My oh my, how the mighty fall.
One of the worst obstructionists in congressional history, Rep. Eric Cantor, has tumbled like Humpty Dumpty, and all the Tea Party horses and all of its men cannot put Cantor together again.
To many people, including myself, Cantor’s political demise was a plus. The smug, often arrogant obstructionist got exactly what he deserved. What’s even better – a case of perfect bad karma – is he was trounced by a fellow Tea Party ultra-right-winger, David Brat, the very type of candidate Cantor has long trumpeted. Cantor’s fall is yet another example of how the Republican Party these days resembles a dragon eating its own tail or the mythical Saturn devouring its own children.
You’d think by now they would have learned their lessons, but they keep stumbling over themselves and stepping in their own doo-doo. Republicans began their opportunistic flirting with radical elements of the so-called Tea Party six years ago. When Tea Party factions formed, some of its members had understandable reasons for their grievances, such as anger over the taxpayer bailouts of big banks.
However, it didn’t take long for those Tea Party factions to be co-opted largely by ultra-right-wing types, some of whom included apocalyptic paranoiacs; gun-rights fanatics; anti-science naysayers; misogynists; despisers of government programs; rich contributors and smear-ad funders like the Koch brothers, Ayn Rand disciples and – most of all – Obama-haters. From the get-go, otherwise decent and reasonable Republicans began flirting with Tea Party types because the support from those ultra-rightists helped them win elections.
That’s before the bullying began in the form of primary campaigns, when the word “primary” morphed into a verb. Example: “If you don’t take stands that are more right wing, I’m going to primary you.” Some of these primary challenges to reasonable, effective Republican incumbents worked; many did not. Still, even the threat of being “primaried” struck fear into the hearts of so many traditional Republicans who once knew how to legislate, to compromise, to lead.
That climate of fear and intimidation caused many a Republican to waver, wobble and lurch further and further to the right – far from the mainstream attitudes of most Americans. Lest we forget, the same thing happened to the Democrats during the 1960s and 1970s when they leaned too far to the left.
In the U.S. Senate and in the House of Representatives especially, the anti-Obama, anti-Democrat obstructionist tactics began. A cabal of ultra-right-wingers in the Republican caucus, led by Cantor and John Boehner, stymied any and all legislative proposals. They put the kibosh on everything from infrastructure projects to gun-safety policies, from a federal minimum wage and immigration reform to executive appointments and a limited military strike against the Syrian regime. They voted 40 times in a futile effort to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. Then, using their most despicable tactic of all, they succeeded, under Tea Party demagogue Ted Cruz, in shutting down the government for weeks.
Most of the proposals Republicans obstructed were popular in public polls (including minimum wage and reasonable gun controls), and some proposals they abhorred, like the Affordable Health Care Act, were even based on Republican ideas to begin with, including RomneyCare. But that didn’t matter. Bitter and enraged they’d lost the White House to Obama not once but twice, their primary goal was – and still is – to obstruct anything and everything the president proposes.
Instead of repudiating Tea Party radicals along with their crazy ideas and their bully tactics, too many Republicans got sucked right into its vortex. Many have paid the price for that foolishness, and many more will pay the piper as the Tea Party keeps wielding its arm-twisting tactics in Congress and in the town halls back home. The divisions within the Republican Party are once again apparent after Cantor’s defeat, all but guaranteeing a vicious tug of war between rational Republicans and extremist Tea Party types once the presidential campaign begins and all but guaranteeing they will lose the White House once again, in which case, they’ll have nobody to blame but themselves.
As long as otherwise rational Republicans court these radicals and kooks, they will keep wrecking their own party, alienating more Americans and losing more elections.