The GOP’s Revolution is Guillotining the Constitution

Madame Roland
Madame Roland

Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain.” – Friedrich Schiller

The military has an interesting acronym, BFI: Brute Force and Ignorance. The rule of thumb is that BFI does not get the job done. War is no longer two opposing groups coming to grips and bashing away at each other until one gives up.

Shock and Awe, like Blitzkrieg, was more than the application of brute force. It takes finesse and nuance to conduct a successful lightning campaign.


Politics is similar. The Founding Fathers set up an intricate system of government which abounds with nuance, a complex system of checks and balances to sustain it through trials and time. They could have come up with something simpler had they wished, but their labors have served us well for over two centuries.

Unfortunately, any structure, however strong, will give way to repeated battering. You cannot win a lightning campaign through BFI but as George W. Bush realized, if you have overwhelming strength you can dispense with finesse and just pummel your enemy into submission. He did exactly that for eight years.

And the system so lovingly constructed by Madison, Jefferson and others, fell under assault. Cracks are starting to appear.

Congress surrendered it’s authority to the Bush Administration, voluntarily emasculating itself. Only the judicial branch held up its end of the bargain and continued to function anything like intended, and the Bush administration signaled its intention to ignore the courts and to ignore the constitution whenever it wished. Suddenly, there were no brakes on the executive.

After eight years of running amok, conservatives seem suddenly beside themselves with the loss power. They are so eager to “take their government back” that they are willing to destroy it in the process through the application of brute force and ignorance.

George W. Bush was the proverbial bull in the china shop. He did not have any idea at all what diplomacy meant. Where Teddy Roosevelt advised speaking softly and carrying a big stick, Bush just carried a big stick, and he wanted a bigger stick than everyone else.

Cave-man style, speaking wasn’t an important part of the equation. Pummeling was. And his pummeling took place domestically as well as oversees. Across the ocean, the Old World recoiled in horror at his approach and at times, his behavior. Brute force toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein; it did not win America any friends.

To put it another way, the kings of the Bronze Age, without any oversight by way of public opinion, local or otherwise, indeed, without even a word for or concept of, “diplomacy,” behaved in a more responsible manner towards their neighbors than did President Bush towards ours.

President Obama, who understands diplomacy in the same way the Bronze Age Kings did — that the country is part of a larger community of nations — is accused of apologizing for America simply because he does not continue to beat everyone with the big stick.

Bush’s application of brute force tactics at home operated on the well greased machinery of fear. Fear was the currency of politics from 2001-2008. With control of Congress he steamrollered the cowed opposition when it was offered and proclaimed that the Constitution was “just a goddamned piece of paper.” The Constitution established our government, its powers and limitations. You cannot simply treat it like a set of “guidelines” or “suggestions,” and expect there to be no damage.

And he got away with it. Brute force and ignorance.

Bush is out of office now, his misrule terminated by time, but his politics remain. The Constitution remains a “goddamned piece of paper” to be ignored, to have parts removed or revised or reinterpreted according to ideological needs. The conservatives are still loose in the china shop, destroying it; America is the china shop.

Once upon a time, American politics operated with a level of subtlety that today is glaringly absent. Was an eight-year sustained attack on the Republic enough to destroy our system of government? It’s true that Bush wasn’t the first; it didn’t begin with him. There have been violations of the Constitution by the Executive before, including by no less a hero than Abraham Lincoln, who illegally suspended habeas corpus.

But the eight years of the Bush administration, followed by nearly two years of obstructionism, rejection, and the establishment of a virtual “government in exile” has been without precedent. Think about it: a government in exile implies a legitimate and an illegitimate government. The implication of conservative politics is that only their governance is legitimate and that the Democrats are usurpers. That paradigm does not allow for compromise, for compromise is now something dirty: collaboration.

The idea that only the Republican Party legitimately has American interests at heart is a dangerous one, and America is being beat to death with it.

The American political system assumes that all parties will behave responsibly and continue to try to govern the nation even through disagreement. For one party to completely withdraw from the process and insist on their status as “a government in exile during a time of political usurpation” is something the Founders never foresaw. They proceeded on an assumption of enlightened governance, but enlightenment, for today’s conservatives, is a liberal plot.

When President Obama entered office, his approach to politics was in accordance with the old paradigm. He assumed that the opposition would behave responsibly and reasonably. There would be rancor, but government would continue to function. Instead, the Republicans, despite their complete failure on Election Day ’08, decided to emulate George W. Bush. Lacking any but imagined power, they still proceeded on the assumption that they dictated policy.

They seemed completely ignorant of their loss of public support, of both the executive and representative branches, and operated on the assumption that they could still dictate policy despite their minority position. None of that mattered once they convinced themselves they were the legitimate government. And so they refused to compromise. They refused to talk unless it was to issue their diktat or to say “no.” And they said “no” to literally everything.

When they are not obstructing the functions of government, they simply make things up and bombard the American voter with lies. Tell a big lie and tell it often.

