Time off from the presidential campaign -- which is pretty much on autopilot with Hillary Clinton schussing to a landslide victory -- for a look at three shameful political stories: The refusal of Republicans to govern, the politicians of both parties who use vengeance as a weapon to harm their their opponents, and a hoary rigged election myth debunked.
The refusal of Republicans not just to govern, but their unceasing efforts to try to make it impossible for the president to lead, whether it is acting on a Supreme Court nomination or emergency funding for the zika virus, is a slow-moving catastrophe to which we have become so inured that it is like the proverbial elephant in the room.
The pretzel logic of this stratergy, as Dubya would say, has fanned the flames of the extremism that led to Donald Trump's takeover of the party, and explains why Paul Ryan has said he would refuse to campaign for Trump or defend him over his racism, groppages and myriad other vile traits, but falls far short of denouncing him: The deeply cynical House speaker believes that Trump has so little interest in policy that if he were to win, he would automatically sign whatever bills the House sent up to him.
Given the possibility that Democrats will take back the Senate on Clinton's coattails but likelihood that they'll fall short of a House majority, things are bound to get worse. With a diminished House majority, Ryan's hold in the speakership will be even more tenuous, and his ability to control the so-called Freedom Caucus will be well nigh impossible.
The Freedom Caucus -- or Gang of 40, as I like to call them -- are the cannibalistic Tea Party-inoculated congressfolk who, although they represent barely 3 percent of the population, have effectively brought the Republican House caucus to its knees because of a fanaticism not seen in national politics since the run up to the Civil War. In my view, this qualifies these men (and lone woman) as traitors because they reliably betray their country and are the spawn of years of conspiring to destroy the established order.
The established order will be replaced with . . . well, the Gang of 40 hasn't gotten around to figuring that part out beyond their blanket intolerance of multi-culturalism, approval of integration of church and state, so long as the church is white and Christian, and a belief that women are inferior, gays are aberrant, immigrants are criminal, access to health care is a privilege and not a right, and the social safety that is the difference between sufficiency and penury for millions of people should be shredded.
The traitor-in-chief is Jason Chaffetz.
As electoral math goes, this Republican from Utah is a flyspeck. He was sent back to the House by 130,717 voters in 2014 but now intends to cripple Clinton although she will have gotten more than 60 million votes. As Trump pops soap bubbles in one of his gold-plated bathtubs as Clinton is sworn in, Chaffetz promises to convene years of hearings that will make the Benghazi witch hunt a blip in time and not the longest congressional probe since Pearl Harbor. Chaffetz calls Clinton "a target-rich environment" and says the new hearings will focus on . . . well, he hasn't figured out that part yet.
Chaffetz was a Jewish Democrat, then converted to Mormonism during his last year of college in Utah and joined the GOP when former President Reagan was hired as a motivational speaker for Nu Skin, an Amway-esque marketing company where he worked before he entered politics. He is best known for having being humiliated by the president of Planned Parenthood for knowingly presenting a falsified chart during a rigged committee hearing.
My suspicion is that Chaffetz did bad acid in college and we're all paying for it years later, but he is proof that he and other Republicans have been playing politics by their own rules for so long that they no longer known what the rules are. Treating Hillary Clinton's presidency as illegitimate is a consequence of that.
It was a fabulously awful week for politicians who use vengeance as a weapon against their opponents.
In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a one-time rising star in the Democratic firmament, was sentenced to 10 to 23 months in the slammer for illegally leaking grand jury records in an attempt to discredit a critic and then lying about it to a different grand jury, but the biggest news was across the river in New Jersey at the Bridgegate trial where the star wasn't even in court.
That would be Republican Governor Chris Christie, most recently Donald Trump's poodle, who was repeatedly identified by his two former top associates who are on trial as a bully and liar whose filthy fingers, despite his pious denials, are all over the scheme to close traffic lanes at the George Washington Bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing his re-election, causing four days of epic traffic jams.
The New York Times flambéed the governor in an editorial, declaring with appropriate scorn that:
"Mr. Christie remained the offstage villain, the Mephistopheles of Trenton, but it was impossible for even casual trial observers not to discern, from witness after witness, the evident viciousness and grubbiness of the governor and his administration. He does exert a strange gravity, like some lonely planet, pulling lesser moons into orbit while greedily circling other bodies of greater mass and density: first the White House, and then the decaying gas giant Donald Trump. Mr. Christie, who with the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani remains one of Mr. Trump's dead-end defenders, is apparently still leading Mr. Trump's presidential transition team."
Kane's career is at an end and the benighted Christie's should be. He has another year to serve as governor if he is not indicted, which is a possibility, or impeached, which is less so, but yanking his future meal ticket -- his license to practice law, not eat cheesesteaks -- would be a good start.
Philadelphia has been ground zero for scare mongering by Donald Trump and his surrogates that the election will be rigged against him, and Those People will be to blame.
Those People, of course, are African-Americans, and as evidence conspiracy freaks point to the fact that there were 59 precincts in Philadelphia in 2012 where That Person, aka President Obama, got 100 percent of the vote.
The 59 precincts, which are called voting divisions in the City of Brotherly Mayhem, are predominately black, each contain on average only several hundred voters and encompass just a few city blocks. About a quarter of those divisions contain fewer than 20 Republicans and many others many less. In fact, the Philadelphia Inquirer found that most of these Republicans couldn't be traced, had moved or didn't actually vote Republican in a city that is 68 percent non-white.
Democrats outnumber Republicans citywide by a 7-to-1 margin, and the reality is that no one wanted to vote for Mitt Romney in those divisions, something confirmed by the city's Republican election commissioner.
This, of course, is a result of the GOP's own attempts to rig elections by excluding Those People from the party and trying to disenfranchise them when they have the temerity to want to vote. And so the same pattern is likely to be repeated in those divisions on Election Day 2016.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN