Yogi Berra is no longer around, but one of his witticisms — “It’s deja vu all over again” — has never been more apt. This time, though, it’s not at all funny.
All over again, the hard right is threatening a government shutdown. All over again, the American people face the prospect of collapsing consumer confidence, stock market meltdown and national humiliation as Republican right-wingers seriously contemplate defaulting on America’s debt. Last time, they at least had ignorance for an excuse.
Should this sort of drama be replayed, which House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation makes increasingly likely, the public would once again blame mainstream Republicans for not curbing the tantrum wing of their party — and the GOP could kiss the 2016 presidential election goodbye.
That may sound like a good thing for the Democrats, but must the entire nation suffer in the process? As in those dreams of frustration, we’d find ourselves stuck back on a bus with a mad political minority at the wheel.
But you know, these people aren’t wrong about everything. Anger over Wall Street’s grip on Washington is widely shared. If Republican primary voters haven’t taken kindly to hedge fund titans throwing Jeb Bush $100,000-a-plate fundraisers, that’s understandable. Amid Donald Trump’s Niagara Falls of stupid verbiage come well-placed denunciations of tax breaks for private equity moguls.
However, there’s something truly creepy in hearing the newly empowered tea party “leaders” relish in their power to punish. And is it too much to ask that they learn the meaning of “full faith and credit of the United States” — and its import to the country’s well-being?
The tea party agitators might also look into the reality of government programs that benefit their many elder comrades. No, Medicare isn’t manna from heaven (Exodus 16). And no, few beneficiaries paid for what they get. Most Medicare spending comes out of taxpayer subsidies.
You will not hear these people called conservatives here. The Republican Party of my father valued stability and sound fiscal stewardship. My dad opposed what he considered high taxes and unnecessary regulation, but he felt no need to despise Democrats, a group that included his wife.
You will not hear the tea party hotheads called patriots, either. They can wear hats and quote the Founding Fathers out of context all day long. In reality, they don’t seem to like their country much. America is a much bigger place than the sliver that stares back at them in their narrow mirrors.
The business community is already bracing. What it needs is basic stuff — restoration of the Export-Import Bank, a U.S. highway system in decent repair and NO repeat of the debt ceiling fiasco of 2011. The Republican hard-line right promises none of it.
Its assumption may be that grown-ups will appear at the last minute — all over again — and pull America out of the fire of a devastating default on U.S. debt. But some tea partyers undoubtedly believe at the bottom of their hearts that default would be no big deal.
Even though adults did pull the country through that human-made crisis, America was not left whole. Standard & Poor’s stripped the U.S. of its triple-A credit rating. This ordeal and budget cliffhangers that followed continue to drag on the American economy, according to 77 percent of the economists surveyed last month by The Wall Street Journal.
The most frightening part isn’t what the right-wingers want to do. It’s that they want to do it all over again. Equally scary, the Republican mainstream, unable to contain them last time, may be even more powerless this time.