If confronted with undeniable, irrefutable facts simply ignore them and repeat the lie.

It didn’t win them the White House – or Congress in 2008, and it seems unlikely to reward them at the Midterms in 2010.

BFI may not get them back into power, but it can destroy the country.

Is it possible that Republicans believe their own propaganda, or knowing the truth that they do not represent the majority view of the country, they persist in the lie in order not to demoralize their base?

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “’I did that,’ says my memory. ‘I could not have done that,’ says my pride and remains inexorable. Eventually – the memory yields.”

Is this what happens to conservative thinking? Is the need for fact to fit to system so strong that even memory must give way? Something simply has to be true, and therefore is?

I wonder if, one day, a former Tea Party member will stand up, astonished at the destruction they have wrought, and like Madame Roland before the guillotine will cry, “Oh Liberty! Liberty! What crimes are committed in your name!”

8 Replies to “The GOP’s Revolution is Guillotining the Constitution”

  1. Excellent post with many thought-provoking observations, Harf,

    “Is it possible that Republicans believe their own propaganda, or knowing the truth that they do not represent the majority view of the country, they persist in the lie in order not to demoralize their base?”

    More than anything else, the Republicans believe they are RIGHT.

    Their self-righteous sense of being right spawns the rationalization that any means (propaganda, lies, fear- and hate-mongering) to achieve their ends are justified. Actually, it reminds me very much of the attitudes of evangelical fundamentalists (intertwined closely these days with the GOP). Fundamentalists have no tolerance for other religious viewpoints, and, indeed, believe that “God’s laws” transcend our government’s laws.

    When you believe you are right, that your viewpoint is the “One, True Way,” — there’s no room for compromise because it would mean compromising yourself — which leaves brute force as the way to impose your agenda and beliefs, whether political or religious.

  2. I just finished reading Sarah Jone’s post on “Member of RNC Publicly Accuses President Obama of Being a Muslim.”

    The point in my previous post was graciously demonstrated by RNC member, Kim Lehman, defending her claim that Obama is a Muslim:

    “Lehman later attempted to explain herself, “I’m just going off what he said in Cairo. (The speech) just had a sense of embracing or aligning with the Muslims. I don’t know. It was unnecessary, the stuff he said. That’s the whole point. I don’t give an appearance to the Muslims that I am aligning myself with the Muslim faith. I am strictly a Christian. I believe that. I stand by that. I’ll die by that.”

    Yep. “I am strictly a Christian. I believe that. I stand by that. I’ll die by that” — is a significant part of her explanation of why PO is Muslim. (a shorter version of her defense is “I’m RIGHT, g*d#mnit!”)

  3. Have you ever seen “the right feeling wronged”? It was an excellent documentary on the Right after the 2008 election. It demonstrates what you’re saying. Very frightening when you realize these small minded people are so dogmatic and sure they are the holy people. Truly, they are no different from any other fundamentalists.

  4. Great post, Hraf. I highly doubt the Tea Partiers will ever acknowledge let alone become aware of just how used they are being and how complicit they are in endangering this nation and our troops. Much as I had a hard time with the same people back when they were Bush cheerleaders who called us traitors over wanting to Bush wait for the UN and would not listen to anything other than what their handlers told them.

  5. Thanks, Sarah. I doubt it as well. As CL said above (and as I’ve argued many times) when you’re afflicted with Righteousness there can be no doubt. The worst event in Christian history since the Enlightenment is, in my opinion, the conversion of the Grand Old Party to God’s Own Party. To have the world’s one remaining superpower so close to theocracy is about as frightening as it can get.

  6. I don’t disagree with you, CL. In fact, I agree and have argued the same many times. But as always, I feel it is necessary to offer the alternatives. And it is entirely possible, as has been argued by others, that some of the leaders on the right are opportunists, like Hitler, who use the masses for their own purposes. That said, I don’t know any people that extreme who are pretending. Those I know genuinely belief all the crap they preach.

  7. I definitely was generalizing to make my point. You’re absolutely right in pointing out that there are opportunists in both groups who could give a flip about ideology (political or religious).

    For that matter, opportunists are readily apparent in all political parties and religious groups.

  8. Great post, I enjoy reading your views.

    The sense of entitlement and by conservative belief that they are the only people that are right, leads to extremism. One of the outcomes that we are seeing is the surge in the anger of the right. The closer to the extremist views, the more the anger. I believe this comes from their sense of being robbed. When all of their leaders and media sources tell them that they are going to win, and that the other side is evil, the believe. When they lose, they respond with anger, because they believe the election was stolen.

    Nothing can be said to speak rationally with dogmatic people, they will not allow the facts to get in the way of their beliefs. This is the danger that the media outlets like Fox and the irresponsible leaders of the Republican party ignore, in their battle for power. If these folks don’t wake up to what they are creating, the probability of violence is high. All we need do is look back to the 1960s. Our country has a core of violent behavior.

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