Magazine article The Spectator

Republicans Running Amok

Magazine article The Spectator

Republicans Running Amok

Article excerpt

Taking control of both houses of Congress may hand the presidency to Hillary Clinton in 2016

The American election cycle is beginning to resemble the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day . In the film, you may recall, Bill Murray plays an egomaniacal Pittsburgh weatherman named Phil Connors who discovers that he's stuck in a time loop in which the same day repeats itself over and over. He goes bonkers, driving a truck over a cliff in a suicide attempt, only to wake up again the next morning. Substitute the American public for Connors and you have a sense of the prevailing political atmosphere in the US.

Ever since 9/11 shattered its illusion of omnipotence, the United States has been unable to escape its troubles. Instead, it has been subjected to a series of psychic blows, large and small. The most recent ones have been the fumbling attempts of the Centers for Disease Control to contain Ebola and the spectacle of a knife-wielding Iraq War veteran vaulting over an iron fence past the Secret Service and entering the White House through the front door, until he was serendipitously tackled near the staircase leading to the Obama family's private quarters by an off-duty officer. Add in a struggling economy that, despite recent hints at a real recovery, has wiped out much of the middle class, and you have a recipe for perpetual discontent and partisan sniping.

The Republican party won back the Senate in this week's midterm elections, but not because it is offering something that voters are actively hankering for. Quite the contrary. Just as Barack Obama really won election in 2012 because the Grand Old Party brand had become so tarnished by George W. Bush's ineptitude, so the Republican party is on the comeback trail solely because the Democrat one has become so tarnished by Obama's bungling. But since angry voters ricochet from one party to the other in successive elections, the GOP's victory could prove a poisoned chalice.

Senator Ted Cruz talks to the Washington Post Photo: S. Payne

For one thing, a Republican triumph does not necessarily strengthen the hands of seasoned pros such as the next Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, whose political dream has finally been fulfilled. Instead, it will represent a fresh infusion of radical conservatives and Tea Party types in both the House and Senate. Already the Texas Senator Ted Cruz (who gave House Speaker John Boehner fits during the last debt ceiling crisis by privately meeting with Republican House members in February 2014 to encourage them to rebel against their leaders and push for fiscal collapse) has said that he will once more seek to push the GOP sharply to the right. …

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