I am aware that in the circle of readers who have done me the honor of visiting this blog regularly, there are at least some who live outside the United States. Unless I am mistaken, these number residents of Scotland, England, Israel, Canada, and Finland, and also perhaps South Africa. I quite well understand that my obsession with the minutiae of the American public world may seem inappropriately parochial in one committed to viewing Being sub specie aeternitatis. Nevertheless, since, in the immortal words of Tip O'Neill, all politics are local, I consider my periodic snarking at the right wing of the American political spectrum no more than an evidence of my humanity. So, here I go again.
The action in recent days has, of course, been on the floor of the House of Representatives. With a show of fundamentalist piety that would have made a televangalist proud, the House Republicans began their newly acquired rulership of the House by organizing a reading, verbatim, of the United States Constitution. The point of this exercise was to ensure that henceforward, everything done in the People's House would conform to, be derived from, and not go even a half-step beyond what is contained in our nation's founding document. Except that the Republicans, despite their attentiveness to Original Intention, chose not to read that embarrassing bit about counting slaves as three-fifths human. It remained for Glen Beck to explain [as part of his newly created one-man university] that this compromise was actually intended to undermine the endurance of slavery. What! you say? Never mind.
Like all Fundamentalist Inerrantists, the new Tea Party inspired Republicans only remember the bits of the Scripture that say what they want the Scriptures to say. Thus, for example, these Constitutional Fundamentalists cannot often enough quote the Tenth Amendment, which states that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people," which they read as severely restricting what Congress can pass in the way of laws [read Obamacare]. Except that they forget the last clause of Section 8 of Article I, which gives to Congress the power "to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof." Anyone who has ever tried to get a biblical fundamentalist to explain Genesis Chapter 4, verses 17 and 18, will be familiar with this sort of selective ignorance. [That's the part where the Bible says that Cain went and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden, and there knew his wife -- who would have had to be his sister, if everyone in the world is really descended from Adam and Eve.]
The next thing the Republicans did is violate the Constitution. It seems two Republican Representatives decided to attend a little celebration on Congressional property while the swearing-in was taking place on the floor of the House. These two bozos actually raised their hands while watching the event on television [this is really a trifle hard to believe], and were so convinced that by this charade they had indeed become Representatives that one of them trundled off and voted in a committee meeting. The rumbling sound then heard in the Rotunda was Thomas Jefferson turning over in his grave [in Monticello, of course]. Somewhat chagrined, the Republicans organized a hasty vote of correction and absolution, which they actually had the gall to ask the Democrats to support as an act of "collegiality."
The net effect of all this was to make the Republicans look like fools, rather than like serious reformers out to rectify the terrible policy errors inflicted on America by the Democrats. All they did, of course, was to make life easy for the writers of the Rachel Maddow show.
But the most fascinating new turn of events concerns the hot button issue of health care reform. The Democrats and Obama managed to carry a flawed and much amended omnibus bill across the finish line. limping and groaning every step of the way. It was health care, more than any other single issue, that created the Tea Party protest and gave the Republicans their smashing November victory. Until now, Democrats have been running away from the issue, managing by their behavior to communicate that they think it is an albatross around their necks, not a victory garland of laurel. But the election is over, a number of major elements of the new bill are going into effect, and the Democrats now have discovered that they would be delighted to debate with the Republicans whether insurance companies should regain their right to ban those with pre-existing conditions, or to cancel the policies of insured folks who are so imprudent as actually to get sick. The Republicans rammed through a preliminary vote setting up the vote to repeal Obamacare, and as Rachel Maddow noted on her show last night, only four Democrats voted with them. All those other Democrats who voted against the original bill want nothing to do with repealing it.
Taking all in all, the opening days of the 112th Congress have revealed the Republicans for the ideologically rigid, clueless frauds we always knew they were. The coming months may not be quite as bad as we feared.