Recognizing that some professed conservatives in Congress have some trouble remembering all that “Old Testament” stuff, allow me to clarify the reference. At the end of the Book of Jeremiah, the Babylonians come and do everything Jeremiah predicted would happen if the Children of Israel didn’t stop all their idolatry and oppressing the poor and the helpless, i.e., they destroyed the Temple and took King Zedekiah and a greater part of the people into exile. After the assasination of the Jewish Governor Gedaliah, the remaining remnant of the people hit a new low and — against the express command of God as relayed through Jeremiah — flee down to Egypt. Because the people are basically total a–holes, they drag Jeremiah down with them.
Once in Egypt, God sends Jeremiah with a final prophecy in which he reviews all the times God warned the Israelites to turn away from their idolatries — notably the worship of the “Queen of Heaven” — and how each time Israel refused. God patiently moved from warnings to punishments, and still the people stubbornly refused to repent. In fact, they got worse. Now they have come down to Egypt as pathetic refugees suffering a miserable existence, and God is going to give them one last chance to learn their lesson or “He will give unto them the Bitch Slap Of His Wrath so hard they shall not knoweth whether it be Sabbath or the Day of Atonement.” To Jeremiah’s astonishment, the people give him a big “F-you! What the heck do you know anyway? You radical far left prophet you!” Rather than amend their ways and repent, they tell Jeremiah:
“It is only since we have ceased to burn incense and make offerings to the Queen of Heaven that we have known want, and died by the sword and by famine. And when we burned incense, and poured out drink offerings, and made cakes to the Queen of Heaven, were not our men then with us?”
— Jeremiah 44:18-19.
Or, in other words, the lesson the exiled Israelites learn from suffering defeat after defeat, humiliation after humiliation, is that Jeremiah can’t possibly know what he is talking about and the only way to finally win is keep doing exactly the same thing, but even more so. And, if possible, be even more obnoxious about it.
Connection back to today’s politics below . . . .
To judge by the actions of John Boehner, the Ranking Minority Member in the U.S. House of Representatives, and various kindred souls, it would appear that he and his band of defeated, humiliated exiles have come to the same conclusion. Boehner seems determined to go right on making cakes for the Queen of Heaven until they return to the promised land flowing with tax-cuts and earmarks. First, we have his statement on naming Emmanuel Rahm Chief of Staff. It’s tempting to think of this as simply a sad case of adult oppositional defiant disorder. But it’s not. It’s worse. It is running the standard plays out of the Karl Rove playbook: put the other side on the defensive, accuse them of being partisan, get them to retract or defend themselves, try to make a story about the person and the process rather than the substance. And while Boehner and his remaining supporters lap it up with a spoon, they remain unaware that it has become ridiculous.
Boehner followed it up with this op ed in which he basically pretends that nothing has changed except for the little matter of losing complete control of everything and getting a total smack down. Again, this is classic Rove-ian rally the troops stuff: give no quarter, growl like an alpha dog and the Wussycrats will reflexively drop to their haunches and twitch their tails aside like obedient bitches. And, unsurprisingly, the remnant in exile cries “’Peace peace,’ but here is no peace.”
At heart, Boehner and his boys completely fail to recognize the reality that these aren’t Karl Rove’s Wussycrats. This is not the generation that God had to lead indirectly to the Promised Land “lest the people lose heart when they see war and return to Egypt.” This is the generation that grew up in the desert, and even if Moses doesn’t get to enter the Promised Land, but only see it from the mountain top there is no doubt that when the new Democratic majorities and the Obama administration cross the Jordan (O.K., the Potomac), they will come prepared to kick some serious ass and will not be cowed by the pathetic baying of former alpha dogs.
Indeed, to extend the Biblical analogy even more ridiculously — the danger for the new generation of Democrats is that “And Jeshurun grew fat and kicked.” (Deut 32:15) Not by “overreaching” in the manner preached by the Republicans, but by failing to finish the job we elected them to do. (I suggest a brief review of Judges 1:27-36)
Let me conclude with a word of advice for Boehner and the rest who are busy making cakes and pouring libations and burning incense to their version of the Queen of Heaven, devoutly certain that doing so will restore their former fortunes.
Hope is not for pussies. “Bipartisan” does not mean an invitation to get fucked. This is a movement or people who just quietly and without fanfare kicked your conservative ass so hard that you still haven’t figured out yet where the heck you’re landing. Cynical does not substitute for wisdom, nor does believing in people make one naive. For Republicans hoping that Obama will prove a naive Wilsonian waif out of his depth, I invite you to consider how he effectively absorbed and handled the supposedly fractious and unmanageable elements of the traditional Democratic party and brought the Clinton supporters back into the fold. Consider how the great Joe Biden gaffe never happened — despite the effort to turn his comment about Obama being “tested” into a classic conservative noise machine attack — while the mighty Republican machine crumbled into dust and dissolved into petty bickering.
This is a movement designed to be effective. That does not mean the lack of principle and worship of political expediency that politicians have mistaken for “pragmatism.” It means refraining from wasting time and energy or compromising effectiveness for the sole pleasure of venting the spleen and feeling like lords of creation. There will certainly be investigations, purges, and prosecutions. God knows there is plenty to investigate. But they will not be witch hunts for the pleasure of it, despite the fact that you will no doubt see them as such. Still, you would be advised to cooperate when given an opportunity, because this is not about revenge but about trying to repair the damage and make government function properly again.
Do not mistake the failure to take revenge as weakness. You will only make such a mistake once. Think of it as evolution in action or, if you prefer, relentless and intelligent design.
Or continue to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven. Continue to cut your flesh and cry out to Ronald Reagan. But “cry out in a great voice, for he is a god, and perhaps he is talking, or out hunting, or on a journey, or asleep and you must awaken him.” (1 Kings 18:27)
Stay tuned . . . .