A bitterly disputed election. Mass disenfranchisement of voters. An outcome that did not reflect the will of the people. A diabolus ex machina from the Supreme Court ending the counting of votes. A closely-divided House, and evenly-divided Senate. One would think the "winning" side of such a tainted, divisive set of events as the 2000 US elections would have had at least a pragmatic interest, if not moral desire in forming broad alliances and an inclusive consensus. But that is not what happened. Now fast forward eight years: A landslide election. The total repudiation of the former majority, almost "from Sea to shining Sea." Overwhelming public consensus on key issues. Strong majorities in both houses of Congress. A president with a mandate to make major changes. One would think the losing side of such unambiguous events would at least have had a pragmatic interest, if not moral desire in redeeming itself through constructive engagement with their opponents. But again, that is not what happened.
"Ah," the dismissive ignoramus sighs, "but that's partisan politics for you. The parties do what is best for themselves, not what is best for the country." And the claim seems plausible enough if we ignore what actually happened, and wrack our brains for Democratic parking tickets to hold up against the litany of Republican felonies. But in the light of events witnessed by the entire world, documented for all history, and remembered by all who saw them unfold, it is meretricious nonsense. Just a few factoids off the top of my head:
- Not one Democratic Senator tried to block the certification of Bush's electors from 2000, despite having ample justification.
- Al Gore retreated into relative obscurity in the years immediately after leaving office, rather than using Bush's illegitimacy to keep him and his party in check.
- There were no Congressional investigations of the Bush White House at any level, by any Congress, committee, or subcommittee thereof, ever. Not one. There had been, however, numerous investigations into the Clinton White House, at great expense, and often premised on little more than rumors - a performance the GOP has vowed to repeat with the Obama administration.
- Subpoenas issued to Bush's Executive departments by committees under Democratic majority were ignored or openly dismissed by those named in them, but no Contempt of Congress resolutions were ever introduced as a result.
- Following public admission of war crimes by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their appointees both while in power and afterward, no articles of impeachment, special prosecutor appointments, investigative commissions, or even resolutions of censure were introduced by Democratic majorities.
- No Democratic Congressman ever stood up during one of Bush's State of the Union speeches and yelled "Liar!" or other epithet despite the unprecedentedly psychotic, bellicose, and delusional content of those speeches.
- Bush's unprecedentedly right-wing, often unqualified Judicial and Executive appointments were approved en masse under Democratic Senate leadership in 2001-2, and the relative few resulting in extended hearings were overwhelmingly approved. Bush got to fill so many judicial vacancies largely due to all-out GOP obstruction of Clinton's appointments - another performance they are clearly repeating with the Obama administration.
There was, in other words, nothing in the political environment inherited by Republicans in 2001 that motivated their subsequent behavior - no recognizably sane grievance; no offended sense of fairness; nor even a "score to settle" existing outside their own twisted imaginations. Their behavior as a majority and/or WH-occupying party, quite simply, bore no resemblance to their treatment as an opposition. Every time the GOP has lost power, they've obstructed the majority more bitterly than the last time; every time they've regained power, they've abused it with more viciousness, bigotry, and inhuman malevolence than ever before. And every time, there are the Democrats, behaving in power with magnanimity to the point of abdication; in minority, exercising their opposition with a restraint bordering on (and sometimes literally amounting to) collaborationism.
Democratic Senators and Congressmen throughout the Bush era - a period of unprecedented authoritarian arrogance, criminal savagery, and illegal partisan abuse of government resources by Republicans - simply would not extend their criticism of Bush or the GOP beyond matters of degree, emphasis, or competence. Every objection was either a matter of "too much," "not enough," or "unskilled governance": A crime against humanity openly conducted from the Oval Office might be criticized as "negligent oversight" of lower-echelon forces by a departmental executive. It was sufficiently ridiculous and surreal that, to this day, I can't decide what extent of it was sincere obtuseness, what was corruption, and what (if any) might have been actual fear for their lives.
The point is that from 2001 to about 2006, the Democratic Party didn't really exist above the level of citizen-activists: America was a One-Party State, and that party was the GOP. Seats held by Democrats were merely a pressure-release valve, mitigating the barbarism of their environment rather than offering any active, substantive obstacle to it. When in the majority, their boldest achievement was simply to argue with the rhetoric of Republican impunity, while abjectly conceding it to be a fact in practice. Republicans got every last thing they wanted, doing every inch of the damage that was physically possible for them to do without prematurely aborting their own power, and they were treated for years exactly like they saw themselves: Inherently entitled to rule, irrespective of personal talent, achievement, or the outcome of elections.
