Monday, December 06, 2021

No There

Republicans have been obstructionist for a long time. Paul Krugman writes that last week's attempt to shut down the government is merely another in a long line of manufactured crises:

Republicans led by Newt Gingrich partly shut down the government in 1995-96 in an attempt to extract concessions from President Bill Clinton. G.O.P. legislators created a series of funding crises under President Barack Obama, again in a (partly successful) attempt to extract policy concessions. Creating budget crises whenever a Democrat sits in the White House has become standard Republican operating procedure.

Yet current G.O.P. attempts at extortion are both more naked and less rational than what happened during the Obama years.

Under Obama, leading Republicans claimed that their fiscal brinkmanship was motivated by concerns about budget deficits. Some of us argued even at the time that self-proclaimed deficit hawks were phonies, that they didn’t actually care about government debt — a view validated by their silence when the Trump administration blew up the deficit — and that they actually wanted to see the economy suffer on Obama’s watch. But they maintained enough of a veneer of responsibility to fool many commentators.

This time, Republican obstructionists aren’t even pretending to care about red ink. Instead, they’re threatening to shut everything down unless the Biden administration abandons its efforts to fight the coronavirus with vaccine mandates.

Consider what the Republicans are doing at both the federal and state level:

As many observers have pointed out, claims that opposition to vaccine mandates (and similar opposition to mask mandates) is about maintaining personal freedom don’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny. No reasonable definition of freedom includes the right to endanger other people’s health and lives because you don’t feel like taking basic precautions.

Furthermore, actions by Republican-controlled state governments, for example in Florida and Texas, show a party that isn’t so much pro-freedom as it is pro-Covid. How else can you explain attempts to prevent private businesses — whose freedom to choose was supposed to be sacrosanct — from requiring that their workers be vaccinated, or offers of special unemployment benefits for the unvaccinated?

In other words, the G.O.P. doesn’t look like a party trying to defend liberty; it looks like a party trying to block any effective response to a deadly disease. Why is it doing this?

What seems to be happening instead goes beyond cold calculation. As I’ve pointed out in the past, Republican politicians now act like apparatchiks in an authoritarian regime, competing to take ever more extreme positions as a way to demonstrate their loyalty to the cause — and to The Leader. Catering to anti-vaccine hysteria, doing all they can to keep the pandemic going, has become something Republicans do to remain in good standing within the party.

The party is as mentally and morally vacuous as the defeated man who still leads it. There is no there there.

Image: AZQuotes


Anonymous said...

The GOP is all about showing tribal loyalty, and in that it bests even evangelical Christianity. Republicans are now into extreme forms of loyalty signaling and it's literally killing them.

Most groups set up identity markers. Some groups use professed beliefs. We’re the tribe that believes X. If X is true, there's not much of a barrier to joining and the group won't have much hold on its members. I believe 2+2=4. Can I join?

An opinion is a better identity marker: the Habs are the best hockey team. Better still is a questionable opinion: the Leafs are going to win the Cup this year. Really, they are!

Best of all is a statement that is blatantly false. Like Moses parted the Red Sea, a virgin gave birth or an illiterate warlord wrote the Koran. If you claim to believe something like that and commit yourself to the group that says that, you are burning bridges to the reality-based community.

Republicans have raised the stakes even higher. They demand that you believe something that is blatantly, manifestly false, and believing it has a good chance of killing you. This is Jonestown territory. So you end up with a good chunk of the population believing Covid is a hoax, gobbling horse paste and dying gasping, horrible deaths, instead of taking a safe and effective vaccine. Meanwhile, the high priests of the cult are vaccinated, so the cult continues to maintain its grip on people.

At this point, Trump is expendable. The party has more than enough leaders who have mastered the grift: McConnell, DeSantis, Abbott, Hannity, Carlson, and so on. The beat will go on, with or without Trump.


Owen Gray said...

Unfortunately, that is all too true, Cap. Even if Trump were to die of COVID, his "truth" would go marching on.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Isn't this what Carl Sagan forewarned us about in the 90s when, shortly before his death, he wrote:

“I worry that ...pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us - then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls.

"The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”

'Habits of thought from ages past', indeed. Certainly well before the Enlightenment. Tribal to be sure. For years I've wondered if a large segment of the American public was being indoctrinated, groomed. Either that or they've become organically psychotic. Something in the water perhaps or the lingering aftermath of 9/11.

The Japanese believed their emperor was a sun god and died by the thousands in futile banzai charges seeking the glory of the Yasukuni Shrine. Islamist fanatics who strap on a bomb vest and slaughter scores of innocents on market day or even in their mosques. The Khmer Rouge. Mass lunacy. It was evil enough before but today is the era of truly mass destruction. Dr. Strangelove meets Mike Flynn.

How many Americans held their breath as they waited to learn if their own generals might go rogue to stage a constitutional coup for Trump? Even the Joint Chiefs weren't convinced which was evident in the letters each issued to their own branch pledging loyalty to the Constitution above all else. What does it mean if you feel the need to remind your subordinates - all those brigadiers and colonels, majors and lieutenants of their solemn oaths? If anything ought to go unsaid, surely that's it. But even the Joint Chiefs lacked that confidence.

Owen Gray said...

The subtitle to Dr. Strangelove was "How I learned to love the bomb," Mound. Millions of Americans have fallen in love with another weapon of mass destruction -- except this one walks and talks way too much.