You get the impression GOP tacticians must have devoted lots of time to instructing the cacophony of talking heads among them what the best spin language choices might be, after they failed to stop the inmates’ takeover of the asylum. So here was John Cornyn, the senator from Texas, regaling folks this past weekend with talk about the country having long ago rejected the notion of a king as ruler. President Obama, you see, has been lording it over Cornyn and his benighted confederates in a manner that has the feel of a royal snub. Or something like that. We hadn’t heard that one before, but it was indicative of how much they’ve been working overtime to come up with whatever is believed saleable for a public, most of whom, thank heavens, apparently see the crappy posturing for what it is.
Republicans must collectively think themselves gifted with Merlinesque qualities to be so convinced that putting one over on poor slobs out here is piece-of-cake easy. Really, the only people likely to swallow whole the bilge spewing from the various Republican “explainers” of what the government shutdown is all about are those who can invariably be counted on to toe that line, whatever the issue. When polls have been reporting numbers like 80 percent of the population opposed to the idea of shutting down the government over defunding of the Affordable Care Act, what defense can there be of the recklessness and contempt for the people by the runaway locomotive that is the House GOP caucus?
Poll numbers like those reflect the public’s understanding of what is and isn’t appropriate utilization of the instruments of government. And such an overwhelming plurality means this opinion was hardly a party-line breakdown. It’s clear that regardless of how unfamiliar people still might be with the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, they know it has been signed into law, has even been challenged in the Supreme Court and determined to be constitutionally conforming legislation. And certainly a goodly number of them are aware that, as such, the Affordable Care Act should not be an issue for negotiation by a Congress that has already passed it. They know this Republican attempt to reverse conventional legislative procedure is simply another brazen power play by extremists in Congress, undertaken with absolute disregard for prevailing public sentiment.
Typically, though, sound bites from the perpetrators are awash with references to what’s in “the people’s” interest. It is the kind of reptilian behavior one associates with charlatans. The people aren’t duped by the ploy. Concern for them in this gambit is zilch. If different, it would approximate what we know to be the people’s sense of what frames proper functioning of the democratic system to which they subscribe: that they live in a nation of laws; that legislation duly passed and signed into law is to be respected as such; that to allow any lunatics masquerading as legislators the opportunity to arbitrarily manhandle a law already on the books would be to open the floodgates for similar abuse down the road, making a mockery of the “nation of laws” jargon America has preached and prescribed these many years.
So the myriad attempts at obfuscation continue ad nauseam from the GOP rank and file. While some few of them with a shred of decency have had the courage to condemn the outlaw tactics as precisely not what their proponents claim them to be, the babble from the blood-thirsty gang wearing blinders is that they’re on some sort of righteous march…to a reality-defying nirvana, for sure. As if it were not bad enough that we have the Limbaugh-Hannity type demagoguery as a sickening presence in the society, along comes a bunch with Capitol Hill credentials (and obviously with scant respect for the responsibility this entails), pleased to be vested with the Limbaugh-Hannity set as well.
In the circumstances, a House leader capable of tempering this readiness for going the obstructionist route becomes ever more desirable. Unfortunately, the jury is no longer out on Speaker John Boehner’s inability to step up to such a role. Rather than a credible offset to the forces of ideological intransigence within his caucus, Boehner has shown himself to be a typical go-along-to-get-along wimp of a leader. In the process, he has sadly come to be seen as no different from anyone else in the camp for whom the notion of putting people first is permanently off the table. A number of Democrats have called on Boehner to bring to the floor of the House a clean Continuing Resolution, absent the preposterous assault on the Affordable Care Act which, if passed, would end the shutdown. So far he has refused to do this. Making clear that appeasing the renegades and hopefully holding on to his job trumps any suggestion of doing what’s right.
We are left with the ugly truth that there are folks sharing power whose manifesto for revolutionary change consists in the main of maintaining an adversarial stance against many of the institutional pillars that have brought this country to its place in the world. The country has always been able to keep radicalism on the fringes. That’s where it belongs…as much today as when it threatened in the past to make things more toxic than the nation was prepared to bear.