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Oct 06 2013

Republican Legislator Spills the Beans

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, spilled the beans during a meeting with wealthy Republican donors in New York City, admitting that the reason they’ve shut down the government is to appease the Tea Party:

On a Monday last month, Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, met with some top GOP donors for lunch at Le Cirque on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The donors, a youngish collection of financial industry types and lawyers, had some questions for Walden, a mild-mannered lawmaker from eastern Oregon known for speaking his mind.

Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party—their party—seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.

“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”

As has been obvious for a long time, the extreme right wing tail is now wagging the Republican dog. But let’s also not forget the role that Citizens United and its progeny, the Free Speech Now case, plays in all of this. The reason why those primary challenges are credible threats is because of groups like the American Future Fund and other far-right PACs and 501(c)(4) groups, which can drop $10 million in ads on a congressional district attacking incumbents and make it far more difficult for them to fight off a challenge from the right.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    Michael Heath

    Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party—their party—seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.

    These non Tea-Partiers are not innocents, but equally culpable in transforming the GOP into a party that can’t govern and whose policies can’t be defended upon a sufficiently framed set of factually true premises. This idea that’s there’s a moderate GOP wing fighting the nuts is simply not true. Instead we have two extreme right-wing groups who have far more in common with each other than political groups and parties whose policies are promoted by the facts and experts.

    Exhibit A would be Mitt Romney’s campaign relative to what the Tea Partiers demand. If you want to consider a contemporary analog to past Republican moderates like Ford, Rockefeller, Milliken, and Eisenhower, you can’t do better than point to President Barack Obama, the “enemy” despised by both of these GOP groups. In fact Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan governed in a manner far more similar to President Obama than what the Romney and Tea Party wings now demand.

  2. 2
    Modusoperandi

    This hungry dog that we’ve spent decades beating into a froth has backed us into a corner.”

  3. 3
    democommie

    This:

    “Of course, not all of the country’s referendums are meant to promote a socialist state. For example, a majority of Swiss voters have voiced support for a referendum that would maintain the country’s conscription policy , which requires all men in the country aged 18-34 to complete a period of public service.” (source: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/switzerland-to-vote-on–2-800-monthly-%E2%80%98basic-income%E2%80%99-minimum-for-adults-181937885.html)

    may seem OT, but I think it’s not.

    Our federal legislative process is being whipsawed by the Teabaggists while their former “keepers” stand on the sidelines and moan about how it’s all gotten out of hand. The MSM, meanwhile pretends that the nonsense being pushed by Boehner and others in the GOP, blaming the PotUS and LIBERALS for causing the shutdown is somehow valid or true.

    A large part of the problem is that news outlets are overwhelmingly controlled by those with no interest in advancing liberal or progressive initiatives. But, a more disturbing aspect, to me at least is that they seem to be hiring dumber people every year.

    Whoever wrote that bit that I cut’n'pasted from the original Yahoo article is a fucking moron. He/she will no doubt be an executive editor someday, more’s the pity.

  4. 4
    Nihilismus

    Primaries would matter less with runoff elections in the general election (or even better, proportional representation through something like a single transferable vote system). If the “moderate” Republicans and their donors are worried about primary challengers, they should work to implement these systems.

    Normally, these systems make it easier for third parties to be represented because voters can safely vote for their more ideologically-aligned party, while preserving a more watered-down version as their second choice. The tea party, though, is not the “third party” anymore. The third party is this group of so-called moderate Republicans. With runoff elections or single transferable vote, it might be possible for them to get enough votes from “moderate” Republicans and conservative Democrats (read: actual former moderate Republicans).

    Of course, the real reason why I would want these systems implemented is so that I can vote safely for true-liberal independents and third party candidates, while preserving a vote for the former-moderate-Republican-current-Democrats that get elected now.

  5. 5
    Marcus Ranum

    Short Nihilismus: democracy wouldn’t suck if it worked.

    Quite true.

  6. 6
    raven

    If the Tea Party crashes the USA and its economy, I and all the other citizens go down with it.

    I don’t think the Tea Party cares one bit.

    But if the US goes down, so does Wall Street, the banks, and the corporations, Big Business. And they do care passionately about one thing. Their money.

  7. 7
    Modusoperandi

    Nihilismus “…something like a single transferable vote system…”
    That sounds like Redistribution! Socialism! Socialism!*

    * SOCIALISM!!!

  8. 8
    D. C. Sessions

    In fact Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan governed in a manner far more similar to President Obama than what the Romney and Tea Party wings now demand.

    Yes and no. He’s closer to them than they are to the current PoG, but all in all they were father to the left than he is — it’s not like a spectrum with (Obama) — (Old Republicans) — (Tea Party). It’s actually (Old Republicans) — (Tea Party) –(Obama).

