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Conservative Review

Failure Theater extends run in swamp

Did you really think that a Republican Congress was going to actually repeal Obamacare? Despite campaigning on the notion for seven years, the power brokers never really wanted to be the ones to take away a benefit from someone. Arizona Senator John McCain’s vote late Thursday night was just another act in the longest running show in the swamp: Failure Theater.

As I described in April, during a manufactured budget crisis, Failure Theater is when GOP leadership holds a flurry of votes and acts tough, but when it comes down to it, they cave. Last week just saw the most spectacular cave of all. Hopefully this time will open conservatives’ eyes to the ruse.

In pre-Imperial Rome, senators tried to outdo each other by putting on the most spectacular games and festivals for the people. That’s how they increased their popularity so that they could win the consulship and rule Rome as one of two leaders for a year.

The emperors kept up the games, which we know now as the circus from the famous phrase, give them “bread and circus.” That’s exactly what Republican senators – and representatives – have been doing for years. They’ve been giving GOP voters a good show, to keep them coming back to the seats.

What has been the price of admission for the masses? That price has been merely money, sweat, and votes.

Except last week was different. Sen. John McCain striding up to the podium, and in true Roman fashion brandished a thumbs down, killing any chance at repealing Obamacare. In doing so he exposed the GOP’s longstanding promises to repeal Obamacare “root and branch” as the ultimate McGuffin. Repealing Obamacare was the plot device which merely served to keep the Failure Theater in the black.

McCain himself, like the other Republicans, ran on repeal of Obamacare as central part of his reelection effort. Why wouldn’t he, that’s where the money was, and that promise was central to the last seven years of Republican victory.

The National Review’s Jim Geraghty compiled some of McCain’s promises in his 2016 reelection campaign. 

For years, those of us in the constitutional conservative wing of the movement have been warning about election season promises that don’t translate to legislative season victories. We’ve explained time and time again, this is merely Kabuki, Failure Theater (or however else you want to describe what GOP leaders have done to fraudulently garner votes and, more importantly, financial support). For that we’ve been labeled “extremists” who don’t want to “compromise.” 

Thursday night, McCain played the part of the Wizard. He strode up on stage, in the twilight of his career, and pulled away the curtain that hid the reality of the entire stage show. He showed, once and for all, that in fact the longest running play in the swamp is “Failure Theater.”

Will audiences sign up for another season? Or now that they know the plot, will they demand a refund? The 2018 election season is gearing up, we’ll all soon see. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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