Stephen Colbert Warns Republicans Not to Fall Into the Trap of Governing

Though the results of the midterm elections were unhappy, there is still some humor to be found: the idea of Republicans and small government is funny. So is the idea that the Republicans have somehow found a mandate in what clearly remains a center-left country, and funniest of all, the plain and simple idea of Republicans governing. I mean, how do you govern when you’ve got no grasp of our shared reality, none at all?

Enter Stephen Colbert, who tells us he is “still riding high from the GOP’s triumph in last week’s midterm election. This means there will be more Republicans than ever making government smaller by working full-time in Washington. In fact, there is only one way to describe this victory.”

That word is “mandate.”

“Yes, it was absolutely a mandate,” said Colbert, “thanks to an historic turnout of just 37 percent of eligible voters, the lowest since 1942.”

The Republicans, he tells us, “have the obligation to enact the agenda of the angriest man in the smallest county. They just need to do one thing…it is time for Republicans to govern.” Before this, he says, “they were just paid extras on C-SPAN.”

Which brings us to Stephen Colbert’s word of the day: “It’s a trap!”

Watch the video courtesy of Comedy Central:

Colbert reminds us of Rush Limbaugh’s infamous claim that “Republicans were not elected to govern. Their one job is to stop Obama.”

But more than simple opposition to Barack Obama’s every action and word, there is the danger inherent in governing. Colbert points to a recent editorial in the National Review, The Governing Trap, which suggested that,

The desire to prove Republicans can govern also makes them hostage to their opponents in the Democratic party and the media. It empowers Senator Harry Reid, whose dethroning was in large measure the point of the election. If Republicans proclaim that they have to govern now that they run Congress, they maximize the incentive for the Democrats to filibuster everything they can — and for President Obama to veto the remainder. Then the Democrats will explain that the Republicans are too extreme to get anything done.

Oh dear, not much incentive there…But as Colbert says, “There is an even more urgent reason to do nothing,” and points again to the National Review:

If voters come to believe that a Republican Congress and a Democratic president are doing a fine job of governing together, why wouldn’t they vote to continue the arrangement in 2016?

“The point is,” says Colbert, “anything, anything the Republicans accomplish at all, no matter how insignificant, could lead to President Hillary Clinton.”

Colbert is going for humor of course, and there are layers to this humor: First, the idea that Republicans might actually govern is the biggest joke of all, outside of the Republican Party itself. And work with the president? When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, they immediately proceeded on the assumption that he must do exactly what they told him to do. How much worse will it be now when they are no longer the opposition party? We’ve already seen their answer to that question.

Colbert points to another humorous passage in the National Review editorial:

A prove-you-can-govern strategy will inevitably divide the party on the same tea-party-vs.-establishment lines that Republicans have just succeeded in overcoming.

Of course, the Republicans did not overcome the Tea Party; they only eliminated the struggle between Tea Party and Establishment by becoming more extreme, which means, really, if anybody won, it was the Tea Party.

Which brings us to Colbert’s analysis of the National Review’s editorial:

I believe, instead of making the mistake of doing things now, the National Review says the GOP should focus on the future by:

‘…building the case for Republican governance after 2016…’


‘…explaining what Republicans…would do if they had the White House.’

Yes! It’s time to show the American people that Republicans are capable of bold, decisive action…sometime later. Then Republicans will be able to take back the White House and when they finally have control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, at last it will be time to govern, is what they want you to think, but that’s just another trap. Because the GOP can’t act until they’ve secured an all-Republican supreme court, 50 Republican governors, 50 Republican state legislatures and an all-Republican prom committee. And even then, even when there are no Democrats left anywhere, they should still not govern because then another Republican could run against them in the primary and they’d be wide-open to attack on their voting record if they had one.

So, as Admiral Ackbar said, governing a trap for Republicans, but one I don’t think we need to worry about them falling into. They haven’t all gathered in Washington to govern, they’ve gathered, as Limbaugh said, to oppose Obama. And being against something has never substituted for an actual policy platform.

Still, as Colbert makes clear, we’ll have plenty of joke material over the next two years.

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