Saturday, August 3, 2013

The GOP Meets The Golem

The GOP Meets The Golem

There is an ancient Hebrew legend of the Golem, an immensely strong creature created from soil or clay and animated by sacred or magic words.  The Golem is created to protect the community from menacing or even murderous outsiders.  The ancient Greeks had a similar myth, of Talos, a giant man of bronze who guarded Europa in Crete by circling the island three times a day, and throwing boulders at pirates and other invaders.   In more modern times, the story of life from inanimate material is echoed in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and in countless 3-D robot tales. The hitch, inevitably, is that the Golem has no soul and becomes unhinged. He grows even mightier, menaces the community he was made to protect, and must be de-animated.

This is the Week of the Golem for the GOP establishment.  From every angle, the wailing of the anguished Main Stream Right Wing Media (MSRWM?) has poured out upon the land, causing grown men and women to quietly sob and parents to hustle their children indoors.  In just the Washington Post, stalwarts Charles Krauthammer (who also vents his spleen on Fox) former Bush aide Mark Gerson, GOP operative Ed Rogers, “soft” Right columnist Kathleen Parker,  Rummy and Bush speechwriter Marc Theissen and even the bottom-feeding blogger Jennifer Rubin have sent up the alarms about scary, scary men with dark plans for the future of the nation. 

And, who are these demons of the deep?  Besides Mr. Obama, of course?  Ted Cruz, Rand Paul,  Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and even Marco Rubio.   These four have become the enemy, dangerous to the safety of the Republican state of ship. 

So, why all the fear and loathing?  Two big issues: spying and legislative tactics.  In fairness, there is a legitimate policy dispute between the neo-cons and security state people (Theissen, Krauthammer, Rubin, Christie) and the isolationist/libertarians, like Rand Paul.  In the past, that would have been worked out in caucus, with a few lone wolves (like Rand’s father, Ron) left to leave the herd.  For decades, the GOP had a potent political message; the Democrats were soft on our enemies and dangerously naïve, Republicans were manly realists.  Vote for us and we will protect you.  Two years ago, when the Patriot Act came up for reauthorization, it passed with almost unanimous Republican support and a healthy dollop of ecstatic praise mixed with fear mongering. The GOP loved the Bush legacy program.  But this year, when (Republican!) Congressman Justin Amash introduced an amendment that would have killed Section 215 (which gives legal underpinning to the NSA’s metadata program) 94 Republicans supported him.  Including 50 who just two years had before voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act in full. So much for the potent political message.  In Theissen’s withering view, those 50 all became “John Kerry Republicans.”  They were for something before they were against it. 

But spying was the sideshow.  What really got the GOP’s establishment up in arms was Obamacare, or, more specifically, the latest ruse to end that terrible scourge upon the nation. Senators Cruz, Paul, Lee and Rubio are backing an ultra-clever House plan to defund Obamacare—by refusing to pass any budget whatsoever until Mr. Obama agrees to kill his own baby.  That’s correct.  The GOP, having lost in the Supreme Court, and having run squarely against Obamacare and still failing to win either the Presidency or the Senate, is now going to shut down the government, next month, unless they get their way.  No one gets a dime; not our soldiers in the field, not any arm of government, not Granny waiting for her check, until Barack Hussein Obama comes crawling and begging, with the severed head of ACA under his arm.

That scares the heck out of the MSRWM and GOP party pols everywhere.   Not necessarily because they wouldn’t applaud a positive result, but because they sense it will be a disaster, a Clinton vs. Newt replay.  As Ms. Parker says,  Either Cruz and Paul have sincerely deluded themselves about the political consequences of a shutdown or, plausibly, they don’t really think they can cause a shutdown and would never have to suffer the consequences. Meanwhile, they score political points with the base by blaming the GOP “sellouts” when the establishment adults keep the trains running on time.”   

And practically, for the few who can think outside the next news cycle, there has to be a deeper fear.  The newbies, the tea-infused bomb-throwers not only have no respect for the institution, but also keep inventing new weapons.  For now, those new tools are symbolic, like this Friday’s absurdist and clearly unconstitutional House vote requiring the Executive Branch to get explicit permission from both the House and the Senate for any new regulations, or the obligatory 40th vote to repeal Obamacare (it’s becoming like regular Church attendance, something one does weekly to proclaim one’s faith.)  Sooner or later, however, the rogue pack of elephants is going to trample on something important, and the opposition will be taking notes.  I guarantee that no future Republican President will like kowtowing to an obstreperous chamber run by the Democratic Party.  They all fancy themselves Dick Cheney, and only believe in checks and balances when they aren’t being checked or balanced.

You reap what you sow. If the Krauthammers and the Parkers and the Gersons and Theissens and all the electeds from McConnell and Boehner on down were really being honest with themselves, they would know this was a partially a self-inflicted wound. 

It was not so long ago when the very same conservative commentators and professional politicians were absolutely thrilled with the passion and the energy of the newly emergent radical right.  And, in the beginning, it worked.  The 2010 Election was a smashing success, and much of Mr. Obama’s agenda is in tatters.  But, things got out of hand while the champagne was being uncorked.  Even when respected office-holders were turned out in the primaries, even when the language directed at Mr. Obama turned not merely vitriolic but unbecomingly personal, the MSRWM and the party pols stood by and enjoyed the ride, and the spoils.  They praised, and succored, and enabled.  And ultimately, they empowered.

And now, they don’t know what to do. The entire Republican brand is at risk. Ed Rogers might have said it best; Our inability to be constructive opposition is not the president’s fault.”

A friend who is a brain specialist used a phrase that I thought was a perfect metaphor for this,  “learned helplessness.”  In psychology, learned helplessness is a state in which an individual who has been forced to bear stimuli that are unpleasant or painful becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if he could avoid them,  presumably because he has learned that the situation is outside his control.

Learned helplessness isn’t going to cut it,  nor is sending cranky old John McCain out for another episode of “Maverick vs. the Wacko Birds.”  The insurgents don’t respect traditions, the process, or their leadership. 

The Golem is loose, and it may take more than a few magic words to stop it.