The Original Was So Much Better

When you run a newspaper that’s two decades older than the nation in which it’s published, nostalgia is an occupational hazard. Out of respect for our readers, we try not to let it get out of hand. That has recently become more and more difficult. We’ll stop short of yelling “Get off our lawn,” but some other things simply must be said.

The phrase “disappointing sequel” has bordered on redundant ever since comics took over the movie business. Now that term has become relevant once again.

Tim Burton’s 2010 version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland drew mixed reviews. Today’s Republican party considered that lackluster result and proudly said, “hold my beer.” Never in history has there been a more calamitous rendering of Lewis Carroll’s opus than the recently seated 118th Congress.

Drawn from carefully-engineered Congressional districts—not so much “from coast to coast,” as safely distanced from the coasts—have come such a collection of mad hatters, March hares, grinning cats, and enraged queens, that a hookah-smoking caterpillar would not be much of a surprise. Let’s meet a few.

Rep. Jim Banks

Indiana’s Third District sits in the northeast corner of the Hoosier State. It has a Cook Partisan Voting Index [PVI] rating of R+18; no Democrats need run for office. It is represented by Jim Banks, who, despite his habit of trying to expand the use of the death penalty, falls into the category commonly referred to by profit-driven corporate media as “pro-life.”

Republicans often boast of pro-small government, but Banks seems eager to expand the government’s power to control womens’ behavior. His latest kick seems based on a time-tested Saudi technique.

Banks said recently on the Pat Miller radio show, “Our work as a pro-life movement is far from over. If a young lady can hop in a car in Fort Wayne and…achieve what she was able to do with [now shuttered] abortion clinics here in Indiana, the fight is far from over.”

Have no fear: the Federalist Society, Godlike overseers of our Supreme Court, will surely find a solution to this alleged problem—a sequel to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, perhaps. Require all citizens of the other 49 states to imprison pregnant Hoosiers until they can be returned in shackles.

Anyone shocked by Banks’ retrograde impulses would do well to remember: a hundred years ago Indiana fostered its own independent Ku Klux Klan. At its high point nearly a third of the state’s native-born white men were members. The Indiana Klan’s influence rapidly declined, though, after its organization genius, D.C. “Steve” Stephenson, was sentenced to life for rape and murder.

Rep. Jack Bergman

Jack Bergman, having won Michigan’s First District (PVI R+13) in 2016, is pretty safe. All he’s got to do to maintain his job security is keep his Republican base happy. There is no incentive for him to stray from orthodoxy. All that’s required is for him to present the proper façade.

In his case, he’s got the perfect costume. Though the Uniform Code of Military Justice says he can’t wear it while campaigning, the public record has plenty of photos of him in the uniform of a U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General. (Back when he was but a career-grade officer, Bergman flew CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters in Vietnam and elsewhere.)

Putting together the man and the situation, it is hardly surprising that Bergman introduced House Resolution 26, on January 11th: “This resolution expresses the support of the House of Representatives for the phrase ‘Thank you for our freedom’ as the way to respect members of the Armed Forces and veterans.” Threat to the status quo? None. Effort to appeal to the base’s most predictable emotions? Utter, complete, and shameless.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

For the purposes of this rant we were going to ignore Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—a former QAnon follower given to loose talk about executing high-ranking Democrats—on the grounds of fatuosity. When a target is so easily hit, any self-respecting archer is drained of motivation.

Then on Wednesday NBC reported that Greene, who represents, to its eternal embarassment, Georgia’s Fourteenth District, “sees herself on the short list for Trump’s VP,” according to Steve Bannon. What’s more, a source “with ties to Trump [who] spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations” told NBC “he also believes Greene would be on Trump’s short list.”

So as not to queer her Veep pitch, Greene has apparently dialed back the lunacy a bit—from 12 down to 11. She’s also thrown in her lot with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Greene now represents an insurance policy for McCarthy, protecting him to some degree from the whims of the Freedom Caucus. In return, Greene got a seat on the Select Subcommittee Coronavirus Pandemic.

Benghazi!!!? Emails!!!? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Could a Trump/Greene ticket win in 2024? Remembering 2016, we are ruling out nothing. Such an eventuality would obviously be an unspeakable catastrophe, though there would be one infinitesimal silver lining: Greene would be replaced, therefore the collective wisdom of the U.S. Congress inevitably would rise.

You Call That a Congress?

With McCarthy leading the House, and the likes of Greene, Bergman, and Banks following, Representatives are about to try to sell the public on a scheme to balance the budget by cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

If a surgeon said he’d cut off your leg to alleviate a toothache, you might seek a second opinion. Americans have no such option, though. We must go with the Congress we have, not the Congress we want.

Data for Progress recently polled likely voters. A solid majority—58 percent—say Congress should raise the debt ceiling. A majority of Republican voters said the debt ceiling should be raised—without cuts to Social Security or Medicare.

This Congress, though, may decide it knows better.

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