by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
October 8, 2015
A SEASON OF MADNESS IN WASHINGTON
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- We just barely avoided another shutdown of the federal government by the House Republicans last week, this time using bogus "undercover" videos as the pretext for defunding Planned Parenthood.
But there will be another shutdown threat sometime in the near future. You can count on it.
That is perhaps the biggest reason why Rep. John Boehner decided to step down as Speaker of the House. He could no longer maintain control of the members of the Republican caucus. The inmates are about to take over the asylum.
And few political reporters are willing to admit the truth about where our political process is at right now.
As Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein wrote three years ago, "One of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier - ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."
Or as Esquire's political blogger, Charlie Pierce, likes to say, "one of our political parties is completely insane."
The man who appears likely to succeed Boehner, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., admitted last week to Fox host Sean Hannitty that the two years of Republican-led hearings investigating the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, were designed to destroy then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Cause she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen."
And, because they've had such good luck turning the Benghazi attack into a club to beat Hillary Clinton with, Republicans are willing to do the same thing over the phony videos purporting that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue from aborted babies. McCarthy also expressed a willingness to shut down the government if necessary to achieve the goal of cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
Congress is more dysfunctional than at any other time since the run-up to the Civil War. And that is because one of our major political parties has decided to withdraw from our system of democratic governance.
A large segment of the Republican Party fervently believe if they make enough threats to kill popular programs, if they play "chicken" with the economy by failing to raise the debt ceiling, if they can shut down the government totally, they will achieve their policy goals no matter how many Americans oppose what they're doing.
And they are dead serious about their intention to dismantle government, and have been for decades.
On Jan. 20, 2009, the day of President Obama's first inauguration, a group of hard-right Republicans in Congress met to plan their strategy for the ensuing four years. They promised to delay and obstruct any and all of the new president's legislation, and do whatever it took to make Obama a one-term president.
Thanks to his personal popularity, and his ability to take advantage of the brief window of opportunity to get a modest economic stimulus package and the Affordable Care Act through Congress while he had the chance, Obama won re-election in 2012, but ended up with even more obstruction and delay on everything else.
By debasing the public sphere and doing everything they can to keep government from being fully functional, Republicans have tried to prove the central thesis of the modern conservative: Public institutions are no good, and thus only the private sector can be trusted to do things efficiently.
And by obstructing the Democrats' attempts to govern, Republicans are engaged in acting upon the other central thesis of the modern conservative, that any government led by Democrats lacks legitimacy and must be destroyed by any means necessary.
This is the fruit of nearly four decades of conservatives demonizing the whole idea of government. What follows will be nothing short of disaster for our nation.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.