A few thoughts on the truly ridiculous debacle we’ve just lived through (and may have to live through again in January).
1: Can a major political party get any closer to the life-or-death decision of whether to self-amputate a body part than the Republicans are today? I keep thinking about Utah hiker Aaron Ralston, sawing off his own arm from under an immovable boulder in order to live to hike another day. The Tea Party has made the Republican party an object of ridicule and contempt with truly perilous consequences for even “moderate”-but-enabling characters like John Kline and Eric Paulsen here in Minnesota.
But who wields the knife? There is no accepted leadership, much less any apparent momentum to re-write the party’s rules for caucuses and primaries. Or rather, I should say, actual leadership rests with the likes of ex-Senator-turned-think tanker/super lobbyist Jim DeMint at the Heritage Foundation, along with a half dozen other money machines who keep well out of view of the average voter. They are the mother’s milk of the Tea Party. They put the bullets in the “even-further right” primary threats, and it isn’t yet clear if they see the Tea Party as a spent force they need to abandon.
2: For all the simplistic criticism of cable “news” shows, it is striking that they are the only outlets regularly factoring in the effect these very wealthy groups have on the calculations being made by people like Boehner. For example: Boehner isn’t merely worried about “losing his speakership”, which makes it sound as though his only problem is not being able to withstand the wrath of the GOP’s nutball caucus. He also has to factor in losing his entire career. Failing to fight the fight as DeMint, etc. want it fought, also carries the threat that he will be persona non grata after he leaves Congress, which is where 40%-50% of these guys go to finally make the big money they regard as their due after working for minimum wage in elected office.
Point being, better political reporting in daily papers and on local TV would make regular reference to this kind of influence, especially in this post Citizens United world. It is a powerful reality.
3: The Tea Party will not vanish tomorrow. The business plan of the right-wing’s astonishingly lucrative entertainment-news complex is founded on selling misinformation, rage and ersatz patriotism to sad chumps, almost all of whom will be more radicalized in abject defeat. These people are susceptible the message of Rush Limbaugh, FoxNews and the local wannabes because they feel the era of white exceptionalism slipping away. They now have even stronger motivation to shut out the enemy and cluster together.
4: Don’t bet on big Democratic gains in the 2014 election. Memories, even of something as stupid as this, are short. While John Kline may have a problem in Minnesota, (grabbing his ankles for the for-profit college gamers is enough for me), Paulsen and the Sixth District are still pretty safe. Likewise, all those deep red, rural Southern and Mountain West districts. But … 15 House seats is not an impossible number, and God knows the GOP has handed its opponents no end of sound bites and craven votes for attack ads.
5: I’m justifiably cynical about modern conservatives, but even I can’t imagine the Republicans allowing the nutters to drag them back into another one of these fiascos in January. The game now is leveraging GOP weakness to get government spending back to real world levels.