What #bridgegate tells us about the GOP

I know we’ve all had a laugh at New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s fall from grace. Documents have come to light that his top aides were involved in closing access lanes to the George Washington Bridge as political payback for the mayor of Fort Lee not giving Christie his endorsement for re-election. And his marathon news conference today, even though being massaged by the feckless national punditry, was a farce of gigantic proportions.

But there’s something serious underlying the Christie debacle.

In a fit of vindictiveness, he either ordered an act which would perforce put lives at risk, or, like Henry II, mumbled “Will no one rid me of this turbulent mayor”, and loyal aides knowing his bent acted upon his ambiguous wishes. Either way, Christie does not come off well.

His press conference was a master class in GOP damage control. He spent the majority of the conference in casting himself as the victim. Another chunk he spent in excoriating his mendacious staff for lying to him. (Note, he was angry for them “lying” to him, not for their actions.) He spared almost no thought for the very real danger in which he put the people he was elected to serve.

That speaks to the core of the modern Republican Party. It really has no concern for regular people. They’re merely voters to be conned into supporting the party. Once electoral success is achieved, they can be dispensed with as so many pawns on chessboard. The GOP playbook when caught in malfeasance is to cast about for blame, play the victim, and ignore the real damage done. We see this in the fight over unemployment insurance. Anyone with a soul would realize that there people who are still feeling the aftershocks of the Great Recession, and that help is still needed. But those people are so much chaff for a wider political agenda, which is to destroy the last vestiges of the Great Society, which the modern GOP hates with a visceral hatred.

Christie is merely the grandest expression of a deeply seeded Republican pathology. Republicans love their country; they just happen to hate most of the people who inhabit it. People are merely means to an end, and that end is power. The powerful to whom they’re handmaidens have no concern for ordinary people, and that mindset informs their political minions. One could say that their worldview boils down to “The beatings will continue until morale improves”; however, they don’t care about morale, they just employ the beatings to maintain control.

So, as we chuckle and chortle at Chris Christie, remember that the clown masks a deadly serious persona. The bullying, the misanthropy, and the lack of empathy are not bugs; they’re a well-designed feature