"How did today’s government become so divided?" PBS NewsHour 2/24/2016
SUMMARY: Separation of powers is a core component of American democracy, but political divisions rose to new heights this year as Congressional Republicans clashed with the Obama administration on everything from budget blueprints to Supreme Court nominations. Gwen Ifill talks to E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller for a closer look at today’s caustic political landscape.
GWEN IFILL (NewsHour): Separation of powers is at the heart of American Democracy, and it seems the powerful have never been more separate.
Yesterday, Republicans said they will block any nominee the President sends for the Supreme Court. They have also rejected outright his plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and refused earlier this year to grant even pro-forma consideration to his budget blueprint.
Against this backdrop of resistance, the rise of Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
So, how different, how unprecedented, how permanent is this growing split?
For that, we turn to two authors of books about the political turning point at hand. E.J. Dionne is a liberal columnist for The Washington Post, and the author of “Why the Right Went Wrong.” And conservative Matt Lewis is a senior contributor for The Daily Caller and author of “Too Dumb to Fail.”
Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us.
Matt Lewis, what is happening, if anything, to the Republican party?
MATT K. LEWIS, Author, “Too Dumb to Fail”: Well, I think, with the rise of Donald Trump, clearly, you have a populist moment.
I really do worry that we’re going to — if Donald Trump wins the nomination, he will redefine what it means to be a conservative, what it means to be a Republican. And no longer will it be a party about ideas, about free markets, about defending the unborn.
And it instead will become a white, identity politics, angry, protectionist, populist party. And I think that is a radically different direction and something that, fingers crossed, will not happen.
GWEN IFILL: But, E.J., given what we have seen unfold here in Washington just in the past few days, it seems like it’s about more than Donald Trump.
E.J. DIONNE, Author, “Why the Right Went Wrong”: Oh, absolutely.
I think this is something that has been happening to conservatism over 50 years. I mean, the first sentence in my book is, "The history of contemporary American conservatism is a story of disappointment and betrayal."
And I think Republican politicians have made a series promises to their base that they couldn’t possibly keep, about the rise — about shrinking government, about rolling back cultural change, changing the ethnic makeup of the country.
And the base has gotten angrier and angrier. And I think that has led to Donald Trump. And I think the leadership in Congress has had to take and has chosen to take a harder and harder line against a Democratic President.
I mean, you can say, of course, Democrats have opposed presidential nominees for the Supreme Court in the past, but I think what you have seen over the last few weeks is really unprecedented.
GWEN IFILL: Well…
E.J. DIONNE: We won’t even hold a hearing on your nominee.
And there was a story in The Des Moines Register today that Chuck Grassley wouldn’t even meet with the President to talk about a nominee. At least that’s where it was. That really goes beyond.