Paul Waldman wrote an excellent article over at The American Prospect, House of Representatives Now a Scene from “Life Of Brian.” It is based upon a Politico article that reported that the House Republicans are divided into two factions. Not moderates and conservatives. No, that would be too reasonable. One of the factions is comprised of hardcore “lower taxes and cut spending” types. The other is comprised of hardcore “outlaw abortion and kills the gays” types. And they do not like each others. “The only people we hate more than the Romans are the Judean People’s Front!”
The movie Life of Brian is not particularly about religion. It is mostly about extremists—in particular, revolutionary groups. My favorite part of the movie is the scene where they discuss what the Romans ever did for them. “All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?” That’s right out of a Tea Party movement. “What has the government ever done for us?”
What Waldman is getting at without explicitly saying so is that the Republicans have become a revolutionary party. They are not interested is governing. They think the entire system is invalid; they don’t want to reform it; they want to destroy it. Generally, they don’t succeed because people are smart enough not to give them power. But when they do it is very bad. When the Nazis gained control of the German government, almost the first thing they did was dissolve the parliament and make Hitler dictator. The point is that half measures don’t matter to these kinds of people. It is all or nothing. So until they have complete power, they have nothing to do but out-purity each other.
Waldman started his article with a claim that is music to my ears:
This is one of my pet peeves too. No one would ever say, “My drain is clogged; get me someone who knows nothing about plumbing!” But I think that Waldman is wrong to think that the dysfunctional Republican Party is the result of idiot outsiders who have taken over the party. Usually, there are norms that stop zealots from entering a party. In the past, such people would hook up with the Constitution Party or some other extremist group. But over the last 30 years, the Republican Party has become more and more friendly ground for radicalism. Eventually, there is a critical mass of crazy where only the crazy are allowed. And that is what we now have with the Republican Party. Note: contrary to what many say, this never happened to the Democratic Party. It is possible that the party became too liberal, but it never became socialist.
I worry that events will lead to a place where the modern Republican Party is in control in Washington. But even that will cause them to implode. There is no way that the Republican Party can continue on as it has. The internal conflicts and the unending search for purity will eventually destroy it. But even under the best of circumstances, this process will be very painful for those least involved.