Pedantic little language post today for y'all.
Let's think about two words: rational and reasonable.
Do they mean the same thing? I'm not speaking mathematically here, since as far as I know there is no such thing as a "reasonable" number (ha! see what I did there?).
So they are not in all circumstances identical. In their common usages, though, they tend often to be used as synonyms - or, at least, as terms which are logically linked. Not the same thing, but, confusingly (deliberately so?) deployed, they become allied in the common imagination.
1. To act unreasonably, one is encouraged to think, is to act irrationally.
As irrational acts have been conflated with irrational identities (a person who acts irrationally is regarded as an irrational person), we see a further development of this first idea.
2. To act unreasonably, one is encouraged to think, is to be irrational - that is, to be defined by one's irrationality.
But "irrational" is not a morally neutral term. Irrationality is the defining characteristic of mental illness (as, at least, it is popularly defined, which is the arena with which we are concerned here), which is conflated (again, in the popular imagination) with an active danger to society, either (though to create the following distinction is problematic) of morals or of health.
3. To act unreasonably, one is encouraged to think, is to be defined by being morally wrong and a danger to society.
Put more simply:
3. To act unreasonably is to be a bad person.
and, tied to that:
3a. Unreasonableness is morally wrong.
Here's the thing, though: if we return to our very first proposition - that, in the common view, reasonableness and rationality are linked - we can say:
This should not be the case.
Linking "reasonable" and "rational" - as well as "unreasonable" and "irrational" - leads us in all sorts of morally problematic directions and, almost more importantly, puts us at a functional disadvantage against anyone who does not create such a link (or operate under the assumption that such a link exists).
Put another way: If you behave reasonably, it is rational for your competitor to behave unreasonably.
This fact can be easily illustrated with a number of scenarios. The most obvious might be the classic Prisoner's Dilemma. The "reasonable" thing to do is to keep silent, right? Each serve a sentence, but a relatively light one, and the total sentence time is diminished. If, however, one prisoner is reasonable, the other knows it, and the other is concerned with his own self-interest (i.e. behaving like a good Smithian capitalist), then it is entirely rational to behave unreasonably and fuck the first prisoner over.
If you are acting (putting concerns about the legitimacy of the US republic aside for the moment) on the behalf of your constituents, then this becomes not just a practical but a moral problem: by acting "reasonably" when faced with unreasonable opponents, you are fucking over not just yourself but also the people with whose best interests you have been entrusted. In other words:
For a representative to continue acting reasonably when faced with unreasonable opponents is not just irrational but morally wrong.
When a governmental system is predicated on the ability of representatives to act reasonably together in order to Get Things Done and avoid going off the rails, this is a problematic formulation. Why? Returning to the prisoner's dilemma: if you assume the other player is acting rationally but not reasonably (i.e. fucking you over), then the only rational move is to fuck him over right back in an attempt to lessen the damage to yourself. Expanding this back to politics:
If every representative acts rationally (that is to say, unreasonably) in a system of entrenched two-party opposition, every constituent gets fucked over, but less than they would if their representatives were attempting to act reasonably in the face of an unreasonable opposition.
From this perspective, then, the GOP is actually doing a far better job of representing their constituents than is the Democratic party. By acting unreasonably - by focusing all of their efforts on sabotaging their opposition - they are acting quite rationally, especially since Democrats are operating under the impression that rationality and reasonableness are the same thing.
If we suppose that the primary good for an elected official is to represent his or her constituents, then the Republican members of congress right now are acting in a way that is far more morally praiseworthy than their Democratic opponents.