Tom Nichols Says It Best

I try never to miss an article or book by Tom Nichols, who writes for the Atlantic. He has a way of distilling observations into pithy statements that resonate with me (Probably because I agree with them…) A recent essay was particularly “on point.”

Nichols was addressing the situation in Congress, a situation that–sorry for my language–can only be considered a complete and utter shit-show. He began by dismissing the punditry’s seeming belief that the chaos and egomania on display are a betrayal of the Republican voters who voted for these buffoons.

The ongoing drama over electing a speaker of the House is not about governance. It’s about giving Republican voters the drama-filled reality show they voted for and want to see—even at the expense of the country.

Evidence supporting this view is abundant here in Red Indiana, where voters have returned culture warriors like Jim Banks to the House. Banks has enthusiastically supported Jordan, and is one of the many un-productive, anti-“woke,” theocratic and anti-woman fringe characters so beloved by the GOP base. He’s not the only one, but he is one of the worst.

Nichols takes a hard look at the current hard-to-believe debacle that is the Republican caucus:

Like many Americans, I have been both fascinated and horrified by the inability of the Republican majority to elect a new speaker of the House. I admit to watching the votes like I’m rubbernecking at a car wreck, but perhaps that’s not a good analogy, because I at least feel pity for the victims of a traffic accident. What’s happening in the House is more like watching a group of obnoxious (and not very bright) hot-rodders playing chicken and smashing their cars into one another over and over.

As I watch all of this Republican infighting, I wonder, as I often do, about GOP voters. What is it that they think will happen if Jim Jordan becomes speaker? Jordan has been in Congress for 16 years, and he has almost nothing to show for it. He’s never originated any successful legislation, never whipped votes, never accomplished anything except for appearing on Fox and serving up rancid red meat to his Ohio constituents and MAGA allies.

And therefore, as speaker, he would … what? Order up more impeachments, perhaps of Biden-administration officials? Shut down the government? Pound the gavel and prattle on for hours in his never-take-a-breath style? (Jordan’s the kind of guy who probably would have interrupted the Sermon on the Mount.) Perhaps from a position of greater power, he could more effectively assist Donald Trump in undermining yet another election in 2024.

If the continuation of this governance nightmare seems incredible, Nichols points out that it is the consequence of the GOP’s devolution into a White Christian Nationalist cult focused exclusively upon performative signaling and utterly uninterested in governing.

The disorder in the GOP caucus is not some accident or glitch triggered by a handful of reprobates, but rather a direct result of choices by voters. The House is a mess because enough Republican voters want it to be a mess.

This accusation might seem unfair: Jordan is just one member from a super-red (and blatantly gerrymandered) district, and many of his Republican colleagues are furious about this humiliating bungle. But right-wing voters have shown no inclination to punish people such as Matt Gaetz and other political vandals; indeed, Gaetz and his like-minded colleagues are rapidly becoming folk heroes in the Republican Party.

Nichols admits that it isn’t much consolation to recognize that Republicans like Jordan and Banks are doing what their voters want them to do, which is presumably bring government to a halt. After all,  their antics endanger us all.

But to treat the GOP as merely dysfunctional is worse than a distraction; it is a fundamental error that offers the false hope that a mature and governing majority is somehow within reach, if only Jordan or Gaetz would get out of the way….

The twists and turns of the Trump years, in which many elected Republicans became big spenders, critics of law enforcement, and apologists for the Kremlin, illustrated that MAGA voters have almost no interest in anything like conservatism, or even in coherent policy. Instead, they want to indulge resentments and grievances that have little to do with government and everything to do with boredom and dissatisfaction in their own lives. A few years ago, I wrote a book about how such voters project that anger and sourness onto everything around them. Their ennui spurs their desire to see chaos, so they argue that the existing order needs to be shaken up, or burned down, or defunded.

Republican voters want entertainment, not governance.

Send in the clowns? Don’t bother–they’re here.


  1. Currently in Indianapolis we see dueling messages in TV Ads. The D candidate runs ads tying Trump and Jan 6 chaos and GUN culture around the neck or the R. At the same time, I see R candidates, Including Banks, bragging that Trump loves them. It will be interesting to see how those competing messages land in the voting booth. The D mayor thinks Indy voters have had enough Trump crazy. State wide voters — we will see but I worry.