But the very instant that situation changed - the very moment Democrats stared operating as a political party again, Republicans began behaving like long-suffering, aggrieved victims of a crime of infinite magnitude. Being merely indulged beyond all reason or justice - as opposed to being allowed to dictate policy as a fringe minority - was some kind of Stalinist oppression worthy of a Solzhenitsyn treatise. The mere acknowledgement of the American people's right to send them packing was a bridge too far for the Republican Party, and it seemingly gets harder for them to accept every time it happens. Conversely, any level of victory on their part - even if modest, tainted, disputed, or numerically trivial - they interpret as giving them carte blanche to radically alter decades (or even centuries) of American law and political tradition.
I witnessed the derangement from the very moment Obama was projected to win the election by the major news channels: Right-wing commenters on internet forums said things to the effect of, "This can't be happening," and made clear they meant it literally. The universe as they understand it does not permit Democrats to win by explicitly campaigning against conservative values; nor does it permit Republicans to let the American people make such a decision. "God won't let it happen - something will change this!" seemed to be a disturbingly common view among them, expressed openly several times that I saw.
You see, it is simply inconceivable that they do not get what they want. If trying to bribe people with a bottomless fish-basket of tax cuts for their corporate masters somehow isn't compelling, there is always lying, race-baiting, and character assassination; and if that doesn't work, there are always paperless voting machines, voter suppression lists, and "2nd Amendment solutions." So if even all of that doesn't make it happen for them - if it fails to materialize sufficiently to get what they want - well, clearly Satan is at work.
Supernatural forces of evil and oppression beyond the conception of mere mortals have clearly hatched an infinitely-layered tableau of conspiracies so monstrous and insidious that not one iota of Democratic policy must even be considered, let alone worked with; not one actual Democrat must be acknowledged as even being human, let alone American or (gasp) someone respected and admired by the American people in general. The GOP now fully, and unabashedly embodies the infamous quote:
As soon as by one's own propaganda even a glimpse of right on the other side is admitted, the cause for doubting one's own right is laid.
And, in point of fact, Hitler's thought is not at all true of any group of people whose intentions are the least bit noble - it is rather a unique trope of the totalitarian, the militant, the murderer: The total obscuration of another's humanity, the truth, and your own obligations toward them both, in service to a zero-sum struggle for power as an end in itself. Republicans are in just such a struggle, except there is no real competitor for absolute power driving them down that abyss - no real-world external force motivating their escalating cycle of psychosis and violent malevolence: They are, quite simply, engaging in monologue, and by turns revealing themselves at an ever-spiraling cost to this nation.
Their hate, lunacy, and infinite selfishness have fed back into themselves to the point of transcending mere language manipulation: It is so intense they can barely hold on to even the superficial elements of English speech when talking about President Obama, and degenerate into a kind of gurgling, snarling, wheezing, incoherent word-salad with a syntax not yet fully understood by linguists. And yet, in the face of this, our President treats every last one of them as if they were intelligent human beings who love their children more than they hate their litany of personal scapegoats - exactly as he should treat them, as a President of the United States.
So there is no longer any deeper level of lying or merely verbal hate they can sink to: Their lying is constant, unbounded in magnitude, totally unhinged from reality, and has a dominant media platform from which to spread its poison, and yet we abide and make progress. The lies they tell are less effective than ever, despite being told in the loudest shrieks they can muster, and their unquenchable desires run up against the immovable fact that we will never agree to their ruling over us as kings and absolute barons. Whatever Republicans choose to do then, when they finally realize they will never truly possess this country, I would give them this warning:
This is not a game for us. Not a game the way it is to the corporations and preacher/con-artists you serve. This is life, and freedom - the real things, not the words you carelessly toss around when trying to justify your cowardly atrocities. So say whatever you want, because the 1st Amendment is 1st for a reason. But if your actions ever grow to match the tone of your words - if you start exploring your "2nd Amendment solutions" more deeply - this whole nation will come together and be done with your ravening, grasping, murdering arrogance.
Look on these intervals of change as your grace period: The time We The People are magnanimously giving you to get used to the fact that you are not antebellum plantation owners or medieval lords. Taxes are your duty, not your gift; health care is a right, not a privilege; matters of fact are not overruled by matters of faith or financial convenience; and you are what you bequeath to this world, nothing else. Your greed and insanity are growing even as society's ability to indulge them is declining, so pretty please, with a cherry on top, learn to passably pretend you have a mind, a conscience, and a priority other than yourself.