Nov 10, 2015

November 10, 2015: Weeper of the House, True Believers, The Price of Power.

There is something dangerous about orthodoxy in the hands of a true believer”

                        ----From “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

John Boehner has resigned from the House of Representatives and in so doing relinquishing his post as ‘Weeper of the House”.  In his place the scum have elevated Congressman Paul Ryan, otherwise known as little Eddie Munster, to the position of presiding officer of the United States House of Representatives and 3rd in line to the Presidency. 

Boehner (pronounced boner) by all accounts had a miserable time of it, trying as he did to weave a line between the forces of responsible governance and the newly-minted base of the Rescumlican party for which political responsibility and good governance are anathema.  It proved a treacherous path indeed, a Faustian bargain, reducing a once promising leader to a mere weeping caricature. 

The crazies, it would appear, are emerging from the woodwork. This is not, however, a recent phenomenon, nor should we understand it as a product of purely Republican malignancy.  The movement that has masticated into what we now refer to as the ‘teabagger’ movement began a long time ago, traceable originally to the disciples of Ayn Rand and the followers of Barry Goldwater.  But they, alas, were few and full of labor.  What gave the movement real impetus was the Supreme Court Decision in Roe v Wade

In which the court for the first time declared a zone of personal privacy extending to reproductive rights.  This mobilized the religious fundamentalists who, seeing abortion as an abomination, mobilized in large enough numbers to become the foot soldiers of an emerging political movement.

The principle culprit, the man who led them unto the national stage, was none other than Jimmy Carter.  It was Carter who, through the albeit temporary alliance of the Black and White southern Baptist conventions, found in these ‘foot soldiers’ a ready army of campaign workers ready to do the tedious and mundane tasks necessary to launch and win a national political campaign.  Winning the presidential election of 1976 with their support, Carter gave legitimacy to what was heretofore a largely marginalized and silent segment of the electorate. 

But, alas, what was to become known as the ‘Religious Right’ could find no home in the party of Ted Kennedy, Bela Abzug, and Eleanor Smeal. (1)  By 1980 American religious ‘fundamentalism’ had transformed itself from a mere adjunct in support of a single issue, and of a particular presidential candidate, into a ‘movement’.  In the hands of Jerry Falwell, and dubbing itself the ‘Moral Majority’, Christian Fundamentalism emerged as a national political ‘movement’, moving as it did beyond not only single-issue politics but to the conservative political ‘right’, embracing Ronald Reagan and the politics of unfettered capitalist exploitation.  In the hands of these practitioners it was held, with a straight face, that it was the will of the Lord that not only should the social safety net be shredded but that personal and capital gains taxes be cut in half.

Over the ensuing decades it only got worse.  As the Republican party of our forefathers transformed itself into the Rescumlican party of today it opened its doors and embraced with wholesale enthusiasm the likes of the heretofore banned John Birch Society, crypto-fascists, not a few remnants of the Ku Klux Klan and Southern racists, but more recently the corporate-sponsored Teabaggers, libertarians, and other eternal malcontents.  It has become, by degrees, a reincarnation of the old 19th century ‘Know-Nothing’ Party, denying science and climate change, evolution, and universally observable fact.  

The problem is that, given the religious veneer over which this caldron of intolerance and ignorance is presently covered, the “Political Right” or, as I prefer, the “
Idiot Wrong” has not only gone over to the ‘dark side’, but in so doing has exhibited such a marked degree of belligerence and intolerance as to threaten the very concept of republican governance.

There is something about conducting oneself in the public square with the firm conviction that one has god on one’s side.  If one is convinced that through political action one is working god’s will then compromise becomes damn near impossible.  If one assumes that good, however ill-defined must rest in one’s own hands and must, in the end, prevail then all other centers of political power are either suspect, evil, or illegitimate.  A certain self-righteousness emerged on the political wrong manifesting itself as a continuous stream of righteous proclamations, political obstructions and, when the electorate had the temerity to turn them out of office, temper tantrums.  Consider the record in recent years of conservative behavior:

* April 2011: House Republicans threaten a government shutdown unless Democrats accept GOP demands on spending cuts.

* July 2011: Republicans create the first-ever debt-ceiling crisis, threatening to default on the nation’s debts unless Democrats accept GOP demands on spending cuts.

* September 2011: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* April 2012: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* December 2012: Republicans spend months refusing to negotiate in the lead up to the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

* January 2013: Republicans raise the specter of another debt-ceiling crisis.

* September 2013: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* October 2013: Republicans actually shut down the government.

* February 2014: Republicans raise the specter of another debt-ceiling crisis.

* December 2014: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* February 2015: Republicans threaten a Department of Homeland Security shutdown.

* September 2015: Republicans threaten another shutdown [over Planned Parenthood]. (2)

 There is something dangerous about orthodoxy, be it religious, political or economic, in the hands of a “True Believer” (3).  When they are not wreaking havoc upon the national political consensus, undoing the work of centuries, and shredding the social safety net, they are, when voted out of power, about the business of obstruction and nullification. 

Make no mistake about it.  When one is guided by the ‘light’; when one sees ones actions in the political arena to be a manifestation of the ‘will of god’, then there is small room for political debate and no tolerance for political opposition.  Accordingly, one sets about the business of restricting the franchise (voter ID, Gerrymandering, restricting access to polling places), overturning elections (Bush v. Gore, the mess in Ohio in 2004), and vilifying the political opposition (Faux News, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter et. al.)  By these means the ‘light of the world’ has been, by degrees, transformed into a political abyss, a cauldron of darkness.  Christ, it is now earnestly held, was a confirmed Capitalist, nearly two millennium before the advent of Capitalism.  Facts?  What are mere facts in the hands of a ‘true believer’?

The Faustian bargain that Boehner forged with the forces of darkness has, at last come undone.  It remains to be seen, now that he is free of the constraints of power, what his commentaries will be on the state of our union but others, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke among them, have vented their frustration at the intolerance and ignorance boiling on the political surface of the political cauldron.  A veritable witch’s brew, balking at the elevation of little Eddie Munster, protesting that even he was not ‘conservative enough’ to lead this rabble.  Ideological purity has its limitations, and its price.


1.  Ted Kennedy is well known.  Bella Abzug was a renowned liberal congresswoman from New York City and avid supporter of reproductive rights.  Eleanor Smeal was chair of the National Organization of Women, also a strong supporter of Roe V. Wade.

3. See Hoffer, Eric. “The True Believer” Perennial Library, Harper and Row Publishers, New York. 1951. 160 pages.

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