WE ARE NIHILISTS; WE BELIEVE IN NOTHING

When the latest terrible version of the terrible Republican "alternative" to the ACA finally died its inevitable death Monday evening with the twin GOP defections of Mike Lee and Jerry Moran, it seemed an opportune moment for reflection. The party leaders tried everything to pass this POS bill, with McConnell resorting to, take your pick, either lying to his own caucus and telling them that the Medicaid cuts would not happen, or admitting that the bill contained no "reform" as conservatives understand it. They couldn't pass it despite being in the majority.

That might suggest starting over, perhaps by asking, "Why didn't we have an alternative ready? Why are we voting on some crap thrown together over a weekend?" and building a new bill from the ground up. When Medicare/Medicaid cuts are so substantial that even some pretty hard right Senators balk, you might have a tear-down rather than a simple remodel on your hands.

Instead, within seconds of the Lee/Moran announcement the Freedom Caucus came up with this:

As dumb as Freedom Caucus types tend to be, they can't realize how clearly they are demonstrating the shortcomings of their own ideology here. From the perspective of practical politics, the reason they were able to pass bills to "repeal Obamacare" a million times was that the votes were entirely symbolic. They knew there was exactly zero chance Obama would sign, so it was a consequence-free vote for congressional Republicans. It was, in essence, a stunt. A serious but not-serious bill. It was never going to become law.

By resurrecting that idea now that the GOP has the majority, they're recognizing that the Republican Party is incapable of creating anything. They can repeal, cut, obstruct, filibuster, defund, and grandstand. They can talk, feign moral outrage, dog-whistle, and mud sling. The one thing they cannot do, as we now can all see plainly, is write a bill that makes policy.

It is a mob chanting "no," a cargo cult of nihilists hell-bent on tearing down and destroying, but when they are handed the keys that they ostensibly want, they freeze up like deer in headlights. They dislike everyone and everything, including (or perhaps especially) each other. When forced to come together and agree upon something, even among themselves, they are incapable of doing it.

So they retreat to the comfort of the one and only thing that they know how to do: opposing. Even with all of the institutions of power in their control they can't overcome their own individual and collective obstreperousness. That's the problem when all of your goals are variations on "Destroy this thing I don't like." Focus on that for a handful of decades and one day you'll find that you can't recall what you do like.

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43 Responses to “WE ARE NIHILISTS; WE BELIEVE IN NOTHING”

  1. jharp Says:

    A terrific piece and I could not agree more.

    Thanks for posting.

  2. democommie Says:

    I wouldn't say that they can't pass a bill, Ed. I would say that for a number of them it would be the "signal legislation" of their final term in elective office.

  3. c u n d gulag Says:

    Republicans/conservatives aren't interested in "governing," they desperately crave to "rule!"

    But outside of the areas represented by gerrymandered House seats, and states with a lot of rural, mostly lily-white, "Christian," FOX-viewing, Reich-Wing talk radio listening populations – which also skew older – and like-minded outer suburban areas, and the US Senators who represent them, their party is completely out of touch with today's America.
    And most of today's Americans have no interest in being herded back to 1957 – let alone 1857!

    And when the GOP shows its sociopathic/Psychopatic, downright murderous, side, like with TrumpDon'tCare, it riles the rest of us non-rubes up!

    Their main problem that stops them from ruling – even as they control the Executive, Legislative, and a good chunk of the Judicial branches – is that "Modern Conservatism" –
    based, of course, along racial/religious/economic lines – and the Reoublican politicians who represet them, can never compromise with any Democrats due to "Cleeks Law" – which to quicky define, means that conservatives only position, must be to diametrically oppose any any every thing liberals might want.

    Fine, in theory.
    But Senators snd Governors don't have the luxury of trying to please the inmates in the booby-hatches that are gerrymandered US House districts.
    No.
    They live closer to the real, ever changing, America – whose population is best represented by "Blue" urban and suburban areas, and not the static world of a 21st Century "Green Acres."

    And so, without at least some cooperation with the hated "DemocRAT Party," t-RUMPLE-THIN-sKKKin may try to cajole andveven try to force that chinless and heartless sociopathic old turtle, Mitch McConnell, the Republicans can't even legislate or govern, let alone rule.
    But they sure can fight among themselves!

