I'm not one given to hyperbole.
My boldest prediction has been that by their actions, by their brazenness, this iteration of the GOP is consigning itself to history's dustbin, with which some people disagree.
But we have reached a point not faced by this Republic since the seven states of the Old Confederacy abjured their allegiance to the Constitution.
We have been mocking the hardliners among the House GOP as the "suicide caucus". We've smugly assured ourselves that by their actions during the government shutdown they are dooming their party's electoral chances for the foreseeable future.
But it has gone beyond a "suicide caucus". It can now be accurately called a "suicide bomber caucus".
It no longer merely wants to achieve a political victory. It wants to upturn our entire system of Constitutional government.
Some would say, "But isn't horsetrading always a part of budgetary politics, and even of raising the debt ceiling?"
As John Harwood, for whom few of us have any love, finally tweeted:
Always debt-limit posturing, foot dragging, must-give-me-a-cookie deal-making? Yes. But not this brazen, bug-eyed, cocking of the pistol.When Mr. Harwood, as firmly ensconced in the establishment media and political culture as anyone, states the facts so baldly, we can finally cast off all pretense of John Boehner being a secret moderate, just waiting for the right time to join in coalition with Nancy Pelosi to fund the government and avoid a default, a default which will have the world live through the 1930s once more.
The fact is that the Republicans have gone through the looking glass. They are no longer in the same reality the rest of us inhabit.
I take Mr. Boehner at his word when he says that this showdown is "an epic battle". He and the House Republican leadership have hitched themselves to a group of radical nihilists, as nihilistic as any jihadi blowing himself up in a bazaar for Allah's sake, as nihilistic as any "lone wolf" militia member destroying a federal building and 168 souls in vengeance for the government's perceived sins.
We have to accept that these people just don't care if the world crashes around them. They see their world collapsing about them as those they resent calling "fellow citizens" become more liberal, more accepting of difference, less wedded to the outmoded certainties which they still hold dear. Such a new world is not worth preserving. Better it all end in flames and try to carve out spheres where they will reign supreme, able to implement their narrow, mean, reactionary world view.
A Constitution which doesn't vest them with untrammeled power is not a Constitution worth preserving. When they took an oath to uphold the Constitution, it was to one of their own imagining, a sort of ideal Constitution which they have convinced themselves has nothing to do with the one in the real world, the one which allows a progressive, intelligent black man to be President.
The 14th Amendment is clear:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.There is no wiggle room there. No law passed by Congress can call into question any section of the Constitution. Only an amendment to the Constitution can do so. And that part of the Constitution is as valid and binding as the 2nd Amendment which the suicide bomber caucus fetishizes.
But we know this suicide bomber caucus really doesn't understand the foundational law of this country, and doesn't care to. The document is "sacred" to them, but only insofar as it adheres to their prejudices. So the fact that they swore to honor all of the public debt is something to be ignored, because they serve a higher principle. When you think you're doing the work of the Divine, such niceties can be dispensed with.
We all thought, "Surely, John Boehner will come to his senses". Many of us still think that. But Boehner has abdicated all responsibility for taking part in government. He was given the Speakership by the dint of the suicide bombers, and has no way to extricate himself from them. He's in their midst, and they're not letting him go.
I have no words of consolation save for these: Barack Obama is President. It's a quirk of existence that history throws up the right person at the right place at the right time so that the human race manages to survive and thrive again after a great trauma. I can't tell you where this will end, but if the Republic does manage to survive, and reinvigorate itself, it will be down to one man. This isn't messianism. It is, really, blind luck. But sometimes luck is all we have to count on.