Today’s GOP — morons or monsters?

The swamp rabbit and I were laying down planks to fix the hole in the floor of my shack and arguing about the Republicans in Congress who shut down the government this week. Is their bad behavior grounded in stupidity or malice? Do they not understand the economic damage they’re doing, or do they understand all too well?

The rabbit thinks the Republicans’ bad behavior can be blamed on their stupidity. In his view they are mean-spirited, but mostly they are not quite bright enough to realize they’re being used by the super-wealthy sociopaths who own the country.

To bolster his case, the varmint showed me a Mencken-esque piece by Charles Pierce:

We have elected an ungovernable collection of snake-handlers, Bible-bangers, ignorami, bagmen and outright frauds, a collection so ungovernable that it insists the nation be ungovernable, too. We have elected people to govern us who do not believe in government.

We have elected a national legislature in which Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann have more power than does the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who has been made a piteous spectacle in the eyes of the country and doesn’t seem to mind that at all. We have elected a national legislature in which the true power resides in a cabal of vandals…

…We did this. We looked at our great legacy of self-government and we handed ourselves over to the reign of morons.

I disagreed with my rodent friend. Yes, most Congressional Republicans are stupid — check out their opinions on climate change, for example — but their behavior is mostly rooted in malice. In the case of the government shutdown, they are not being used by the billionaires. Their contempt for the working poor and race hatred of Barack Obama trump everything, even allegiance to some of the plutocrats who bankroll their campaigns.

I showed the swamp rabbit a short, sharp piece by Kevin Drum, in Mother Jones:

The Republican Party is bending its entire will, staking its very soul, fighting to its last breath, in service of a crusade to make sure that the working poor don’t have access to affordable health care. I just thought I’d mention that in plain language, since it seems to get lost in the fog fairly often. But that’s it. That’s what’s happening. They have been driven mad by the thought that rich people will see their taxes go up slightly in order to help non-rich people get decent access to medical care.

That’s a pretty stirring animating principle, no?

The floor job took all afternoon because neither of us can drive a straight nail. Our argument about the GOP was pointless — one of those chicken or egg, nature vs. nurture arguments in which causality can’t really be determined.

We decided Pierce and Drum are saying the same thing — that the right-wing government haters are morons or monsters, sometimes both. More important, they are proof that our much-vaunted democratic system is broken in a way it hasn’t been since way back in 1861, when the country split in two. We’re not in for the same sort of break, leading to the same sort of conflict, but we’re in a truly bad place. As the swamp rabbit likes to say, using that quotation falsely attributed to Mark Twain, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

Footnote: Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) is definitely in the moron zone. The other day he said, regarding the GOP, “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

One more: “It’s very important, I think, to realize that while right now the GOP seems to have been taken hostage by its radical wing, the general strategy of responding to a lost election by trying to gain through blackmail what the party couldn’t gain at the polls was a consensus decision, arrived at way back in January. If the leadership is now dismayed by where it finds itself — leading a party of “lemmings with suicide vests” — it has only itself to blame.” — Paul Krugman

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