Thursday, October 08, 2015


Over at The New York Times, Carl Hulse tells us that Republicans seem to be reliving a past identity crisis:
House Republicans Govern Like It’s 1998, Worrying Many

... Representative Kevin McCarthy’s abrupt withdrawal from a speaker’s race he was favored to win ... echoed the stunning events of December 1998, when another Republican speaker-in-waiting, Representative Robert L. Livingston of Louisiana, was forced to withdraw because of marital infidelities. Republicans scrambled to find an acceptable consensus pick, and J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois was plucked from out of almost nowhere to become speaker of the House.

... But in 1998, House Republicans had a strongman in their majority whip, Tom DeLay of Texas, to rally the rank and file behind his choice. No such figure exists today.

Some Republicans worried that the current unraveling might be even worse than 1998, which played out in a crisis atmosphere as the House was voting to impeach President Bill Clinton.

“Even then we knew we could resolve it ourselves,” said Representative Pete King, Republican of New York. “But now you have a situation where there are 30 or 40 people in their own party who say they are not going to vote for anyone no matter who it is. We have to end this. We look absolutely crazy.”
But you know they will end this somehow. And as soon as they do, regardless of who gets John Boehner's jobm, as long as House Republicans aren't actively calling for a military coup against the president or literally burning government buildings to the ground, there'll be a rash of softball feature stories in the mainstream media with titles like "Republicans Regroup, with Second Chance to Prove They Can Govern."

The events of 1998 were supposedly terrible for the GOP -- there were shocking losses in the midterms followed by an unpopular impeachment of the president and a failed Senate trial. But what was the political mood then? Jonathan Chait remembers:
The Democratic Party spent 1999 in a state of almost unbroken panic. Even while an incumbent Democrat had presided over an economic boom that delivered the greatest prosperity Americans had enjoyed in decades, they could not escape a sour cynicism pervading the electorate. Al Gore, President Clinton’s chosen successor, trailed Republicans badly throughout the year and faced a stubborn threat from within his own party....

The mechanism that transferred Clinton’s well-known moral failings onto his vice-president was an exceedingly technical fund-raising scandal. Gore made fund-raising calls for the Democratic Party from the White House, which did not violate either the letter or the spirit of the law (the Pendleton Act, which was intended to prevent shaking down potential officeholders for donations). But reporters found Gore’s performance untrustworthy anyway. The vice-president, reported the New York Times in 1997, “used legalistic language, which he repeated verbatim several times, to say he had not violated another law that prohibits anybody from raising campaign money in the White House.” As a result, scandal-tinged themes came to dominate news coverage of Gore. His attempts to create new narratives merely resulted in chortling reporters mocking him for trying too hard to reshape his image, reinforcing their theme that he lacked “authenticity.”
Does that sound familiar? It should -- Chait's point is that we seem to be reliving that era, with Hillary Clinton, like Al Gore, as the target of a trumped-up scandal endlessly flogged by Republicans. (I agree with Chait on this.)

This happened in the late 1990s despite a leadership crisis among congressional Republicans, and despite Republicans' apparent compulsion to pursue unpopular extremist measures as if they just couldn't help themselves. All that was true, and yet it didn't hurt the GOP. Republicans had Gore on the ropes throughout the campaign. He eked out a popular-vote win in 2000 but still didn't become president. The GOP controlled all three branches of government for most of the next six years.

So enjoy the Republicans' crisis while it lasts. Unless it lasts all the way through the fall of 2016, it will be a non-factor in the election, just as the 2013 shutdown was a non-factor in 2014. Liberal and centrist voters have no long-term memory for this sort of thing. The mainstream press always wants to revert to the preferred narrative: that the GOP is a sane, responsible party. There would probably have to be tanks in the streets in late 2016, with Louis Gohmert as the lead driver, before GOP chaos had an electoral effect.


Blackstone said...

Peter, Peter, Peter, you guys dont just look absolutely crazy, you ARE absolutely crazy.

Blackstone said...

Just remane the Bengaz committee to the permanet House committee to investigate Hillary Clinton and be done with it.

Feud Turgidson said...

This "Blackstone" online character seems so, I dunno, reasonable? Well, no, that's not the right word, perhaps 'illiterate to the approximate writing level of Kevin McCarthy speaking'. but that's so WORDY for a child pretending to be a libertarian or lib-right quasihipster (IOW, young man: it needs work.)

Also, I urge you reconsider associating your 'brand' to this personna. I think it's more than possible that you believe that online avatar names and posting as "unknown" provide protection against official America knowing your identity. Uhhhhhhm, not really.

Knight of Nothing said...

I'm with you - I'm not sure this is going to work out so well for liberals and progressives. I don't feel giddy at this Republican disarray; I feel nervous and unsettled. This is not a very comfortable ride, and I'm not seeing any convincing arguments or analyses that demonstrate good outcomes.

Feud Turgidson said...

Kanigget of Naught, I emphathize, BUT - I trust you not to lose track of what's actually going on here.

These inept, moronic, repressed & repressive white supremacist dipshits want a W, a win, a victory, some PELT to take back to Fleabite TX or Bugtussle FLA and put on display in their townhalls to be cheered at by the automatic pitchfolk bearing faggot bearing & bashing pathetic, disturbed, paranoid, overfed, pale, pustulent, pimply gun-fondling crypto Christianist creepoid bigots who get them elected.

And to that end, they have NO FREAKING CLUE how to go about it, because whatever institutional memory remains in Congress is mostly if not entirely Dem or pro-Dem or at least pro-federal government, and the rest refuse to animate the least goodwill they have in Washington to have someone open for them the cellar doors to Hell. That scary shopping list they handed McCarthy, the one that's scared off every establishment House GOPer including their so-called cult heroes Ryan and Gowdy? They don't know how to get ANY of that, except by the act of conscious treason in trashing their oaths of office and having some credible fall guy with a missing frontal lobe "lead" them out of their cess-pit.

These are the modern American equivalents of the sans culottes of the French Revolution. They are real, and doomed. What's going on right now in the Dem House leadership right is figuring how to work this so the debt ceiling's not screwed up and the CR at least - AT LEAST; I think they might get more - gets continued thru the remaining time of this the third consecutive Worst Congress Ever.

They'll take ANY thing; they'll get nothing. For all our sakes, for our country, our economy, and our system of a republic overseen by a democratically represented legislature, they MUST fail, and be swept away with the dust.