The Republican Groundhog Day

Paul Waldman is frustrated. Really frustrated. And he uses an apt analogy for what we’ve seen the last few years in Congress: Groundhog day. It’s like we’re waking up every day to the same scenario, with the far right fringe of the Republican party making any compromise impossible.

But what do you do when the news turns into some kind of hellish version of Groundhog Day, repeating the same abysmal scenario over and over, in which even the happy ending doesn’t involve finding true love and better understanding of yourself and your role in the world like Bill Murray did, but at best a return to the status quo ante of mindless political squabbles and unsolved problems?

What, then, can I add about the latest twist in the pending government shutdown? How many different ways are there to say that the Tea Party Republicans are both crazy and stupid? How often can you point out that John Boehner is pathetically weak, quite possibly the most ineffectual Speaker in the history of the House of Representatives? How many times can you remind people of all the awful things that would happen if the government shuts down and/or we don’t raise the debt ceiling? How many times can you scream at Republicans that they are never, ever, ever going to repeal the Affordable Care Act so they should just give it the hell up already? How many times can you cry that this would be an insane way to run a junior-high student council, much less the government of the mightiest nation on earth?

I don’t know the answer. But the latest twist is that Boehner has surrendered to what E.J. Dionne appropriately calls the “kamikaze caucus” by announcing that the House will vote only on a three-month continuing resolution that funds the government but defunds Obamacare, and then send it to the Senate for its inevitable defeat. When Ted Cruz acknowledged that it would indeed die in the Senate, even he was condemned from the right for his traitorous toe-dip into the waters of reality. Ted Cruz! What can you even say about that? It’s like the Cultural Revolution over there.

This is what the Tea Party movement hath wrought. Nothing matters but purity. Even acknowledging reality, as Cruz did, is treated as an act of betrayal. We’ve been living in Groundhog Day since January 20, 2011, when the new House with nearly 100 Tea Party types in it was sworn in.

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  • whheydt

    Lately, more and more, I keep thinking that Boehner’s best move would be to resign as Speaker and quietly, in the back rooms, ask the non-Tea Party R’s to support a leading Tea Partier as the new Speaker of the House.

    Then just sit back and watch the train wreck. Either the Tea Partiers will get themselves thrown out of office (enough of them, anyway), or they’ll come to their senses.

    Sure, it’d probably mean the R’s would be the minority party in both Houses for a generation, but it at least has a chance to change things enough make Congress actually *function* as a legislative body.

  • Abby Normal

    I’m reminded of the words of the great Winston Churchill:

    “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

  • Artor

    @whheydt #1

    You’re probably right on all counts, but you assume that Boehner himself has any interest in seeing the gov’t function. He’s as much a part of the problem as the dyed-in-the-wool Teabaggers, and I don’t think the Repubs have the will to relegate themselves to minority status, even though that’s what they’re doing already.

  • dogmeat

    I had a prof. 15-20 years ago who predicted the demise of the Republican party. He said, back then, that the social conservatives were “true believers” and would want the promises that got them to vote for the party fulfilled, but that those promises were impossible to fulfill in a constitutional state so that within ten years the party would spiral into instability and ultimately spit. I think the election of Bush disrupted his timescale a bit, but he was pretty solidly right with the rest of his predictions. Sadly I don’t think he expected them to be able to disrupt the entire country while melting down.

  • Larry

    Einstein supposedly said “Insanity is defined as trying the same thing twice and expecting different results.” Whether true or not, the saying perfectly represents what passes for GOP intellectualism these days. The fact that they’ve now tried 43 times to dump ACA merely serves to demonstrate the depths of insanity that the GOP has fallen. Their absolute hatred for Obama has completely consumed any rationality they may have once had and has put the US in a very precarious position. You simply cannot run a country when half of the legislators are acting like 3 year olds who’ve been told to do something they don’t want to do. Unlike the GOP however, the 3 year old will eventually mature.

  • raven

    Then just sit back and watch the train wreck

    Why not?

    Boehner is basically useless, the equivalent of the hood ornaments that used to be on cars. It wouldn’t make any difference except that he wouldn’t look so useless.

    PS I wouldn’t be so sure the Tea Party will melt down. After all, it’s the voters that elected them, that democracy thing.

    They could just melt the USA down instead. That would be mildly amusing except for one big thing. I live here.

    I’ve done everything in my power. Vote, donate money to the Democrats even though I’m a registered Independent who still remembers Johnson’s war in Vietnam with loathing, slacktavision on the internet, etc..

