"The measure has little to no chance of approval in the Senate. Still, Republicans hope that enabling the rank and file to vent their frustration and vote for the deficit-cutting plan could clear the air..." -- The morning papers, on the GOP's latest budget strategy
Just humor them.
Those rampaging Tea Partiers and their enablers on Capitol Hill, that is. So ready to do battle. So full of...
Just humor them, we're advised. Let them mount their little theater piece -- "Cut, Cap and Balance" is the title of the current version. Let them take their symbolic vote and hold their symbolic news conference. And once they've done that, once the distraction of attempting to rewrite the Constitution is behind them, everyone can get back to the serious business of keeping the government running and the economy from going over the cliff.
So just humor them a little while longer, OK?
If only it were that easy.
Humoring them -- giving the steamed-up a chance to vent -- assumes that when the venting's done, they'll come to their senses. That the far-right wing of the Republican Party will rejoin the reality-based community and drop the ideological crusades. That they'll be willing to accept half a loaf -- three-quarters? nine-tenths? -- in a system built on compromise.
And the evidence for that happy prospect is...?
If anything, the evidence of recent months all runs in the opposite direction. With every hour these people have spent in the spotlight lately, the more convinced they've become that they deserve the attention. That their "ideas" merit serious consideration by serious people. That they're serious people -- and not a featherweight sideshow of cranks and climbers.
Or is it impolite to mention that?
We wouldn't want to be impolite. Especially now, when they're wearing suicide belts.
On the other hand, maybe if we hadn't been so polite for so long, they wouldn't have had reason to think they could get away with this sort of thing: holding the country hostage to their latest demands.
It's been a long time coming, no doubt about it. You could say it started decades ago, with that famously loopy math: "Let's balance the budget by cutting everyone's taxes and spending more on the military! That'll work!"
Was it ridiculous on its face? Of course it was ridiculous on its face. And here's the scariest part: Things have gotten much worse since then! The fringe thinking that gave us the Age of Reagan couldn't even get a hearing now from those who claim to worship him! Too "moderate." Not "pure" enough.
They've got their own loopy math. Twenty-first-century loopy math. And their own economic theories, too -- except that they're not theories, they're certainties. Matters of unshakeable faith. And since they're certainties, why waste time listening to anyone else's views on the subject? Expertise is overrated.
So they've got their own economics. They've got their own climate science, of course. They've got their own history. (Paul Revere, anyone? Slavery and the Civil War?) They've even got their own electoral history. (2008 was a glitch. Barack Obama isn't really president.) What's next? Their own geography? Their own gravity?
And we've let them get away with it. Each time they've trotted out another baseless assertion, another assault on reason, too many people in both parties have shrugged and said, approximately: "No biggie."
"There aren't that many of them," we've told ourselves.
"Everyone sees right through them," we've said.
"They don't really believe it -- they're just doing it for show."
"If we tell them the truth we'll make them angry."
"If we tell them the truth they won't vote for us."
We've said all that, and we've said this, too:
"It can't last."
"Just humor them."
"How much damage can they do?"
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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.
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