Back in the 1990s, I bought my first house. It was in a shady section of East Memphis called Normandy Meadows, a nicely kept neighborhood consisting mainly of modest but well-constructed homes built in the '50s. I was fortunate to find a house owned by a single family who had collected 40 years worth of receipts,proving the house was well maintained. After years of semi-reclusive apartment dwelling, I was so delighted with my backyard that I got a boxer dog and named him Floyd. My expectations for my new home were so high, I figured that if I began with a puppy, I could work my way up to having interactions with human beings once again, and if so, they could have a place to come and hang out. I looked forward to the joys and responsibilities of home ownership despite the retro kitchen, unchanged since the Elvis era.
No sooner had I taken occupancy, however, than I began having plumbing problems — like a flooding bathroom and eternally dripping faucets. The plumber said the water pipes were rigged in such a way that condensation from the air conditioner drained from the attic into the back of the porcelain throne. He used plastic piping to reroute the water.
A week later, I saw water spots and cracks in the living room ceiling and called an air-conditioning company to make an estimate on a home visit. The AC repairman couldn't believe that the unit was installed in the attic and imagined it had been like that for 40 years. He placed plastic sheets beneath the pipes and informed me that soon I was going to have to replace the entire system. My dreams of domestic tranquility were further shaken when a crack in the ceiling opened up as I scrambled for a bucket to contain the steady leak. It was early morning, when Floyd and I awoke to a crash that sounded like a meteor had hit the roof. The entire living room ceiling had caved in, covering the floor with soggy sheet-rock and a substance that resembled oatmeal. The repairman just shook his head and said it probably took years for the ceiling to become so saturated.
I now had a new home that needed major repairs, so I became enraged at the house and decided to punish it. I called an air-conditioning company whose main business was selling screen doors, and they didn't even believe in AC. I told them the stupid thing was broken and to go up there and do whatever it took to fix it, sort of like going to an auto mechanic and saying, "I'm not sure what the problem is, but spare no expense correcting it." Then I found the most fly-by-night contractors possible, and they set about the business of disassembling my home to clear the attic of heavy equipment. When everyone was finished, the heat and air didn't work, holes in the ceiling revealed waterlogged crossbeams, and all the floors were warped from standing water. But I taught that damn house a lesson: never disappoint me again. When my anger had been sated, however, the house was uninhabitable, and I had to torch the place. As an American major said after the burning of a Vietnamese hamlet: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."
Of course, I'm lying about that last paragraph. I did what any sensible homeowner would: I put the place in order and sold it. My point is, intentionally damaging the house you live in over some repairable internal defects is the same logic voters just used in attempting to put our other house in order: the House of Representatives. It was a creaking machine before, but rather than oil the wheels of government to turn smoothly, the American people chose to throw a bunch of monkey wrenches, collectively known as the Tea Party, into the gears. If the electorate's intention was to slow the Obama agenda, they may have succeeded in bringing it to a screeching halt.
Future speaker John Boehner has already announced his first legislative priority is to repeal Obamacare. Big mistake. Not only would the Senate refuse to consider such a measure, the president would veto it if they did. The electoral red sea of 2010 was about jobs and unemployment. Everyone has a friend or family member who has been dismissed, downsized, cut back, or cut loose, and people are fearful. If the new Congress decides to waste time rehashing a year's worth of jabbering over health-insurance reform instead of instituting a jobs program, they will face a blowback that would give Newt Gingrich whiplash.
It will be interesting to see how the Tea Party newcomers get along with established Republicans. The country is still in a time of crisis and in desperate need of legislative compromise, but the Tea Party enters Congress with a mission: Destroy Obama. If they could only snap out of it and see that Obama is more like Eisenhower than FDR, they might try to work with him for the common good. But don't expect any New Deal programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps or the Works Progress Administration coming out of this Congress. Their job is to slow down the workings of government and create enough political potholes for Obama to be defeated in 2012.
The president either has a secret strategy or he's a slow learner. He continues to extend an olive branch to the opposition, and they continue to beat him with it. Boehner often refers to himself as a "Reagan Republican." Unfortunately, he no longer means the former president but Ronald Reagan's wife, Nancy, whose simple philosophy has encapsulated an entire political movement into three words: "Just Say No."