Crazy uncles used to be a family problem. Most families have had at least one, who was guaranteed to produce embarrassment and hard feelings at Thanksgiving gatherings. They never seem able to get along with people, and are always quick to push what they think are their absolutely correct and outsized ideas on everyone else. Many are little more than annoying misfits, though some end up closer to the raging sociopath end of the scale.

Now, unfortunately, they’ve escaped the protection of their families, formed a movement of similarly angry folks, taken over the Republican Party and emerged as a major disruptive force in politics in places like Augusta, the United States Congress and the White House.

Donald Trump is, of course, the face of the movement, along with the likes of Ted Cruz, Paul LePage, Deep South and remote Western Republican governors, Rush Limbaugh and what’s left of Chris Christie.

The ideas of this movement were, not so long ago, considered at best amusingly kooky, and at worst obviously unstable. Now, their ideas have been repeated so often that they’re becoming mainstream, if not normal. And that has created a larger circle of imitators and supporters who we used to think of as sensible conservatives.

Both the uncles and the imitators distrust people who know a lot about something, thinking them biased. But they have confidence in others who know almost nothing about anything, but say it loudly and simply. To them, rumors, conspiracies and worst-case scenarios are real, while the work of trained, professional journalists, scientists and historians is fake news.

The movement reminds me of that dog, in the neighborhood, that chases the bus every day, but never catches it. This year, they caught the bus, and they’ve clamped onto the bumper, but they haven’t the faintest idea what to do next. They’d rather go back to the chasing part.

During the Obama years, the full effect of the movement was obscured by a larger chorus of Republican opposition to anything Obama. But since they’ve seized control in Washington, and come out of the shadows, we’re finally able to see what it means when crazy runs the family.

It turns out that crazy uncles are great back-seat drivers who love to bark out instructions to others. But put them behind the wheel and they tend to careen across lanes and plow over sidewalks.

Place a small group of them into any legislative body, from town council to the legislature to the Congress, and they will disrupt almost anything. “No” is their favorite word and “veto” is their favorite tool. None of which work when you’re actually in charge. When called upon to come up with sensible and workable plans for government and the economy, they freeze. They cannot lead. Heck, they can’t even play nice with other Republicans.

The concentration of crazy uncles in the Republican Party, these days, has made the party unable to govern. Over the first six months of a new Republican administration, when a new president normally would have their greatest power, they haven’t been able to agree on any of the party’s major goals, including a new budget, tax reform or, most notably, health care.

Trump hasn’t helped much. He has the attention span of black fly, a newborn’s thin skin and a tendency to get lost in small feuds. Perhaps even worse, he changes his positions and priorities fast enough to induce signs of vertigo among Republican congressional leaders.

Take health care as one example among many. On the campaign trail, Trump promised better health care at a lower price, and that nobody would lose their health care plan. Then he celebrated a House bill that would have thrown 23 million people off care and raised premiums, while protecting precious tax breaks for millionaires.

Two weeks later, he called that bill “mean” and urged a more kind-hearted Senate bill. The Senate’s bill only dumped 22 million Americans off health care.

Trump now calls for repealing Obamacare altogether, and worrying about a replacement later, which is essentially what the House bill would have done. But only 15 percent of Americans support that idea. Sensible Republicans, meaning the ones who can count and who enjoy their work in Washington, know better.

Historians will see this crazy uncle takeover as a time of both embarrassment and peril for America, and perhaps the beginning of a pronounced slide backward for the country. But those same historians will also appreciate how lucky we were that almost all of the crazy uncles elected during this period turned out to be, to put it mildly, incompetent.

While their ineptitude might be celebrated, it shouldn’t be. This is still a discouraging and dangerous moment for America. Our standing in the world is plummeting, with only 12 to 18 percent of citizens among our allies admiring the current president.

The instability and uncertainly created by this merry band of kooks is pushing us faster toward the next downturn in our economy, and a further decline for the middle class.

The crazy uncles have taken control of America.

Now, it’s the job of all sensible citizens, from across the political spectrum, to take it back.

Alan Caron is the owner of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” and “Reinventing Maine Government.” He can be contacted at:

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