This has been quite a week in Washington, a week full of terror, intrigue, suspense, backstabbing and outright chaos. While we might not have been able to predict the particular contours of the catastrophe that complete GOP rule has been, we should have known it would turn out something like this.
Guess what, America: This is what you get when you elect Republicans.
It goes much further than their repugnant and disastrous effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but all the contemporary GOP’s pathologies could be seen there: their outright malice toward ordinary people, their indifference to the suffering of their fellow citizens, their blazing incompetence, their contempt for democratic norms, their shameless hypocrisy, their gleeful ignorance about policy, their utter dishonesty and bad faith, their pure cynicism, and their complete inability to perform anything that resembles governing. It was the perfect Republican spectacle.
It’s remarkable to consider that there was a time not too long ago when the Grand Old Party was known for being serious, sober, a little boring, but above all, responsible. They were conservative in the traditional sense: wanting to conserve what they thought was good and fearful of rapid change. You might not have agreed with them, but there were limits to the damage they could do. The devolution from that Republican Party to the one we see today took a couple of decades and had many sources, but its fullest expression was reached with the lifting up of Donald J. Trump to the presidency, this contemptible buffoon who may have been literally the single worst prominent American they could have chosen to be their standard-bearer. I mean that seriously. Can you think of a single person who might have run for president who is more ignorant, more impulsive, more vindictive and more generally dangerous than Donald Trump? And yet they rallied around him with near-unanimity, a worried shake of the head to his endless stream of atrocious statements and actions the strongest dissent most of them could muster.
So now we see the results of putting this party and this president in charge. Let’s take a little tour around the news and see what’s going on, shall we?
- Republicans came within a single vote of passing a bill that would crash the individual health insurance market, send premiums skyrocketing and cause 16 million people to lose their health coverage — and that was the least damaging version of their health-care bill. Getting that close required an insane twisting of the legislative process, a bill written in secret with not a single hearing and tossed at the Senate mere hours before a vote. And only three of the 52 Republicans in that body opposed it, all because they were scared of being punished by a base they’ve been lying to for years.
- The president of the United States is apparently trying to get his own attorney general to quit by publicly humiliating him in interviews and over Twitter, all because the AG has not been sufficiently cooperative in quashing an investigation into ties between the president’s campaign and a foreign adversary that helped him get elected.
- The newly installed White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, is in open war against his ostensible boss, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, a war he is conducting with the encouragement of the president, who reportedly enjoys setting his employees against one another. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own c–k,” Scaramucci told the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, adding that “Reince is a f—ing paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.” Later that day, Scaramucci tweeted, “I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won’t happen again,” because despite holding the most important press relations job in America, he is apparently unclear on the meaning of “off the record” and “on the record.”
- The president announced a sweeping military personnel change in a couple of tweets, apparently without the knowledge of the Pentagon, when he declared that transgender servicemembers will be barred from serving in the military in any capacity. Nobody has any idea how this astoundingly malicious and retrograde policy is going to work.
- That was only one of three anti-LGBT policies the administration announced on Wednesday; they also intervened in a private lawsuit to argue that the Civil Rights Act does not protect gay people against employment discrimination and nominated fiercely anti-gay governor Sam Brownback to be U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom. Brownback is getting the heck out of Kansas, the state he has practically run into the ground over the past few years after slashing taxes in what was trumpeted as an experiment in pure conservative governing. Because of his disastrous policies, Brownback is the second-most-unpopular governor in America, ahead of only New Jersey’s Chris Christie.
- Congress will be following up its health-care failure with an effort to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, which they will present with the same bogus justification they always offer for such tax cuts, that they will cause such an explosion of economic growth that the benefits will trickle down to everyone.
I could go on and delve into the president’s plan to blow up the Iran nuclear deal, or the climate-denial initiative at the Environmental Protection Agency, or all the fossil-fuel lobbyists now staffing the Interior Department, or any of a hundred abominable policies and programs. But the point is, we’re getting just what we should have expected. Donald Trump isn’t an aberration, he’s the apotheosis of contemporary Republicanism.
Republicans don’t care about making an honest case for their priorities; Trump lies nearly every time he opens his mouth. They’re unconcerned about the details of policy; he knows less about how government works than your average sixth-grader. They’re indifferent to human suffering; he literally advocates destroying the individual health-care market so he can blame Barack Obama for the lives that wind up ruined. They advocate a mindless anti-government philosophy; he has so much contempt for governing that he puts his son-in-law in charge of everything from solving the opioid crisis to achieving Middle East peace. They whine endlessly about the liberal media; he spends hours every day watching “Fox & Friends” and takes advice from Sean Hannity. Trump is the essence of the GOP, distilled down to its depraved and odious core.
America was given a reprieve last night, saved from the Republicans’ cruelest plans by a Democratic Party that stood strong, thousands of activists and ordinary citizens who organized in opposition and the GOP’s own incompetence. But this what you get when you give today’s Republican Party complete control of the government. Have no doubt: There are more horrors to come.