Some people just can’t take yes for an answer it seems. That may well be the case with Washington Post blogger Paul Waldman. Looking forward to the potential of a Democratic victory in November and a subsequent Joe Biden presidency (assuming Joe doesn’t get lost on the way to the inauguration), Waldman has a dire warning for Democrats. The GOP is already planning in secret for this eventuality and they will be working from day one (if not before) to sabotage the country and prevent a new era of big government that would transform the landscape into one covered with rainbows and unicorns… or something. (And yes, he literally used the word “sabotage” in the title.
So how are Republicans going to pull off this dastardly deed? The same way they did after Barack Obama became president. The author reminds of us a string of policy wins that Obama pushed through in his first two years before pointing out that two years later the GOP “took back the House and ground it all to a halt.”
That is precisely what Republicans are planning to repeat, especially if Joe Biden becomes president next year.
You can see it in the “Let’s all come to the state capitol and infect each other” protests against stay-at-home orders that are attracting small crowds but huge media attention. Like a miniature version of the Tea Party, it’s a phenomenon of genuine sentiment that is shaped and organized by right-wing elites, promoted relentlessly by Fox News, and in this case, validated by President Trump himself.
It may not be much yet, but this is just beginning. You can bet that Republicans will be holding strategy meetings and fielding polls and writing reports to determine not just how to stop Americans from becoming more open to expansive government action, but how to turn this crisis into anger at government itself — assuming Biden becomes president in January.
A quick reminder for those who missed class on the applicable day. Pretty much every Republican I know has given up on the idea that the GOP is ever going to make any serious effort at cutting spending and reducing the debt and deficit. That doesn’t mean that fiscal conservatives are happy about it, but it does appear that most of us have dejectedly put on our Eeyore faces and accepted the facts. January of 2017 should have been a moment where the federal government finally got serious about our addiction to “free money.” But instead, ever since Donald Trump was elected, we’ve only accelerated the train as it rushes toward the fiscal cliff. Such is our fate.
I realize that’s not the only thing Waldman is talking about in his column, but it’s important to note. As far as the money we’re spending this year, the massive sinkhole created by the coronavirus and the government’s need to prevent the damage from being as bad as it might be were unavoidable. The GOP went along with it (mostly) to avoid a literal great depression. They spent the money with no intention of figuring out how to pay for it so America wouldn’t turn into a Mad Max movie in real life. (Instead, we’re settling for a Stephen King movie.)
Of course, the real “sabotage” that Waldman is speaking of is less about spending and more about the attitudes of Americans toward their government. Note how speaks in metaphorically hushed tones about Republican dreams of stopping Americans from becoming “more open to expansive government action.” I hate to break it to you, Paul, but you haven’t stumbled on a top-secret Republican plan. That’s sort of the foundation of the party platform. Even in the midst of this crisis, the federal government is doling out vast sums of cash, but that’s only because the scope of the challenge is so vast.
Waldman also kvetches about the protesters showing up in various states to decry government overreach in issuing lockdown orders. While I don’t agree with their timing, their message is an important one and I’ve lost track of how many columns I’ve written on the subject here. Even in a state of a declared emergency like the pandemic, we can’t simply allow government executives to assume the complete right to restrict religious liberties, Second Amendment rights or even our freedom of movement more than is absolutely needed to keep people alive. And even in cases where we agree to such restrictions, we should do so only grimly while providing loud and frequent reminders that this type of authoritarian activity will not be tolerated one second longer than necessary after the pandemic has mostly passed.
This is the opposite of sabotage. It’s an effort to make sure that people in the government with attitudes similar to Walden don’t use this disaster as an excuse to usher in some sort of permanent socialist “paradise.” And nobody is trying to hide those intentions.