    I hope they enjoy the final fruits of their 150+ year-old efforts* to divide and conquor campaign:
    A divided GOP ready to be conquored!

    *Dated from the end of our real Civil War, and the beginning of "The Cold Civil War."

  4. NickT Says:

    It's nice to think that the GOP are ripe for conquest – but who is going to do the conquering? The Dems don't seem to have a coherent message or a spokesperson for the future and they won't win many elections based on advocating for nothing more than "Not Trump!".

  5. Katydid Says:

    @demo and gulag; that was beautiful, both of you.

  6. Katydid Says:

    @Ed; what jharp said.

  7. Barkus Annointo Says:

    Yes, while they may not be able to perform their highly publicized evisceration of Medicaid, (with the savings routed to their 1% bosses), they are granting oil drilling permits on public lands, deporting longtime residents who lack the proper paperwork, restricting the voting rights of the 'wrong kinds' of Americans, & other bits of deviltry, most going unremarked. & they are looking at lots of unfilled judicial appointments, blocked during the Obama years. I agree with NickT: the Rs may be in disarray at the moment, brawling in the wheelhouse, but there doesn't seem to be anyone ready to take the wheel & steer us away from the iceberg.

  8. anotherbozo Says:

    I guess what the Freedom Ca-cas does like is big donors. Keep the plutocrats happy, the ones who think one can never be too rich or too mean. And if that's accomplished by scrapping still more rational programs to shovel more wealth upwards, ducky!

    Terrific post, Ed, even by your standards. Favorite litany: "They can repeal, cut, obstruct, filibuster, defund, and grandstand. They can talk, feign moral outrage, dog-whistle, and mud sling."

  9. democommie Says:

    I almost feel like I SHOULD get buried with a marker that says:

    "FUCK THE GOP"

    The latest I heard is that the plan is to try to kill Obamacare and then spend a couple of years making noises in the workshop while they're watching porn on the internet and then say, "We've decided that workhouses and chaingangs are a great underutilized resource for MAGA!".

    That's gonna play very well in allathem states where the Medicaid is not just a big part of state medical spending, but virtually all of it.

  10. HoosierPoli Says:

    One amendment to the post. Their position is not "Destroy this thing I don't like", which would be doable. It's "Destroy this thing that I don't like, which doesn't actually exist". Then you elect a squad of Republicans with sledgehammers who wander around aimlessly looking for something they can actually destroy without pissing off the people that voted for them. Should I smash the ACA? No, they like the protections. Medicaid? No, our hospital would shut down. Public broadcasting? Not Big Bird!

    Repeat for two years – then they lose and can take their natural role as mendacious obstructionists.

  11. geoff Says:

    I too think it's hilarious that Paul Ryan (SUPER POLICY WONK tm) had like eight goddamn years to maybe kinda sorta figure out a "conservative" alternative to the "librul" (ha!) ACA, but the GOP and the GEB are doing a pretty effective job of tearing down important agencies like the EPA. If you fundamentally oppose many of the functions of the modern federal government (or hell, ANY government), you don't need to be able to write legislation, just refuse funding and fire govt. workers. It also helps if you can find know nothing empty suits like Ben Carson or Betsy DeVos to head the departments you want to destroy. Easy peasy. Almost makes me miss the Mayberry Machievellis.

    (Even more off-topic, the debt ceiling's gonna be a problem. These guys in Congress are like honey badger: they don't give a shit.)

  12. geoff Says:

    DAMMIT THE NYT STOLE MY MEME:

    "Mellivora capensis — better known as the honey badger — is a thick-skinned and sharp-toothed little creature that in 2011 became a YouTube sensation thanks to a short video called “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger.” In the clip, a honey badger chases off jackals, raids a beehive, survives a cobra bite and eats venomous snakes head first. Meanwhile, an unseen narrator extols the animal’s core virtue: “Honey badger don’t give a . . .” — well, a darn.

    The video has been viewed more than 83 million times.

    Most people who watch it probably find it fairly amusing — and plenty gross. But for Stephen Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist and leading impresario of the alt-right, the video and its furry hero were something else: inspiration."

