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Because They Can

A look at some of the reflexes in GOP politics and in the media that lead to the status quo and muralism.

There’s an old joke:

Q: Why do dogs lick their own genitals?
A: Because they can.

The modern Republicans function on the same principle. It sees no cost to hypocrisy, it says that it can do whatever it wants, and if you try to stop it, there’s always a 2nd Amendment Solution threat to toss around like a grenade with the pin removed.

Under Barack Obama, the deficit was a major threat to our future. It was stealing bread from future generations to prop up silly programs (like roads and bridges!) today. And then, the clock struck midnight, Trump entered, and lo! cutting taxes to create a massive deficit is what all the cool kids do.

What would happen if they defied illogic and stood up to dumbassery?

  1. They would be primaried, losing 30-60% of the challenges
  2. The alt-right boneheads that replaced them would also lose 30-60% of their races

So, the GOP would be in a temporary setback, until the voters realized that getting creamed in the legislative races doesn’t do them any good and would inevitably moderate.

What does happen, instead?

  1. They adopt alt-right dumbassery
  2. They remain viable enough to slip farther into the pit of doom they will soon call home (and if we’re not careful, we all will as well)

Even now, before the Democrats take the gavel in the House, parts of the news media are back to treating Trump as a normal president. They think, wrongly, that being bested at the polls might make him face the music. There are takes along these lines:

  • Dems should prioritize legislation over investigation
  • Trump seeks to cut deals with the Democrats

To the first, it’s a false dichotomy. There will be investigations. There will be legislation. Those are both jobs of the Congress when it’s operating properly. Moreover, they go hand-in-hand. You have to investigate in order to legislate properly.

As to making deals, that’s part of the job, too. Not just with the president, but with other legislators, with the minority. There are a thousand deals done in Washington per day (including Xmas!), but almost no good (and only a little evil) comes of most of them.

Why does the news media fall back to the same worn narratives at each stage of the disaster of Trump? Because that’s their reflex, their muscle memory. They are working off a parametric equation that says something like:

  Republican president
+ Republican Senate
+ Democratic House
  Democratic cooperation

It’s the same reflex that was at work when they did a wholly-inadequate job questioning the intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq war. It’s the same reflex that couldn’t properly deal with Trump in 2015-6. This is an industry that had tape ready to roll as soon as President George Bush’s death was announced. It’s not the investigative journalists that are the failure in media, it’s the rank-and-file paper-pushers that are merely providing a nice Muzak-esque environment for advertisers.

Which is the same God damned thing that the rank-and-file Republicans (and plenty of Democrats, to be sure) are doing for all sorts of dubious organizations and industries.

There’s a reason that the odds of Paul Ryan coming out in favor of doing something about climate change jump from 0% to at least 50% as soon as he is out of office. It’s the same one, over again. He can’t say that in the House, he has to wait until he’s a civilian. It takes time to sober up from the years-long binge on campaign adrenaline. The scent of lobbyist cologne and perfume does wash off, but it lingers awhile.

The 115th’s First Week

The issues playing out during the first week of the 115th Congress.

The mommy and daddy legislators packed lunches in leather backpacks and carted the rugrats to the Capitol. There was crying and separation anxiety and some had to change their pants after wetting themselves. Ah, they grow up so fast.

The Ethics Reform Ironies

Although they quickly backtracked, the House tried to gut ethics reform. The debacle highlighted how hypocritical and tone-deaf the legislators truly are. They had the gall to complain about their treatment at the hands of independent oversight, while they continue to ignore the plight of indigent defendants in criminal courts and civil courts throughout the country. Moreover, the Republican members gladly hounded the executive-branch with oversight attacks without a second thought to issues like due process or press overreach.

Meanwhile, folks called about it, then Trump tweeted against it, and then it went away. But for all the folks dealing with a case against them that can’t afford proper representation, Trump is silent and the House is making no first-day efforts to ease their burdens.

Does Trump deserve credit for being outraged with everybody else? Sure. Good job. But he also said the office was unfair, suggesting it needs reform. Again, fine. But what about criminal justice reform, specifically ensuring all defendants have access to equal justice and due process? Even the media hasn’t connected those dots, much less Trump. I’ll be waiting for Trump’s tweet about that.

Go ahead, reform the guard dogs at the Capitol. But you damn well better fix the other guard dogs while you’re at it.

Repeal and Retire to Be a Lobbyist?

The efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act are underway, with the Senate clearing their hurdles and committees gearing up to write reconciliation language that will gut the health insurance law. A replacement will likely be left for future members of congress, as it seems reasonable that the current crop will run to the refuge of lobbying jobs as soon as possible upon recognition that replacing the law (or even finishing a repeal) is a task they are not suited for.

Trump Uproots Ambassadors’ Families, but Not His Own

As has been widely covered, Trump’s wife and his youngest male heir will remain where they currently reside while Trump moves to the capital, but now we know he doesn’t offer the same courtesy to the families of ambassadors who may not be replaced for months. Hip-hip-hypocrisy! (Though the common misspelling, hypocracy, might actually fit in this case.)

Cutting Peoples’ Healthcare to Pay for the Wall

Republicans and the Trump administration are planning to re-fund a dusty plan from the Bush years to build hundreds of miles of barriers along the southern border. The money they are cutting from health care is basically going to be redirected to build the wall. They are robbing Peter of healthcare to pay for a wall to keep Pablo out.

Mass Shootings versus Terrorism

A comparison of the GOP responses to terrorism and mass shootings.

We’ve seen the countless mass shootings occur throughout the country, and we’ve seen the GOP basically shrug, time and again. Their big answer has been more people with more guns. And yet, in responding to the attack in Paris, their tune is very different.

Keep the refugees out. Only let Christians in. Track all Muslims. Troops in Syria. And, of course, at least one suggested that the French should have carried more guns.

Numerous governors, including those whose states have witnessed mass shootings, have said they will refuse to allow Syrian refugees admittance to their states.

What is the deal? Are terrorists’ bullets scarier than mass shooters’? Is it that the terrorists constantly agitate and announce their desires, where we don’t hear about mass shooters until after the fact? Are terrorists more effective than lone shooters?

Honestly, a lot of it seems to come down to ideology over ideology. Terrorists, it is thought by the GOP, are built of terrorist ideology, something that is infectious, something that could spread. They don’t have enough of a grasp on mass shootings to say whether there is any contagion there.

They see a terrorist like they see a weed in the garden. If the weed stays, it will choke off everything, spreading itself. But they see mass shooters as a rabid dog, wandering into the garden, stomping on the flowers, but once you catch it or kill it, it’s contained.

But to someone outside the GOP ideology, this just seems bizarre. You have terrorism here, with these mass shootings, which they won’t lift a finger to stop. But you have these other acts of terrorism, and suddenly they can’t do enough to prevent it. They want to move heaven and earth to stop refugees.

The solutions aren’t really much clearer for dealing with terrorism. But the implementation, who deals with it, and the types of rallying cries the GOP can give differ quite a lot. For example, they could offer free guns to Americans for every Syrian refugee admitted. They haven’t, but I doubt it will take them long.

Dealing with terrorism and refugees will be a job for the military and federal law enforcement organizations. Preventing mass shootings would likely require at least some local intervention, possibly some gun control measures. Anything that burdens gun owners just can’t rouse the same sort of energy from the GOP.

Anyway, I just think it’s an important instance of hypocrisy to keep in mind. The political convenience and inconvenience are very important factors in what happens with an issue, and it just so happens that Americans love guns a lot more than refugees.