Last week surely demonstrated to American voters the danger of sending radical Republicans to Congress. The circus that no one could enjoy proved that America’s political sickness, once an inconvenient annoyance, has moved us near to self-inflicted paralysis.
Let’s quickly rerun the lowlights from last week. Do not avert your eyes.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, desperate to end talk of impeachment because the party’s leaders believe it’s political poison, decided instead that the House should sue President Obama for issuing executive orders to implement the Affordable Care Act. As proposed, the lawsuit would be laughingly futile because to have standing to sue, the House must prove injury to itself. Further, when Obama’s term ends, it would become moot. That time will come long before it could be decided. It’s just a gaudily painted plastic butter knife, not a saber, and its sole utility is to be waved around through the 2016 election.
Nobody in the GOP leadership wants impeachment talk, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., but his expressed objection is not that it would be wrong or futile or would violate the balance-of-powers concept but that the impeachment debate about Bill Clinton cost Republicans five Senate seats. “Last time we tried that routine it didn’t help,” McCain said without a hint of shame.
A few days after the House approved the executive-order lawsuit, the struggle between GOP leadership and the radicals turned into the circus’s clown act.
The leaders thought they had agreement on a bill to address the child-immigration “crisis,” something they wanted to brag about during the long summer recess. But the radicals objected and the agreement fell apart, leading to a three-day triple flip-flop and a much weaker bill. By then the Senate had gone home, so no final vote could occur, but every Republican had a tin trophy to flash to the home folks.
During the immigration debate, Boehner fumed that Obama was derelict for not using his executive power to help. And how would – and will – Obama do that? Executive orders.
So the alarm about unconstitutional overreach is about only executive orders that Republicans oppose, meaning their objections are about policy and politics and not the Constitution.
In another burst of contradictory cynicism, Congress passed an eight-month patch on the depleted Highway Trust Fund – conveniently delaying meaningful action past November’s voting. The same Republicans who constantly grumble that businesses cannot plan ahead because of what they call the uncertainty of federal regulations and funding thus created huge problems for all states and cities, which must plan years ahead for massive, decadelong highway and bridge projects.
The growing power of the radical Republicans makes progress on our nation’s many problems impossible because their grievance-based, frozen ideology is underlain by intolerance, a shallow and opportunistic reading of history and economics, and a cold disregard for others, particularly minorities and the poor.
The radical right is not just a political problem for the Republican Party. It has metastasized into an American problem (meaning it’s also a global problem) that only American voters, particularly Republicans, can solve.