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/books/review/devils-bargain-steve-bannon-donald-trump-joshua-green.html

  13. Dave Dell Says:

    Heller wrote a book that was very popular and widely read even by fellow Marines that didn't usually read. Catch 22. Still relevant today. Here's a link to a portion of his follow up book that's also still relevant:

    http://lancemannion.typepad.com/lance_mannion/2017/07/from-closing-time-by-joseph-heller.html

  14. democommie Says:

    @ Geoff, re: The Honey Badger:

    Bannon found inspiration in the Honey Badger's BAD habits, way more than it's good habits (and it has some).

    In the event, I wanna see Ol' Stevie get one for his office mascot and, well, hilarity will ensue–also many pints of blood will be let.

  15. democommie Says:

    Also, too. Honey Badgers are bad ass, no question about it. I don't want to see a fight between one of the and a Wolverine but the battle would be epic. Wolverines will argue with bears over the bears kill!

  16. RosiesDad Says:

    Part of me would really like to see the GOP pass that full repeal bill again and put it on Trump's desk for him to sign. I understand that this would cause a lot of people a lot of pain but a good number of those people helped put Trump in the White House and gave the GOP their Congressional majorities and they deserve no less than to have the health benefits given to them by Obama and the Democrats taken away. Elections have consequences after all.

    Also, the backlash against the GOP would probably be monumental, costing them Congress in 2018 and the White House in 2020 at which point maybe the Dems give us what they should have given us in 2010–Medicare for all.

    I'm going to make popcorn and pop a beer and watch the fireworks.

  17. terraformer Says:

    Agree w/NickT – who is the focal for the D party now? Is it Bernie? That's fine if it is, but I also wonder who is the next "young face" of the D party? I've always been mystified how the Rs always dominate messaging – likely b/c they're more cohesive given the much larger D tent – but after decades of being dominated in that arena, there doesn't seem to yet be an equally muscular approach from the D side.

    This is the proverbial golden opportunity to really push liberal policies, or at least a more effective approach to it than we've had in the past, given the current bright spotlight on what the Rs are trying to do now that they have all the power, and I'd hate to see another lackluster, incomplete, ineffective response b/t now and the midterms.

  18. GunstarGreen Says:

    The GOP's between a rock and a hard place on healthcare. They campaigned on tearing down the ACA, and their base cheered and hooted and hollered at the RHETORIC of tearing down the ACA…

    But it turns out that they didn't actually want the ACA to go away. Always remember those stories coming out of Kentucky shortly after Trump's election: "Well yeah, he said he was going to tear down the ACA, but I didn't think he'd actually DO it!"

    The American electoral system is fundamentally broken. Democracy, even democracy-by-proxy as the US has implemented it, has a baseline requirement of an informed, educated electorate acting in good faith. But America doesn't have that. What it has is a very significant chunk of deeply stupid people that vote not based on policy, or what they genuinely believe is best for the country, but for what they believe "will piss the other side off".

    They treat their politics like sports. They vote for their "Team", every time without fail, and with no regard to the stated positions of that Team. They cheer for rhetoric that they actively do not want to come to pass, solely because it opposes The Other Guys.

    "We didn't think he'd actually do it!"

  19. Jestbill Says:

    Well of course, captain obvious!

    Now realize that the Ds have a similar problem. They haven't gone completely nutso, but some of 'em are up on the roof.

    1. Ds who are irate that Obama didn't push push push for single payer ignoring the number of Blue SOBs he had to deal with.
    2. D trolls who just can't find a D "message." Y'know, something BESIDES health care, equal rights, public health–competent government.
    3. D trolls who can't bring themselves to mention Confederate flags as the main selling point to Trump voters.
    4. D trolls who are SURE that B Clinton was a horrible person because of DADT even though that was an historic break leading to Ds losing elections.

    People with actual working memories can add to my list.

    Polanyi had a section of "The Great Transformation" about how the rate of change has to be managed. Even if the end points are known and inevitable, society cannot (and will not) simply jump past all the required half-a-loaf measures.

  20. Squeaky Wheel Says:

    Perfect.
    You have captured succinctly, and with style, what I have been saying for decades about the GOP.
    I am sharing this.
    Thank you!

