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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The GOP -- Pretend Warriors in a Made-Up War

Kid in homemade cardboard knight costume
If you want a good indication that the current particular manufactured crisis of a government shutdown threat is winding down into nothing, I give you the fact that Republicans are already talking about how they plan to use the debt ceiling as a hostage strategy to attack Obamacare. This plan presupposes the failure of the current attempt, obviously. Greg Sargent gets to the skinny:

The conservative drive to threaten a government shutdown to defund Obamacare is collapsing, thanks in part to the news that Mitch McConnell won’t vote with Ted Cruz, effectively meaning the strategy is dead. So now, multiple reports are telling us that House Republicans are preparing to use the debt limit to force an Obamacare delay.

This comes as new polling confirms yet again the basic dynamic here: The American people, even if they disapprove of Obamacare, do not support using this fall’s fiscal confrontations to sabotage the law, whether we’re talking about a government shutdown or the debt limit.
Aha! So that's how they're going to destroy Obamacare once and for all, by... delaying it?


OK, so if that seems like it's probably not the most serious idea any has ever had, it's because it's not. It's not serious at all. Sargent points us to a piece on the GOP's super-awesome debt limit plan and it looks like a letter to Santa Claus.

The package that House GOP leaders plan to unveil when their members return to Washington late Wednesday will be anchored by proposals to simultaneously raise the federal borrowing limit and delay for a year further implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, the legislation would likely include a collection of previously introduced bills popular among House Republicans and difficult for Obama to dominate, including construction of the job-rich Keystone XL pipeline.

The debt-ceiling package, set for a House vote by week's end, could include a variety of GOP-friendly economic proposals, including tax reform, Medicare means testing, medical liability reform, an overhaul of the federal employee retirement system, elimination of the Dodd-Frank bailout, the easing of Environmental Protection Agency rules, restrictions on federal regulators and an expansion of offshore energy production.
"Gee, that’s it?" Sargent asks. "Maybe Republicans should also ask Obama to impeach himself while they’re at it."

This is basically Tea Party fan fiction. No one living in the real world expects any of this to happen. This is a prelude to a cave-in and Republican leadership, planning to lose, want to make it look like they really, really tried to bring "conservative values" to Washington. They're planning a grand battle -- not grand in the sense of the fighting, but grand in the sense of the stakes -- to rally the base around. Remember, actually winning a fight is of questionable electoral value -- what happens to the single issue voter when that issue has been resolved? If you want to keep voters coming back to the polls and opening their wallets to fundraisers, then losing isn't such an awful thing. And if you're planning to lose anyway, you might as well lose a heroic battle for the soul of America -- or, at least, something that kind of looks like one if you squint right and cock your head.

The last time the GOP politicized the debt limit, things didn't work out so awfully well. Their childish tantrum-throwing literally hurt America and voters were given another piece of evidence that the GOP puts ideology above the country's well-being. But the Republican Party seems trapped in a pattern. Their base drives them to extremist positions, which in turn brings them to places where they can't possibly win. Look at Obamacare itself for evidence of that. If they really had substantive problems with it, they'd try to fix them. Instead, they pretend to try to tear it down, because that's more dramatic. They plan to lose in a spectacular fashion and become heroes of the lost cause.

So we have this series of completely avoidable crises, because the Republican Party is no longer capable of governing. They're too weighed down by their own posturing, the histrionic BS coming from rightwing media, and the Tea Party's impossible expectations to ever do anything that real. Instead, they're reduced to play acting in response to Democratic moves.

The problem with being a reactionary is that it is, by definition, impossible to lead by reacting. Reaction is following someone else's lead. The Democrats are the ones leading, all the Republicans are doing is resisting that leadership -- i.e., the old label as the "party of no" is entirely accurate. The party can not government because it can not lead. It's simply lost the capacity for it.


[photo by jshontz]

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