Back during the 2008 presidential election, I wrote an article on the Huffington Post how about all the Democrats had to do was sit back and let the self-destructive GOP keep shooting themselves in the foot, because every week seemed to bring a new story of insane behavior. And ultimately that's what happened. And for the first time in U.S. history a black candidate was elected President of the United States.
The Republican Party doesn't always act self-destructive or insane. There are times when they've somehow been able to convince people that the party has "compassionate conservatives" or "a new Nixon" or that Democrats are socialist radicals. But too soon that passes. For instance, when "compassionate conservative" George W. Bush squeaked in with a razor thin re-election over John Kerry in 2004, one of the first things he did was let hubris wash over him and say he was now going to swagger and spend his "political capital" that he'd just won. This ignored that all that "coin" he suddenly found in his pockets wasn't there because he had won any political capital, but rather he'd had to take out a big loan and was balancing on a tightrope in hopes of being able to pay it back. And as such, he ended up destroying the economy and leaving office in disgrace with a 34% approval rating.
The problem the Republican Party tends to have is when they fall outside that safe, creamy nougat center in the middle, and land on either side of it. When they have an election win, they ignore the specifics of how close the results actually were and let that same hubris take over, thinking that The American Public has given them the proverbial "Mandate" and that it wants to follow their far-right, conservative, religious agenda. Which it doesn't. Or when they've lost elections, they panic, think the world is ending and go soul-crushing crazy and double-down on their extreme-right agenda. Ignoring that...well, they lost, and the public voted against that extreme-right agenda.
We are in such a period of self-destructive panic by the Republican Party.
And on Sunday, they reached a point of utter angst-driven insanity. I'll get to that in a moment. But first we have to step back and look at the self-destructive panic that has taken over the nerve endings of the GOP.
To start with, not just the core, but the near-total entirety of their agenda for the past year has been to block affordable health care for Americans. Now, mind you, it's certainly possible that people may not like the Affordable Health Care how it's written or how it operates. And that's not unreasonable. But whatever one thinks about, people must at least accept what it is -- whether you like it or not. Your opinion may be that it's a terrible, horrible, despicable law for giving affordable health care to Americans -- BUT -- it's still a law for giving affordable health care to Americans. Like the law or not.
So, when the GOP puts all its being into entirely, completely, relentlessly trying to defeat the ACA -- not fixing it, not tweaking it to make it better, not working out a way to provide affordable health care in a way they approve, but rather crushing and destroying it -- that's what they're making the standard-bearing soul of the party's agenda: stopping affordable health care. You can argue that that's not what they're doing, but you'd be wrong. They want to defund affordable health care, and have no alternative to offer. Ipso facto.
But then, the Republican Party has decided to ratchet this insanity up a notch. And that's to push for shutting down the government.
Now, shutting down the government is never considered a good thing by the American public. When Republicans last did it, the voters demolished the GOP in the next election. So, you'd think they'd learn by their past mistakes. But, nope. Here we are again. And even if Republicans back off at the last minute (a big "if"), the public knows what the party has done and brought the nation to the brink of. And has it in them to do again.
And then even that has gotten ratcheted up by yet another issue to an almost catastrophic level, as Republicans threaten to not raise the debt ceiling, something that risks international financial calamity. How critical is it that the debt ceiling be raised? Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of conservatism, when faced by his own party's threatening actions, himself said, "The risks, the costs, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion: the Senate must pass this legislation before the Congress adjourns."
(Actually, he said a LOT more about why this must be done, and was even more blunt.)
And what's essential to understand -- something that I don't get the sense many people do in the Republican Party, or else they'd demand their election officials always immediately raise the debt ceiling -- is that all that raising the debt ceiling means is that "we, the United States, authorize paying the bill for things we have already bought." It means we will not default on what we already owe, that we will not be dead-beats. That not only "in God we trust," but that others who we owe money to can trust us. Now, and forever.
And the Republican Party is saying "no" to that. What they as a party always claim for others -- insisting on personal responsibility on balancing your budget, on doing the right thing -- they are doing the opposite. The GOP is threatening to run out of the store and not pay for what they bought. Tearing up their MasterCard bill when it arrives and laugh it off like no one will notice, and think it'll have no consequences.
