January – March, 2013


January – March, 2013



We have a very good friend who nearly daily sends us emails concocted or forwarded to her by her daughter’s father-in-law.

This man, who we have to believe is not singular in any particular way, is a Republican. That by itself is not a sin. We have many good, dependable, companionable friends who are also Republicans.

But this one is also, to our way of thinking, out of his mind.

“Rab,” we’ll call him, is yet unconvinced that his party may be on the verge of extinction. Deep down he cordially hates Barack Obama, and he’s not singular in that way, either.

And as far as we can tell, “Rab,” has nothing to do with his time but research hidden “archives” for defunct statutes, repealed laws, racist jokes, and NRA propaganda.

We take that back. He has time to email all his friends the results of his library delving. And he happily forwards to them every alarmist sentiment ever expressed by this country’s far right wing of the Republican party.

When we find in our inbox a forwarded message from our own friend, we delete most of the attachments because we already know their contents will make us angry, ill, or suicidal.

We’ve asked not to be sent these missives, but they keep coming. Presumably our friend thinks we can profit from reading them, or that we can change our spots if she works hard enough.

And we resist the temptation to send “Rab” replies to his fantasy tantrums.

Why are we writing about “Rab” at all, a man whose ideas and prejudices we would prefer not to expose? We don’t, after all, want to lend him more notoriety or credence. “Rab” is only one of a number of people whose ideas are worthless and dangerous, and who profit only from space in the press or on talk-shows.

The reason is simply this: if “Rab” were singular in any way, we’d say nothing about him to anyone. But precisely because he isn’t singular, but one of thousands, we need to be prepared to experience the first quarter of this year as one of the most frustrating, empty, futile periods in American Congressional history.

We all know the country faces enormous problems of many kinds. But like his cohorts in the House of Representatives, “Rab” not only will not believe his party lost the election last November, but also stands ready, willing, and able to obstruct good ideas, confuse already complicated issues, and continue to make sure Barack Obama has only one term in office.

Sound like anyone you know? How about Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, or Ohio’s John Boehner, or Virginia’s Eric Cantor. Not to mention Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan or Minnesota’s Michelle Bachmann?

How about the fleet of Republican governors in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, among others?

We are about to enter at least ninety days of “Groundhog Day,” and when that period has passed, there is no guarantee the country will have made progress on the debt ceiling level, on immigration, spending cuts, gun violence, voting rights.

As the saying goes, “Are we having fun yet?”

House Republicans have begun the New Year as they left the old, alienating groups of voters they cannot afford to lose lest they really and truly commit political suicide. Already bills have been introduced on the floor of the House to completely defund Planned Parenthood. Already there are bills on the floor granting “personhood” to fertilized human eggs, which means each embryo has every right offered ex utero citizens in terms of life, liberty, and property. Already there are bills on the floor that want to de-legitimize what are called “anchor babies,” which means children born in this country to families of illegal aliens whose rights are guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment to our Constitution.

You know “Rab” approves of all this.

We do try, in these pieces, to be fairly even-handed. If the Republicans are out of line, so often are the Democrats. As a matter of fact, during the next three months, most progressives will be holding their breaths lest President Obama “give away” too much to the Right for the sake of an agreement or an idea on which he campaigned. He’s drawn lines in the sand before, and then erased them. We’re hopeful but nervous.

But nervous is not necessarily angry. And angry is what we’re going to be when our esteemed Republican Congressional representatives do absolutely nothing for the sake of the country and still get paid.

After all, the bills newly introduced this week in the House are in fact old bills, bills with very little chance of being passed. What then is their point? Clearly, the Republicans, before they can begin to change their own spots and become once more relevant to the country’s political life, feel they need to remind their base of the many social engineering bills they believe that base wanted in 2012. The fact that these ideas were rejected by voters, from Mississippi to Washington state, from Maine to Maryland, seems to have slipped the Republican leadership’s mind.

The single hopeful sign on the horizon is that some Republican legislators may cross party lines to support new gun control legislation.

If anyone can bring this about, apart from their own constituents’ letters, telegrams, and emails, it’s the vice-president who has purchase and validity and gravitas and common sense. If Mr. Biden can bring all these talents to bear quickly and stop the Republicans from becoming forever identified with the NRA — and some Democrats, as well — he will have done the entire nation a gigantic service, not to mention stopping the country’s slide into armed chaos.

There is another set of problems facing us, too, bureaucratic ones. Cabinet members, judges at all levels, state department personnel — many of which have to be confirmed by Congress — are languishing in Limbo as the Republicans hold up hearings and action on these posts, many of which are critical to the nation’s continuing progress. Having already shot down the hopes of Susan Rice as Secretary of State, Republicans are trying now to do the same thing with former senator Chuck Hagel as head of the Defense Department. No one knows yet how Congress will approach the nomination of John Brennan as head of the CIA, which to our mind is even more problematic than Mr. Hagel’s chances.

What the Republicans cannot acknowledge is that now, with the election over, their task is to help govern the country. They’re great at obstructionism and propaganda, but more is required of them as adults who were elected to represent the best hopes and honorable programs of the nation at large. Without a leader, someone more accomplished than John Boehner or Mitch McConnell, the GOP faces factionism, fragmented fits and starts, internecine warfare. The Deomcrats may benefit from all this, but we as citizens do not.

Last week we suggested that many in the House need remedial education in civics.

This week we find that the same need is going unfulfilled.



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