States government may will apparently not default on its financial obligations later this week. The Republican Party has continued to hold held the American people
hostage by refusing to end their shutdown of the federal government. The power of the Tea Party over the Republicans, and the latter’s Stockholm-like surrender
to them, heralds the end of “normal politics” for one of the country’s two main political parties.
Functional political systems are dependent upon compromise and horse-trading. Broken political systems can be exploited by political ideologues that are unwilling to compromise unless their demands are met. The
United States, as a constitutional republic, is
especially vulnerable to small factions who can infiltrate the government and
then betray the standing bargains and norms which—to this point—made America a model
for political stability and legitimacy around the world.
To those outside of the Right-wing echo chamber, the behavior of the Republican Party GOP is deranged and irrational. The Republican Party’s brand name has been tarnished among the American people. The majority of the public (correctly) blames them for the unnecessary harm that the shutdown is causing the American and global economy. The Republican Party, when they also forced a government shutdown during 1995 and 1996, will be likely punished by voters for its political recklessness and irresponsible behavior in upcoming elections.
Ultimately, the Tea Party GOP is proceeding from a political calculus in the present that threatens to bankrupt and ruin the Republican Party for many years into the future.
Outside observers are unable to grasp the Republican Party’s political logic because they are not among its true believers and faithful. The Republican Party is now a cult. Here, faith, as in religion, is a belief in that which cannot be proven by ordinary means. As such, how can we as a society resolve political disputes if one group of people is committed to magical thinking, and is therefore immune from appeals to empirical truth?
“It is true because we believe it to be so” is a logic that has brought down many societies and governments. Unfortunately, such a slogan is also the motto of the current Republican Party.
On matters ranging from global warming to tax policy and the severe consequences of defaulting on the
United States’ obligations to pay
its bills, conservatives have embraced positions which are factually incorrect
and exist outside of empirical reality.
Because the Tea Party GOP is a cult, they have mated an obsession with purity and ideology within a framework that expels pragmatists and realists as “heretics”.
politics is broken because the Tea Party are political jihadists engaged in a
war against “non-believers” and fighting an Inquisition within the broader
Noted political scientist and historian Richard Hofstader is well-known for his observations about what he called “the paranoid style” in American politics. The Tea Party GOP most certainly fits such a description. Hofstader also had prescient insights about the dangers of political ideology when it becomes a type of religious fundamentalism as demonstrated by the Republican Party in the Age of Obama.
Contemporary conservatism is a hodgepodge of plutocrats, white nativists, overt racists, neo-Confederates, Christian Dominationists, John Birchers, and know-nothings. In theory, groups such as the Koch Brothers, Fox News, “the Religious Right”, and the Heritage Foundation have reign over this motley coalition.
While there are important differences among this Venn diagram of political interest groups, they are united by one overriding goal: all of them seek to limit, if not destroy, the United States government through an elimination of the standing norms and priors that have governed the country from the New Deal era to the near present.
To accomplish this radical goal, the Republican Party has created a propaganda and media apparatus of amazing power and reach that would impress even Joseph Goebbels.
The Political polarization which sustains the Tea Party GOP cult has been bred and nurtured by the Right-wing media. Those Americans who are not “saved” by the “true word” offered by the Fox News echo chamber are subsequently unable to comprehend the suicidal behavior of the Republican Party.
The true believers on the Right really do think that Barack Obama is a Socialist black African usurper in the White House who stole two elections and hates white people. The Christian Dominionists really believe that they can ruin the Earth and global warming is a myth because their God told them so. The idea that tax cuts for the rich will pay for themselves, and that “trickle down economics” produce growth for all, is a basic fact for Republicans in the Age of Fox News in the same way that gravity is accepted by physicists.
In all, the union of political belief as a type of religion, with a powerful media and propaganda machine on the Right, has created what is best described as a “hallucinatory ideology”.
States is perilously close to defaulting will apparently not default on
its financial obligations...this time. The shutdown was a function of how one
political party--Republicans--is possessed by a very pernicious type of zealotry that has
fundamentally altered its followers’ ability to understand the real consequences
of their irresponsible political behavior.
The plutocrats and the agents of the 1 percent who own and run the Republican Party are not possessed of the same zealotry and magical thinking common to the rank and file Tea Party, Right-wing foot soldiers which elected said dysfunctional faction to Congress.
The Koch brothers and their allies simply want, to quote high archon and priest of the Republican Party Grover Norquist, to make government so weak that it can be drowned in a bathtub.
The base of the Republican Party, and its most ardent zealots in the Tea Party, can be made to assist in the plot—against their long term self-interest—by appeals to white racism and white racial resentment that are aimed at undermining Barack Obama, the United States’ first black President.
It is far easier to drown and kill the
government in a bathtub if the metaphorical baby is black or brown.
Cults are validated by loss, pain, and opposition to their doomed cause. Their faith is made more pure by what they see as a “righteous” struggle. Those of not possessed by the hallucinatory ideology of contemporary conservatism cannot hear these trumpets of liberation and salvation: we are not among the "Elect" and the "saved".
We mock their beliefs. In doing so, we dismiss the Republican Party’s commitment and faith to their fictive world, and commitment to betraying the United States’ political health and economic prosperity as type of political Eucharist.
The Republican Party and its Tea Party vanguard are willing to engage in a pyrrhic political struggle because it is an act of faith, a type of collective political delusion, and mass psychosis. There is no easy solution for political zealotry through appeals to normal politics. For better or for worse, the American political system is especially vulnerable, at least in the short-term, to actors that proceed with such bad faith.