It has massive consequences. There is no way it can't. What would happen if you didn't pay your bills?
And that brings up to that aforementioned point of utter insanity.
It's one thing to be so crazed to make the core of your political party about blocking affordable health for Americans, shutting down the government and destroying the international economy because you won't pay your bills. That's near-impossible to justify to the American public on almost any level. But to go beyond that and make one of your conditions that you won't do all this be (are you ready?) that you insist people not have full access to contraceptives (contraceptives!) -- for individual "moral or religious" reasons -- that turns insanity into self-destruction.
Contraceptives, for goodness sake!! Getting themselves involved with condoms. With birth control pills, IUDS,. This is the United States Congress, remember. All this relates to a "conscience clause" that Republicans added into a funding bill they passed on Sunday.
It's bad enough when Republicans in Congress, with its overall 14% approval rating, gets into conscience and morals as a reason not to shut down the government (mind you, you'd think if they had conscience and morals themselves to begin with, shutting down the government wouldn't be on the table), but to concern themselves with something as personal and private as using contraceptives for having sex is far worse, is so far worse to the point of ghastly.
And you'd think it should be ghastly to most everyone.
After all, who in the world is supposed to find this appealing??
Yes, I know that on the surface, it would seem that the extreme, radical evangelical right would be dancing on the ceiling for this. But that group is the base of the Republican Party, an institution driven by the concept small government and keeping government out of our lives. What is more gutterally intrusive than the government looking into your underpants and getting involved in matters of the condoms and IUDS you're using??! Surely any True Conservative fighting against government intrusion would be red-hot furious at this. Unless they are so full-blown twisted hypocritical that it makes it hard to speak without choking.
And the other side of the coin, liberals, they certainly abhor the thought of the government getting involved in matters of using contraceptives. And this clearly isn't something directed towards independents with their open minds.
And again -- and it's most important to remember -- the issue here isn't even about conscience, or morals, or religious belief, or that Republicans in Congress are intruding themselves in your sex life, or that the GOP is solely focusing the question of "morals" and religious belief on condoms, on contraceptives to the exclusive of all other matters of conscience and morals. All that, horrible as it is, is not the issue. The issue is that Republicans in Congress are doing all this...as a way to hold the country hostage against shutting down the government.
Seriously, is this how you want your country run? Are these the kind of people you want deciding what America should be? People who want to block affordable health care to Americans -- shut down the government -- destroy the international economy -- and stand in the privacy of your bedroom passing judgment on what contraceptives you can employ on your body before having sex, and using that as a hostage-taking threat???
I am sure there are some people saying, "Yes!" There are always people saying, "Yes!" When Ron Paul was asking during the 2012 GOP presidential debate whether we should let people die if they couldn't afford health care, some people in the audience yelled, "Yes!" So, I get it. Some people will say, "Yes! That's what I want for America!"
I just have a sense, when it comes down to their private, personal thoughts, most people don't say, "Yes!" And when I say "most people," I mean like 96%. When put in those simple, basic terms -- with all the politics and hot-button passions stripped away -- most people don't want "that" for America. It's only when voting comes around, that they sometimes forget what they really want for themselves and their children and the future, and instead vote the way they think they're supposed to. Because they think they're not supposed to give in to the other guy. Because they're not supposed to compromise. We all comprise all the time in our lives. It's how we move forward. But when it comes to politics, conservatives apparently aren't supposed to compromise. And this then is the result.
But it will be interesting to watch as the GOP continues on its road to self-destruction, and keep shooting itself in the foot with the party's giant blunderbuss -- with an emphasis on the "blunder." In 2014, if the Republican Party continues on this path (and it's difficult from this vantage point not seeing them do so. Frenzied momentum has a way of working like that), then they risk a serious likelihood of losing control of the House, and Democrats taking control again.
All because Americans -- most especially those open-minded souls in the independent middle and women, even conservative women tired of having war waged on them and having probes stuck into orifices of their bodies without approval -- look at this world of conservative angst, crazed closed-minded selfishness, and international destruction -- and say, "No! That is not what I want for America."
And anyone who disagrees -- feel free to write your Republican congressman and senator, tell them "Good job!" and then, "Keep up the good work and following that path."
Note: It leads over the cliff.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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