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Oct 21 2013

Awaiting Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is set for Feb. 2, 2014, a mere five days before the temporary raising of the debt ceiling will expire and a little over two weeks after the continuing budget resolution will expire. This may not be mere coincidence, as it is pretty likely that we will be in the same situation then that we’ve been in for the last two weeks. Russ Douthat, a relatively reasonable conservative, hopes that the House Republicans have learned their lesson and that cooler heads will prevail:

But with tonight’s vote done and the government open once again, I want to return to the theme of my Sunday column, and stress once more the essential absurdity of the specific populist gambit we’ve just witnessed unfold, drag on, and now finally collapse. However you slice and dice the history, the strategery, and the underlying issues, the decision to live with a government shutdown for an extended period of time — inflicting modest-but-real harm on the economy, needlessly disrupting the lives and paychecks of many thousands of hardworking people, and further tarnishing the Republican Party’s already not-exactly-shiny image — in pursuit of obviously, obviously unattainable goals was not a normal political blunder by a normally-functioning political party. It was an irresponsible, dysfunctional and deeply pointless act, carried out by a party that on the evidence of the last few weeks shouldn’t be trusted with the management of a banana stand, let alone the House of Representatives.

This means that the still-ongoing intra-conservative debate over the shutdown’s wisdom is not, I’m sorry, the kind of case where reasonable people can differ on the merits and have good-faith arguments and ultimately agree to disagree. There was no argument for the shutdown itself that a person unblindered by political fantasies should be obliged to respect, no plausible alternative world in which it could have led to any outcome besides self-inflicted political damage followed by legislative defeat, and no epitaph that should be written for its instigators’ planning and execution except: “These guys deserved to lose.”…

So for undeluded conservatives of all persuasions, lessons must be learned. If the party’s populists want to shape and redefine and ultimately remake the party, they can’t pull this kind of stunt again. If the party’s leadership wants to actually lead, whether within the G.O.P. or in the country at large, they can’t let this kind of stunt be pulled again. That’s the only way in which this pointless-seeming exercise could turn out to have some sort of point: If it’s long remembered, by its proponents and their enablers alike, as the utter folly that it was.

Michael Tomasky pours some cold water on this hope:

The key question today is whether the right lesson has been learned.

And the answer is: I very seriously doubt it, unless the responsible voices in the party are more willing to step to the front of the room and take on the extremists. Because the extremists certainly haven’t learned anything. All they’ve “learned” is that if they’d just held tougher, they’d have won!

That’s what Ted Cruz meant yesterday, when he blasted the Senate for not behaving more like the House. It’s what Rush Limbaugh meant when he said that the GOP was “irrelevant” and—ponder this—trying too hard “to make people like them.” (!) It’s what the tea party people in the House meant yesterday when they told various Capitol Hill reporters that Boehner’s job was safe in their eyes, because he went to the mat with them. They are all saying: Not only are we going to do this again; we’re going to come up with ways to do it harder…

So now we move to actual budget negotiations. The position of the chaos caucus is going to be: Okay Obama, you give us entitlement cuts, and we’ll give you…uh, what? No revenues. They’re inflexible on that point. No programs (outside maybe of defense, and even that’s a maybe) funded at levels above sequestration. So actually, they’ll give nothing. Oh, wait: They’ll give Obama a government that doesn’t shut down in January, and a country that doesn’t default next spring. So chances are decent that we’ll be in exactly the same place.

Unfortunately, I think he’s right. What are we hearing today from the hard right? That they should have gone even further, that they should have kept the government closed and let the country default. As always, conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed by those who aren’t resolute enough. The answer from the wingnuts is never to rethink, it is always to double down. And that’s why we’re stuck in Groundhog Day.

20 comments

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  1. 1
    colnago80

    Reminds me a little of Frankenberger in the final days of WW2 before he wasted himself. He spent endless hours calling on his military commanders to move divisions that now longer existed into place.

  2. 2
    colnago80

    Re #1

    no, not now.

  3. 3
    laurentweppe

    The only way for them to learn their lesons would be if a non-negligible proportion of the moderate republican voters got so fed up with them that they migrated toward the Democratic party and gave it rooseveltian scores. So long as the moderate right-wing electorate remains the reliable lackeys of the far-right and the rich heirs club that funds it, the bully wings of the GOP will continue to impose its agenda.

  4. 4
    cptdoom

    But the shutdown/debt ceiling fight also demonstrated something else entirely – that there are enough sane Republicans who will vote with Democrats to do the right thing. The shutdown never had to happen, the debt ceiling could have been raised much earlier, but Boehner was trying to work within the “Hastert Rule,” which is unworkable in this situation. So the only way the teabaggers will get a chance at a re-do is if Boehner lets them. The real problem, of course, is that Boehner is a total wild card.

  5. 5
    colnago80

    Re cptdoom @ #4

    Actually, as I understand it, Rethuglican majority leader Eric Cantor is supposed to call the shots on whether the Hastert rule is to be invoked. However, he probably takes direction from Boehner on the decision.

  6. 6
    matty1

    So not only was there in the end a majority in the House for continuing to fund the government but there would have been from day one, and two people Cantor and Boehner prevented a vote knowing the consequences?

    F that’s true these people need to be fired asap and if the party won’t do it the voters should at their next opportunity.

  7. 7
    lofgren

    If they had learned “the right lesson,” then the debt ceiling vote would have simply been abolished. The only reason to keep it around is to keep this play in their back pocket for next time.

