WINGERS: OCCUPY THE VERY EXISTENCE OF GOVERNMENT
I'm sure it won't surprise you that I agree with the gist of what Ezra Klein says here:
Mitt Romney is winning the payroll tax fight
The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Republicans are losing the payroll tax fight, and bad. And, for the moment, that's true.... But the fact of the matter is, not all Republicans are losing this one. Mitt Romney, in particular, owes Boehner -- and his more intransigent members -- a fruit basket.
Ezra assesses this strictly by the numbers:
... I'd still say it's likely we get a payroll tax extension by February. But the chances that we don't get one have certainly risen substantially. If you believe the economic forecasters, that could shave a half-percentage point off of growth next year. If we were going to grow at 2.3 percent with the payroll tax cut extension, now we're only growing at 1.8 percent. That means more Americans out of work, less money in voters' pockets, more pessimism among business owners. And all that is very, very bad for an incumbent president running for reelection -- in this case, Barack Obama.
I'd add this: Even if some deal is reached between soon to deliver these benefits uninterrupted, the mere creation of chaos will help Mitt Romney (or whoever the GOP nominee is) because, as Ezra says, when things are done in D.C. that voters don't like, the president gets blamed. In fact, House Republicans would do their party a lot of political good if they'd take the deal and re-fight this fight two months from now -- and then arrange to re-fight it two months after that, and two months after that, and so on. Every week would be even better.
Um, but aren't voters grasping that Republicans are at fault? And isn't Mitt Romney, y'know, a Republican? Yes, but I see very little evidence that voters associate Romney with his party. CNN has Obama polling well ahead of Romney, but Public Policy Polling has Romney taking a lead over Obama, and Gallup has Obama barely ahead of both Romney and Gingrich.
For decades, Democrats have made virtually no effort to tarnish the entire Republican brand, while Republicans and the right-wing media have made a concerted effort to tarnish the Democratic, liberal, and leftist brands, and to make them all one tarnished brand. Republican rhetoric links together everything to the left of the Republicans as one big axis of evil, so it's easy to tie anyone who's more or less on our side to everyone else who's more or less on our side -- ACORN = Harry Reid = Sean Penn = Elizabeth Warren. Democrats make no reciprocal effort at linkage. So the approval rating of congressional Republicans could sink to zero and Mitt Romney might still win.
Meanwhile, the way right-wingers disrupt the political process is starting to seem like one of the most successful "Occupy" protests ever: from the shutdown of town hall meetings in 2009 to the various moments of brinkmanship in Congress this year, these folks are just planting themselves in the middle of the political process and occupying the existence of government. And they're getting the gears well and truly sanded.