Current events reminded me recently of one of the classics of science fiction, a short story by Ray Bradbury, a giant of the genre who’s still alive and actively writing.

His 1952 chiller, “A Sound of Thunder,” involves a commercial time-traveling firm that takes hunting parties back to the Jurassic to bag dinosaurs.

The point of the story is that even a small change in the distant past could produce big changes over a long period of time — so the firm only allows hunters to shoot dinos that are about to die anyway.

But when one of the hunters steps off the marked path and crushes a butterfly, and the party returns to the present to find that history has been altered (an example of what is today called “the butterfly effect”).

In the new present, an authoritarian ideologue won the presidential election, instead of the humane and wise candidate who had been the winner before the hunters departed.

But that isn’t what made me think of our circumstances. Instead, I pondered what might happen if you shot a dinosaur.

(Something, by the way, that Sarah Palin would excel at. I can just see her shouldering a military-surplus Javelin armor-piercing rocket launcher and taking the head off a T. Rex with one well-placed shot, then whipping out a chain saw to dress it for the freezer. You rock, girl!)

Putting such pleasant visions aside, however, one can see a mortally wounded dinosaur doing considerable damage as it flopped around, crushing trees, flattening foliage, leveling mounds of earth and endangering the lives of all the smaller creatures in the area in the time it took it to expire.

Sort of like Democrats in Congress in recent days.

In some ways, you almost have to admire the single-mindedness with which the party’s leaders are pursuing their legislative goals.

The mere fact that the Nov. 2 election represented a repudiation of the party in votes that, at the state and national levels, brought an unprecedented level of new faces into office, is immaterial to them.

They have the power now, and will retain it for a couple more weeks, and they intend, by God, to use it as they see fit.

Who cares what the voters think, the fools? They may have been crazy enough to give the House over to Republicans, and let them gain seats in the Senate, and turn governors’ mansions and legislatures over to the GOP in stunning numbers, but that doesn’t affect who’s in charge in Congress until January rolls around.

It also doesn’t matter if Congress has an astounding favorability rating of 13 percent, or the approval rating for the party’s signature achievement, ObamaCare, is now at 43 per- cent, with a plurality favoring its repeal. One thing the country is learning from the Democrats is that power is all that counts, the people be damned.

No clearer message to that effect could be sent to the American people than the party leadership’s get-our-pet-monstrosity-though-the-door-before-it-closes 1,924-page, $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, porked to the max with earmarks. True, earmarks aren’t a huge amount in dollars in proportion to the overall budget — but they are hugely symbolic as an image of uncontrolled and undisciplined spending.

Worse than the earmarks is that this budget is intended to set new baseline spending levels in all areas, something that will inflate the deficit for years.

Consider that the Democrats have had all year to put a budget together, just as they have had four years in power to deal with the expiration of the lower current income tax rates that were passed a decade ago.

Now, with their mandate taken away by the voters and the sand in their hourglass down to its final few grains, they are cramming in everything they can, knowing that the next Congress is far less likely to support the kind of packed-down and slopping-over spending this bill contains.

All Congress needs to do, of course, is pass a simple continuing resolution and keep spending at current levels until the next Congress can deal with it for the longer term.

Instead, we face a government shutdown as soon as Saturday unless Democratic leaders can use that threat to blackmail responsible senators and representatives (including many members of their own party) to climb aboard their dying dinosaur as it flops about.

Fortunately, it appears as if many in the GOP have used the recently election results as if they were spinal transplants.

Most members of the party (with the exception of some of the usual suspects, including the GOP’s lame ducks) are digging in to fight, as they should.

This isn’t what Americans voted for last month, and they don’t deserve to have it forced on them by leaders who have no support outside their own tiny chambers.

The GOP hasn’t exactly covered itself with glory in recent years, but it has a shot at redemption now. If it caves, there will be little reason for voters to trust Republicans when they try to tell them they deserve the presidency in 2012.

Please, earn our trust. Put this beast out of our misery.

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:

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