When it comes to his view of the United States government, Representative Bob Good, a right-wing Republican who represents a Virginia district that was once the domain of Thomas Jefferson, doesn’t mince words.
“Most of what Congress does is not good for the American people,” Mr. Good declared in an interview off the House floor as the chamber descended into chaos last week. “Most of what we do as a Congress is totally unjustified.”
Though his harsh assessment is a minority opinion even among his Republican colleagues, it encapsulates the perspective that is animating the hard right on Capitol Hill and, increasingly, defining a historically dysfunctional moment in American politics.
With a disruptive government shutdown just days away, Washington is in the grip of an ultraconservative minority that sees the federal government as a threat to the republic, a dangerous monolith to be broken apart with little regard for the consequences. They have styled themselves as a wrecking crew aimed at the nation’s institutions on a variety of fronts.
They are eager to impeach the president and even oust their own speaker if he doesn’t accede to their every demand. They have refused to allow their own party to debate a Pentagon spending bill or approve routine military promotions — a striking posture given that unflinching support for the armed forces has long been a bedrock of Republican orthodoxy.
Defying the G.O.P.’s longstanding reputation as the party of law and order, they have pledged to handcuff the F.B.I. and throttle the Justice Department. Members of the party of Ronald Reagan refused to meet with a wartime ally, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, this week when he visited the Capitol and want to eliminate assistance to his country, a democratic nation under siege from an autocratic aggressor.
And they are unbowed by guardrails that in past decades forced consensus even in the most extreme of conflicts; this is the same bloc that balked at raising the debt ceiling in the spring to avert a federal debt default.
“There is a group of Republican members who seem to feel there is no limit at all as to how you can wreck the system,” said Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “There are no boundaries, no forbidden zones. They go where relatively junior members have feared to tread in the past.”
The faction, personified most vividly by 20 or so emboldened conservatives in the House, has been able to venture there in large part because of the evenly divided Congress, where each party holds a slim majority in one chamber, giving outsize influence to any bloc — in this case, the most extreme on the right. [Continue reading…]