In politics, it is always important to start one’s work from an honest place. Well, it’s the first full week of March, and neither Republicans nor Democrats are off to a good start.

Facing intense pressure from the party’s activist base to go on a war footing against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Senate Democrats have been issued a litmus test in which their commitment to the liberal cause can be validated only through the demonstration of absolute, unyielding opposition. According to the Senate’s second-highest-ranking Democrat, Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), “The base wants to reject [Gorsuch] out of hand.” Any suggestion that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is worthy of an up-or-down vote has been greeted with scowls and threats of banishment. Senate Democrats know there isn’t a real fight to be had here, but their activist base won’t quit pushing the idea that anyone who fails to support a filibuster is a sellout. 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) know this to be true. They’ve followed in turn, obediently issuing the most vociferous and anguished pleas against the nomination. After Gorsuch’s almost inevitable confirmation, they will be perfectly situated to say, “Hey, I fought for you! It was those insufficiently committed Democrats who brought us down. They caved under pressure.”

Former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. denies that President Trump’s 2016 campaign was wiretapped. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

Meanwhile, Republicans are still stuck trying to make sense of Saturday’s Twitter firestorm in which the president declared that former president Barack “Obama had [his] ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” and is a “sick” person for having done so. Those close to the White House have to maintain a straight face while insisting with intense clarity that this is a major development worthy of, at the very minimum, an official investigation. Republicans in Congress also have to abide by the notion that something suspect actually occurred. The resulting turmoil not only will consume time, energy and resources but also could muddy the waters of legislative business for the foreseeable future. The GOP caucus has grown increasingly fatigued as well, as continual eruptions and pointless flares sidetrack their work and message. Referring to the House Intelligence Committee, one senior staff person told me with a shrug, “We have a place to send all this stuff. Chairman [Devin] Nunes is being very patient. The White House owes him.” Patience, however, can be exhausted.

All the while, voters who don’t blindly support their party’s respective leaders remain discouraged by the fact that both Democrats and Republicans continue to play charades at the public’s expense. They are tired of having their legs pulled. They want government to function properly and for results to be achieved. But both parties are wildly off message. Such discord and confusion cannot continue as is without resulting in chaos. History has shown that turmoil inevitably invites trouble. I don’t know what the future holds for the country, but the absence of mature, poised and, most important, honest leadership will come at a cost. Just how much and in what form, nobody knows.