Clues suggest that the game is already over

The sports analogy used for the headline of Lawrence Jacobs’ Dec. 29 article (“Halftime for the GOP”) assumes that there are two teams on the field. One team is presumably the GOP establishment, and the other the GOP libertarian wing, also known as the Tea Party.

This assumption may be totally wrong. The Wall Street Journal, arguably the most traditional media flagship of the GOP establishment, in an editorial in October, declared that there is no longer such a thing as the “GOP establishment.” Jacobs, in his informative piece, quotes in succession these five anonymous individuals: A party insider of the GOP establishment, a well-placed national Republican, a leader in the Minnesota business community, a party strategist and an influential Republican.

Why is it that not even one of these five individuals was willing to offer comments with a name attached to them? Could it be that these five people speaking on behalf of the “GOP establishment” are somehow afraid of possible repercussions if their identities were known? Or could it be that they expect that the libertarian wing will win the second half of the GOP political game just like it has won the first half?

So far, to the best of my knowledge, only the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove have spoken openly against having libertarian “fools on the GOP ticket.” Are they the only “GOP establishment”? If the Wall Street Journal editorial was right and there is no longer such a thing as a GOP establishment, then there will be no second half. The game is over.


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Jacobs wrote that President Ronald Reagan was “ferocious in cutting spending.”

Is it unkind to ask if being director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs entitles Jacobs to, well, make stuff up?

Reagan increased spending every year of his presidency. Federal outlays in President Jimmy Carter’s final year were $591 billion. In Reagan’s last year, 1988, they were $1.06 trillion. That is an increase of 96 percent over eight years. He didn’t cut the rate of growth, either; it rose a little faster in his administration than in Carter’s. Quite a record for a “ferocious” cutter of spending.


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Jacobs posed the question of whether the party’s nominees should staunchly defend their principles even if it results in negative consequences (i.e., a government shutdown) or if they should accept compromises. Here’s the problem that neither party is willing to listen to: Once they are elected, politicians represent all the people in their district, not just those who voted for them or those who agree with their ideological principles. Compromise should be the order of business at all levels of government. It should not be about forcing one group’s ideologies on everyone else. I realize that’s idealistic and will never happen … but wait a minute. It has happened before.

If we continue to wage this internal war over ideologies, we will cease to be a great nation. It’s time to put a stop to it and start talking — and listening — to the other side.




Penny, Horner were generous to the GOP

I appreciate the sensible commentary offered by Tim Penny and Tom Horner. However, two points in their Dec. 29 column (“What we have now is political theater”) require rebuttal. Penny and Horner refer to the alleged “false claim” that Republicans have no health solution of their own. For all its shortcomings, Obamacare is designed to make it possible for all Americans to get health insurance. Republicans have no alternative proposal to do this. And Horner and Penny advise being open to the arguments of the other side. This is hard to do when Republican proposals have become so extreme. For example, opposing all changes in tax structures unless they ratchet rates down makes it impossible to cure problems with our current tax system or provide adequate resources for infrastructure and needed public services.




The passage of time isn’t the risk factor

Steven Carter’s Dec. 29 commentary (“The stealthiest stories of 2013: The meteor, the pope”) would have been every bit as interesting had it applied basic principles of probability properly: The odds of being hit by a large asteroid are essentially exactly the same today as they were on the day after the last one hit Siberia in 1908, because the factors that produce these collisions remain constant over time. It is proper, on the other hand, to say that San Francisco is “due” for another earthquake, since the stresses that produce these events increase by the day. A commentator can be forgiven some errors for which a trained journalist should be held responsible, I suppose, but it is still the responsibility of the paper’s editors to avoid spreading the misconception.

JOHN IBELE, Minneapolis