    I suppose if it happens, I’ll just spend more time with the cats, frequently raise a glass of wine to the old USA, and worry about the kids. Sorry kids, we handed you a broken world and good luck.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Either the Tea Partiers will get themselves thrown out of office (enough of them, anyway), or they’ll come to their senses.

    Because eight years of Cheyney and five of uncompromising opposition (not to mention 42 votes to repeal Obamacare) have shown that is that they’re masters of learning from experience.

    Now, remind me again which party has the better record on expanding the economy and reducing Federal debt?

  • How many different ways are there to say that the Tea Party Republicans are both crazy and stupid?

    Woah, woah! Woah! They’re also mean.


    “Nothing matters but purity.”

    And where did compromise get us? From coast to coast, all that Socialism is withering Liberty’s once-bountiful teat, Agenda 21 is ravaging our nation’s great golf courses and roads, and the country is no longer bombing foreign nations to Freedom as much as it could be!

  • scienceavenger

    You could add a lot to that list: How many times can they talk about Benghazi? How many more discussions of Obama’s brith certificate can they manage? How many times can they try to outlaw abortion? How many times can they try to get creationism in the schools? How many more times do we need to see Sarah Palin’s stupid face spewing stupid shit? Any more Fast and Furious anyone? How about the “increasing” deficit?

    2014 can’t get here fast enough,

  • Is this another example of Cargo Cult Politics? They keep repeating the same spell over and over again, but the Cargo never falls from the sky like it should.

  • Chiroptera

    The problem is that these clowns keep getting elected. And with their constituents increasingly doubling down and with the gerrymandered election districts, they may have the ability to prevent functioning government forever.

    What worries me is the prospect that if the clowns do continue to possess the ability of the government to function adequately and continue to make use of that ability, then we will see the end of the republic when a strong man finally has to take over just to keep things running.

  • scienceavenger “How many more discussions of Obama’s brith certificate can they manage?”

    Briths are fine, it’th the weddingth that get a little weird. (Jewish speech impediment wedding: “Mathel tov!”)

  • dingojack

    I have a serious question – How can America right itself?

    Oh sure we can bang on about how evil and stupid the teabaggers/Republicans are, but really, ignoring the glib, simplistic tribalistic responses – how can America right itself?*



    * Of course the larger question might be ‘why should America right itself?’ Why should anyone assume America has any answers in the 21st century (and did it even have any really in the 18th)?

  • Synfandel

    raven wrote:

    They could just melt the USA down instead. That would be mildly amusing except for one big thing. I live here.

    Unfortunately, we all live there—including those of us who live elsewhere. Every time the US government or US business leaders do something cruel, greedy, or stupid, we all suffer. People all over the developed world are still suffering the aftermath of the 2008 Wall Street financial fiasco. Some of us just don’t have the privilege of voting against the Tea Party idiots.

  • Chiroptera: “What worries me is the prospect that if the clowns do continue to possess the ability of the government to function adequately and continue to make use of that ability, then we will see the end of the republic when a strong man finally has to take over just to keep things running.”

    I think they would think a strong man as a great idea, as long as it’s THEIR strong man in charge.

    Never mind the U.S. building a massive border fence to its south; that’s something Canada may want to look into STAT.

    And the world should care about the U.S. getting its shit together because it has a huge nuclear arsenal and is fully stocked with religious crazies. It’s only a small mental step from “Gawd wants me to run for Congress” to “Gawd wants me to help him out with getting Armageddon under way.”

  • scienceavenger

    Dingojack asks: I have a serious question – How can America right itself?

    Get a new constitution for starters. In no other area of life would we tolerate playing by a ~240 year old rule book.

  • Dingojack@13:

    In all seriousness, I think we’re just in a transition phase. We’re experiencing a time of rapid change, especially in the media. At the same time, the main people behind the tea party nonsense are a dying breed. The Christian white male is terrified that the world is no longer his to command. It may take another decade or two to finally sort things out to the new status quo, but we’ll get through it.

  • dogmeat

    Dingojack asks: I have a serious question – How can America right itself?

    Increasingly I’m of the opinion that revamping the entire system will be required.

    Winner take all congressional races have locked in the two party system, which is a big part of the problem. Allowing those parties to have a say in the districting process has made it even worse. Revamped national districts that completely cross state lines, include proportional representation, and actually reflect real population levels are needed. A multi-party parliamentary system rather than our de-facto two party system would better represent the interests of the voters.

