His level of exasperation with Republican malfeasance and ineptitude was pretty evident in his press conference yesterday, and mirrors what the public is saying in polls. You saw today’s? Where Congressional approval has hit … 5%? Scrape away a bit and you’ll find that number is an overwhelming condemnation of the Tea Party factor.
Obama certainly knows — and said — that we can’t go on like this, with the same bunch of “neo-confederates” (TM former Republican staffer Mike Lofgren) ginning up a national crisis every three months. I suspect he is factoring that into his thinking talk of a “deal” that kicks this can a month down the road. Why do that? What does that really serve? At some point enough has to be enough, and the public at large is clearly on board with that line of thought.
The GOP’s self-acclaimed “brain guy”, Paul Ryan, is now arguing in effect that “negotiations” will suffice as a “win” for the GOP in this mess, pointedly excluding any reference to Obamacare at all. (Shades of Emily Litella … “Never mind.”) But do “negotiations” mean renewing the cycle of extortion under a different banner? Obama has to be intensely skeptical that the GOP has the means to put an end to its own public immolation, which is to say the persistent fear and uncertainty its insurgent Tea Party caucus keeps throwing up against economic recovery.
This has to stop.
His dilemma though lies in playing this fiasco out to a fiery end. Much as he smells an opportunity to reduce the GOP to a non-factor even in off-year elections, Obama — unlike Ted Cruz — has a moral/Constitutional obligation to remain the adult in the room no matter what. Against a tide of fools and cowards he must protect the US and world economies from an unprecedented financial body blow. Put another way, the effects of a credit default would be so devastating, and directly attributable to the GOP, it could very well flush away the party’s House majority in 2014 and give Obama two years to re-set proper governance before handing off to the next president — which given the GOP’s complete and utter inability to address immigration, women’s issues and their role in perpetrating yet another financial catastrophe — would almost certainly be a Democrat.
But even if the effects of a default prove less than what top economists and Wall St. pros are talking about — another 1600-2000 drop in the Dow, (beyond the 1000 it has already dropped), a doubling of interest rates on home loans and cars — how does Obama, morally, consent to so great an unknown? Moreover, he has to assume that if he does the decent, adult thing and throws John Boehner a lifeline — a promise to whack the Medical Device Tax or some transparently bogus face-saving gimmick — Boehner is so weak and incompetent he’ll be back in three months fighting another Tea Party fight.
Obama also understands that he is up against a Constitutional dilemma in terms of acceding to minority rule, and that the final solution to this insurgency lies only in, as I say, a devastating and unequivocal defeat for the Tea Party movement … which, quite ironically, would also be the biggest gift he could ever give both Boehner and Mitch McConnell.
Who exactly the Tea Party is, and what they believe, was on display (again) in a survey conducted this summer and fall by Democracy Corps, a James Carville-Stan Greenberg operation.
The picture is fundamentally unchanged, although arguably even more radicalized since 2010. The Tea Party is overwhelmingly white, rural, primarily Southern, and powerfully motivated by Evangelical notions of cultural collapse. Which is not to say religion is the sole driving force. Antipathies toward minorities, intellectual elites and, ironically, the affluent, have merely driven Evangelicals toward the Tea Party, which they see as the best vehicle available for doing battle with ruinous liberalism, otherwise known as modernity.
The essential analysis is that the personality fueling the Tea Party, (i.e. controlling the GOP and having a calamitous effect on the nation), feels deeply marginalized and fearful of being “disrespected” in a rapidly evolving culture. The Tea Partier knows he is being left behind. His days of unimpeded white exceptionalism are very quickly coming to an end. He can see it in any big city and all over the media. The irony that his hysteria and startling ignorance of how the economy and Constitution actually operate, mixed with his very high resistance to the facts of human-caused climate change, and the rapidly evolving acceptance of gay rights and gun control is only accelerating his marginalization is completely lost on him.
He is a dinosaur living out his days in thinnest of protective bubbles.
The report doesn’t wade into the gerrymandering issue, so it doesn’t offer any fresh insights into the rarely-discussed reality that farther-than-far right candidates are a bona fide threat to “conservative moderates” only because of massive infusions of money from … well, the usual suspects, all of whom are abetted by Citizens United.
Obama’s dilemma includes the knowledge that a Saul-on-the-road-to-Tarses epiphany is not in the average Tea Partier’s future. The Tea Partier’s levels of fear and resentment are so high remorse is a psychological impossibility.
Obama’s strategy may well revolve around a blow so devastating to “rational conservatives” that those people become the ones who deliver the fatal rebuke to the Tea Party.
But in this morality game, Obama the stern-minded parson, must know that for those “moderate conservatives” to act, they must first pay a serious, unequivocal price for their craven enabling of a group intent not just on destroying Barack Obama, but the Republican party as well.