    Consider that Nixon proposed Medicare for All, Reagan raised taxes almost every year of his administration and applied serious countercyclical fiscal policy, and Eisenhower pushed the greatest public-works program in the Nation’s history while paying down the debt at a rate greater than Obama (who, please note, campaigned on reducing the debt compared to the Bush borrow-and-spend years.)

    The Right’s foaming at the mouth about Obama is a combination of three parts:
    1) Pure partisanship
    2) Racism, of course
    3) Their founding principle of attacking moderate Republicans like Obama.

  9. 9
    D. C. Sessions

    s/(Tea Party) –(Obama)/(Obama) – (Tea Party)/

  10. 10
    raven

    This is starting to remind me a bit of the old USSR, the once second superpower.

    1. They collapsed and it happened pretty suddenly.

    2. Very few people saw it coming, least of all their leadership. I worked with a few Russian scientists who scurried west to escape not communism but starvation. They weren’t being paid any more.

    These were smart people, the elite of their old society. They never saw it coming either.

    3. This doesn’t mean it will happen here. But it could and very few people will see it coming, especially the leadership of the US; the politicians, business people, and intelligensia.

    We’ve already had a practice run. The Bush Catastrophe which resulted in the stock market crash, bank and housing market failures, and the Great Recession. Wall Street and the politicians never saw it coming.

    Who did see it coming though were millions of Americans who bailed out of the stock markets near the top.

  11. 11
    raven

    One thing we learned from recent history.

    1. Our economic and political systems are very fragile. This seems to be due to how complex they are and how much they rely on consenual reality systems. Most of our money is just 0′s and 1′s in computer data bases, for example.

    We saw that with the USSR, which collapsed and suddenly.

    We saw that with the Bush Catastrophe and Great Recession, which happened suddenly with the US leadership unaware of what was happening.

    2. Which means the ignorants of the Tea Party are really playing chicken with the USA and its economy. And when chicken ends badly, two cars collide at high speed, killing their occupants. If this ends badly, one of those killed is going to be our economy, another our country.

  12. 12
    democommie

    raven:

    You’re worrying too much. The Teabaggists are convinced that if we can’t be a rational superpower, we’ll just be an irrational superpower. Who’s gonna fuck with the loud, crazy guy at the bar when he’s packin’ nu-q-lar heat?

  13. 13
    raven

    raven:

    You’re worrying too much.

    Well, I hope so.

    It could just be that I’m not worrying enough.

    1. A lot of people took huge hits during the Bush Disaster. One of my friends almost lost their house. More than a few were unemployed for long periods of time. We managed to dodge those bullets by being proactive and a bit paranoid.

    2. This time looks a lot worse. If the US goes down, there isn’t much anyone can do. If the dollar collapses, all our financial accounts are in…dollars.

  14. 14
    dingojack

    Ravan – tme to invest in AUD?
    :) Dingo

  15. 15
    raven

    Ravan – tme to invest in AUD?
    :) Dingo

    LOL.

    I’ve been thinking about it. AUD = Australian Dollar, a strong currency that is beyond the reach of the US Tea Party.

    I’m running up against the limits of my knowledge base here. I can change dollars for local currency at the airport and that is about it.

    One of my friends, a very successful businesswoman got spooked by Bushco, and moved her small fortune to a Canadian bank about 10 years ago, in Canadian dollars. It turned out to be a smart move.

  16. 16
    fentex

    “…something like a single transferable vote system…”

    As I understand it there is a group lobbying for that in the U.S under the more comprehensible name “Instant Run Off”.

  17. 17
    Nihilismus

    As I understand it there is a group lobbying for that in the U.S under the more comprehensible name “Instant Run Off”.

    Technically, single transferable vote (STV) is a form of instant-runoff voting (IRV) that usually applies to multi-seat districts, resulting in proportional representation. Usually, when someone refers just to IRV, they are referring to an election that results in only a single winner.

    IRV in the context of U.S. congressional elections would mean we would still have distinct districts (and thus still have the risk of gerrymandering). A voter would rank his preferred candidates on his ballot. If his most preferred candidate does not receive a majority, his vote would go to his next preferred candidate to see if that candidate can get a majority, and so on. It is “instant” in that there is not a whole separate runoff election day, as opposed to how Louisiana does it, or NYC mayoral primary races for that matter.

    With IRV, third-parties might become more common, but only once the average voter becomes aware that they are no longer “wasting” their vote. It also might be hard for a third party do have enough of a showing in a particular district to win the seat, even if they represent 20% of the population nationwide.