  21. Jimcat Says:

    Jestbill: I'll add to the list: DINO trolls who are *still* saying stupid shit like "the nomination was rigged" and "Bernie would have won". I thought that they had all fucked off by now, but I had an argument with one just last week. They are the equivalent of the conservatives who don't realize that their side lost the Civil War.

  22. Connell Says:

    To all those asking who the focal point for 2020 might be, may I submit Joe Kennedy III.

    Wealthy,Young, Kennedy, sitting in Barney Franks old seat, taught at Harvard by Elizabeth Warren, suitably progressive.

  23. mothra Says:

    What Barkus Annointo and Geoff said. The current GOP doesn't want government to work. One reason they hated the ACA was that it was an "entitlement" program. This is why I think they will simply repeal it. Will it cause them trouble at midterms? God only knows. I figure they'll blame the Democrats for forcing them into that corner when the shit hits the fan. Meanwhile, they will succeed in tearing the rest of the government down–read just today that Trump's nominee to lead the BLM is a woman who is a pal of the Bundys and is pretty much in favor of raping the fuck out of public lands.
    Also, they are in the middle of drafting up a severely austere budget which slashes anything that might be considered humane. Oh, and they are also proposing a 10-year phase-in of the privatization of Medicare.

    So, yeah, this is a tiny loss for the GOP if you pull back and look at the scope of things.

    And Trump ain't going nowhere.

  24. KSE Says:

    I have been saying this since the 90's – Republicans whine, Democrats get shit done.

    You may not like what they do, or how they do it, but the sole unifying principle of the Democratic party these days is that they actually care about policy. The Republicans on the other hand are, as you say, nihilists: believing in nothing, creating nothing, capable only of tearing down what others have built.

    They are the perfect illustration of something a wise man once said to me: "Any idiot can find something wrong with anything. That's what makes them idiots."

  25. Jesse B Says:

    The problems Republicans had before the election didn't go away with the "win", although they seem hell-bent on convincing themselves that they did. That said, the Dems have problems also and, I'm confident, will find a way to squander their opportunity. My prediction for 2020 is that Cuomo runs (our best bet for a win, despite my misgivings about him. He's an asshole, but he's our asshole). He will either lose the primaries or the election because the pragmatists will be out voted by the liberal-purity wing of the party. We will then get another four years of der Cheetofurher.

    We are Rome during the fall.

  26. Ursula Says:

    I recommend looking to California and Kamala Harris as a good 2020 focal point.

  27. templar423 Says:

    And Kirsten Gillibrand.

  28. Emma Says:

    I'm actually somewhat pleased by this — very pleased, in fact, because I get an actual affordable insurance policy directly because of the Affordable Care Art, and now I might get to keep it — but on a larger scale I'm happy to see Republicans looking more like Democrats. They're stalling, they're whining, they're hemming, they're hawwing, they're spineless, they're excuse-generating machines, they can do nothing either to please their hardcore base or piss off their casual voters. That's what made us all so angry when Democrats were in a position of power; they started acting more like Republicans. The rhetoric was partisan, but the governance was straight corporate authoritarianism. Obama droned more "militants" than Bush, Congress spent a lot of time looking for its contacts on the floor when campaign/banking finance reform was discussed, etc. Congressional Democrats wouldn't even move to decisively end the war in Iraq at the popular apex of their legislative power ten years ago.

    So, on balance, I think it could be worse. Our bureaucracy has come to life, like the monster of Dr. Frankenstein, and it is remaking whatever party happens to win any given federal election over in its own image. Again, that's still really bad; our bureaucracy is shit, and objectively evil, and its machinations look like something Stan Lee would've written into a comic book back in the days when the only people who read comics were little kids. But we can overwrite its authority at the local level (if the DNC gets its shit even marginally together), and if we manage to send even a few progressive leaders into upcoming Congresses perhaps they can help direct its various malevolences into more constructive channels, like pan-galactic Everything Regulation & banking industry oversight. Ostensibly, that's something all Americans want to see happen.

    I also hope the Trump Distraction Circus blows up in Republicans' faces soon, and they have to spend all their time dealing with it publicly, and then carrying around the memory of it like Marley with his chains for decades.

    I feel like it could be worse, I don't know. Maybe I'm an incorrigible optimist.