    Considering money as speech has made that already flawed system even worse. Our entire election system invites corruption and fraud, influence peddling in congress only exacerbates an already flawed system.

    I’m not certain if an independent executive or a parliamentary PM would be better. I can see value in both.



    As Chiroptera mentions @ 11, it is unlikely that the Tea Party will go away because of the Gerrymandering done after the ’10 census. I expect the ’14 election results to change very little, followed by a ’16 election where the Democrats will probably win the presidency. Rinse, lather, repeat.

  • d. c. wilson @17 –

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but I said (and heard) the exact same things in the 1960s when all the old, white, dudes were going to die off in the next few decades and the Age of Aquarius (or some such feminist, inclusive, non-asshat utopia) would appear. Hasn’t happened yet. I do not expect it to happen in my lifetime (which I hope is still more than a couple of decades long.) They keep breeding idiots out there.

  • scienceavenger

    @19 But it has happened to a large extent, and will continue. Go look at some debates in the 60s and note how overt the sexism and racism was in the “acceptable” conversations, just to pick two of many issues. We still have a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way too.

  • freehand

    scienceavenger, I would be terrified at the thought of a new constitution written by our current gang of sociopaths, but I don’t think they could agree on anything. If they could, it would be written like our tax code.

  • scienceavenger

    I agree, but is using something that thought our #3 priority was keeping soldiers from being quartered in our homes, or that thought interstate commerce was a special category of activity, much better? Plus, if we held the new consitution to the standards of revising the old one, the loony minority wouldn’t be able to run roughshod over everyone else.

  • Gwynnyd@19:

    You’ll have to show me where I said we were going to see a utopia. I never said that and I don’t believe it. I merely said we’re in a time of transition and that I don’t think this is the “end of the republic” as many people seem to think. The sixties were a time of turmoil and transition, but we got through it. We’ve made a lot of strides in equal rights since then, but no one would say we’ve solved all our problems. I think the same thing is happening now. The tea party temper tantrums we’ve been seeing are the last gasps of the Reagan legacy. They even know it themselves on some level, which is why gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts are such a high priority for them. They’re trying to game a system that they know they’re going to eventually lose.

    No, we won’t see a utopia ever, but I do believe that our society will be the better once we get through this very dark tunnel.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Anyone contemplating major reforms as a solution should consider that John Roberts will very likely be the Chief Justice for at least another 20 years, and the odds are better than even that for quite a few of those years he will have at least a 6-3 majority on the Court. The additional right-wing Justices to come from 30-something year old graduates of Liberty University Law School.

  • raven

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but I said (and heard) the exact same things in the 1960s….

    While we are playing The Good (or Bad) Old Days, the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s weren’t so bad. The direction of change was positive, and things were better for most people. Clinton left us with a roaring economy and balanced budget.

    It all went downhill with Bush, who wasn’t even elected by a majority. He crashed the economy badly enough to produce a lost generation and the Great Recession, started a pointless war in Iraq, and ballooned by deficit by voodoo supply side economics and tax cuts.

    We still haven’t recovered. Obama has done a great job considering. And all the Tea Party/GOP has done is get in the way and try to sabotage everything. As a friend who isn’t noted for being politically oriented but is even tempered said at lunch, “why aren’t we charging these guys with treason?”

  • exdrone

    I thought that the burgeoning population of Latinos – kindred spirits in faith and family – was going to come to the rescue of the Republicans in future elections. Of course, they will have to follow the game plan of voting for the party, not involving themselves in the platform. Reagan’s religious right were great when they were silent partners. It’s when they started insisting that the Republican party live up to campaign promises that things got to where they are today. So if the Republicans can re-establish the political pyramid scheme, then they’re back in business. What could go wrong?

  • exdrone@26:

    Yeah, many republicans convinced themselves that since most Latinos are Catholics, they’d flock to the GOP’s anti-choice and anti-gay platform. Of course, they’ve also convinced themselves that those some positions will eventually lure African-Americans over to their side once they’re convinced to stop voting for “free stuff.”

    That’s the republican party’s biggest problem in a nutshell. Rather than listen to the concerns of any group other than rich white male Christians, they believe that all they have to do is improve their marketing of the same ideas that haven’t convinced others to vote for them.

  • Rip Steakface


    Yeah, a majority of Latinos are conservative socially, but social politics for the Republicans were always supposed to be a shell game to get into government and lower taxes on rich people and deregulate business. The only difference is that the lunatics are running the asylum now.