We Have Seen The Best Republicans Have To Offer
If you’re not thrilled with it so far, you’re shit out of luck because that’s as good as it’s going to get
By David Todd McCarty | Wednesday, October 4, 2023
In the 1997 Oscars-winning film about unrequited love and unconventional romance, “As Good As It Gets,” Melvin, a neurodivergent best-selling novelist played by Jack Nicholson, is not exactly living his best life. His existence is a constant struggle for control over a world that is clearly spinning out. Melvin is hoping things will improve when suddenly he comes to the realization that it might not.
He walks out of his therapist’s office and into a waiting room full of people. He stops dead in his tracks, clearly lost in thought when he turns to the room and says, “What if this is as good as it gets?”
No one speaks, but someone whimpers audibly, and Melvin leaves without an answer.
On Tuesday evening, California Republican Kevin McCarthy was ousted as Speaker of the House of Representatives, a mere ten months after it took a record 15 ballots to secure what would end up being a tenuous hold on power. Essentially, he was doomed before he took the gavel, having given away the farm before he had a chance to plant anything, let alone reap the harvest.
Any sense of schadenfreude over the bitter infighting within the Republican Party was quickly subsumed by the realization that a mainly powerless speaker was the best we were going to do with the new Maga-controlled cohort. As bad as McCarthy was, and let’s be clear about how dishonest and duplicitous he was, he is the best we will ever see again from a party that has embraced fascism, white nationalism, and theocratic oligarchy.
McCarthy, for all his deficiencies, was as good as it was going to get.
Ever since the day a corrupt, ex-game show host was elected to the highest office in the land, the standard for excellence in public office, at least on the right, has plummeted expeditiously. In the years since we have seen a steady exodus of the last of the traditional conservatives. Any adults in the room have been replaced by grifters, charlatans, and hucksters who not only have no experience in government, they have no interest in governing. They are there for the show, not the class work.
One can look back with fondness on the good old days when Mitt Romney, a Mormon financier who believed that most of the country was made up of poor leeches who would vote for whomever they thought would take care of them, was the Republican nominee for president. He was a traditional social and fiscal conservative with ideas that were less than progressive, but still, he believed in the value of democracy and seemed committed to his oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
If he was a villain, it was more of the cartoon variety of classic oligarch. More like Mr. Burns and less like Vladimir Putin.
He was one of only ten Republicans who voted to impeach Trump and has been a constant, if not sometimes quiet, critic of the former president. Recently, however, he had to admit that most of his party no longer believed in the Constitution, a rather shocking admission for an establishment Republican.
Gone, too, are the days of conservatives such as John McCain, Liz Cheney, and Adam Kinzinger. We thought George Bush was bad—both of them—but they were reasonable, compassionate, and almost downright saintly compared to the cabal of circus clowns we’re witnessing today. When Donald Trump took over the Republican Party, he didn’t leave any room for dissent. You either became a fascist, or you were drummed out of the party for being disloyal. Siding with logic and reason was akin to providing aid and comfort to the enemy.
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, he launched his white nationalist anti-immigration agenda by saying that the countries refugees were coming from “were not sending us their best.” On the other hand, he promised to “drain the swamp” and “hire only the best people.”
Trump went on to turn almost everything he touched to shit. The opposite of the Midas touch. He added nearly $8 trillion to the national debt, imposed costly tariffs on Chinese imports, had dalliances with several authoritarian regimes, alienated most of our allies, weaponized the Justice Department, and was the direct cause of the deaths of over a million Americans due to his intentional neglect concerning the pandemic.
When it came to hiring people, he consistently, and almost comically, hired the worst, least capable, most corrupt people he could find. Stephen Bannon, Roger Stone, Allen Weisselberg, Peter Navarro, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Elliot Broidy were all indicted and convicted of various crimes.
Over a thousand individuals have been charged in connection with the Jan 6 attack on the Capitol, where 570 have pleaded guilty and 78 have been found guilty. They include Steward Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militant group, as well as several leaders of the Proud Boys, another right-wing terrorist group convicted of seditious conspiracy, and received sentences that ranged from 15-18 years in federal prison.
In what ostensibly began with the Tea Party folks, it has only gotten more extreme, as the new class of Republicans see the job as a way to concentrate personal power by becoming a small-time celebrity. Governing is for suckers, they reason. Government is useful for one thing, and one thing only, for lining one’s own pockets.
In this craven calculus, there is no point in compromise because grandstanding is the goal. You are no longer required to participate in a given and take with your opponent. Personal achievement is limited to air time on cable television, not anything as mundane as passing legislation with bipartisan support.
We keep hearing how broken the American political system is, how dysfunctional Congress has become, and how both sides are to blame. But that’s unadulterated horse shit, and everyone knows it. There is only one party to blame, and as partisan as that sounds, just because something is a convenient truth, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
Republicans have abdicated any responsibility towards even attempting to govern. They make up rules to rationalize their hypocritical behavior and then do a 180 when it fits their needs. They have given up shame, along with any semblance of personal integrity, in exchange for unchecked power and personal profit.
Elected office attracts those who desire power and influence, so it’s no mystery that many of those in office, regardless of political affiliation, are cynical opportunists. It’s also not unusual for even the most ideological to become corrupted by their proximity to wealth and power. Why shouldn’t they get a little something extra for all their trouble?
This is where ideology can be of assistance, providing one with a sense of purpose and duty. An ethical and moral framework which can be useful in guiding your hand. Unfortunately, the Republican Party, along with their brethren in the Evangelical Christian community, have sold their souls in exchange for power and prestige. What once might have been a defensible political point of view, has been warped into a self-fulfilling prophecy of depravity and corruption.
At this point, our only hope is that the current path of the Republican Party as we know it is unsustainable and will eventually collapse under the weight of its own incompetence and lack of definable philosophy.
We’ve seen their best people and heard their best ideas, or lack thereof, and frankly, they don’t come anywhere close to being enough to lead a country of this size and wealth. This might be as much as we can expect from them, but not of ourselves. This can’t be the best we can do. We have so much more to offer.