Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The limits of crazy

Here's an excellent article about John Boehner's resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives and why a room full of right-wing Republicans erupted in cheers and applause when it was announced.

Why such contempt for someone who's a right-wing Republican himself? John Boehner vigorously opposed everything Barack Obama has tried to do, whatever it was, even when America's economy was in freefall. (And even while America was - is - at war. Can you imagine the outrage if Democrats had done that during the Bush Administration?)
... numerous Republicans (even presidential candidates) list not only Boehner's (non-existent) failure to stop Obamacare, but also his supposed enabling of Obamacare. As Mike Huckabee explained, "When people sent [Republicans] here, they didn't send them to give the president more power on Obamacare[.]" Think about that: after total legislative obstruction, a government shut-down, more than 50 votes to repeal Obamacare, an ensuing presidential election, two Supreme Court lawsuits, and other pending litigation - - Republicans are livid with the belief that John Boehner has worked with the President to strengthen Obamacare.

No sane political observer could think that. So, what gives?

Let's go to John Chait:
Boehner has never supported any important aspect of the Obama agenda. Even at the outset of the Obama administration, with the president soaring in the polls and the economy plunging into the abyss, he rallied his entire party to withhold support from the stimulus and never seriously considered negotiating. He not only voted against Obamacare, but he repeatedly punctuated his speech denouncing it with shouts of “hell no!” The positive “accomplishments” of the Boehner Era were limited to avoiding a series of brinksmanship-induced catastrophes. The limits of conservative power extended to the ability to block all legislative progress or compromise. Boehner successfully delivered that. He even joined in several creative efforts to expand his institution’s power by using threats of shutdowns or debt-ceiling crises to coerce Obama into enacting portions of the Republican agenda, giving up only when Obama had beaten him back repeatedly.

It was not enough. Three quarters of Republicans believe, incredibly, that their party leadership has not done enough to oppose Obama. Three fifths feel “betrayed” by their party. “In the last seven years Barack Obama has successfully recruited, or corrupted, or hijacked — however you want to describe it — John Roberts of the Supreme Court; John Boehner, speaker of the House; Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the Senate; and, some might even say, the pope,” ranted Rush Limbaugh the other day.

This discontent runs much deeper and wider than Boehner. It has driven much of the support for Donald Trump, whose “conservatism” rests in his affect, radiating power and contempt for Obama, rather than in his policies, which actually lie to the left of the party platform overall. Boehner had the misfortune of leading, or attempting to lead, his party in an era when it had run up to the limits of crazy, where the only unexplored frontiers of extremism lay beyond the reach of its Constitutional powers.

Republicans are faith-based. Reality doesn't enter into their thinking at all. When Fox 'News' held a poll, asking Republicans why their leaders failed to stop Barack Obama, the real reason wasn't even an option:
It finds that 60 percent of Republicans feel betrayed by their party, and that 66 percent of Republicans don’t think their party did all it could to block Obama’s agenda. The poll asks why respondents think their party leaders failed at this: they didn’t really want to stop Obama; they weren’t smart enough; they would rather fight each other. The Fox poll doesn’t even offer respondents the option of choosing the real reason — that Republicans structurally lack the votes! No wonder voters are easily seduced into thinking Trump is “telling it like it is.”

But again, Republicans are faith-based. If they accepted reality, they wouldn't be Republicans.

Back to that first article at Daily Kos:
It sounds crazy, I know, but this represents the true "dark side" of Boehner's resignation: it is another significant step in the Republican party's shocking withdrawal from our system of democratic governance. Specifically, it presages a doubling-down of the Republicans' intentions to assert "negative control," where government shutdowns, hostage-taking, and (the immensely dangerous) debt-ceiling fights threaten to become more determinative than electoral outcomes and a functioning government. As one Republican writer put it, the emerging Republican belief is that threats of government destruction combined with the inherent rightness of Republican beliefs "could be so strong (as Ted Cruz was of his proposal to defund Obamacare) that Senate Democrats, the Obama White House and the mainstream media would, for once, finally, this time, cave in and let the House Republicans have their way." (And the use of the words "for once, finally" means "rightly," "appropriately," consistent with the "true" distribution of power.) ...

