On the heels of the second shutdown in a month, the Republican party faces a serious threat. No, not the likely Democratic wave in the 2018 midterms, or the millennial’s exodus from traditional conservatism. In fact, this menace has been lying dormant for 53,941 days. This threat, possibly existential to the party itself, is the searing wit and matching glibness of Charles Dickens.
Dickens, a master of 19th century serial publication, was among the most well known writers of his day and enjoyed immense popularity with England’s working class. Much of this following derived from Dickens’ use of suspense, gathering crowds of illiterate Englishmen together to hang on every word of the designated reader of each new installment of his work. Aware of his following in the lower classes, Dickens would use excoriating depictions of English society to draw raucous laughter from his fans.
Writing in the Victorian Era, Dickens drew from the growing power of Parliament and the English administrative state for much of his social criticism. Dickens juxtaposed the supposed Enlightenment principles of the burgeoning democracy with the bureaucratic squabbling of the rich and powerful who comprised the governing class. A progressive by all accounts, Dickens pointed his pen at all facets of English society for the benefit of his intended audience, the English working class.
Leaving no stone unturned and no aristocrat unscathed, Dickens explored the injustices of Victorian Era England in his masterpiece, Bleak House (1853). It is here that Dickens, almost assuredly to the backdrop of guffaws from the listening Englishmen, mocks the flaws of democracy, presages the very same flaws in the Republican party, and provides the title to this article, writing:
Then there is my Lord Boodle, of considerable reputation with his party, who has known what office is and who tells Sir Leicester Dedlock with much gravity, after dinner, that he really does not see to what the present age is tending. A debate is not what a debate used to be; the House is not what the House used to be; even a Cabinet is not what it formerly was. He perceives with astonishment that supposing the present government to be overthrown, the limited choice of the Crown, in the formation of a new ministry, would lie between Lord Coodle and Sir Thomas Doodle–supposing it to be impossible for the Duke of Foodle to act with Goodle, which may be assumed to be the case in consequence of the breach arising out of that affair with Hoodle. Then, giving the Home Department and the leadership of the House of Commons to Joodle, the Exchequer to Koodle, the Colonies to Loodle, and the Foreign Office to Moodle, what are you to do with Noodle? You can’t offer him the Presidency of the Council; that is reserved for Poodle. You can’t put him in the Woods and Forests; that is hardly good enough for Quoodle. What follows? That the country is shipwrecked, lost, and gone to pieces (as is made manifest to the patriotism of Sir Leicester Dedlock) because you can’t provide for Noodle!
That the country is shipwrecked, lost, and gone to pieces because you can’t provide for Noodle. That about sums it up. Noodles, politicians whose convictions supersede their partisan loyalties, are the inherent sand in the machine, providing quick access to the idea that a democracy, even one that governs many millions, can be ground to a halt at the whim of a few.
A brief survey of the attempts of the Republican party at passing major legislation will show that Noodles abound in the Republican party, hamstringing its ability to pass landmark legislation and seriously damaging the perception of the Republican party in the eyes of voters.
John McCain, delivering the coup de gras to the Republican “Skinny Repeal” plan with a dramatic “thumbs down” no vote, was the first of the Noodles to make his presence known in the Party. After a trying few weeks, wherein he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in mid-july, McCain eventually said that he could not support the bill in part due to the lack of transparency on behalf of the Party.
McCain’s enchantment with the idea of proper Senate procedure is a prime example of how Noodle-ism operates, where personal convictions supersede Party loyalty. In his dissension, McCain demonstrated that the Republican party is on the rack, being stretched on one end by moderates — pushing proper procedure and bipartisanship — and the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus on the other — whose Kentucky champion rose to declare himself a Noodle last Thursday night.
Careening the ship of state into a shutdown most recently was the libertarian, ahem, Republican Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul. In the face of a $300 billion increase in the budget caps for the next two years, Paul rose to filibuster, with no chance of success.
Paul’s filibuster shows the force of party on the opposite end from McCain that is threatening to rent asunder the Republican party, the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus . The Tea Party rode into Washington on promises of fiscal conservatism and spending cuts. These legislators, who often prove intractable in their staunch resistance to bills that are “too moderate” for their taste, are the Noodles who ensure that attempts by moderates toward bipartisanship fail.
These two moments of Noodleism on dramatic display — McCain’s no vote and Paul’s filibuster — are representative of the essential divide within the Party. On one side are moderates who wish the government to precede in normal order and are willing to see Party promises “gone to pieces,” and, on the other are far-right legislators who are willing to shipwreck, however briefly, the country to save their principles.
These noodles have already wreaked their havoc on the Party’s legislative goals, and will likely continue to do so in the immigration debate, with the Noodle-in-Chief staunchly holding out for funding for his wall. However, they are also significantly damaging the perception of the Party in the eyes of voters. The public is not likely to make the distinction between moderate Republican and staunch Republican, but instead punish the party as a whole for the convictions of its Noodles.
Categories: Domestic Affairs