quō vādis, y’all

Okay, Republicans, quō vādis and all that. Whither goest thou? To where are you marching? Where in the holy hell do you go from here? After a couple decades of shifting your focus away from policy and governance and investing almost exclusively in ‘owning the libs,’ what comes next? Where do you go when your party has lost control of both Congress and the presidency, and is now defined almost entirely by unquestioned subservience to a leader who’s been impeached twice? What comes after supporting the only president in U.S. history to foment a violent assault on the nation’s Capitol building? Seriously Republicans, quō fucking vādis?

Lacking leadership, the GOP is content to march angrily off in all directions at once.

Quick tangent. You may be asking, “Greg, old sock, why the Latin? Why quō vādis?” Because it’s appropriate in a couple of ways. First, it’s appropriate because most Republicans call themselves Christians, and the Latin phrase comes from a Biblical story. Well, sort of Biblical. It’s in the Acts of Peter, which is one of the apocryphal gospels. I’m going to resist the temptation to explain the apocryphal gospels, because that would require me to go off on a tangent within this current tangent. If you’re curious, do the research.

Second, the Latin is appropriate because of the lesson of the story. So, here’s the story. Around thirty years after Jesus got crucified, Peter, the apostle, goes to Rome to preach the gospel. While he’s there, he gets in a fuss with a guy named Simon Magus (again, if you’re interested, do the research), after which Peter decides it would be a good idea for him to leave town for a bit. Let the fuss die down. As he’s on his way, Peter meets Jesus toting a cross. Remember, Jesus had been dead for three decades at this point. Also, that cross? It talks. (I am NOT making that up; this talking cross may help explain why the Acts of Peter was shifted into the apocrypha). Anyway, Peter asks Jesus, “Quō vādis?” This is usually translated as “Whither goest thou?” or more simply, “Where are you going?” A more accurate translation, I’m told, would be “To where are you marching?” but the intent is the same. Jesus answers, “Rōmam eō iterum crucifīgī,” which means “I’m going to Rome to be crucified again.”

“No, really. I’m going to get crucified again. It’s my job. You should try it.”

This is the Biblical lesson. Sometimes you need to stop, think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, then turn around and get back to doing the good work you know you’re supposed to be doing. It gives Peter the courage to return to Rome and keep preaching. Unfortunately for Peter, he gets crucified on his return to Rome. Upside down, apparently.

So yeah, it didn’t end pretty for Peter, but the idea is still sound. The question and the answer are still important. Where are you going, Republicans? What’s your intended destination? What’s the purpose of your journey? What’s the nature of your good work? Where does the Republican Party go after they’ve attempted to overturn a fair election…and failed? Where do they go after they’ve shrugged off a violent insurrection?

Think about it. A hundred and twenty-one Republicans in the House objected to the Electoral College vote–and that was after the insurrection threatened their own safety. A hundred and ninety-seven of them voted against the second articles of impeachment. Forty-three of the fifty Republicans in the Senate voted to acquit Trump of inciting the insurrection–an insurrection that was not only intended to disrupt and/or stop the peaceful transfer of power to the legitimately elected president, but also threatened the lives of the next three people in the line of presidential succession.

“Wait…Jesus gets killed? That’s how it ends? Seriously?”

The only good thing about this is that some Republicans are asking themselves about the future of their party. Susan Collins, the tower of Jello representing Maine, said this:

“I think we need to get away from the idea that the Republican Party is just one person and adherence to just one leader.”

She thinks that’s what the GOP needs. But her comment is a sad example of the very problem Republicans are facing. Instead of addressing the actual issue–instead of trying to figure out a viable future direction of the party–Republicans are concentrating their energy on whether or not they should remain faithful to an unfaithful, dishonest, failed former president. That simply reinforces the notion that they ARE a party of just one person, just one leader. Without Trump, the Republican Party is rudderless. Without Trump, there is…well, nothing.

