camp, don't expect any help from me.


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