    STV in the context of U.S. congressional elections would mean that we would not be voting by district. A voter would rank her preferred candidate, and if her top candidate receives a certain threshold of votes, that candidate wins a seat in the Congress. If not, her vote transfers, instantly, to her next choice to see if that candidate meets the threshold. The result is that third parties would be represented proportionally in the Congress as they are in the general population. Congressional Representatives would be nationally elected, rather than by small gerrymandered districts. This is why I would prefer this option.

  18. 18
    rickdesper

    If the Republicans hadn’t spent the past three decades alienating moderates, they wouldn’t have these problems. The more they pander to extremists, the more they alienate moderates, the further to the right the party’s center of gravity goes. And when that happens, they lose more general elections.

    It’s a party that has lost its center and, as a result, completely lost anything but the most short-sighted notions of what it wants to be. I honestly think that half of these nimrods who are behind the closing of the government have utterly no idea what that’s supposed to lead to, or how or why it should help them achieve any goals.

    Were Democrats supposed to quake in fear at the prospect of the government closing? If that was the goal, it was a horrible miscalculations. The Democrats remembered that the 1990s closure was a political disaster for the Republicans. They’ve been quite willing to give the Republicans as much rope as they want.

    There is no way the Republicans “win” this. The only people who think this helps the Republicans are the most hard-core partisans. Sadly, this rogue party is doing a lot of damage to a lot of people just to keep some massive egos happy.

  19. 19
    thephilosophicalprimate

    I think it’s a mistake to look at this issue on a right-left spectrum in any way. There are no significant number of moderate Republicans in the 21st century at all, and haven’t been for decades. The traditional/entrenched Republicans are no less ideologically driven and no less “conservative” (really, neoliberal/economic libertarian) in their politics than the Tea Party Republicans. What we are witnessing is the clash of two different interest groups operating at two different levels of the plutocracy, not any difference in the actual degree of authoritarianism and raw plutocratic self-interest exhibited by any of the players involved. (Religious dogmatism and patriarchy doesn’t enter into it at all, except insofar as it is exploited by both sides to their advantage whenever possible.)

    On the one side, there are local-level powers that be — mostly mere multi-millionaires rather than billionaires — who hate it when the feds or minorities (or, in the post civil rights era, the feds supporting minority rights) interfere in their local empires of privilege and profitable exploitation of the underclasses in any way, which is analyzed in a clear and convincing fashion in this recent Salon article. The reason why so many Tea Partiers seem to echo the states’ rights rhetoric of the boll weevil Democrats of the 50s and 60s (Paging Rand Paul! Rand Paul to the very, very white courtesy phone!) is that they represent exactly the same interest group. (Seriously. Read the Salon article I linked to. It’s superb.)

    On the other side are the big, big money plutocrats — the Wall Street types to whom Walden was speaking as a loyal lap-dog. These “Federalist” plutocrats like centralized power just fine when it lines their pockets with socialized investment risk paired with privatized profits (bank bailouts and such), corporate welfare, the extraordinarily profitable military-industrial complex and prison-industrial complex, and so on. Unlike the Tea Partiers, they are willing to compromise a little on maintaining a minimal welfare state so long as they get their cut: the ACA is ultimately good for insurance companies, though it’s not nearly as huge a giveaway as Bush’s Medicare Part D fiasco; pseudo-green energy initiatives like ethanol are terrific because they line the pockets of Con-Agra, Monsanto, et al; Social Security is fine as long as we get to privatize it, but otherwise it’s a horrible disaster that will eventually destroy our economy (because politicians who dare not raise taxes on the rich back to prior levels raid the SS coffers at every opportunity); and so on. The interests represented by the Tea Party don’t directly share in those profits, and any and all successful federal social welfare undermines their profitable race-to-the-bottom approach to drawing industry to their states and wringing maximum profit from existing industry by mimicking third-world working conditions as much as possible (hence the Tea Party hard-on for the ACA).

    These two sides absolutely share authoritarian and plutocratic ideologies, and are both equally willing to exploit racism and sexism and homophobia in any way they think might advance their agenda one iota, but the specific elements of the plutocracy served and the policies that serve them best are different for the two groups, so their loyal servants in government have broken down into petty, childish infighting that might ultimately hurt all their interests (I hope).

  20. 20
    lpetrich

    Looking at the US Constitution, one won’t need an amendment to have alternative systems in House elections, as long as they are state-by-state. Alternative systems like Single Transferable Vote and party-list proportional representation.

    State constitutions may be a different story, but they are usually much easier to amend than the US one.

    If the US adopts proportional representation, it would be interesting to see what happens. Will the major parties split up? Will other parties become prominent? It would be interesting to see how many votes the Libertarian and Green Parties would get if votes for them would not be wasted.

  21. 21
    lpetrich

    Here is an activist organization that advocates alternatives to first past the post: FairVote.org | Home

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