Don’t forget, for the first time since 1854, the GOP didn’t bother to craft a party platform for a presidential 2020 election. They basically said their party platform was whatever Trump wanted at any given moment. There is no longer any traditionally conservative governing philosophy that unites Republicans and shapes their policy positions. There is absolutely nothing that moves the GOP forward except the entertainment value of “owning the libs.”

Do they try to regroup? If so, as what? As a traditional center-right conservative political party? Do they gather together and concoct a political party platform? Do they get caught up in some sort of political mitosis and split into two different political parties? Do they just continue to drift randomly, driven only by opposing whatever Democrats propose and the haphazard, arbitrary, volatile anger and resentment of their base? Do they organize and morph into a violent guerrilla insurrectionist movement?

Live Trump or die.

I don’t have any answers. I know what I’d like. I’d like to see the GOP reform into a functioning organization with moderate, conservative values and policies I can oppose but still understand. I’d like them to be a traditional loyal opposition party. But that seems unlikely. Hell, nothing seems likely. No particular possible future seems more likely than any other; it all seems pretty aimless and accidental.

I haven’t a clue what comes next. But I’m genuinely curious, and a wee bit fearful.

monkey’s paw impeachment moment

At the beginning of the 20th century W.W. Jacobs, a former post office clerk turned short story writer, published an anthology of his work — The Lady of the Barge. It was a collection of three types of stories: the misadventures of sailors ashore, celebrations of artful dodgers in slow-witted villages, and what were called ‘tales of the macabre’. Included in the collection was The Monkey’s Paw.

It’s the story of the White family — Mr. and Mrs. White and their son Herbert — who receive a visit from Sergeant-Major Morris, a villager who’d recently returned after 21 years spent in the British Army in India. Morris regales them with tales of “wild scenes and doughty deeds; of wars and plagues and strange peoples.” Mr. White had heard something about a mummified monkey’s paw.

“It had a spell put on it by an old fakir,” said the sergeant-major, “a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.”

Morris tells how he’d obtained the paw from its original owner. “I don’t know what [his] first two [wishes] were, but the third was for death.” He refuses to discuss his own wishes, but suddenly throws the paw into the White’s fireplace. Mr. White retrieves it over the Sergeant-Major’s objections. Later, Herbert encourages his father to use the paw and make a wish. Mr. White wishes for 200 pounds, the amount needed to pay of their home.

The following day Herbert goes to work at the nearby factory. The wish of the night before is forgotten. That evening a man from the factory arrives with the unfortunate news: Herbert was caught in the machinery and killed. The factory “admit no liability at all, but in consideration of your son’s services, they wish to present you with a certain sum as compensation.” It’s 200 pounds, of course.

“He has been dead ten days, and besides he – I would not tell you else, but – I could only recognize him by his clothing. If he was too terrible for you to see then, how now?”

Ten days later, after the funeral, Mrs. White insists her husband use the monkey’s paw to “wish our boy alive again.” He’s reluctant, but eventually gives in. Later that night, there’s a knock at the door. Mrs. White wants to answer it; her husband resists. She breaks away from him, he finds the monkey’s paw and “frantically breathed his third and last wish.”

The knocking stops. Mrs. White opens the door.

A cold wind rushed up the staircase, and a long loud wail of disappointment and misery from his wife gave him courage to run down to her side, and then to the gate beyond. The street lamp flickering opposite shone on a quiet and deserted road.

Why am I telling you about this 120-year-old story? Because yesterday, the House impeachment managers had a monkey’s paw moment. They wished for the power to call witnesses, and that wish was granted. But the wish came with an enormous price for interfering with fate.

I don’t believe in fate or destiny (or any other unchangeable, predetermined course of events) but I’m not innocent. I knew — we all knew — Republicans would vote to acquit Comrade Trump, the most mendacious and corrupt being ever to inhabit the White House. Evidence didn’t matter. We knew that. And most of us knew that if the Democrats used the monkey’s paw, there’d be a price to pay.

