GOP Pied Pipers: No Government

Terry H. Schwadron

July 31, 2021

Republicans obviously don’t like being in the minority, and, when they can stop fighting among themselves or shadows in the corner, they are already heavily underway with literal campaigning and supportive efforts in Washington aimed at the next election cycle.

Unfortunately, they’re walking away from dealing with actual problems the country faces today to worry instead about being sufficiently obstinate. That’s different from Democrats when they were out of majority, and it is so widespread that it deserves a spotlight.

Simply put, before the Big Steal and when there was any substance to the last election, what voters were talking about included controlling the pandemic, health care access and costs, income inequality and jobs, dealing with climate, stabilizing race relations, fixing immigration and returning to some semblance of normality. You know, things that we expect from government.

Look at where we now find the political conversation and it’s obvious that we’re featuring discussion about anything but government, mostly centering on staying in office, anger towards all institutions and building fears of one another. Any expectation of calming the conversation to actual issues is consistently now giving way to grievance, to say nothing of trying to get Big Solutions through a badly split Senate.

The posturing about mask-wearing and vaccines alone say the great bulk of Republican leadership have power on the brain rather than disease-prevention, and spending waking time blaming Dr. Anthony Fauci for “causing” coronavirus, and the Centers for Disease Control for flip-flopping its mask advice as the disease mutates.

Sure, you can blame Democrats for pushing for too much spending, but at least they are focused on making government services work.

For Republicans, the dissension is mostly built into the program to stop anything Joe Biden wants to pursue, from appointees to policies to daily behaviors.

The deepening split between “moderate” Republicans who simply prefer tax cuts over helping people and the increasingly wacky Donald Trump majority may be a side show, politically, but it is what the GOP is spending its time on.

What is GOP Doing?

There are lots of current examples of what Republicans are doing, all in the name of individual decisions that all happen to line up in a partisan pattern — a kind of coordinated, if not required version of individualism that has conformity at its base.

· In the face of rising cases of coronavirus, particularly among the unvaccinated, Republican leaders have once again retreated to attacking the CDC and Joe Biden’s White House for “failures” to control the disease and bring on a new round of mask-wearing and to enable more mandated vaccination programs — despite the idea that it has been Republican leaders who have insisted on individual responsibility rather than government mandates to control the pandemic mutations.

Donald Trump emerged to insist that “We will never go back” to mask-wearing” as if wearing a mask for self-protection, even among the vaccinated, is some kind of expression of weakness. Republicans were resisting a call for renewal of mandated mask-wearing in the House, of course, but also in cities and counties of high case counts and for businesses to protect employees and customers. Kevin McCarthy tweeted on behalf of his colleagues that “the threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state.”

More importantly, we’re seeing state Republican governors and leaders stopping cities and businesses from seeking protections, while also not pushing more vaccines. My reality is that my grandchildren can’t get vaccinations, and thus, you and I need to wear masks.

· Withdrawing from Governing. McCarthy has pulled all six Republican lawmakers off of Democrats’ special committee on economic disparity in continuing protest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s move to reject two Republicans who promised to mock the Jan. 6 proceedings from that unrelated panel. Pelosi, of course, answered by naming anti-Trump Representatives Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., to the investigating group.

We’re waiting to see if McCarthy withdraws Republicans from other committees.

If you don’t play at policy, you can’t win. It’s further evidence that it is not government, but posturing that is the goal of Republicans.

· ‘America is not racist’ has become the GOP 2024 mantra, reports Politico. The news outlet adds that lightning-rod issues such as “critical race theory” and “defund the police” are now a staple for Republican candidates across the country. No matter that top Democrats, including Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have said publicly they don’t believe America is a racist country. Republicans are hoping to portray the party as out of step with the thinking of mainstream America.

I get that Republicans want a banner of patriotism to wave, but using a motto like “I am not fat” never seems to get anyone back into trim shape. How about some effective policy answers instead?

· Donald Trump supporters calling themselves an “election integrity committee” are going door to door in Pennsylvania and demanding to know whom residents voted for in the November election. Apparently it is an attempt to shore up a claim for an Arizona-style private election recount for the never-ending claims of fraudulent voting. Meanwhile, in Arizona, the actual Republican officials who had lined up to create that state’s errant revisit of all Maricopa County votes have resigned, saying that the company involved, Cyber Ninjas, is working in secret doing who knows what with ballots to justify the millions of dollars spent (though none from the Trump campaign, which has not supported the effort financially) on a seemingly fruitless venture. Whatever else one might say about it, these are efforts not dealing with any of the fundamental policy questions facing the country.

· Playing Fast and Loose with the Law. While Republicans present themselves as supporters of Law and Order, their actions show something different: Increasingly they want laws overturned or just ignore current-day law for political ends. So, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the National Guard to assist state law enforcement officers in stopping civilian drivers and contractors who they believe are transporting migrants who have recently crossed into the U.S. If drivers refuse to cooperate, Abbott’s executive order instructs that officers may seize their vehicle. Such moves are blatantly illegal. Some 228 members of Congress have asked the Supreme Court to overturn abortion laws. Republicans in the House are resisting Capitol Police who are seeking to enforce mask enforcement for staffers and visitors. In other words, Law and Order is for chumps. Backing the Blue is enforcement when convenient, as in Black Lives Matter protests, not Capitol rioting.

Good Politics?

I don’t mind debate. But ignoring what government is for — other than launching criminal probes of your political enemies — seems beyond the pale.

Maybe it all still makes for good politics. People like sticking needles in the Other Guy’s voodoo dolls. A steady diet of opposition to actual governing policy, backed by right-leaning media reports that only describe the opposition in glowing terms, may be a formula for electoral success.

But, on its face, deciding that no governing should be happening seems just as outlandish as insisting that only one party’s viewpoint should mandate time after time. Sure, elect a Republican House majority again, and replace Pelosi with McCarthy, and then what? McCarthy is making clear that he doesn’t want the Congress to do any of its real work other than cut taxes. During the Trump years, Republicans shucked off oversight duties, ignored social and economic inequalities, allowed debt to build (only now to blame Biden and Democrats), and chose not to resolve immigration, health, education, climate or international problems any more than they now complain that Biden is not.

Coronavirus is not a Republican or Democratic issue, any more than changing climate or even marketplace inflation. What is a government issue is what to do about them, Give the Trump team credit for pushing for vaccine development, and Biden for getting them out there, over Republican-led hesitancy and outright resistance, which is worsening the situation.

Flying constant slogans about patriotism and engaging in culture war skirmishes don’t actually resolve anything towards the goals we say we want.


Journalist, musician, community volunteer