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.