Not My Monkeys, Not My Circus
I had planned to take a few more days off last week while the new Congress quietly settled into its offices—and then Republicans spent all week in a bitter battle just attempting to elect a Speaker of the House.
Oh, well, as I say at the beginning of my latest article for The UnPopulist, “I have never been happier to be able to say, ‘Not my monkeys, not my circus.’” I was delighted to discover that this is inspired by an old Polish saying—”Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy”—which has become popular in recent years among those of us who used to support the Republican Party.
The UnPopulist gave this the awesome headline, “Congressional Monkeys of the Great Disappointment,” and it’s the second half that I want to draw your attention to. In the speakership battle, Republicans were forced to make concessions and give more power to the very faction that has been losing votes for them in the last three elections.
By doubling down on Donald Trump, and particularly through their embrace of “stolen election” conspiracy theories, the wing of the party led in part by these same House rebels cost Republicans seats in Congress and squandered their party’s natural advantages in a midterm election year in which inflation skyrocketed. Many of these rebels were themselves barely re-elected. In Colorado, Boebert won by a razor-thin margin in a usually safe district.
And yet here they are, acting as if they are the ones in a position to make demands.
This reminds me of a phenomenon you sometimes see in cults: A charismatic leader’s big prediction fails—for example, the end of the world refuses to arrive, resulting in a “Great Disappointment”—which seems as if it ought to disillusion his followers, yet it actually makes them more dogmatic. One reason is that even as the movement dwindles, the truest of the true believers all remain and form a larger portion of what’s left. There are fewer sparks of intellectual independence left to moderate the fanaticism.
Something similar has happened to the Republican Party. November’s result should spur them to make a clean break with Trump and the MAGA movement. But the same result leaves them so weak, with such a narrow majority, that they are more dependent on their crackpot fringe.
Oh, and by the way, it looks like January 8 is the day that Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters in Brazil pulled of their own January 6. Brazil’s politics has some extra complexities that make it different from our own, so I will have a little more to say about this after the dust clears.
This kicks off a year in which the great challenge for the Republican Party will be to find its way back from the wilderness and from the disastrous experiment of the Trump years. It is not off to a promising start.
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