You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Pundits Are Running Out of Lunatics to Compare with Republicans

Find a disturbing historical analogy before they're all taken!

Mark Wilson/Getty Images News

The shutdown poll numbers for Republicans are dreadful. The media coverage, even from conservative opinion leaders, is even worse.

In fact, two weeks into the standoff, the real challenge for writers is coming up with sufficiently novel comparisons for the GOP ultras who started the whole thing: Even the most far-fetched analogies have already been spoken for.

Here's a brief guide:

Colonel Walter E. Kurtz


“‘They told me,' Martin Sheen’s Willard says to Marlon Brando’s Kurtz in Apocalypse Now at the end of a long journey up the river, ‘that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.’” -Ross DouthatNew York Times.

V.I. Lenin

Albert Rhys Williams/Through The Russian Revolution

“It’s a pure Leninist strategy — heighten the contradictions to help hasten the collapse they are certain is inevitable.” -Jonathan Chait, New York

Leon Trotsky

BBC Archives

“The Tea Party’s takeover of congressional Republicans is happening so thoroughly that even Trotsky, a revolutionary whose supporters advocated radicals joining and capturing more moderate parties, might have blushed.” -Richard McGregorFinancial Times

The Weather Underground


“The current crop of congressional Republicans have more in common with the Weather Underground of the 1960s than they do with traditional Republicans, including the man they claim to venerate, Ronald Reagan.” –David HorseyLos Angeles Times


Richard Fisher/Flickr

 “It is scary that the art of governance appears to be dying out, partly a victim of the GOP's Cultural Revolution.” –Michael HirshNational Journal

The American (Know-Nothing) Party

“The swift demise of one half of the Whig Party split should be a sobering lesson for Republicans even beyond the near certainty that Democrats would clean up against a divided opposition in the immediate aftermath of a split.” -Paul RosenbergSalon

Sonny Corleone


“On one side we have Sonny, the hotheaded, impulsive, shoot-now-take-names-later son of Don Corleone. On Capitol Hill, he personifies the tea party followers who would rather die on principle than live to win a later day.” –Kathleen ParkerThe Washington Post

Osama Bin Laden

Canada Free Press

"That would be Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who grabbed headlines by speaking for 21 hours against Obamacare. Cruz is neither Michael nor Sonny but the star of his own movie. He’s Ted bin Laden — the guy who hands out suicide vests and then goes to lunch." –Kathleen ParkerThe Washington Post 

The Jacobins

Trancredi Scarpelli/Look and Learn Category History

"No doubt, Boehner would prefer not to have to contend with such a mess. But he's already dealing with a historic muddle caused by his own Jacobins." –David CornMother Jones

The John Birch Society

U.S. Library of Congress

“When Robert Welch and his John Birch Society continued to allege that establishment conservatives were in cahoots with the Soviet Union, Buckley essentially ejected them from the conservative movement….The question is whether the conservative movement of today will remember that lesson.” –Christopher Parker, The Monkey Cage

 Joe McCarthy 

United Press/Library of Congress

 “I think it’s important because it’s the only comparable time since Joe McCarthy we’ve had this in the Republican Party.” –Carl Bernstein, “Morning Joe.”

Occupy Wall Street 

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

“Achievable results, even reasonable demands, are irrelevant. What the revolution needs is fearless consistency. Movement conservatism, meet Occupy Wall Street.” –Michael GersonThe Washington Post


Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Pierre Poujade, leader of 1950s right-wing shopkeepers' anti-tax protests in France.

“With the rise of the Tea Party, America’s version of Poujadism, the party’s populist wing has sought to exercise more control, and in opposing the Affordable Care Act it has found its latest rallying cry.” –John CassidyThe New Yorker

 Conservative American Republicans 

Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

“So we don’t have to look any further than our own past to find exact cognates for today’s movement to the right. The fever won’t break, because it’s always this high.” –Adam GopnikThe New Yorker

Major T.J. "King" Kong

Columbia Pictures
The final scene from Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove." 

“End game is Ted Cruz riding nuclear bomb while waving confederate flag” –Jason CherkisHuffington Post (on Twitter)

with reporting help from Mimi Dwyer, Alec MacGillis, and Marc Tracy