Over at The New Republic, Tod Lindberg argues that the shutdown narrative we've developed is actually good for the GOP. I know this sounds like a willfully counterintuitive #slatepitch, but I think Lindberg has a point:
... Now, let us stipulate that the government shutdown, however long-lived its repercussions turn out to be, was a Republican political failure on a truly grand scale. Moreover, the agents provocateurs were indeed the Tea Party darlings of the House and Senate....If that really is what people take away from this crisis, then they'll think -- perhaps even more than they did before -- "Well, the Republicans are a reasonable and responsible bunch, and they'll be just fine as soon as they deal with that pesky lunatic minority." That really might be a good message for the GOP.
The Tea Party faction is telling its own version of the same story, namely, that it fought the good fight and lost. But that's another way of saying that the Tea Party does not have the political power within the GOP to prevail. Yes, it can create circumstances in which the government shuts down. But it cannot prevent the government from reopening, let alone an increase in the debt limit when the alternative is default or massive spending cuts, in an effort to get its way....
If the GOP House leadership were truly under the thumb of its most radical members, there would have been no House vote on the Senate compromise bill, the government shutdown would have continued, and the Treasury would today be coping with the worst financial crisis in the history of the Republic. Of course, Democrats and progressives were issuing warnings about precisely that outcome. But it didn't happen. And the reason it didn't is that the GOP, though it includes a radical wing, is not a radical monolith, and its non-radical leadership has the power to defeat the radical wing when push comes to shove. To the extent the GOP’s internal struggle is understood as a contest between conservatives and radicals, in which the conservatives prevail, it will likely help the party regain some of the ground it has been losing at the center.
Lindberg goes on to say this, however:
If the Tea Party faction managed to pull off in 2016 what it failed to pull off in 2012, namely nominate one of its own for president, we would quickly and rightly be back to the story about the party's capture by its extreme elements. Likewise, if the GOP keeps its House majority in 2014 and elects a speaker actually willing and able to deploy such radical means as forcing a default crisis.And now we get to the real problem. What has to happen before voters decide the GOP can't be trusted at all? Does the party actually have to push us into default and start a global depression before the "What, me worry?" Alfred E. Neuman voters of the American center say, "Gee, you know, these fellows really have the potential to do some harm"?
And that's the difference between the majority of the U.S. electorate and the voters of Wingnuttia. You edge a millimeter toward a slope that's a hundred miles away, and isn't the slightest bit slippery, and wingnut voters immediately foresee a cataclysmic slide. Propose firearm background checks that aren't even truly universal, and wingnut voters think mass gun confiscation is imminent within weeks. Pass a market-based, Heritage Foundation-developed health care plan, and they think we're living under the Khmer Rouge. Everything Democrats do puts wingnut voters on immediate full alert, mad as hell and refusing to take it anymore, even if it's a baby step toward what they fear, with no further steps desired or planned.
But if Republicans take us nearly to the brink of disaster, a disaster from which we're rescued at the last second, centrist voters still don't develop a sense of alarm about the party.
What, them worry? Well, they should. But they don't.