As a general rule, there is a reason why the loonies are not allowed, much less encouraged, to run the asylum. It is because they are – oh dear! What’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, yes! – it is because they are INSANE. Evidently the (un)leadership associated with the GOP failed to get that particular memo. And now they, as well as everyone else, are set to reap the whirlwind that their negligence and systematic refusal to engage in even a pretense of governance has now brought down upon us.
Things started coming unhinged in earnest back in the Clinton (that’s Bill’s) administration. The absolutely off-the-leash lunacy that came about because Clinton proposed mild improvements to the structure of health care in this country was unparalleled. That Monica smoked his bone under the Resolute desk – which is presumably made of “hard wood” – was never more than a red herring. Yet there were more than a few infantile ideologues in high elected &/or appointed (think “special prosecutor”) office for whom this matter of no possible interest or consequence loomed as the preservation or loss of the Republic. Kennedy’s exploits with “Mr. Happy” remain matters of Washington legend, yet nobody cared. Clinton has a single “extended conversation” with a willing intern of legal age, and it is the End of the World. This is because the GOP decided that the only way they could win elections was by engaging in overt acts of debasement and prostration to the most egregiously unhinged elements of their own party.
But let us not be too self-righteous in our condemnation of the vicious ideologues who’ve come to dominate the conservative spectrum of American politics. It was Ralph Nader on the left, and his enthusiastic and willfully deluded followers who gave us the Bush Jr. presidency (a “gift that keeps on giving,” as anyone who is even barely cognizant of contemporary world and economic affairs will easily understand.) Nader shamelessly and repeatedly lied about Al Gore, declaring him to be no different from George Bush. It was beyond obvious even at the tme that, at the very least, Gore would have nominated a very different cadre of justices to the Supreme Court than Bush would (and ultimately did) saddle us with. Furthermore, Gore had a well-established and consistently demonstrated grasp of the basic sciences associated with environmentalism and global warming. Bush, on the other hand, was a repeatedly failed oil executive with daddy issues, who was clearly in the pocket of the fossil fuel industries. And of course, with the painful advantages of hindsight, we can easily see that a Gore administration would have never ignored the mountains of intelligence that were pointing toward the terrorist actions which we now know as “9/11;” and even if the attacks had occurred, it is a foregone conclusion that we’d have never fabricated the excuses that led to the catastrophic invasion of Iraq.
Nader, for his part, is well-known for being so self-absorbed and righteous that he refuses to negotiate or compromise with anyone. It is this dogmatic intransigence that kept him in the race, despite the well-known issues stemming from Arrow’s Paradox of Voting. Had Nader not been in the race – a race he knew perfectly well that he could not possibly win – and 90% of the people who had voted for him stayed home and pouted (as, of course, you know they would) that other 10% would have voted for Gore. Even with the overt fraud being committed in Florida by Republican appointed officers, that 10% would have been more than enough to guarantee a clean and clear victory for Gore. (Ross Perot had the same effect in the 1992 election, dividing conservative and Republican voters so that Bill Clinton won a plurality of the popular vote, and a majority of the Electoral College.)
All of those worst characteristics of Nader – his intransigence, his demagoguery bordering on megalomania, his disregard of obvious facts in the service of his ego – are precisely those factors that render the current stable of GOP congressional representatives incapable of governance. Driven entirely by their savage ideology, incapable not only of meaningful compromise but of even entertaining the possibility of compromise, these representatives can prevent the House from engaging in any of its basic tasks as a legislative body. (It should be noted that the number of these dogmatic extremists is relatively small, only about 40 persons. But the number ensures that the Republicans can never achieve a majority vote in the House except by caving in to this extortionate groups demands or – heaven forbid! – engaging in real, bipartisan negotiations with the Democrats.)
And now, of course, the Republicans have come even further apart at the seems with their inability to keep and/or elect, a Speaker of the House. Rachel Maddow had some fun talking about this the other day. As Dr. Maddow points out, it is the Speaker who brings bills to the floor of the House. So, no Speaker, no legislative action by the Representatives. This is not a good thing, if it goes on for very long. The debt limit must be raised in early November, or the US will default on its debts. A continuing resolution (at least) must be passed sometime in December, or the Government will shut down. Either result (to say nothing of both) could lead to a global economic crisis, even a full-blown recession.
There are contingencies in place to ensure that the Speaker position is not left vacant for very long. For example, Boehner could rescind his resignation and continue to hold the post. If that does not occur, Boehner created a list some months ago which he filed with the Clerk of the House, and the standing rules of the chamber mean that, in the event of an unresolved vacancy, a member from that list is automatically promoted to the position of Speaker pro tempore, until a vote can produce a majority agreement.
Nevertheless, this extraordinary situation – one that has never been experienced in living memory – has come about because people – ranting ideologues, in point of fact – who are incapable of real governance were elected into a representative government. These were people who typically posed themselves as “outsiders,” who by that very quality had neither the skill nor the temperment – nor even a particle of the emotional maturity or intelligence – needed to engage in a process which involves negotiation and compromise, not only at its most basic level, but at every level. Rather, these individuals – with no experience in representative government at any level – show behaviors that scarcely differentiate them from two year olds. Everything is, “ME! ME! ME! MINE! MINE! MINE! NOW! NOW! NOW!” Their ideas of negotiation and compromise amount to nothing more than, “Give me everything I want, exactly the way I want it, the instant I want it.” Democratic institutions cannot function when they are being extorted by self-absorbed ideologues of such types. (And, as I have already observed, such behavior is not exclusive to the political right, even as that is the side of the spectrum where it is overwhelmingly dominant.)
Perhaps it is merely a coincidence that this intransigent ideological infantilism came to loom so large in American politics with the emergence of Fox “News” as a major driver of cable media. The extent to which Fox “News” selective misrepresentations have manufactured an astonishingly ignorant and immature audience are well enough documented that I need not comment further on it here, beyond noting that this audience also votes. Ignoramuses like Michelle Bachman do not reach a national stage of political influence without significant and favorable media coverage. So, at the very least, the sinew that connects persons incapable of governing with people who will elect them all the same is the media that makes the first group look favorable, and keeps the latter group distracted from reality.
But this last sentence arguably does not go far enough. As more than a few persons (some with less than savory reputations) have noted, the media does just neutrally report facts, it can (and often does) actively fabricate conclusions. Insofar, it ceases to exist as the 4th Estate, and implicitly promotes itself to that of both the 1st and 2nd. This is how the loonies come to run the asylum.