  29. Sinned34 Says:

    Republicans are honey badgers. My dachshund was bred to hunt badgers. The democrats are not weiner dogs, no matter how funny they look dressed up as hot dogs.

  30. Scout Says:

    Jesus, what a bunch of Eyores here. Oh oh oh! Everything is terrible and we can never ever wiiiiiiiiiiin. We can and we will. We are the majority. We have a highly motivated IC. The R's are exactly as described in Ed's post – good at demo but can't build shit. And we have a fine slate of fresh blood for 2020 – Kamala Harris, Joe Kennedy III, Al Franken, just off the top of my head.

    Yes, Trump sucks balls. We can all agree here. Thing is, it's not just the hippies like us who think so. Keep calling. Keep agitating. Keep the fucking faith, fer fuxake.

  31. geoff Says:

    @Ed, nice Big Lebowski quote by the way ; )

  32. Brian M Says:

    We may be "Eyores" and that may be a problem…. but being an Eyore is fare better than being a Brony*

    You made several statements that are probably just not true. What is the definition of "majority" in our electoral system? How can you look at a map and make that claim?

    A significant portion of the population consists of religious fucktards who don't care about this because JESUS!

  33. Brian M Says:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/inside-the-bizarre-world-of-bronies-adult-male-fans-of-my-little-pony

  34. Jestbill Says:

    Suggestion for Dem party: at the national convention, only count the votes from states that have gone Democratic (Presidential election) at least once in 16 years.
    If your vote for nomination has resulted in a loss in your state 4 times running, maybe you're on the wrong side.

  35. Scout Says:

    Probably not true? Well that sure is convincing. People who are on the same page as we are regarding Trump and GOP 'policies' in general are the majority. The problem is too few bother to vote. Gerrymandering is definitely a problem, I'll give you that. But when we show up in big numbers (exhibit A: 2008) we win.

  36. Isaac Says:

    Americans are, on average, idiots. 49.6% of eligible voters didn't. Maybe we'll get lucky in 2018 and 2020 and some rational candidates will take back some seats and maybe even the White House, but that doesn't change that Americans are, by and large, selfish, ignorant, destructive fools. So I am an Eyore also. Might as well run Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He'll probably do something about school lunch nutrition and fitness. General Studies degree for the win!

  37. Brian M Says:

    Yet our Great 2008 Victory did not stem the sweep of local and state Republican dominance.

    And our Great Victory resulted in a tacking right centrist beholden to Wall Street whose support of policies facilitated the utter devastation of Libya, Syria, and now Yemen…not to speak the continuing horrors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I am not saying Obama or Hillary are "as bad as" Romney, McCain, or Trump, but only a My Little Pony Neckbeard could get EXCITED over what the Cosmopolitan Wing of the Great Party of Money serves up.

  38. NickT Says:

    "we have a fine slate of fresh blood for 2020 – Kamala Harris, Joe Kennedy III, Al Franken"

    Franken has said he won't run in 2020. Nobody knows who Joe Kennedy III is or what he stands for. Kamala Harris hasn't shown any interest in leading the charge in 2020, nor any particular capacity for winning over voters outside Cali. As slates of fresh blood go, that's a pretty thin, anemic selection. As matters stand, the Democratic party is formidably unpopular in its own right, doesn't apparently have a plan, unless you count occasional smug utterances by Schumer that don't add up to even half a full deck, and seems to imagine that people will vote for it just because.

    WHERE"S THE GODDAMN BEEF, YOU SNIVELING BELTWAY CHAIR-POLISHERS?!

  39. Brian M Says:

    WHERE"S THE GODDAMN BEEF, YOU SNIVELING BELTWAY CHAIR-POLISHERS?!

    Beef? We're Vegan* Breatharians who subsist on a higher plain, you BARBARIAN.

    * I am actually sympathetic to Veganism, but….

  40. democommie Says:

    I have a vegetarian friend who was a superlative bartender and a martial arts instructor. She came out of the bar one night to find a bumper sticker on her ride that said:

    "I love animals; they tast sooooooooo good!"

    Lucky for whoever put it there, they weren't ratted out.

  41. quixote Says:

    Eeyore, people. Eeyore.

    Honestly. Some things are important.

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