Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Rule or Ruin

I enjoyed yesterday's Esquire interview with Harry Reid, but I had to pause at this bit:
ESQ: What do you think the stakes are here?

HR: Let's assume that in the future, Obama's no longer president, there's a Republican president. And we Democrats say, "We're not going to raise the debt ceiling unless you pass background checks. Eighty-five percent of the American people support that, and we are not going to raise the debt ceiling until you pass it."
With all respect to Senator Reid, I really don't think that's a consideration. I think we're talking about something else altogether here.

The Republicans may have stumbled into this, but there is a strategy here--even if most (or all) of them don't know what it is. It's a strategy born of their crushing loss in a Presidential election they believed they would win. It's born of the bleak demographic reality they face, and the complete failure of their attempts to neutralize it. It's born of recognition that their agenda is deeply unpopular, and that their base won't let them make a broader appeal.

The power play in the House is, simply put, a tacit admission that they're unlikely to take back the Presidency anytime soon. It isn't just that they don't have the Presidency now; it's that they think they've lost it permanently.

If the President makes any concessions at all to resolve either the shutdown or the debt ceiling fight (and Republicans are convinced he will), it will (as Reid notes) permanently diminish the Presidency. But where he's wrong is, that's not something the Republicans are afraid of; that's the whole point of this exercise. They know on some level they aren't going to win the Presidency, so they're going to do the next best thing: destroy it. And so transfer power to the body they still hold (thanks to a playing field skewed partly by gerrymandering and partly by the concentration of Democrats in urban districts)--which they believe they're going to keep for a long time to come.

That's the strategy here. That's what this is all about. That's what makes this, in Chait's phrase, a domestic Cuban missile crisis. And that's why the party "moderates", despite their crocodile tears about the shutdown, are going along with it.

Rule or ruin. It's all they know.


Victor said...

I think that's a pretty sound analysis, Tom.

Also, don't forget that by concentrating their election efforts on a Governor-by-Governor, and state-by-state legislatures, they plan to undermine the United States of America, one state at a time.

Look at what the Republicans have done to NC, a state I lived in for almost all of the 00's.
In a little over 9 months, they've trashed a once very livable state.

And if they're not stopped, they will continue, until it's as bad as SC, or MS, or AL.

And NC is their template for - FSM FORBID!!! - the next Republican President who has control of both houses of Congress.

And yes, that CAN happen - all it will take, is another major economic downturn - now, factor THAT into what you're seeing with this debt ceiling fight.

They hope that the road to economic catastrophe, along with the short memories of many Americans, and a cowed, compliant, and complicit MSM, may be their road back to power.

Monty said...

See also.

Danp said...

I don't think they have come close to giving up on the Oval Office. What they don't think they will ever lose is the Media! As long as they have that and enough gerrymandered districts to eke out victories in the House or even 41 Senators (the Super Minority), they are in control. This is never going to be a strategy that Dems can pull off, and Reid's analogy is ridiculous!!! Even if 99% agreed with card check, they wouldn't support these tactics if the media did more to inform rather than merely reporting which team is winning the public interest polls. And if Dems pulled this nonsense, the media would do their job.

White Hat said...

The objective you suggest is only one possibility surrounding our current crisis. It's even consistent with the GOP's congressional behavior for the last 5 years, its creation of the Tea Party, and its support for loony anti-Os. Rule or ruin, win or destroy.

But accept permanent minority status? Give up on national elections? Don't think so.

After the McCain presidential debacle, the GOP's message was "we don't need to change, we just need to communicate better." They formed the Tea Party and gave voice to anti-O loons nationwide.

After the Romney debacle, the message was "we have to change."

The GOP does need to change. It can't count on Tea Party support anymore. Roughly 40% of Tea Partiers don't even identify themselves as Republicans now. They're running candidates against mainstream Republicans nationwide. Even Mitch McConnell is going to have to spend half his campaign money fighting a further-right opponent this year.

In addition, Priebus and his pals have already announced their intention to reduce the number of GOP primaries in the future. That can't happen if the TP runs serious challengers.

Over the last 5 years, the GOP's strategy has been to encourage, embrace and absorb the Tea Party, but the TP has lower overall favorability numbers than the mainstream GOP, and it's continuing to trend lower every year. Would the GOP win the next presidential election with a Palin or Cain? They'd have better luck with a Romney, especially if he never had to pretend to be Cain.

At this point, the GOP's best move would be to bump off the Tea Party. Obamacare has arrived, so the TP's raison d'etre is moot. The TP causes problems for big money donors (as in like right now), for the GOP's ability to mellow its anti-minority stance, problems for neocons, and problems for party unity.

If I were John Boehner, I might consider holding a BBQ and inviting my Tea Party buddies to self-immolate there. Oh wait. That's what he's doing, isn't it?

Examinator said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Examinator said...

have a look at this .http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/video/2013/oct/08/banksy-video-rebel-rocket-attack-dumbo
I saw it as a metaphor of their tactics.
Jihadis = Tea party; Big on macho, firearms, myopic/self serving ideology, without any concept of the wider reality, connectivity,cause and effect.
elephant + jumbo = symbols of the GOP + all that is good
The child= the weak and needy in their ranks .

I've seen splinter extremist movements before and in the end their zealotry is at first their strength but ultimately they become hot beds of internecine warfare over spoils and it is this that that destroys them. The sad thing is the collateral damage in the mean time.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

This is an impending constitutional crisis. What the House is asserting is a new authority to override the will of the Senate, both in passing bills and in conference. And override the will of the Executive in signing or vetoing legislation. The House is using its Article I Section VII authority to originate budgets by refusing to pass one and ultimately threaten default. Which would directly violate the 14th amendment on the sacrosanct nature of US obligations and debt, affirmed in 1935 by the SC in Perry v. United States.

Ultimately, the House is attempting to unconstitutionally shift the balance of powers between the branches of government while diminishing authority of the Senate in ALL legislative negotiation - both pending and prior passed law. It's breathtaking in the amount of authority they claim and the permanent shift of power should they win.

It's insurrectionist in that threatens great harm to the credibility of United States sovereign debt, but also in that it violates constitutional norms for power sharing. This is an extremely serious crisis with the potential for far reaching outcomes well beyond the current partisan disputes.

I've written an analysis here:


PS - just discovered your blog. I like it very much.

neroden@gmail said...

You overestimate their intelligence and give them too much credit.

It is actually *correct* that the House is supposed to be in charge; this is the British system which the US system was modelled after.

But the Republicans have no sane reason to believe that they will retain control of the House. They actually lost the vote for the House last time -- they have control *solely* due to gerrymandering, which is weak sauce in the medium run, let alone the long run.

It's worth remembering that, historically,
the House is the institution which right-wingers have the most difficulty getting control over. Transfer of power to the House gives future Speaker Pelosi the ability to implement her agenda and crush the Republican Party utterly.

Furthermore, it's important to remember that the House is not supposed to violate the Constitution, which guarantees the US debt. The fact that they're screwing around with that indicates zero interest in giving power to the House.

"Rule or ruin" is correct. But be assured that the Republicans have no long-term plan of shifting authority to the House. They want to shift authority to *themselves, personally* -- preferably in *non-elected* positions where they can rule forever without fear of elections. They would like it best if, for instance, some Republican General was given command of the country. But they'd settle for the unelected Republican Supreme Court running the country.

Keep your eye on this. They oppose democracy. Period. They want power to be in the hands of unelected monarchs.