Dysfunction Junction

Romney supporter comforted by mother on election night, at The Venetian in Las Vegas, NV, Nov. 6, 2012. David Becker/Getty

The Beltway Republicans need to call Kofi Annan. The former U.N. chief has of late been specializing in trying to salvage failed states. And a failed state is what the GOP has become nationally.

“Failed state” is the international wonks’ term for a nation that no longer functions as a legitimate country. That’s not to be confused with a “rogue state” like North Korea, which functions, albeit in the pursuit of psycho evil. A failed state can’t even succeed at purposeful harm. But in its impotence, a failed state allows malevolent forces to thrive. The collapse of any authentic government breeds a Hobbesian war of all against all. Think of the Democratic Republic of the Congo—which is neither democratic nor a republic. Or Somalia. The kinds of countries Anderson Cooper reports from.

The textbook (OK, Wikipedia) definition of a failed state contains several elements, not all of which apply to a political party—such as maintaining a monopoly on violence, which, thank God, is not part of the job description for House Republicans. But other tests in the Fund for Peace’s Failed State Index sound as if they were written with Boehner’s bunch in mind:

“Mounting demographic pressures.” Republicans have lost ground among Latinos, Asian-Americans, single women, and younger voters. At this rate, in another quarter century they’ll be left with no one but Clint Eastwood and his chair.

“Delegitimization of the state.” That’s kind of the entire point of modern Republicanism, isn’t it?

“Uneven economic development along group lines.” Check.

“Severe economic decline.” Check.

“Rise of factionalized elites.” Are you kidding me? The country clubbers hate the Tea Partiers, the neocons hate the traditionalists, the libertarians distrust the religious right; this isn’t a political party, it’s Yugoslavia circa 1991.

“Deterioration of public services.” When the red states of Mississippi and Louisiana were devastated by Katrina, Democrats voted in overwhelming numbers to send tens of billions of dollars in federal relief within days. Two months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York and New Jersey, House Republicans couldn’t be bothered to vote on aid until they were publicly spanked by New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie.

“Suspension or arbitrary application of law; widespread human-rights abuses.” This is not even fully metaphorical. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell’s chief of staff in the Bush administration, has said Dick Cheney is worried about being tried for war crimes. (Cheney, it should be noted, has laughed off Wilkerson’s charge, calling it a cheap shot.)

“Widespread vengeance-seeking group 
grievance.” That pretty much describes the Tea Party to a T. And the Club for Growth, and several other right-wing groups who would rather punish heretics than win converts.

This is not, I want to stress, principally the fault of House Speaker John Boehner. Sure, Boehner is a weak leader. But that may be because he has terrible followers. When the fiscal-cliff deal was reached, Boehner took the extraordinary step of casting a vote for it—something Speakers only do when they really want to make a point. House Budget Committee chairman, Romney running mate, and Ayn Rand admirer Paul Ryan voted for the deal as well. No matter. Nearly two thirds of the House Republicans ignored their leader and voted against the deal—including the No. 2 and 3 House Republicans, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy. No wonder the House is Chaosistan.

CO01-gop-failed-state-begala-second "Sure, Boehner is a weak leader. But that may be because he has terrible followers." Alex Wong/Getty

The Senate Republicans are better, but not by much, and perhaps because they aren’t running the joint and so don’t have to actually pass bills. But they did disgrace themselves by blocking a treaty that would have encouraged the world to adopt American-style rights for the disabled. The treaty is based on the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was coauthored by Bob Dole and signed into law by George H.W. Bush. Despite the presence of Dole himself on the Senate floor, only eight Republican senators voted to ratify the treaty—and three of those eight were retiring. The treaty is now dead in the water.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is threatening to shut down the government again—because that worked so well for the GOP against President Clinton. And others are still threatening global economic catastrophe by forcing the U.S. to default on its debt.

To be sure, there are several Republican mayors and governors who seem to be governing effectively. But if Washington Republicans get any worse, Ben Affleck and George Clooney might soon be raising global awareness about the failed state of the GOP.

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