By Senator Lena C. Taylor
On August 29, 2012 then-President Barack Obama tweeted “The GOP drove our economy into a ditch—and now they want the keys back.” It was a euphemism for the problems Republicans had perpetuated and created prior to his election. It reminded me of this great article written by Carol E. Lee a few years earlier.
In 2010, in Politico, Lee wrote “The first time President Barack Obama used the metaphor at a Democratic fundraiser in April, he spent exactly four sentences on it: “And yet, after driving our economy into the ditch, they decided to stand on the side of the road and watch us while we pulled it out of the ditch,” Obama said at the Los Angeles event for Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. “They asked, ‘Why haven’t you pulled it out fast enough?’ ‘I noticed there’s, like, a little scratch there in the fender. Why didn’t you do something about that?’”
In explaining the allegory, Lee said “It started out simple enough. There was a car (the economy). And a ditch (the recession). Republicans had been driving the car (were in power) for eight years. It went into the ditch. And now that Democrats have dug the car out (won power and passed a bunch of economic recovery policies), the Republicans want back the keys (power).”
Over the years, I heard Obama say some iteration of the metaphor a dozen times. It never got old, because at its core, the sentiment was true. Republicans have long held themselves out as some bastion of responsible leadership. The tough on crime, no nonsense, and bible-thumping, gun-toting, merry-band of legislators, would tell anyone that would listen, that they were the only ones who could save the nation. But right now, they can’t even save themselves.
In real and painful time, we are watching a bloodletting of the Republican conference in the U.S. House of Representatives. As of this writing, an extremist cohort of the House GOP has voted against Rep. Kevin McCarthy nine times. His bid for Speaker of the House and been parceled, pimped, and primed for failure. And if you think you hear the sound of violins, you don’t. McCarthy is as much responsible for his failed attempt to secure leadership, as anyone else in the House chambers.
Republicans have been imploding for some time. Well before the gold escalator’s occupant descended on The Grand Old Party, homegrown bombs were already imbedded among them. Far-right extremists disguised as wannabe politicians and explosive caucuses like the Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus, were welcomed into the fold. Existing party members had no platform, were not interested in governing, or passing legislation that would help the majority of Americans.
McCarthy and his predecessors, cohorts and fellow GOP legislators did everything they could to wrestle away the keys to the car, but had no idea where they were going. Installing Donald Trump as their driver, their tires have long left the path of leadership and responsible governance.
In front of our eyes, their party has been hijacked or carjacked, in keeping with Obama’s simile. And like most car wrecks, we can’t look away.
As we pass by and shake our heads, it will serve us well to remember that driving, like getting elected to office, is a privilege. Everyone doesn’t belong behind the wheel. All of the chaos and drama that has accompanied the election of the Speaker of the House, the insurrection, election deniers, etc. proves Republicans aren’t ready for a learner’s permit, yet alone the keys.