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Davidson writes: "Congress has closed for a five-week vacation, leaving the rest of us to figure out what happened in the several days of yelling about bills that no one was willing to pass, and to ask whether there is anything left of the Republican Party."

Rand Paul has opened deep divisions in the GOP. (photo: Getty Images)
Rand Paul has opened deep divisions in the GOP. (photo: Getty Images)

The GOP's Ball of Cheerful Hate

By Amy Davidson, The New Yorker

03 August 13


ongress has closed for a five-week vacation, leaving the rest of us to figure out what happened in the several days of yelling about bills that no one was willing to pass, and to ask whether there is anything left of the Republican Party. The best approach might be to put together a diagram of who hates whom in the G.O.P., except that the drawing would get too messy; you'd need an Etch A Sketch and, like Mitt Romney, after a while you'd just want to shake it.

To start simply: John McCain hates Rand Paul, so much that he suggested, to The New Republic's Isaac Chotiner, that he might prefer Hillary Clinton for President. Chris Christie hates Rand Paul, so much so that he said he was not interested in having a beer with him. Rand Paul seems to hate Chris Christie, since he called him the King of Bacon and mocked him to an audience in Tennessee by saying, "Gimme, gimme, gimme-give me all my Sandy money now." But then Christie had compared Paul to Charles Lindbergh-for his isolationism, not the aviation. What was strange about the Paul-Christie spat was that Charles Krauthammer and other observers spoke of it solemnly, as though it was the intellectual engagement on the future of foreign policy that the G.O.P. had been longing for. Really what we were talking about was Christie saying that libertarians like Paul ought to come to Jersey and sit across from a 9/11 widow before saying that the N.S.A. shouldn't collect all the information it wants to.

The other event of the week that was spoken of in similar terms was the Senate's collective primal scream at Rand Paul when he introduced a bill to take away Egypt's foreign aid and to use the money on infrastructure at home. He lost, by a count of eighty-six to thirteen, after the debate was extended so that everyone had a chance to tell him that he was awful and would destroy America's power. The tally would have been more "lopsided," Dana Milbank wrote, except that "in the final seconds of the roll call and after the outcome was obvious, a bloc of six GOP lawmakers led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) quietly cast their votes with Paul-not in agreement with him but in fear of the tea party voters who adore him." So there are also the people who hate Paul because they have to pretend to like him.

Republicans don't just hate Rand Paul for being something of a libertarian. There are also those who would object to how Paul would use that foreign-aid money-for building bridges. The Tea Party has become a confused (and less and less useful) shorthand both for libertarians of the Justin Amash, anti-domestic-spying variety, and for those who just want to wildly cut taxes. On Thursday, the Senate and House gave up trying to pass a transportation bill. Instead, the Minority Whip, Eric Cantor, spent the day getting a bill through the House that would have prevented the I.R.S. from dealing with any part of Obamacare, including provisions that involve tax credits, because he and his colleagues hate the I.R.S., taxes, and government agencies doing their jobs. They do, however, love legislative action that gets them closer to their apparent goal of arranging a vote to repeal Obamacare for every member of the Republican caucus. (They are at forty.)

The I.R.S. bill will fail in the Senate, where Ted Cruz is busy adding on to the list of reasons that other Republicans hate him by zipping around saying that they are cowards if they don't join him in threatening to stage a debt-ceiling-shutdown crisis unless Obamacare is defunded. "Let me be clear: I don't trust the Republicans," Cruz said. Democrats were at least candid about being "dangerous," while too many members of the G.O.P. were joining a "surrender caucus." He often smiles when he says things like that, so it's hard to tell whom exactly he hates-maybe everybody. McCain hates it when anyone says that he's too scared to vote for things that will cause the world economy to implode-"It's been a long time since I've been scared," he told ABC.

Other members of the Party might mind that Cruz forgot the part about pretending that the shutdowns were about unsustainable spending rather than weapons of fiscal terrorism, or about the Senate supposedly being less crazy and reckless than the House. But Cruz might be lost in a wave of general ineffectiveness: so many spending bills haven't passed that the government might shut down on October 1st without anyone really being clear about why.

In fairness, it seems that a good number of Republicans don't actually hate Senator Marco Rubio; they are just getting really annoyed at him, maybe for overthinking how to position himself on an immigration bill on which they would rather take no position at all. That is another set of divides: Republicans who hate immigration, those who hate that the Party is ending up in a place where it will lose the Hispanic vote, and those who hate that they have to think about this at all.

McCain told Chotiner that he wouldn't put Rubio in the same category as Paul, Cruz, or Mike Lee, the Utah senator who this week told Rush Limbaugh that Republicans needed to cut off all funds associated with "this wasteland that is the world of Obamacare" before "it starts, you know, buying some loyalty" by benefiting people.

John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, hates that it has become obvious that members of his caucus don't listen to him: some of them hate spending so much that they won't vote for any bill with a dollar figure above sequestration levels, or below it either. There are some who hate doing nothing, and others who are trying to chase away primary opponents, and maybe work out some of the stress, by pushing a bill limiting abortion rights-one that whatever semi-moderates are left in Congress will hate voting for or against.

Gail Collins, in the Times, imposed some intellectual order on all this by pointing out that the key line is between the Senators who want to run for President in 2016-Paul, Rubio, Cruz-and everyone else. That makes a little more sense than pretending that the G.O.P. is having a serious internal debate about foreign policy or the budget, let alone about a vision of government or citizenship. It just doesn't fully encompass the chaos. The Republican Party has not embarked on a grand civil war, with battle lines drawn and generals appointed. It's more like one of those fights in a cartoon, with characters jumping into a swirl of limbs and dust and cowboy hats. It is a rolling ball of cheerful hate, careening downhill, uprooting trees and legislative priorities, heedless of where it, or the country, is going. your social media marketing partner
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