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Originally published Tuesday, May 17, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Republicans have gone from silly to scary

Things have gone from silly to dangerous in Washington, D. C., folks. But not to worry. This has happened before, and things always get...


THINGS have gone from silly to dangerous in Washington, D.C., folks. But not to worry. This has happened before, and things always get ridiculous again.

Remember in 2003, when the Senate Republicans held a 30-hour, all-night talkathon? It was because, after confirming 168 of President Bush's nominees, the Democrats dared to block a whopping four they felt were too extreme.

Fast forward to today, as Republican leaders once again are whining about Democrats blocking judicial nominations. Funny, in their complaints about obstructionism, I haven't heard the Republicans mention Bill Clinton's 68 nominations that were never "voted up or down," thanks to Republican delaying tactics.

So why are Democrats being difficult? Maybe they missed some new memo from an overzealous Republican staffer explaining that the Republicans control everything (they have a mandate, you know).

Or maybe it is that, as Mario Cuomo recently noted, the "minority" of Democratic senators actually represent more Americans than the majority Republican senators do. Maybe Democrats should have some small influence on the direction our nation is headed?

Whereas it was somewhat pathetic when the Republicans complained about not getting every little thing they wanted in 2003, doing so in 2005 is dangerous. Especially when combined with an effort to eliminate the minority-party tool of filibustering.

Now that the Republicans control the executive and legislative branches of government, trying to squash minority voices and stack the judicial branch threatens the core concept of checks and balances that has preserved our federated republic through countless party transitions and ideological shifts.

And that's not the only way in which the Republicans have gone from silly to scary.

Once upon a time, Republican leaders spent their time and our tax dollars pursuing sex scandals, renaming French fries "freedom fries," trying to put Ronald Reagan's name and face on everything from airports to the dime, and doing other stuff vital to our nation.

Meanwhile, their extremist conservative base was seeking domination of both government and our information. The conservatives built a network of radio and television programs, even a 24-hour news channel. After all, if American propaganda is good enough for Iranians, isn't it good enough for Americans? They even began turning churches into recruiting centers, inciting fear and anger over a couple of extreme issues.

And the Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission approved greater media consolidation, which gives a handful of corporations control over more of our information.

Now, Republican leaders pay journalists or just create fake news stories themselves when the media aren't placidly echoing their talking points sufficiently. Welcome to the land of media shaped by right-wing government.

The violation and erosion of civil rights, reversing environmental protections, unraveling international relations, a growing gap between rich and poor — on and on goes the list of crazy liberal complaints.

Some Americans cry, where will it all end? Some cry for the many Americans lost overseas. Many cry over the emotional conclusion of "American Idol," and don't care about all that other stuff.

The Democrats have been very helpful in not keeping up with most of these tactics. That is what Democrats like to do, after all: help others.

But I'm here to tell you, don't cry, there's good news. People can now see that we have a lot of problems, and there are no tax-and-spend, bleeding-heart Democrats running things in the White House, in the House, or in the Senate to blame it all on.

Nope, not a single welfare-loving, tree-hugging liberal in majority control of big government to curse for your lost job, your lack of health care, your polluted environment, your back-door draft, your children's mounting debt, or anything else.

More importantly, "we the people" are still who the government responds to, ultimately. As a result, Republicans overturned their own hypocritical change in ethics committee rules, and put House Majority Leader Tom DeLay back on the fast track to a civilian consulting job. Bush failed to privatize our Social Security, and is quickly shifting gears and looking at alternative plans.

And since new polls show that the majority of Americans don't feel Iraq was worth it, there may be more rapid results on that front as well.

Still, Democratic leaders remain the political equivalent of a Tom Shane commercial. They start droning on about what the Republicans are doing wrong, and you either fall asleep or change the station.

Meanwhile, the environment won't stop degrading while we delay. China won't stop gobbling up more of our manufacturing jobs. The poor, the sick, children and the elderly, all those people that a guy named Jesus told us to take care of, are getting the short end of the holy Republican crusade.

So while change is in the wind, I hope the wind starts moving a little faster.

Randy Henderson of Kingston is a business analyst and attends Washington State University. E-mail:

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