In the first season of The Wire, there’s these drug dealers, and they’re some seriously bad dudes. They torture people and kill children and sell lots of and lots of heroin, and watching it you find yourself thinking, “Man, these drug dealers are the worst. I sure hope the cops get their shit together, because these drug dealers need to go down hard.”
But then, a couple seasons later, a bunch of new drug dealers show up, and these guys are even worse than the original bunch of drug dealers! They kill and torture people too, but unlike the old drug dealers who only did that for reasons relating to their heroin-selling business, half the time these guys just kill innocent people for fun. And then you find yourself thinking, “Shit, I miss the old drug dealers! I mean, yeah, they were awful, but at least they had a code! These new drug dealers, it’s like all they want to do is wreck shit!”
And I think about that all the time when I read about the white collar Fight Club that the House Republicans have become. I mean, when John Boehner first got elected to Congress in the 90s he was considered one of the most ardently conservative members of the House. Now a crop of radical Tea Party legislators just forced him out of office because to them, he’s not conservative enough. I should enjoy watching the Republican Party chew John Boehner up and spit him out, but honestly, I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.
Sure, I still hate Boehner’s ass-backwards positions on everything from women’s rights to climate change, and I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of the way the third most powerful man on Earth starts blubbering uncontrollably every time he goes on national television. But at least he was polite, and – more importantly – sincerely believed that the United States government should both exist and pay its bills in a timely fashion. And it really says something about the state of our political system when that’s a compliment.
“Oh yeah, he’s a great surgeon – he never gives his patients handjobs while they’re knocked out.”
“Billy’s kindergarten teacher is the best. She doesn’t let them play with loaded handguns, and on top of that, not once has she given them cigarettes!”
John Boehner at least understood that he wasn’t going to be able to do all the terrible things he wanted to do. He was willing to compromise and work across the aisle if it meant he could make some progress on getting some of his terrible things done, even if the other side got to score some points too. But trying to run a House majority full of angry wingnuts and people terrified of going against them lest they get a primary challenge from an angry wingnut, he was the legislative equivalent of one mom trying to chaperone a dozen 6 year olds at a pizza party. Sure, Congress didn’t get a whole lot of governing done during his time in charge, but a lot more stuff would have gotten broken if he hadn’t been there.
With him out the door, the six-year-olds are effectively chaperoning their own pizza party. Do I even need to explain why that’s a bad thing? Here’s a video of why that’s a bad thing:
The Tea Partiers who made Boehner walk the plank are about as interested in governing as Mary-Kate and Ashley are in making a conventional, nutritiously-balanced pizza. These are people who campaigned and got elected on their ability to say “No” to a raft of things they don’t like in the angriest, flashiest way. It’s not enough that they’re unilaterally opposed to health insurance for poor people and taking action on climate change – a lot of them believe it’s okay for the government to just not pay its creditors on time. And now, a few months before our bills are due, these guys have just muscled out the one person capable of making them fall in line.
The drug dealers on The Wire taught me two things: 1) Never, ever go to Baltimore, and 2) the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. I predict that in the coming months, as the Tea Partiers elect a Speaker who they feel is sufficiently divorced from reality to lead them, we’re all going to wish that our old, orange, weepy devil had never left.