After four years of Trumpism, we’ve learned that Trumpism has very few core tenets except lower taxes for the wealthy and that government is bad. Some people like Rand Paul have been running on “government is bad” their entire careers, but the problem with being a member of the government who wants to destroy the government is that when a problem arises that the government could theoretically fix, you can’t participate because you would be encouraging the use of government.
Yes, this Republican Party is filled with men of no action. Meet the Helpless Caucus—a group of laissez-faire nihilists who want you vote so they can crush the government you’d like them to run.
This was on full display on Tuesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, when Texas Senator and Cancun visitor and Ritz Carlton stayer Ted Cruz said, “Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater… Democrats propose taking away guns from law-abiding citizens… It makes it worse.”
Ted wasn’t mad at the gunman, or even angry at the event that caused the death of 10 people, including both the store manager and a police officer. Ted wasn’t mad about the gun crisis gripping our country (there have been seven shootings in the last seven days). Nor was Ted mad at the mental health crisis that has gripped our sick, sad nation. No, Ted was preemptively mad at Democrats, for their desire to legislate.
The irony of course is that the Boulder, Colorado, shooting happened just 10 days after a local ban on assault weapons had lapsed. The Washington Post points out, “Police have yet to say whether the ordinance would have prevented him from buying or possessing the weapon within city limits.” But as with so much legislation, it may not always work, but the point of our government should be at the very least to try, shouldn’t it?
Gun violence is not the only thing that Republicans have no interest in legislating. There’s also the pandemic, which has killed almost as many people as the population of Wyoming. Former President Trump and numerous members of his party seemed at best apathetic to COVID. Trump argued that “if the economic shutdown continues,” deaths by suicide “definitely would be in far greater numbers than the numbers that we’re talking about for COVID-19 deaths.”
During the early months of the pandemic the White House could have use the Defense Production Act as they claimed to but they largely didn’t. The New York Times noted that the Trump administration “suggested that wielding that authority would have amounted to left-wing overreach.” Yes, the Trump administration thought using the Defense Production Act was some kind of hippy dippy voodoo.
But wait, there’s more! Trump, remember, refused to enact a mask mandate. “My administration has a different approach: We have urged Americans to wear masks, and I emphasized this is a patriotic thing to do. Maybe they’re great, and maybe they’re just good. Maybe they’re not so good.”
A national mask mandate would have been easy and cheap. And yet, legislating is kind of something the libs do since telling people to do things that might help them violates one of the tenets of Trumpism and Republicanism. Trump and the Republicans also refused to enact a national testing and tracing program, with Trump saying that testing “makes us look bad” and that he had his people “slow the testing down, please.”
Trump galvanized the Republican Party as “the party of no.” Trump had 10 laws that he promised to pass in his first 100 days. They were part of Steve Bannon’s “promises made promises kept,” and they included the hilarious American Energy and Infrastructure Act (not passed) and the equally unintentionally hilarious Clean Up Corruption in Washington Act (also not passed). Guess which act was the only one of those 10 that passed? Give up? The one that cut taxes for people making over a million dollars. Most of the Trump presidency was pretty light on legislation and pretty heavy on theatrics.
But the party of no started earlier than Trump with the self-proclaimed grim reaper. Since Barack Obama was elected to office, Mitch McConnell has been the king of obstruction, telling the National Review right before the 2010 midterms that, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” That call to inaction created a kind of anti-government movement in the Republican Party. Mitch became the obstructionist in chief, making sure that Merrick Garland never got a Supreme Court nomination hearing and letting him languish for 293 days.
Republicans no longer control the House, the Senate, or the presidency. They are finally in the perfect position to live their truths and do nothing: no legislation, no anything but obstruction. And it seems clear that Republicans will run against Biden’s legislation in the midterms. The American Rescue Plan (giving people money they desperately need during a pandemic) is pretty popular, but who knows? Republicans have been historically extremely good at messaging, so perhaps they will once again be able to sell their do-nothingness.
It’s worth wondering why voters would support a party that wants to destroy the government when you could vote for the party that wants the government to succeed. But, again, who knows? Maybe people will embrace laissez-faire nihilism.