For several minutes there after Barack Obama racked up well north of 300 electoral votes for the second time in a row, the first president since Eisenhower to surpass 51% of the popular vote twice, and the fifth time a Democrat has won the popular vote in the last six presidential elections, Republicans finally seemed ready for their moment of Zen, a chastened period of reflection to reconsider their posture, if not their “ideas”. After all, given their years of obdurateness and demagoguery on immigration, their abominable, demeaning rhetoric about the undocumented, their women-unfriendly policy proposals and language and downright eccentricity, the recent election results were one of the grandest demographic-political I told you so’s in modern political history.
Republicans took their minute or two and duly reflected, many vowing rehabilitation was underway. And in another case of a highly public rehab flop, it didn’t take. Republicans remain on their Gerbil wheel, still in their Robert Downey Jr. serial recidivism phase. Senate Republicans took the opportunity of the confirmation hearing for Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel to stage for the American people a P.T. Barnum scale Greatest Show on Earth of pettiness, pointless obstructionism, bad manners, bad faith and bargain basement personal smears. Perhaps god’s greatest gift to Democrats hoping Republicans’ freak flag will continue flying high is the newly-elected senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. He handcuffs himself to a microphone and channels teanut zealotry with a volubility and velocity guaranteed to elicit an emphatic smh (shaking my head) from the American majority. Predisposed to preen like a cracker Gloria Swanson it is clear to anyone not in the primitivist camp that he couldn’t find a scruple with a Klieg light, worships at the altar of Joseph McCarthy, has the intellectual honesty of a bucket of bait, possesses the credibility and demeanor of a Soviet prosecutor at a Stalin purge trial and whose demagoguery reeks with such a stench it will stink up every Republican anywhere in its proximity. I think I’m in love.
It was apparent from the very beginning that from Senate Republicans’ point of view Hagel wasn’t there to discuss future national security policy: he was there to be eaten by lions. Referring to Hagel and Secretary of State nominee John Kerry, two men who volunteered for service in Vietnam, earning purple hearts and commendations for bravery, the aforementioned military service shy Cruz told a Republican audience, “We’ve got two pending nominations, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, both of whom are very prominently less than ardent fans of the U.S. military,” Yes, he’s that lowly a lowlife.
Uncle Grumpus John McCain acting out in his now standard high dudgeon sore loser mode all but rubber-hosed poor Hagel, approximating vomiting a revisionist fantasy of Iraq into the man’s lap, though Hagel adopted the rope-a-dope strategy of allowing Republicans to flail away at him histrionically in front of the cameras. Lindsay Graham, who has been a very busy little homunculus lately, implied Hagel is anti-Semitic with quotes even rookie observers of politics could figure out had been wrenched out-of-context. Then Cruz, anxious to burn the Reichstag as many times as possible hammily and conspicuously goofily attempted to link Hagel to the government of Iran, announcing, “the government of Iran formally and publicly praising the nomination of a defense secretary. I would suggest to you that to my knowledge, that is unprecedented to see a foreign nation like Iran publicly celebrating a nomination.” Ill-advisedly going Full McCarthy Cruz addressed the matter of some of Hagel’s financial records needing further clarification, saying, “He could not even say that the $200,000 he received did not come directly from a foreign government…It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea.” This may have raised Cruz to iconic stature in the eyes of Americans to the right of Goebbels in the Southern hinterlands, but it was guaranteed to turn the stomachs of most Americans who know a nasty attempt at sliming when they see one. Americans don’t like these tactics. In fact, they hate them.
On all fronts of late Republicans have been boldly skywriting that they are completely out of synch with the majority of the American people. Polls show Americans heavily in favor of immigration reform and a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Yet there was Marco Rubio reacting to a leaked version of Obama’s plan for immigration reform which very modestly pursues those goals, hitting it with a sledgehammer practically seconds after it was made public, saying it was “dead on arrival in congress”…this the same Marco Rubio by the way whose sneak thief filching of a drink of water in the middle of his response to the State of the Union definitely put the rube in Rubio. And then there was Little Lindsey G again telling a national audience during Meet the Press that the Pentagon budget should be protected by slashing funds for Obamacare, telegraphing to planet Earth that he lives in a world where the nightmare of the health insurance status quo was awfully rosy, and the Pentagon barely scrapes by: not the world most Americans live in. Though another overwhelming majority of Americans favor tighter regulation of guns, Republicans emulating Weird Wayne Lapierre have made it clear they are reluctant to take even baby steps restricting the purchase of guns. Minimum wage? No thanks, even if 73% of Americans favor raising it.
The point being this is a party still unready for prime time by the longest of shots, from any ability to demonstrate to the American people it is actually prepared to govern rather than simply evangelize for an exotic, absolutist ideology nobody desires but its own. It is a party that remains unwilling to do the basic business its members have been elected to do rather than to devote its taxpayer-funded time exclusively to obstructionism: what to a majority of Americans is nothing more than flagrant nihilism. It has yet to become a party for whom compromise and problem solving are not approximately as anathema as swimming is to cats.
Of course, observing the Republicans’ freaky flag as a Democrat, it is possible to say with perhaps exuberant enthusiasm: long may it wave.