Alan Znedell, January 4, 2023
Politics is cyclic. The pendulum of power swings between parties every twenty years or so. Political parties adopt sacred, non-negotiable ideologies, only to reverse themselves as their self-interests change, and parties appear unified or in complete disarray as cycles evolve. For most of the post-Reagan era, it was the Democrats who seemed unable to put a united front together, but that all changed when Donald Trump turned to politics.
Ever since Trump began preaching his unique brand of divisive, morally vague extremism, the Democrats have been more united than ever while the Republican Party has been in a state of civil war, but the seeds for their current problems took root with Ronald Reagan and Grover Norquist almost forty years ago and evolved into the Tea Party in 2009.
Wikipedia describes the Tea Party Movement as calling for lower taxes and a reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit, support for small government, and opposition to government-sponsored universal healthcare. That sounds like standard libertarian, populist doctrine, but reading between the lines revealed a more sinister, un-American agenda. Achieving those objectives meant severe cuts in discretionary government spending, most of which is targeted at helping lower income people, non-whites, new immigrants and refugees, and women’s health issues. Many people claimed that reading between the lines of its public image revealed that the Tea Party was elitist, racist, xenophobic, and misogynist.
Trump’s contribution was taking the skeletons out of the closet. Rather than pretending the Tea Party’s principles implied a desire to govern responsibly for all Americans, he reveled in bashing both legal and illegal immigration, acknowledging that he was blatantly attempting to assure that nonwhites never dominate our elections. His economic proposals were designed mostly to preserve and increase the wealth of the already wealthiest Americans. His attempt to eradicate Obamacare was merely an attempt to thwart a massive transfer of wealth from the rich to the non-rich. And Trump’s pandering to evangelists was nothing more than a promise to deprive women of their right to manage the health of their own bodies.
Trump himself may leave the world of politics, disgraced and bouncing between criminal and bankruptcy courts, but he leaves behind a dangerously stacked Supreme Court and a gang of irresponsible rebels high on their own notoriety, who show total disinterest in governing. With the rest of the world, we’re watching the results play out on television, as the Republican Party airs its dirty laundry trying elect a House Speaker.
What we are witnessing is a testament to hypocrisy and the result of a once-major party disintegrating because of the lingering influence of one man whose narcissistic lust for power was never concerned with collateral damage. There is no clearer representative of that hypocrisy than Kevin McCarthy. Bill Clinton’s political enemies liked to label him a waffler, because he sometimes changed his mind about serious issues of policy, and I always wondered if Americans preferred leaders who marched in lockstep to outmoded ideas long after they were proved unworkable.
Kevin McCarthy is a different kind of waffler. He floats in the wind based solely on what he believes to be in his self-interest. Concerning the darkest day in the last 160 years of our history, the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol, believing that Trump was guilty of inciting the insurrection, Kevin McCarthy, who had always courted Trump’s support and endorsement, spoke out publicly condemning him. For a brief moment, he seemed to rise above politics, looking like someone worthy of his party’s leadership. But within days, when Trump’s immediate demise no longer looked assured, there was McCarthy in Mar-a-Lago kneeling at his master’s feet again.
The best we can say about McCarthy is that he disagrees in principle with the unconscionable ravings of the Trumpers who are preventing him from becoming Speaker, but comparing him with Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene is a frighteningly low bar. Until a potential leader of courage and integrity emerges to break the stalemate, Republicans have to choose between a known evil and a man who has shown he cannot be trusted to stand in support of the Constitution when doing so would threaten his political power.
However this turns out, it will at best be an embarrassment, a display for the entire world to see how dysfunctional our experiment in democracy can be. It’s appalling. It’s discouraging. It’s nauseating. As I write this, the House of Representative has failed to elect a Speaker after six attempts, while on the other half of our television screens, President Joe Biden stands with Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on the bridge connecting Cincinnati, OH with Covington, KY, demonstrating that bipartisan government works far better than the politics of hate and division.