In The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, a farcical fantasy novel written by Douglas Adams, the answer to the “Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything” is 42. This is obviously nonsense, and the narrative soon devolves into an annoying tale of blunders.
I just finished listening to this audiobook a few days ago while delivering pizzas, so it seems oddly prophetic that the very next day, also while delivering pizzas, I heard another annoying story involving a gaggle of idiots, a fantasyland and the number 42.
I am speaking, of course, about the House Republicans and the vote last week to extend their tedious effort to repeal or weaken Obamacare, marking the 42nd time they have attempted this exercise in Sisyphus politics. By tying what should be a routine budget bill to a provision that defunds the Affordable Care Act, the GOP is genuinely threatening a government shutdown by Oct. 1 and a default a few weeks later.
This bill, like its 41 predecessors, has precisely no chance of passing the Senate, let alone avoiding a presidential veto. Some smart guy once said the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. For Republicans, straight insanity is not so much the issue as the runaway effects of the severe right turn the party has taken in recent years.
They roll the proverbial boulder back up the hill, not because it is politically savvy or even remotely possible, but because they have allowed a bunch of Tea Party political amateurs steer the party towards a cliff, all the way screaming “no worries,” because the ghosts of Ronald Reagan and Ayn Rand will keep everyone aloft on swells of market forces and individuality.
The rest of us can only hope that they will crash and burn, because instead of simply committing political suicide they threaten to drag us all with them. The right wing of the GOP has become so ideologically twisted that they are actually considering allowing the government to shut down and default rather than allow the horrifying prospect of affordable healthcare to become a reality for millions of uninsured Americans.
Speaker John Boehner sounded pathetic — and looked even more so — standing at a podium over a sign embarrassingly emblazoned with a Twitter hashtag, where he proclaimed a “victory for the American people” and “common sense.”
Common sense tells you that there is no point in fighting a losing battle. The opportunity to repeal Obamacare died the same day as Mitt Romney’s candidacy, and the sooner we all stop entertaining this charade the sooner we can get on to actual, pressing concerns.
Boehner and the rest of the relatively moderate wing of his party have been cowed by Tea Party extremists threatening to unseat him as Speaker if they do not get their way. He would be smart to note that the last time the government actually shut down, Newt Gingrich was Speaker and that wrinkly old salamander was ousted by his own party not long after. Boehner never wanted this fight to happen, and now he looks like a frantic babysitter willing to do anything to reign in his feral charges.
These actions put the entire economy at risk. When the last unnecessary budget debate dragged on, our nation’s credit rating was downgraded. The Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 were already down the day after this vote. The Republicans are going all-in with nothing more than a pair of two’s and the rest of the table already knows their cards.
They cannot win, and endangering the economy in a losing battle for the sake of symbolism is deplorable.
We should all be tired of this seemingly eternal struggle to pass even the simplest legislation. Defaulting on our debts is simply not a rational option, and it is frightening to learn that House Republicans don’t agree. They will try to put the blame on Democrats and Obama with PR campaigns like their #SenateMustAct, but the responsibility lies solely with them.
The prescience of my audiobook choices will be tested again this week. I’m listening to The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, a dystopian novel about fantastical creatures appearing out of the ether and enslaving humanity. This seems improbable, but is still less fantastical than whatever world the Tea Party calls home.
Zane Womeldorph is considering switching to rollerblades as his main mode of transportation. Send responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.