The Republicans are fundamentally unserious people

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  • If it feels like nothing is getting done in America right now, that's because there isn't.

  • In large part that is because the Republican Party is made up of unserious people, only interested in perpetuating their own power.

  • The President cannot be taken seriously when he says he wants to make a deal — any kind of deal. The DOJ cannot be taken seriously when it says it is doing an investigation. And Senate Republicans cannot be serious about coronavirus aid negotiations.

  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

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It's hard for the government to get anything done in this critical moment in American history, and the reason for the disastrous gridlock is simple: Republicans are fundamentally unserious people.

There's a pandemic raging, 898,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits just last week, and the stock market is convulsing because Washington can't pass an economic stimulus bill. The Democrats passed a more than $3 trillion plan in the House in June, while Senate Republicans have argued since this summer that we don't need a large scale bill.

And no matter what the headlines claim about back and forth between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Senate GOP's position hasn't changed either — and that's all that matters. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will spend no more than $500 billion on a "targeted" (some may say "paltry and inadequate") stimulus bill to combat the pandemic, and he plans to bring such a doomed bill to the floor of the Senate.

If it feels like there's some action on this front, it's only because the Trump White House is negotiating with House Speaker Pelosi like a pig on LSD. Trump has said he wants an even bigger bill than the one House Democrats passed. Of course, such a bill does not exist, he hasn't done much to whip votes for such a bill with fellow Republicans, and since the president is lagging in the polls he has little leverage over McConnell.

Talking to the White House is a waste unless it can move McConnell (unlikely). And McConnell's bill likely won't provide aid to hurting state and local governments, so it's a no-go with Democrats. These are not serious negotiations, because the Republicans are not serious about this issue — or really anything else.

The only thing Republicans seem serious about doing is appointing judges, not just in the Supreme Court — where some polls show their rush confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett has met widespread disapproval from Americans — but in courts all over the country.

That is because appointing judges and creating a conservative judicial system perpetuates their power. So Republicans are working fast, appointing more judges to appeals courts than any president since Carter. But even there, the GOP is not taking things that seriously — making the power grab obvious. Trump has also nominated more judges rated "not qualified" by The American Bar Association (ABA) to the bench than any President since 1989 (when the ABA started keeping track).

Aside from all that, you won't see Republicans get much done aside from cutting taxes. The GOP is a party without a plan or a platform (at this year's RNC it presented one thing as its platform — Donald Trump.) It has no ideas, no vision for the future of America, no policy proposals, no ambitions beyond maintaing power for itself and those who support it. That is why it is more than useless at a time when we desperately need to get things done, it's dangerous. This Republican Party will put its own aspirations for power ahead of the public good.

The GOP's shallowness extends beyond the pandemic to issues it used to champion. Think Republicans are serious about the rule of law? Just this week the Department of Justice was forced to admit that an investigation into whether or not Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign gleaned nothing. Trump had been crowing that Attorney General Bill Barr would announce something as an October Surprise for the Trump campaign. But lo, here is October and the evidence has not materialized.

How about national security? The Washington Post reports that Barr and others in the Trump administration have known that Rudy Giuliani was involved in a Russian intelligence operation, feeding misinformation to the President. They aren't serious people, though, so they didn't do anything about it.

Republicans don't have a plan to replace Obamacare or an idea of how to keep people with preexisting conditions covered if the Supreme Court agrees with the Trump administration and strikes down the law, because they are not serious.

Republicans do not have a plan to distribute a coronavirus vaccine when it shows up because they are not serious. And we don't know the truth about the president's health right now because Republicans are not serious.

Now, perhaps you think that Pelosi should just come to some kind of deal with the White House, and see if Trump will take time off from ranting on Twitter and calling in to Fox News to whip the votes for an aid bill that could pass the House. In a normal administration this might be the right course of action. But Trump's administration and his Republicans are not normal. People who try to act like they are normal get burned.

Just ask US Trade Representative and China hardliner Robert Lighthizer. He led negotiations for the US-China Phase Once trade deal, and he is now trying to save the deal from forces within the Trump administration that want to kill the deal they themselves negotiated less than a year ago. He thought that White House really wanted to get something done on the US-China economic front — his mistake.

This is what you get when you try do serious things with fundamentally unserious people.

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