For four years, the ludicrous statements, tangled logic, wildly misinformed opinions, and incoherent ramblings of tea party elected officials and candidates were an embarrassment to our country, but a boon for comedians like myself. Because even though they have been able to promote disastrous policies in some states, there was the sense that the Tea Party was a nuisance that was fading away and not capable of threatening the country on a national level.
Ted Cruz helped change all of that. Although comedians and television comedy shows have found much to lampoon, Cruz himself is decidedly arrogant and unfunny. And more than a little scary and dangerous.
And the tactics of blackmail and extortion House Republicans have utilized, at the urging of Cruz, have led to a government shutdown that is designed to personally repudiate a president they hate and have sought to delegitimize from his first day in office. It brazenly ignores the two years of debate that led to the Affordable Care Act being approved by the House and Senate, upheld by the Supreme Court, and additionally validated by the reelection of President Obama.
But since they don't have the votes, and have failed to repeal the law forty times, tea party Republicans have assumed the role of political terrorists -- a handful of extremists invalidating the will of the people and the very Constitution they fraudulently claim to uphold. And they are egged on by a right-wing media, led by Fox News, which perversely labels the shutdown a "slimdown," as if they're referring to Chris Christie's lap band surgery. When 800,000 workers are furloughed without pay, it is a shutdown of catastrophic proportions, and Fox News should acknowledge that. But then again, they aren't in the business of reporting actual facts.
Those who dismiss this as politics as usual, or urge President Obama to do a Ronald Reagan- Tip O'Neill act, miss the point. We live in different times. The Tea Party has put this country and the federal government in a dangerous place. And no amount of negotiations or cajoling will change that. Because you can't reason with unreasonable people.
Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, a Republican, proudly told a cheering crowd, "Let me tell you what we're doing about Obamacare. Everything in our power to be an obstructionist." This from a man whose job requires him to enforce the law that says his office must do everything in its power to educate and inform the citizens of Georgia about the health insurance exchanges that opened yesterday. This isn't about partisan politics anymore, it's about willfully obstructing the enforcement of a federal law.
As the tea party pushes the rest of the Republican party so far out of the mainstream of American thought and sensibility, it has simultaneously spearheaded voter suppression campaigns in states like North Carolina, which has been challenged by the Justice Department for violating what remains of the Voting Rights Act.
When you lack the numbers and the support of the people, extremists turn to extortion, distortion and sometimes violence. While thankfully the latter is not a component of their strategy, what the Tea Party is doing now amounts to a nonviolent coup.
Tea Party Republicans and their supporters still make inane, outrageous statements that are fertile ground for comedy.
But what they are doing is dangerous, unconstitutional, un-American, and not funny at all.