Some Republicans, joined by a chorus of conservatives brandishing their newly acquired "Tea Party" credentials, appear to have a fascination with doomsday scenarios. It's not enough that many engineer their own hearty implosion. The latest is a bizarre love affair with the government shutdown, something we haven't seen or heard since 1995, when it left egg on the face of the House GOP leaders who staged it.
Prematurely lighting celebration cigars before polling station hours have even been set, a mixed crowd of Grand Old Party old schoolers and Glenn Beck-ite new school tacticians are already staging a revolution should they regain majorities in Congress. One expectation is gridlock on passing a budget, Republicans all but certain they can't work through an impasse with the President on such issues. From former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to surprise GOP Senate nominee Joe Miller in Alaska, and the disgruntled former Clinton adviser turned Republican strategist Dick Morris, an increasing number of influential Republicans are urging a 1995-redux.
Obviously, they forgot what happened in 1996.
The shutdown was the GOP albatross that turned into President Bill Clinton's life preserver in the '96 Presidential elections. Not only is such talk "premature," as former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) puts it, but it's a bit baffling, cynical and somewhat dangerous in this very fragile economic climate.
Talk of government meltdown does, however, shed light on one big contradiction -- the 800-pound gorilla in the room -- in much of the rhetoric coming from the hard right these days. Here you have a bunch of anti-government cats who want to run for elected office and pretty much draw a government salary for extended periods of time. If you don't like the government, why are you running for a government gig? What's up with that? In that hypocrisy, you find a beast of a scam driven by smooth-talking "insurgents" who are using the unemployed, debt-ridden, foreclosing, unhealthy, poorly educated and working class folks who need government services the most to help them pimp a government shutdown.
That's pretty rich stuff.
Far from being a partisan here, but hoping to inject some common sense, it's difficult to strain the insanity from this. Republicans have not even captured a majority in Congress (yet) and many are already engineering a government shutdown. Rather than present creative ways to make government run smarter, these dudes want to blow it up. How smart is that considering the economy is barely running on a string of federal stimulus? What kind of signal will that send to nervous global markets in the middle of a recession? How will it help if you have hundreds of thousands of federal workers without a paycheck unable to spend into a frail economy that largely depends on consumer spending?
Why is it that the GOP, in a bid to impress its tea party friends, feels pressed to screen test Apocalypse Now in 2010? What is it about doomsday talk that excites conservatives?
If this doesn't scare Democrats or sensible Independents into mobilized panic, who knows what will.
Perhaps it's the right political move for November, getting your fanatic base riled up like armed gorillas with billy clubs, like a scene straight out of Planet of the Apes. And maybe it gets you the short term shot you need to snag that majority you've been tasting all year. Worry about the consequences later. But, by the time 2012 voters see how much you mucked it up and vote accordingly -- switching it right back to where it was and giving the president you despise another term -- you'll be in a rear view mirror with your hands out begging for a political bailout.