The American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) June 11, 2012 forum, “Conservatism and the Republican Party” featured Norman Ornstein, Resident Scholar at AEI, and Steven Hayward, Public Policy Senior Fellow at AEI providing their views on the topic.
Ornstein said the “litmus test positions” Republicans take to prove they are conservative enough causes gridlock in Washington D.C. He said Republicans feel obliged to hold to these positions once they take them which contributes to an inability to problem-solve together across party lines about key issues confronting Americans today. He addresses these concerns in his new book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.”
Norman Ornstein said of the problem with Republicans like Romney being pressured to take certain positions on immigration as part of the litmus test of whether they are conservative enough:
“Mitt Romney is not just the etch-a-sketch guy, but the chameleon.”
Steven Hayward expressed his concern about the Republican majority party in Congress. He said:
“I think the Republican party atrophied in those decades when they were out of power. …The democrats became a more legislative party. They are better at running Congress. There is no question of that. And Republicans have yet to prove that they are any good in governing as a majority.”
Norm Ornstein relayed when President Obama said he was for the framework of the bipartisan Gang of Six Plan on the Budget as a starting point, a senior Republican leadership aide told Politico that if the President was for the plan, that kills it for Republicans because they would then be against it. Ornstein argued that this kind of purely ideological knee jerk reaction by conservatives on issues because President Obama is for something is exactly what needs to change in Washington D.C.
Haywood says, “The quickest way for Obama to kill a deal he doesn’t like is to praise it publicly up front. Maybe I’m being too clever and cynical, I don’t know.”
Ornstein said that we have a population that is aging and living longer. This will require that we will have some increases in entitlements. He said currently we have tax rates that are the lowest level of the GDP since the 1950’s, and the idea that cutting them further will enable us to deal with deficits and debt is just bizarre.
On the Debt Ceiling Debacle
Ornstein said both parties are hypocritical when it comes to extending the debt ceiling because depending on which party is in power, they switch their positions to support the administration that reflects their own party when their party wants to extend the ceiling. He is concerned that repeating the debt-ceiling fiasco of 2011 will possibly further damage our economic standing in the world and could have ripple effects that would harm our economy.
Norm Ornstein recommends some reforms like reforming the filibuster. He thinks moving beyond “tribal politics” is challenging but must be done to effectively tackle problems like health care.
Ornstein said the single largest component of Medicare and Medicaid confronting us is long-term care for the elderly. We fund it largely through Medicaid. He said that cutting Medicaid to the states could have disastrous consequences that would result in insufficient care for our aging parents and friends. He challenges liberals and conservatives to sit down and truly problem solve these issues. Ornstein said that major costs facing the U.S. are related to health care costs.
Ornstein says it is ridiculous that conservatives claim Democrats are socialist when they didn’t even back a single-payer system.
However, Hayward isn’t supportive of reforming the filibuster.
Even though they disagreed about how to achieve the results, both Hayward and Ornstein expressed the need for democrats and republicans to come together to solve our countries problems.