I wanted them to do it anyway. Almost everybody I know wanted them to do it anyway. When they didn’t call witnesses, most of us immediately assumed the Republicans played tough and the Democrats caved — because that’s been our experience. But in fact, we were all Mrs. White, wanting to resurrect the mutilated body of her dead son. We could have had witnesses. Maybe witnesses for weeks. Witnesses testifying to Trump’s appalling behavior. It would be so satisfying. It would be…well, profoundly stupid. No competent lawyer wants to put a hostile witness on the stand, even under oath. The risks are too great.

And now we’ve learned the Republicans threatened to filibuster Biden’s appointments and the Covid relief bill (and probably everything on the Biden agenda) if the House managers called witnesses. To call witnesses would have born out the fakir’s warning: those who interfered with [fate] did so to their sorrow. Even though I don’t belief in fate, I believe Jamie Raskin did the wise thing; he threw the monkey’s paw back into the fire.

And so things happened pretty much as we all expected. Senate Republicans did what we knew they’d do. It wasn’t fate, but it’s close enough that it makes no difference. Raskin didn’t use the monkey’s paw again; we didn’t get the 200 pounds to pay off our mortgage. But at least we didn’t end up with a ten-day-old mutilated corpse on our doorstep. So there’s that. Plus, the fact that seven Republicans showed a degree of honor and decency by refusing to follow the GOP lie is actually a sort of victory.

But lawdy, that mummified monkey’s paw is still awfully tempting.

two quick thoughts on repeachment

The article of impeachment against former Comrade President Trump will go to the Senate today. Predictably, most Republicans are being assholes about it, making a couple of bullshit arguments against conviction.

Bullshit Argument #1: Impeaching Trump a second time will only further inflame the deep divisions between decent folks and fascist terrorists the two political parties and lead to further violence. Basically, this argument acknowledges that Trump, at the very least, encouraged the insurrection at the Capitol Building, but suggests that if he’s held accountable for his part in the insurrection, it could lead to another insurrection. In other words, “Yes, Daddy hit you, he’s sorry he lost his temper, it won’t happen again, unless you make Daddy very angry, then he’ll have to hit you again.”

At the heart of this bullshit argument is the notion that inciting a physical assault on the Capitol in an attempt to overturn an election is certainly to be frowned upon, but Trump failed to overturn the election, and surely that humiliating failure is punishment enough. This bit of fuckwittery leads us directly to the next bullshit argument.

Bullshit Argument #2: Impeaching a president after he leaves office sets a bad precedent. Unpopular presidents could be punished for being unpopular. This is a spectacularly stupid argument. Failing to impeach and try a former president essentially indemnifies a president against doing all sorts of awful shit in his last few months in office. Like, for example, installing a bunch of stooges in the Justice Department and the Pentagon and the Intelligence Community to help overturn an election. This argument says a president is free to commit crime during the lame duck period because there won’t be any consequences once the corrupt motherfucker is out of office.

Comrade Trump has fucked the GOP and they’re about to give birth to a monster.

Senate Republicans have only themselves to blame. They’ve dropped themselves into a situation where their choices are either 1) to convict the corrupt motherfucker they should have convicted a year ago OR 2) go on the record saying they support the corrupt motherfucker who a) incited an attack on the Capitol that led to half a dozen deaths, b) spent a couple of months trying to strong-arm a handful of states into falsifying their election results, and c) placed a cadre of equally corrupt motherfuckers in key federal positions to help overturn the will of the voters.

Neither option is attractive. They’ll try to pretend they’re doing the right thing. They’ll claim they’re taking a principled stand in defense of…I don’t know what. Unity maybe? The Constitution? It’ll be bullshit, whatever it is. And whatever the result, the GOP’s romance with Trump has produced an angry, resentful, hate-fueled mob of white supremacists who will continue to plague the US for some time.

