The Rebel Angels

Senator Mitch McConnell (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
In Paradise Lost, Satan (a.k.a. Lucifer) is the leader of the forces Milton describes as ‘rebel angels.’  Satan is the most glorious of angels, but he can’t stand the idea of serving God.  He chafes at the idea of obedience.  He actually persuades many other angels, who look up to him, to wage war against God, famously declaring ‘Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.’  God puts up with Satan as long as he can but, finally angered, he quells the rebel angels by turning every last one of them into snakes.  Unfortunately, Satan, a sibilant snake, still has the gift of speech.  And, though much reduced in his status, cosmically speaking, he still has the capacity to make trouble for earthlings, which he does when he successfully tempts Eve to eat of the apple, destroying the good thing Adam and she have had going in the Garden of Eden.

Milton’s fable of the fall of Lucifer aptly encapsulates the dynamic playing out in the Senate.  The Senators, though immensely powerful, resent the President’s authority—in fact, they resent the President personally.  They simply loathe the President, and this loathing has eventually driven them to forget their duties, and their proper place in the scheme of things.  Discontent, they disdain the glories of their rightful position and their great capacity, as Senators, to effect what contributes to the betterment of our country.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, in particular, has warred against the Senate’s limited role in the selection of Supreme Court nominees.  He has militantly declared he will not do his duty, nor does he want other Republican Senators to do theirs.  He seeks to prevent the President from placing Merrick Garland on the high court, claiming that the next President will better represent ‘the people’s will.’  More recently, McConnell has disgraced himself by subjugating his own judgment on the matter to the judgment of two lobbying groups.  He falsely claims that history gives his acts legitimacy.  These are the marks of a man no longer content with dimensions of his own authority.

In truth, both the President and the Senate, as constituted, represent the people’s will.  The Senators are each delegated to express the will of their states, just as much as the President represents the people’s will nationally.  In straining to control all that happens in our political cosmology, the Senate’s ‘rebel angels’ are undermining their own prestige and the Senate’s once-illustrious reputation and authority.

Collectively, the Senate’s exercise of ‘advise and consent’ might confirm Judge Garland as a fit selection for the Supreme Court.  But wouldn’t that be a triumphant outcome, given that we live in a fallen world?  We are, as much as in Milton’s time or in Lucifer’s, ‘sufficient to stand and free to fall.’

Image:
1992 photograph of Senator Mitch McConnell by Laura Patterson,
from this source.

Should Republicans Dump the Tea Party?

Zachary Taylor uncomfortably balancing atop a scale filled with acrimonious legislators.
The answer is yes, unquestionably.

Dump the Tea Party, and the Republican Party may survive; the faction that is the Tea Party will die.

As it is, the Republican Party is imploding. Yes, on the surface, with Tea Partyiers included, the GOP looks like a majority party.  But what does it matter, when a party’s members cannot agree, when they cannot accomplish anything?

The paralysis gripping the House of Representatives tells the story.  Over the past few years, Tea Party intransigence has scuttled many constructive common-sense measures enjoying the assent of moderate lawmakers.  At the Tea Party’s insistence, the House has approved countless Tea Party-centered bills that then die because they are so far out of the established mainstream.  Americans want Obamacare; they want the federal government to continue to run; and, yes, Americans would rather have federal debt than to bring a protective Union to its knees.  Yet the Tea Party has striven again and again to demolish elements of federal governance that generations of responsible lawmakers and jurists have painstaking built up.

The speaker’s contest gearing up in the House showcases the dilemma of a party that cannot control or even influence its own destructive minority wing.

Yet some of the leading figures of this do-nothing faction are now gunning for the Presidency, figures like Mario Rubio and Ted Cruz, so naïve and uncooperative (and in the case of Cruz so despised by his Republican colleagues) that they are incapable of collaborative achievement.  Out of sync with everything but their own narcissism, these candidates would make poor presidents, since they haven’t a clue as to how to marshal party power.

Dumping the Tea Party would be painful for the GOP establishment but would leave the GOP free to forge legislation with centrists on the other side of the aisle.  In terms of presidential politics, a purge would reassure moderate voters, who might respond surprisingly positively to this disinterested gesture of patriotism and good will.

The Tea Party are anti-federalists whose views, goals, and tactics jeopardize the power and integrity of United States. Cut the Tea Party adrift, and be the Grand Old Party again.

Image: “Congressional Scales” (1850),
published by the firm of Nathaniel Currier, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Click here to go to the source.

The cartoon shows President Zachary Taylor uncomfortably balanced atop a scales filled with acrimonious legislators.  He holds two controversial pieces of legislation as weights.  Political opponents in the scales taunt one another, one declaring that ‘We can hold out as long as they can’; another that ‘My patience is as inexhaustible as the federal treasury.’

The GOP obstructionists

Who are the obstructionists intent on defunding Obamacare and delaying its implementation?

I appended to Monday’s post on Republican Fire-Eaters this list, compiled by fellow blogger Eric Prileson, giving the names and phone numbers of the 228 Republicans and 2 Democrats who passed a House spending bill to this effect on September 20.

The determination of the House to “hold up” the government until the Affordable Care Act is modified to its liking solidified when House Speaker Boehner and other G.O.P. moderates decided, once again, to cave in to the far-right members of their party.  The 80 radical Republicans leading the charge have been nicknamed the “suicide caucus”–an apt coinage highlighting their resemblance to a terrorist group.

As Thomas L Friedman and others have noted, this group is a minority with some striking geographical and sociological peculiarities.  I encourage you to read Ryan Lizza’s geographical analysis of the suicide caucus, recently published on the New Yorker website.  Accompanying it is a dandy map, based on data from The Cook Political Report, showing the “upcountry” character of the caucus’s constituency. Click on the map to go to its source.

congressdistricts_final-01.png

Lizza:

The geography of the suicide caucus shows . . . [that] half of these districts are concentrated in the South, and a quarter of them are in the Midwest, while there’s a smattering of thirteen in the rural West and four in rural Pennsylvania (outside the population centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) . . . . there are no members from New England, the megalopolis corridor from Washington to Boston, or [from] along the Pacific coastline.

These eighty members represent just eighteen per cent of the House and just a third of the two hundred and thirty-three House Republicans. They were elected with fourteen and a half million of the hundred and eighteen million votes cast in House elections last November, or twelve per cent of the total.

The districts represented are also whiter than the nation as a whole.

The South, where many of the obstructionists live, is home to some of the nation’s unhealthiest populations.  Most Southern states, under Republican control, have decided against implementing the ACA-funded expansion of Medicare that might have benefited their neediest citizens.  This interactive map, published in today’s New York Times, shows the millions of people who will be affected by their choice.

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Minorities, if sufficiently intransigent, can cause great harm if the majority fails to neutralize or contain them, leading to a frightful dynamic that President Lincoln, long ago, most eloquently described.