‘Lemmings in suicide vests’ and other truths

     Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is shown in May 2013 listening to testimony at a hearing on the Internal Revenue Service practice of targeting applicants for tax-exempt status based on political leanings. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, file)

    Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is shown in May 2013 listening to testimony at a hearing on the Internal Revenue Service practice of targeting applicants for tax-exempt status based on political leanings. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, file)

    And so it begins, the tea-party reign of error.

    Future historians will surely marvel that only three dozen House fanatics — deluded destructionists representing a mere sliver of the American people — somehow had the leverage to crash the entire government back in 2013. But there’s no need to wait for history’s harsh verdict. Republicans rooted in reality are already voicing their disgust.

    First prize for verbal concision goes to California Republican congressman Devin Nunes, who tweeted yesterday: “Leadership backed into corner by lemmings in suicide vests.” Sounds about right. House Speaker Boehner, desperate to keep his title, has bowed to the lemmings’ loony demand that the government cease functioning unless or until President Obama surrenders his signature domestic achievement; that’s quite a switch from last November, when Boehner stated, “It’s pretty clear that the president was re-elected. Obamacare is the law of the land.”

    Nunes stuck with his description, when talking with reporters. To govern rationally, he said, you “have to be more than just a lemming. Because jumping to your death is not enough.” True that. Wearing a suicide vest may be fine and dandy for the three dozen congressional tea-partyers who are cocooned in their gerrymandered red districts, but that mentality is a turnoff to mainstream voters. As evidenced by the new Quinnipiac poll, a whopping 72 percent of Americans oppose shutting the government just to block Obamacare; only 22 percent are in sync with the lemmings.

    Why should 22 percent of Americans — and less than 20 percent of the House Republican caucus — have the right to impose their extremism on the entire nation? Reality-based Republicans like Devin Nunes are wondering as well.

    Another is Michael Gerson, the former chief speechwriter for George W. Bush and former fellow at the conservative Hertage Foundation (back when Heritage was a respected think tank, prior to Jim DeMint’s takeover). Gerson lamented in his column yesterday that the House fanatics are revolting “against anyone who accepts the constraints of political reality,” that they’re woefully lacking “real connection to the views of the broader electorate.”

    And Gerson fears that their inevitable defeat — the shutdown will end, Obamacare will go on — will merely whet their appetite for more lost causes, hurting the GOP in the process. In his words, “The problem for Republicans, as Democrats found in the 1970s and ’80s, is that factions are seldom deterred by defeat. Every loss is taken as proof of insufficient purity. Conservatives now face the ideological temptation: inviting an unpleasant political reality by refusing to inhabit political reality.”

    Jennifer Rubin, the prominent conservative blogger and knee-jerk Obama foe, chimed in yesterday, noting how “isolated” the fanatics have become “from the average American’s politics.” The government-crashers are encased in “partisan bubble wrap.” Currently, she wrote, “a great many right-wingers who claim to speak for ‘ordinary Americans’ don’t have a clue how (those Americans) react to politics, or about the overwhelming disgust they feel when they watch sniping and political grandstanding that winds up disrupting ordinary people’s lives.”

    Even worse, she pointed out, is that the fanatics seem determined “to rewrite history to fit their own narrative. Right-wingers are convinced Bill Clinton lost the 1995 shutdown battle. They are certain Ronald Reagan would never compromised on important issues … Naturally they don’t learn from the past when they refuse to recall it accurately.” (Rubin was right about Reagan. The Gipper cut deals all the time, even agreeing to raise taxes when needed, and he campaigned often for moderate Republican senators.)

    And Virginia Gov. McDonnell was vocal yesterday about the shutdown’s potential impact on the lives of ordinary people in his state. The guy may be under a cloud of scandal, for allegedly accepting gifts from rich donors, but unlike his exremist Republican brethren, he at least can discern everyday reality:

    “This is not the battle to pick at the beginning of a fiscal year … You don’t shut down government and have the people that depend on government suffer — because that’s really what will happen … My Republican friends have got to understand there’s no way on earth that the president and the U.S. Senate are going to vote to defund Obamacare. It’s absolutely wrong to shut down the government over this issue.”

    He advised Republicans on how best to proceed: “The primary solution is democracy. It’s called the ballot box.” What a concept! Take off the suicide vests and start winning elections in districts and states far removed from the tea-party cocoon.

    But can they win again, especially at the presidential level, if they keep hewing to extremism? No way, according to Rubin: “Republicans today are in danger of ceding the silent majority to the Democrats. Republicans need to get out more, understand how the right-wing pols sound to voters who aren’t staunch conservatives…If they don’t, like the Democrats from 1972 to 1992, they will find themselves out of favor and out of the White House. They might be certain they have ‘won’ the argument on points, but will have lost power — for a very long time.”

    Yeah. What she said.

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    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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