MAGA Republicans didn’t come to Washington to work. They came to sow chaos and dysfunction

The GOP majority in the U.S. House has done nothing to address inflation, affordable health care, drug addiction, gun violence, or any major national problem

November 7, 2023 4:30 am

VANDALIA, OHIO -Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Ohio Republican U.S. Senator JD Vance. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.)

Welcome to Gilead. The fictional dystopia in Handmaid’s Tale is real-life in the halls of Congress. The U.S. House of Representatives just tapped a character straight out of Margaret Atwood’s novel to be speaker. Mike Johnson speaks the language of a God-governed, patriarchal, totalitarian state. 

In the U.S. Senate, a budding far-right (that sounds like Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance and Senators Hawley, Cruz, Cotton, etc.) also envisions righteous absolute rule, not representative government, as America’s saving grace. But before radical regime change can replace godless liberal democracy, the foundation for Gilead must be laid with obstruction, deconstruction, and strategic chaos. Government paralysis is the pathway to dictatorship. 

Serious governance is already gone in the lower chamber of Congress. The House has devolved into MAGA Junior High with juvenile antics and intra-party food fights as wars rage and the federal government heads for a shutdown. For nearly a month House Republicans fought with each other like kids instead of representing constituents like adults. 

But the MAGA party that pledges allegiance to a four-time criminally indicted ex-president — who still lies about an election he lost and schemed to overturn — is strictly performative. The chaos caucus loosely running the House is consumed with political grandstanding, not policy making. Click bait, not compromise or consensus. 

MAGA Republicans didn’t come to Washington to work; they came to create a scene. They provoke to seize attention, to raise big money, to get booked on right wing media. That’s it. The GOP majority in the House has done nothing to address inflation, affordable health care, drug addiction, gun violence or any major national problem desperate for resolution through partisan cooperation. 

But it has disrupted the people’s business, peddled manufactured grievances, invented nonsense conspiracies, pursued bogus impeachment inquiries, and defended an irredeemable grifter. House Republicans are laying the groundwork for the Dear Leader’s return to power via a dysfunctional government that he alone can fix. With authoritarian flourish.

Newly installed House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will do his part to kick our democratic republic to its knees. The election denier and attempted coup plotter is a far-right extremist in sheep’s clothing. The least experienced speaker in 140 years. He presents as a mild-mannered pol from Shreveport but his first action (in his first congressional leadership post on anything) exposed his dark side.

He exploited Israel’s need for emergency aid by making it contingent on costly funding cuts to the IRS. It was a partisan stunt packaged as an innocuous bill to support a key ally. Johnson pulled the outrage as sop to MAGA nihilists who gave him the speaker’s gavel. He knew his contrived maneuver would never fly in Senate or White House and would stall urgent foreign aid in the process.

He did it anyway knowing it would undermine the ability of the IRS to crack down on wealthy tax cheats (and cost taxpayers more than $26 billion in lost revenue, according to nonpartisan analysis by Congressional Budget Office). Johnson chose to pick a fight with Democrats who expanded the tax agency’s funding last year. He called his decision to support aid to Israel only if funding to the IRS was rescinded a responsible attempt “to take care of our priorities” in the House. 

What a crock. Dishonesty right out of the gate from the self-described Bible-driven speaker. Johnson played politics on a crucial funding package to score performative points, own the libs, and undoubtedly crow about it in a political mailer asking for money. On the other side of the Capital, J.D. Vance took copious notes. 

The charlatan — aptly labeled “the shape-shifting Ohio Republican” by conservative columnist George Will — is playing the same pointless games to be noticed.

He’s exploiting the existential struggle of an Eastern European ally fighting an unprovoked war launched against it by Russia. Vance opposes vital aid to Ukraine at its most critical moment to gain political currency with hard-right Republicans and right wing media parroting Kremlin propaganda. Never mind that Ukraine is the only thing keeping Putin from savagely reconstituting the old Soviet bloc by force.

Vance’s shape-shifting was flashing with his shaky justification of aid to Israel and not Ukraine. “Israel needs the aid and they need it immediately.” (Ukraine bombarded daily and brutalized by Russian military atrocities for almost two years doesn’t?) “We should devote it [military aid] to our true allies like Israel.” (Because Ukraine is a less true ally?) 

When Vance isn’t making specious arguments on foreign policy — “Israel has an achievable objective. Ukraine does not” — the once anti-Trump author turned pro-Trump champion is putting on a hollow show for his new bestie. Imitating Tommy Tuberville’s idiocy, Vance has been stalling all nominees for Justice Department posts as revenge for Trump’s mounting indictments for “criming” his way through power and privilege. 

He is holding up essential law enforcement officers — “who prosecute violent crime, terrorism, and crimes against children” from being quickly confirmed to pander to a corrupt ex-president who almost destroyed our democracy. “I think we have to grind the department [DOJ] to a halt,” said Ohio’s embarrassment, based on nothing. 

Vance is building a scary new world that meshes with Speaker Johnson’s vision and those of his fellow extremists in Congress on track to tear it all down. Welcome to Gilead. It’s here.



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Marilou Johanek
Marilou Johanek

Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.