  2. The entire Republican House majority, including the do-nothings, have become that circular firing squad President Obama warned the Democratic party against becoming during Trump’s administration. To add to the problem, they are all shooting blanks so nothing is being accomplished, the entire House may as well be vacant as it appears there is no one at home there.

    Someone posted a list of highly memorable responses from celebrities from “Hollywood Squares” on Facebook yesterday; one came to mind reading this blog and watching the idiocy on CNN and MSNBC for days. Q, “Which of your five senses tends to diminish as you get older?” A from Charley Weaver, “My sense of decency.” As Trump’s party gets older, and stronger, they have no sense of decency remaining to lose. But we, as America, have much to lose if the idiocy isn’t ended within days…better, within hours. They have already brought us 17 days closer to a total government shutdown with their “complete and utter shit-show”. The end of the temporary debt agreement is past the November local elections; this may be what they are aiming for to know their strengths or weaknesses at local levels in 2024.

  3. Rather than “uninterested in governing”, I think it would be more accurate to describe them as very interested in NOT governing. Though, to be fair, I suspect many of them are so ignorant of government and its processes that I doubt they even realize they aren’t governing. Some of them may actually view the performative crap as “governing”.

    But it’s like Trump and his incompetence saved everyone from his worst desires, would it be better if they did govern? What would they do? (Besides tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, I mean.) The fact they don’t want to govern may be the only reason they haven’t passed a federal abortion ban yet.

  4. Speaking of “sense of decency”, sad to see the professor jump on the language slide today and join that mob.

  5. Judy Collins is coming to Bizmarck,NoDak oct 30, just in time for holloween,May I suggest to the republican legislature (super majority)in NoDak that has been called back due a cosntitutional infringment, called out by our state supreme clowns,er court. she could sing, send in the clowns as they take seats in the legislature. thanks Sheila, this subject makes the keep file.
    hail Atlantic.

  6. Nichols’ reference to a car wreck and hot rods is an apt means of describing the Republican Party. Run by men with a serious case of white privilege, who know their daddy will just buy them a new car and make a call to the right guy at the police department to make any problem go away. Then, brag to their buddies how tough they are.

  7. Democrats circle the wagons and never have a problem spending money, other peoples money.
    I saw a quote on Facebook that said, if the value of your degree is not worth you, paying it off, then why is it worth your neighbor paying it off.? No one is taking responsibility for the national debt. Democrats are no longer a tax and spend organization. They are a spend run up the debt and then claim they have to tax everybody to death. But in the Republican party you also have appropriations republic rats, who basically have never met a dollar they couldn’t spend also. so when Jim Jordan wants to step in and take over and hold back our spending problem. They align themselves with the interest of big business. They need to keep printing the money.
    There are a list of things that Democrats don’t like about Jim Jordan, and many of them are just policy issues. And he has been castigated for these things that he believes in. One of the things he’s been castigated for, is being a Trump supporter. But when you really look at it, Trump did not trying to reign in the national debt either. it appears to me that we will continue to punish our children and grandchildren with debt making them slaves more and more Gary Kaltbaum recently stated that we are at $33 trillion and headed towards 50 trillion in a heartbeat pal has been out of control and has made so many mistakes even through the Trump administration trying to grow the economy at 0% and now is forced to raise the interest rates and print $9 trillion. I am less concerned whether the republican party is held together or not, because no one on either side is taking the initiative to simply balance, the budget which you can do . Jim Jordan was a hope, and had within his grasp of the power and ability to do this the big spenders of the United States never want to see this and that’s exactly why you never saw a democrat vote for him all the programs that we want to fund it makes it more difficult for them to be funded the further we going to debt .

  8. Not “pal. “ but Powell has made so many mistakes thru the Trump and Biden administrations allowing Congress to spend trillions in printed money. The market has finally outrun the cash and will now balance out. Notice all the red?
    We had peace during the last administration we have 2 proxy wars and 34 nations want to eliminate the dollar. What a huge problem. Biden is over his head. Another lifetime failed politician propped up for the sake of keeping control of ghe ship. It doesn’t have to be a sinking ship. But this ship is taking on water of national debt at an exponential growth rate, one we wont be able to control outside of conservatives like a Jim Jordan

  9. Perhaps the “no government” policy of the Hoosier polity as exemplified at the polls is caused neither for studied policy reasons (e.g.,small government) nor White Supremacy bias alone but rather for a failing of educational policy as well, to wit: too much readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic and not enough civic education, i.e., too much STEM and not enough history, economics, and political science.