One last thing. When President Uncle Joe spoke about unity, he wasn’t saying we should all agree on what’s important and how stuff should get done. He was just saying we’re all caught in the same fucked up situation and if we want to get out of it, we should try to work together rather than kicking each other in the balls out of spite. Jeebus on toast, it’s not that complicated.

ADDENDUM: I just learned SCOTUS has chucked all of Trump’s emoluments cases as moot, since he’s no longer POTUS. Basically, that clears future presidents to turn the White House into a for-profit enterprise, allowing them to accept money (including from foreign governments) so long as they can delay any legal proceedings and run out the clock until they’re out of office. Thanks, Republicans.

unity

Congressional Republicans (or, as I like to call them, ass-weasels) have a new strategy for governance. It’s called whining. Here’s an example: Senator Rob Portman (ass-weasel, Ohio) had this to say in response to President Uncle Joe Biden’s proposed Covid stimulus package.

“I have not personally [heard from the White House], and I’m disappointed in that, not about me but about, you know, it’s one thing to talk about outreach, another thing to do it.”

Portman was disappointed, poor babby, that Uncle Joe hadn’t personally assured him that after more than 400,000 Covid deaths, after the failure of the Comrade Trump administration to produce any sort of national plan to fight the pandemic or distribute the Covid vaccine, and after the resulting collapse of the economy, the US government would need to spend a buttload of money in order to get people inoculated and keep people housed and fed.

Rob Portman, (R ass-weasel) — known for his grey hair, low stance, fluffed-out feathers, and small head.

What’s worse, Portman made that comment on Friday. Uncle Joe had only been on the job since Wednesday. Well, Thursday really; most of his first day was taken up by ceremonial stuff. I guess you’d call that preemptive whining. Still worse, Portman is generally considered one of the more ‘reasonable’ Republicans.

This is the atmosphere in which ‘unity’ is supposed to take root. Republicans are, in effect, saying, “Okay, so you Democrats kept control of the House, you took control of the Senate, and you captured the White House, and okay, yeah, a hundred and forty-seven of us did sort of actively try to block Biden from becoming president, and sure, some of us appear to have encouraged the storming of the Capitol Building, and maybe some of our members even conspired with the insurrection, and okay, a few of us are probably carrying concealed weapons in the building right now, but why isn’t Biden asking us what WE want? Where’s that unity he keeps talking about?”

The problem with Uncle Joe’s call for unity is that the modern Republican Party doesn’t operate that way. There are no longer any principled conservatives in the Republican Party. Nobody in the modern Republican Party can be trusted to act in the best interests of the nation, not unless you’ve got their balls snugly wedged in a six-inch bench vise. They simply don’t believe in cooperative unity as a concept. Cooperation for the good of the nation is as baffling to them as a game of checkers is to a Buff Orpington hen. They’ve become a political party whose agenda is driven almost entirely by fear, resentment, white rage, and a pervasive feeling of victimization.

Buff Orpington hen — known for its heavy, broad body, low stance, fluffed-out feathers, and small head.

So what are Democrats supposed to do? We expect Democrats to act like reasonable, responsible adults. At the same time, we expect Republicans to act like ass-weasels. We tend to hold each party to those standards. The thing is, modern Republicans are just NOT going to act like reasonable, responsible adults; they’re going to continue to act like ass-weasels. We need to accept that reality.

Knowing that, here’s my suggestion for Democrats. Act like reasonable, responsible adults. Ask Republicans to participate in crafting legislation as if they were reasonable, responsible adults. When they act like ass-weasels, Democrats should just Merrick Garland the fuck out of them. Ignore their whining, ignore their complaints, ignore their lies, pass the legislation they want by majority rule, move on to the next thing on the agenda and repeat.

Unity is a grand thing. It would be nice if Democrats and Republicans could act in unity. If they can’t, then Democrats should act in unity alone.