What we have here is one of two major political parties increasingly disengaging from the democratic process. Did you know that President Obama is an illegitimate President because he is not a "natural born citizen"? Or that he won election by promising "free stuff" to minorities? That minorities and illegal aliens are engaged in massive voter fraud? Or, that popular elections of U.S. Senators should be taken away? That some "Boehner Rule" or "Hastert Rule" exists which neuters any Democratic House votes? Or that is OK for Republicans to filibuster every proposed law while in the minority, but the filibuster should be repealed now that Republicans have a Senate majority? Or that the Electoral College should be reformed to provide proportional votes only in "Blue States"? . . . or, that policy outcomes should not be determined by elections but instead by holding hostage the federal government or the "full faith and credit" of the U.S.?

Most importantly, did you realize that all of the above are necessary to enact the majority will of the people? Because - believe it or not - that is what the Republicans believe.

The conclusion of Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein has been widely quoted, but not sufficiently absorbed:
One of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

I thought the Bush Administration was about as low as we could get. After that complete debacle, after than unending series of disasters and unmet promises, I figured the Republican Party would at least have to turn back towards sanity a bit.

Instead, they did just the reverse. Before Barack Obama had even taken office, when we were still at war and our economy was crumbling down around us, in the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, they agreed to do nothing that Obama wanted, no matter what it was, no matter what its effect on our country.

John Boehner did that. Mitch McConnell did that. But because they couldn't, as the minority party, prevent everything, they are despised by their own party.

Republicans are faith-based. Reality doesn't enter into their thinking at all. But they've got billionaires on their side, so they've got lots and lots of money. And they control the Supreme Court (thanks to previous bad presidential decisions). And now, unbelievably, they even control Congress.

What is wrong with my country? Are there any limits to crazy in America? Look at the Republican presidential campaign. And that's after the complete disaster that was George W. Bush!


jeff725 said...

Looks like you've got your mojo back.

I wish I could say the same. I spent a week in Atlanta and now I'm bogged down with a cold.

Do you get the sense that this country is like an alcoholic that hasn't hit bottom yet? The powerless-ness and the helpless-ness that you feel watching it slowly destroy itself. Having grown up in an alcoholic household, I know this feeling too well.

In one of his last interviews before he died, George Carlin was asked what advice he had for people who want to stay connected with the world without going crazy with frustration and resentment. He said we should "become a spectator" and emotionally divorce ourselves from it. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. We care too much. Besides, at that point in his life, George could literally AFFORD to become a spectator.

We wonder when the people will wake up and collectively say "ENOUGH?" They won't; they're too occupied with their smartphones and reality TV. Instead of a civil war, perhaps the whole thing will end up being a big Jerry
Springer brawl...maybe.

That's best I can offer for now. My cold is sapping my stamina and my thinking processes. When I get more energy, I'll have to tell you about my trip to Atlanta. It wasn't dull.

WCG said...

Oh, I couldn't resist that article, Jeff. :)

I'm sorry to hear about your cold. At least it's not flu season yet, right?

I'm not as big a fan of George Carlin as you are, since I disagreed with him about... well, some things. (No surprise. I disagree with everyone about some things.)

But that's one of them. This is a democracy. Citizens aren't supposed to be "spectators," and if we are, we get what we deserve.

I heard him discourage voting, too, at least once. As frustrating as the democratic process might be, that's the only way we'll make progress. If you're not rich, that's the only way you can help push our country forward.

Sure, money has way too much power in America, but politicians still need votes. The right-wing knows that, but the left-wing seems to be absolutely clueless, sometimes.

Progressives don't even vote reliably, which is why Republicans currently control all of Congress. And I still hear progressives who plan to throw away their vote on a third party (ignoring the fact that Ralph Nader voters gave us George W. Bush as president) or say they won't vote at all if Bernie Sanders doesn't get the nomination.

We can't be spectators, and we can't afford to cut off our nose to spite our face. This is a democracy, and we don't always get our own way. But there's always the choice between better and worse.

Craziest of all, I've heard progressives say that, if things get worse, that might be a good thing, because then we'll have a revolution! All I can think is that stupidity must be catching, because now we have it on the right and on the left (admittedly, only on the fringe of the left).

We can't be spectators. But that doesn't mean we have to drive ourselves completely insane, either. Progress is slow, sometimes. It took centuries for African-Americans to get equal rights, even on paper. And women struggled for more than a century just to get the right to vote.

I hope you're feeling better soon, Jeff. I'll note that a trip to Atlanta that's not dull could be good or bad. :)