    With a now-deceased wife who was a university professor of education I have in years gone past been party to debate on whether a “rounded” education is superior to degrees offered at IU in Advertising, Marketing and others of limited curricular designs. Irrespective of the objective in choosing such business school degrees, I took the position that business school students should be exposed to both arenas of learning in order to function as civically-minded citizens for the next fifty years. My debate opponents argued that such liberal arts courses should be available to business school students but not as degree requirements since all such precious instruction time was necessary to meet their major’s requirements. We disagreed, and still do.

    I offer the foregoing observations as another possible rationale for Republican disinterest in governing, recognizing that not everyone goes to college, but also recognizing that those who do not have even less exposure to civic education, which raises the issue of lack of emphasis on such teaching in high school, which I will leave for another day.

  10. Congress is in a holding pattern and will remain so unless and until actual action is taken to put Trump himself in court in front of a judge and a guilty verdict is reached. One news item “Judge threatens Trump with imprisonment over blatant violation of gag order.” Indictment was strike one, gag order strike two, now a threat for violation of the gag order should be strike three. As long as Trump’s many criminal indictments are not seeing action against Trump, Congress isn’t sure who their leader is or will be. As long as the possibility of Trump postponing his indictments until after the 2024 Primary Election, there is the possibility he will become the RNC nominated candidate. Then the greater possibility of him becoming president will end all indictments without action. If again appointed to the Oval Office he can then pardon himself and all who have been indicted, convicted, imprisoned and the chance of overturning President Biden’s election could be reinvestigated by his cronies…another First for Trump’s long list of Firsts during and after his presidential term.

    The current situation in Congress is further reaching than the House and the lack of a Speaker; and Tuberville is still stalling out military appointments which lessens the strength of our entire military system.

    And Lester; if your sensitivities are offended by the term “shit-show” consider this to be a deep poo-poo situation and face the facts that we are circling the bowl and the flusher is stuck.

  11. Lester,


    “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Proverbs 13:20)

    Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits. (1st Corinthians 15:33)

    In other words, if this is something you’re immersed in constantly, it rubs off!

  12. John S,

    As reported by The Washington Post, based on Treasury Department data, Trump inherited a $20 trillion debt when he took office, increasing to $27.8 trillion when he left, an increase of 39 percent.

  13. I remember 1/6 when the insurrectionists defaced the Capitol with excrement and the planning committee including Jordan that facilitated that event. The slow coup goes on with them; they’ve managed to sabotage the House during perilous times for this country. I’m glad there were a few Republicans that stood against Jordan and didn’t allow him the majority vote.
    When I see the term “white Christian nationalist” I know what you mean but they are by no means an example of what Christianity is. A better example of true Christianity is President Biden going into war zones to offer aid and try to defuse wars from escalating. I hate when Magas wrap themselves in American flags and wear crosses and try to force their subversive ways on all Americans.

  14. 1. Money the government takes in from taxes is not sequestered somewhere. It is recirculated back into the economy, thus benefiting both individuals and businesses.
    2. Apparently, many huge corporations are (and have been for a long time) making massive profits and paying jaw-dropping salaries, benefits and perks to their executives.
    3. Tax codes are skewed to continually distribute more money toward those who already have the most at the expense of those who have the least.
    4. The IRS is insufficiently funded to be able to do its work properly, thus reducing tax revenues.
    Draw your own conclusions about the most reasonable ways to reduce the national debt.(Hint: it doesn’t involve cutting spending for social services)

  15. We know who sent the clowns – the mega-corporations and the mega-rich who have underwritten decades of anti-government propaganda.

    We also need to recognize who opened the door to let them in – us. The silence we displayed when Reagan declared that government was the problem, when Republicans (only when faced with a Democratic President) extolled the virtues of “divided government” to “prevent harm”.

    The equivocation that we still practice when we say “both sides”, or that the “Democrats have moved left while the Republicans have moved right”. It’s that ugly Overton Window. We forget that Cinton’s “triangulation” meant embracing Reaganism. With Biden, the Democrats have just returned to their New Deal roots, minus the racist Dixiecrats. The Republicans have gone beyond the most right leaning parts of their previous incarnation into authoritarianism and White nationalism.

    Sadly, Sheila’s closing line (with thanks to Stephen Sondheim) is spot on.

  16. The Indianapolis mayoral campaign has devolved to the point of “Mayor Joe hates puppies.”

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