  8. 8
    dogmeat

    But the shutdown/debt ceiling fight also demonstrated something else entirely – that there are enough sane Republicans who will vote with Democrats to do the right thing.

    Unfortunately many of those “sane” Republicans are now on the list of Republicans likely to face primary challenges next year. While there are some moderate organizations that are putting up money to fund moderate challenges to the Tea Baggers, I think it is more likely that the party will go further down the rabbit hole rather than try to come back to a more sane position. They have a very vocal, focused, and totally deluded fringe element that firmly believes they are the majority. That minority goes out and votes, which in primaries is critical for success. It is a movement of purity, so voices that non reactionaries would see as sane and reasonable are traitors and enemies. Each time they’re shown to be wrong they double down. They’re in a feedback loop of insanity. Look at how Faux has covered the issue, look at how the infotainment personalities (Rush, Beck, etc.) have covered the issues. They “know” they’re right, they “know” they would have won if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids and their dog.

    I think they’re going to have to lose the ’16 election before anything approaching sanity is likely.

  9. 9
    Reginald Selkirk

    cptdoom: But the shutdown/debt ceiling fight also demonstrated something else entirely – that there are enough sane Republicans who will vote with Democrats to do the right thing.

    dogmeat: Unfortunately many of those “sane” Republicans are now on the list of Republicans likely to face primary challenges next year…

    My congressperson is a Republican who is conservative, but allegedly not Tea party. During the shutdown fiasco, he voted with the Tea Party crowd at every step, including voting against the final bill which re-opened the government and suspeneded the debt ceiling. This tells me that his fear of the Tea Party forces outweighs any desire he may have to serve the interestes of the people of this district.
    Although this is supposedly a safe Republican district since the most recent gerrymandering, the Democratic candidate did surprisingly well in 2012, and I strongly suspect this guy will be back in the private sector after the next election.

  10. 10
    raven

    Ted Cruz called reopening the government a “mistake”.

    They will try to destroy the USA again, if they get the chance. They say so and often.

  11. 11
    raven

    FWIW, my understanding is that the responsible adults of congress set up the next debt ceiling so that what happened in October, won’t happen in February.

    The debt ceiling wasn’t raised. It was suspended. And it is a lot harder to unsuspend it then to not raise it.

    In that case, they need a vote in the house, the senate, and OK from the President to do so. And they won’t get it.

  12. 12
    petemoulton

    Re: colnago80 @ #5: “However, [Cantor] probably takes direction from Boehner on the decision.”

    I doubt it. No one’s taking direction from Boehner on anything

  13. 13
    raven

    Economist’s View: ‘The GOP Tax’ – Typepad
    economistsview .typepad.com/economistsview/ 2013/10/the-gop-tax.html‎

    6 days ago – Paul Krugman: The GOP Tax: Macroeconomic Advisers has a new report out about …

    and cuts in discretionary spending have subtracted 1% from GDP growth. That’s not 1% off GDP — it’s the annualized rate of growth, so that we’re talking …..

    .

    It’s no secret the GOP and Tea Party has caused huge damage to the USA.

    It’s not just the current crisis which did a lot of damage.

    It’s estimated that GOP economic policies have reduced our growth rate from 3% to 2%. That is a lot, 1/3.

    Their economic policies when they can even bother to try to have one are austerian and supply side economics. Austerianism has been a disaster for Europe. And supply side economics is just pseudoscience and wrong. Reagan and Bush both tried it and it was a disaster both times.

  14. 14
    Artor

    Russ Douthat, a relatively reasonable conservative…

    I snorted when I read that, but considering the state of the Republican party, it’s probably accurate. That alone says much about the relative reasonability of Republicans.

  15. 15
    Pierce R. Butler

    That’s the only way in which this pointless-seeming exercise could turn out to have some sort of point: If it’s long remembered, by its proponents and their enablers alike, as the utter folly that it was.

    Washington doesn’t do that. Case in point: Reagan deregulating the savings-&-loans, followed by Clinton de-regging the banks.

    Or Iraq-Libya-Syria.

    Or the whole series of attempted “Grand Bargains”.

    Or …

  16. 16
    velociraptor

  17. 17
    exdrone

    Groundhog Day is set for Feb. 2, 2014, a mere five days before the temporary raising of the debt ceiling will expire

    I understand that, if Obamacare is not defunded, then the GOP are going to withold approval of the continuing resolution on Groundhog Day. Five days may not be enough time to work out a deal.

  18. 18
    Randomfactor

    That’s where the Treasury Department starts taking “extraordinary measures” to push back the default. Reportedly there are some tricksy things that can be done with bond issues almost to eliminate the problem entirely without going the platinum-coin route. Would they like to play the game of October Shutdown in an election year?

    You already know the winning move in that one…

  19. 19
    democommie

    Douchehat = a relatively reasonable conservative;

    in the same way that Otto Skorzeny = a relatively reasonable Nazi SS Obersturmbannführer. Ja, richtig.

  20. 20
    laurentweppe

    Iraq-Libya-Syria

    So, an american war caused by daddy issues and justified by fictional WMD, helping people fighting a revolution against a dictator who had publicly vowed to slaughter everyone who refused to cravenly submit to his mad rule and saying that maybe western powers should get more involved helping the secularist faction sandwiched in a three-way civil war between themselves, a parasitic dynasty assisted by Russia & Iran whose use of chemical weapons was proven and admitted by the guilty party and would be theocrats funded by petrodollars are so similar to one another than they’re part of a recognizable pattern.

    Suddenly the Jesus-On-A-Toast-To-Send-A-Message story doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

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