Happy Groundhog Day

[ Posted Thursday, February 2nd, 2023 – 17:20 UTC ]

Happy Groundhog Day, everyone! Or, to be more accurate, I should wish everyone a happy Groundhog Day, since I speak not of a small, furry weather prognosticator but instead of the movie of the same name which starred Bill Murray. For those of you who have just woken up from a multi-decade coma, the film subjected Murray to living the same day over and over again in a time loop. Which today certainly has some significant flavors of, you have to admit.

The new Republican House under the leadership (and I do use that term very loosely) of Speaker Kevin McCarthy seems determined to replay the days of the Red Scare, which prominently featured another congressional McCarthy (Joe). The House just voted on the important business of the day (a tip-top priority for all those American voters who elected all these Republicans, no doubt): denouncing socialism. Yes, you read that right. The debate was lively, and included a Democrat noting the pointlessness of denouncing past totalitarian dictators like Joseph Stalin when the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination is a man who absolutely loves totalitarian dictators such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. This was pointed out in rather amusing fashion by Representative Maxine Waters:

[Donald Trump] loves Kim Jong Un, who is condemned in the resolution. Regarding North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump said Kim "wrote me beautiful letters, and they're great letters and we fell in love." You sure you want to hear the rest of this?

The most intelligent commentary, though, came from the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, Representative Jim McGovern, who called it: "the stupidest bill I have ever seen. Just a stupid, stupid, stupid bill. Let me just say to my Democratic colleagues: Vote however you want on this. Doesn't matter, because it does nothing at all."

Meanwhile, over in the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Matt Gaetz put forth a proposal to have the committee members recite the Pledge of Allegiance before their meetings. Democrats pointed out that they already recite the Pledge every day on the House floor, so this would be rather redundant. Representative Jerry Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the committee, expressed his exasperation: "I don't know why we should pledge allegiance twice in the same day to show how patriotic we are." Representative David Cicilline put forth his own patriotic proposal as an amendment which stated that the Pledge "shall not be led by an individual who supported an insurrection against the government of the U.S. in any way," which elegantly pointed out the Republican hypocrisy, but his amendment was defeated.

Again, this all has a very 1950s flavor to it, and thankfully there is a brilliant spoof of such public displays of hypocrisy from Joseph Heller's classic Catch-22. The World War II airbase which forms the setting for most of the book is likewise gripped with a frenzy of such public displays of hypocrisy, which is dubbed the "Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade." Here's how it all worked out in the story:

Milo carefully said nothing when Major ----- de Coverley stepped into the mess hall with his fierce and austere dignity the day he returned and found his way blocked by a wall of officers waiting in line to sign loyalty oaths.

At the far end of the food counter, a group of men who had arrived earlier were pledging allegiance to the flag, with trays of food balanced in one hand, in order to be allowed to take seats at the table. Already at the tables, a group that had arrived still earlier was singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in order that they might use the salt and pepper and ketchup there. The hubbub began to subside slowly as Major ----- de Coverley paused in the doorway with a frown of puzzled disapproval, as though viewing something bizarre. He started forward in a straight line, and the wall of officers before him parted like the Red Sea. Glancing neither left nor right, he strode indomitably up to the steam counter and, in a clear, full-bodied voice that was gruff with age and resonant with ancient eminence and authority, said:

"Gimme eat."

Instead of eat, Corporal Snark gave Major ----- de Coverley a loyalty oath to sign. Major ----- de Coverley swept it away with mighty displeasure the moment he recognized what it was, his good eye flaring up blindingly with fiery disdain and his enormous old corrugated face darkening in mountainous wrath.

"Gimme eat, I said," he ordered loudly in harsh tones that rumbled ominously through the silent tent like claps of distant thunder.

Corporal Snark turned pale and began to tremble. He glanced toward Milo pleadingly for guidance. For several terrible seconds there was not a sound. Then Milo nodded.

"Give him eat," he said.

Corporal Snark began giving Major ----- de Coverley eat. Major ----- de Coverley turned from the counter with his tray full and came to a stop. His eyes fell on the groups of other officers gazing at him in mute appeal, and, with righteous belligerence, he roared:

"Give everybody eat!"

"Give everybody eat!" Milo echoed with joyful relief, and the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade came to an end.

Scathing satire seems the best commentary, at this point, especially considering that Gaetz was not so long ago himself under federal investigation for child sex trafficking.

Meanwhile, Groundhog Day is in full swing in the presidential race, as the most likely outcome (although it is still very early in the cycle) seems to be that Donald Trump will face Joe Biden once again. It's déjà vu all over again, in other words (Yogi Berra's words, to give credit where it is due).

Even the subtleties match up. I read a story today about an interview Trump just gave where he refused to unequivocally state that he'd support whoever the 2024 Republican nominee turns out to be. Just as he did back in 2016. If history repeats itself, this will no doubt lead to much garment-rending among the Republican Party leadership, since the alternative to Trump graciously losing the nomination and then supporting whoever beat him would be Trump launching a third-party bid for the White House, which (then as now) would almost certainly guarantee four more years of a Democrat sitting in the Oval Office.

Of course, history might repeat itself in full, which would mean Trump actually wins the Republican nomination for the third time in a row and the whole thing becomes a moot point. President Joe Biden is quite likely to announce his re-election bid within the next few weeks, which could set up a repeat of the Trump-Biden 2020 contest. If this does come to pass, hopefully history will also repeat itself in the polling booths, on Election Day.

Further commentary on any of these farcical historical callbacks almost seems redundant, to me at least. So let me close the same way I opened this article -- by wishing everyone a happy Groundhog Day.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


One Comment on “Happy Groundhog Day

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    For those of you who have just woken up from a multi-decade coma ...

    They would be the lucky ones. Heh.

Comments for this article are closed.