Not long ago, a video surfaced of House Speaker Mike Johnson appearing before the National Association of Christian Lawmakers. He told a tale of how the Lord came to him in a series of visitations and “began to wake me up … in the middle of the night” to prepare him for a mighty role. The humble Johnson fancied himself an Aaron, Moses’s sidekick. But in time, in Johnson’s telling, the Lord made it clear to him that he was Moses, and He urged M.J. to be prepared, because “we’re coming to a Red Sea moment.”
Well, Moses, it looks like the Red Sea just crashed down on your head.
If this blockhead has the Lord’s blessing, I’d sure hate to see where he’d be without it. Just three and a half months into the speakership, he’s making Kevin McCarthy look like Cicero. It was just hilarious to see him have to announce on the Alejandro Mayorkas impeachment vote that the “ayes” were 214 and the “nays” were 216 and “the resolution is not adopted.” And minutes later, a stand-alone Israel aid bill failed, with 14 Republicans jumping the leaky Ship Johnson.
The week has been humiliating for Republicans on many fronts. Donald Trump had his preposterous immunity argument mercilessly shot down by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Mitch McConnell was forced to pull an embarrassing about-face on the border bill, voting against a bill that he’d been promoting for weeks. Even Nikki Haley found a new way to shame herself, losing 2-to-1 in the Nevada primary to “none of these candidates.” Trump did seem to secure a coming win in the Fourteenth Amendment case, but that was largely expected, and it happened in spite of his lawyer’s awful performance.
These things aren’t accidents. They’re all part of the same pattern and are happening for the same reason.
Republicans today are consumed by this primal need for immediate gratification. They’re the party of the dopamine rush. Go read an article about the brain, and you’ll learn in five minutes that dopamine helps regulate pleasure, and pleasure is great, but too much dopamine leads to delusions, hallucinations, schizophrenia, psychosis. The entire party has a massive and collective mental disorder, a severe chemical imbalance in what remains of its collective brain, which explains why it kneels so slavishly before a psychotic man with the emotional regulation of a 5-year-old.
Like rutting ungulates, they are incapable of anything remotely resembling thought and respond only to the stimuli right in front of their noses. Deliberation, caution, calm reflection … these are the qualities that most of us have in more or less equal measure to the desire for gratification. These are the qualities that are most in harmony with the habits of democracy. To be small-d democratic is to deliberate; to think things through a little. This country’s Founders believed profoundly in this, which is why they built so many choke points into our democratic processes (too many, as it turns out). They wanted future generations to think stuff through.
But these people are stuck in the land of anti-thought. And because that’s where they live, it means that in many respects it’s where we all have to live, because that’s where a lot of our national debate plays out.
The border debate is a perfect example. There are a lot of problems with U.S. border policy. Undoubtedly some of them are the fault of Democrats. It’s reasonable that people should want more control over the border. But at the same time, it’s a complex problem, and any real solutions are complex too. Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford, to his credit, tried to acknowledge that reality. And what happened? He was brutally shut down. It was chiefly Donald Trump, but it wasn’t only Trump. One right-wing talk radio host threatened to “destroy” him.
But it’s not just the border. It’s everything. The Mayorkas impeachment. I suppose there are many grounds from a conservative point of view on which to think he’s doing a lousy job. That’s fine. But a high crime or a misdemeanor? Ridiculous. That doesn’t matter, though. The mere word impeachment makes the mules rut, and there ends the discussion.
James Comer and Jim Jordan are another primo example. They just go on Fox and Newsmax and say shit. It’s not about facts or methodically building a case. It’s all about the dopamine rush of being on national television and saying titillating things that rile people up and get the checks rolling in. When they have to walk it back two days later, nobody cares. In fact, they’ve accomplished what they wanted to accomplish, which is to add to the general picture of murkiness surrounding Hunter Biden or whatever. And they walk out of that studio feeling eight miles high.
And that’s where our political debate takes place now. It used to be that dopamine-rush politics was occasional. Both sides did it on issues that clearly worked to their advantage, as Democrats still do. But with the GOP today, that’s all politics is. The immediate gratification of having scored a point, trolled a lib, won a little wedge of Fox airtime—and most of all pleased Donald Trump.
No one could succeed in this degraded and juvenile context. Not even Moses. I hope the Lord levels with Johnson soon.