One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
Latest posts by Seton Motley (see all)
Let us begin with the fact that this partisanship is largely the result of politicians’ own map-making. Decades of Congressional gerrymandering have carved and crafted ever more partisan districts – and then pols pretend to wonder why there are ever more partisan elected officials. The Tea Party and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders exist in large part because DC drew uber-partisan districts – and then ignored the voters they emplaced therein.
That said, there is in fact a lot of DC bipartisanship – and the results are nigh uniformly terrible. Because the Republicans are largely not conservative – and live to preemptively cringe in the face of the slightest Democrat feign. So they race to cave.
Sure, Republicans in the hopeless minority make a good show of standing strong – because they know it ultimately means nothing. To wit: their 2009 fight against Obamacare. Having not the numbers to alter the outcome – they were steadfast. When We the Electorate gave them a fortieth Senator to filibuster – they allowed Democrats to execute a highly dubious procedural move to end-run that impediment.
Republicans then campaigned saying “Give us the House majority – and the power of the purse – and we will stop Obamacare (and the over-spending, and…).” So We the Electorate did. And the Republicans then did…nothing.
Except campaign saying “Well, we really need a Senate majority – then we will stop Obamacare (and the over-spending, and…).” Prospective Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even promised to use the same maneuver that delivered Obamacare – to undo Obamacare. We the Electorate delivered them the Senate majority. And the Republicans then did…nothing. And Senator McConnell forgot all about hoisting Obamacare on its own procedural petard.
Republican invertebrate-ness has ceaselessly fed another cause of DC partisanship – Democrat obstinance. But can you blame the Donkeys? Why on Earth would they move off of their way-Left positions – when they know Republicans will soon be arriving right beside them?
To wit: President Barack Obama’s ridiculously partisan Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is supposed to be a non-political, expert agency that exists to execute law written by Congress for the highly sophisticated world of all things Tech.
Just like every other executive branch agency, the FCC is actually a creation and a creature of the legislative branch. Which means they must act within the strict bounds of the laws Congress passes – only executing what has been first legislated. In other words, the FCC can’t do anything unless and until Congress first says “Yo, FCC – do this.”
The FCC is made up of five voting Commissioners (one of whom also serves as Chairman). Three are of the President’s party – two of the opposing party. They aren’t elected by us – they are named by the President (who usually takes suggestions on the opposing Party nominees) and approved by the Senate.
So it is right now a 3-2 unelected Democrat majority. And this FCC is pressing that slim, undemocratic advantage – to slam through many unlawful power grabs.
Again, the FCC is supposed to be a technically expert agency – far removed from politics so as to render sophisticated decisions based upon facts and figures. This FCC has been fraudulently creating facts and figures – to allegedly justify their subsequent uber-partisan usurpations.
How partisan has been this iteration of the FCC? “In the past, votes at the FCC tended to be unanimous—under both Democratic and Republican chairs….Under (past) Democrats, about eight percent of votes on major orders split along party lines. Under Republicans, only four percent split on party lines. Under (current Democrat) Chairman (Tom) Wheeler, 26 percent of votes (have split along party lines).”
That’s three or four times more partisan than past Commissions. “But wait,” you say – “that’s still only one in four.” First, the vast majority of FCC votes are pro forma – on things totally devoid of any political content. So this jump in partisanship represents just about every vote that can at all be construed as political.
Second, much like with President Obama’s executive orders, it’s not the number – it’s what they cover. Yes, this President is only slightly more active on his number of fiats. But when one single fiat all but shuts down the entire coal industry – we see it’s quality, not quantity.
So too is it with the FCC’s partisan votes. One single such vote – unilaterally rewrote law and placed the entirety of the World Wide Web under 1934 landline telephone law. Which has set the table for a slate of subsequent partisan votes – each grabbing ever more control of different facets of the Internet.
And when the FCC’s Republican Commissioners attempt bipartisanship – Chairman Wheeler actively squashes it. In a recently released statement on a recent partisan vote, GOP Commissioner Ajit Pai said:
“Yesterday, my office finalized a bipartisan compromise with (Democrat) Commissioner (Mignon) Clyburn and (Republican) Commissioner (Michael) O’Rielly on a way to modernize the Lifeline program while staying faithful to our core principles. It was not an easy agreement to reach.
“I had offered my proposal to all five commissioners last week. Our three offices began working on a compromise yesterday morning. My staff worked with theirs through the night revising the Order in order to implement that bipartisan agreement.
“At 9:49 a.m., all three offices formally agreed to a document that, to quote the official chain, ‘memorializes the exact contours’ of the compromise….At 12:00 p.m., when Commissioner O’Rielly and I came down for the meeting and were ready to vote, that agreement remained in place.
“Now, Commissioner Clyburn has backed out of the agreement.
“It turns out that since early this morning, perhaps even late last night, Chairman Wheeler and his staff have been actively working to unwind that bipartisan compromise. Those efforts started with leaking nonpublic information to the press. The Chairman’s Office then encouraged lawmakers and stakeholders, from left-wing special interests to former FCC Commissioners, to blast the deal before the votes could be cast—indeed, before they even knew what the deal was.
“It is one thing to refuse to work toward bipartisan compromise—something that, for some reason, the Chairman wears with a badge of honor that distinguishes him from every other Chairman, Republican and Democrat alike, who has ever held that seat. It is quite another thing to launch a political campaign to force a Democratic FCC Commissioner to renege on a bipartisan compromise on her signature issue.”
This is just one instance of a near-ceaseless flood of Democrat obstinance in their push for terrible, unilateral power grabs. Are any Republicans doing anything at all about any of it? In fact they are – and in bipartisan fashion:
Walden and Clarke Request Nonpartisan Government Watchdog to Examine FCC’s Set-Top Box Proposal. (Congressman Greg Walden is a Republican – his colleague Yvette D. Clarke a Democrat.)
This would be a fine thing. We need much more than more hearings. And we need even more than even more of these called-for independent counsels.
We need Congress to use their Constitutional power of the purse – and start docking the allowances of these out of control agencies.
We need far fewer Elephants acting like they keep seeing mice. If we got it – we might get a little less Donkey obstinance. And a little more actual, useful bipartisanship.