Perhaps one difference is that this time, the ask — what they are
fighting for — is actually less clear. On Jan. 6, amid the
chilling cries of “Hang Mike Pence” and “Stop the Steal,” the ask
was at least coherent: reinstate Donald Trump as president. The
foggy MAGA ask of 2023? I have no idea. Power, sure. Fame and
celebrity, definitely. Mumble mumble debt ceiling. OK. As John
Boehner wrote in his 2021 memoir, the endgame now is chaos itself:
What they’re really interested in is chaos … They want to throw
sand in the gears of the hated federal government until it fails
and they’ve finally proved that it is beyond saving. Every time
they vote down a bill, they get another invitation to go on Fox
News or talk radio. It’s a narcissistic — and dangerous — feedback loop.
Governance is not the point, it’s the enemy. Government is not the
point, it’s the enemy. In 2021, that was on display in what we
could all recognize as violence and threats of bodily harm. In
2023, it’s being done with speeches and backroom negotiations and
the stand-up-sit-down whack-a-mole energy of a Monty Python
sketch. Those chairs they are seeking? It’s not to do anything
with them, beyond further themselves. None of it will lead to a
better, healthier, more functional or stable government, even if
the week doesn’t end with feces smeared on the walls.
I agree that Republican nihilism — or perhaps better put, burn-it-all-down-ism, is genuinely dangerous. But I disagree that it also hasn’t been very funny to watch.