For many of us, to remember the last time Republicans shut down the federal government is to think of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich. Specifically, the far-right Georgian admitted in November 1995 that he closed the government in part because President Clinton hurt his feelings on Air Force One – the president didn’t chat with Gingrich during an overseas flight and then made the Speaker exit at the rear of the plane.
It was a moment that captured the entire fiasco quite beautifully. A petulant, out-of-control Republican leader shut down the government largely to spite the president who made him feel bad.
We don’t yet know if a similar moment will come to define this Republican shutdown, but I’d like to nominate this gem as an early contender.
“We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
Go ahead, Republicans, tell us another one about how the shutdown is Democrats’ fault.
I’ve long argued that congressional Republicans are now defined by a post-policy nihilism, but even I’m surprised an elected GOP member of Congress would say this out loud, on purpose, and on the record.
The quote is just … perfect. “We’re not going to be disrespected” helps capture the extent to which Republican lawmakers are acting like a street gang, hurting the country deliberately out of some twisted sense of self-serving pride. “We have to get something out of this” reinforces the way in which GOP officials are holding the country hostage, expecting a ransom to be paid.
And “I don’t know what that even is” makes clear that Republicans are being driven by a mindless radicalism. There’s no meaningful policy goal in mind; there’s no substantive motivation; there isn’t even a strategic end goal. There’s just a primal instinct and a right-wing id causing a national crisis.