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Friday, October 04, 2013

And the Whole Republican Shutdown Goes Off the Rails

Lincoln Memorial, closed by shutdown
This is what often happens with high-profile protests and political movements. After a while, mission creep sets in and suddenly it's not about the original issue, it's about the fight itself. Think of Occupy Wall Street, where the protest became less and less about Wall Street corruption, wealth privilege, and growing in income inequality. As time went on, it became more and more about the protesters' right to occupy Zuccotti Park and the police brutality used there and by other police departments in other cities. Eventually, the whole thing went off message and that was the beginning of the end of the Zuccotti Park protest -- although not the movement as a whole.

Keep in mind, this took a while. Now consider this story from yesterday -- which was day three of the government shutdown.

Steve Benen: Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) isn't the most prominent member of the House Republican caucus, but in recent weeks, he's played a pretty important role in shutting down the government. It was Meadows who initiated a formal letter, endorsed by around 80 of his House GOP colleagues, vowing to oppose any spending measure that failed to gut the Affordable Care Act.

To this extent, Meadows helped identify that most radical contingent of his caucus, and positioned himself as one of its ringleaders.

With this in mind, as Brian Beutler reported yesterday, "it was a big surprise" when Meadows told reporters this week that the government shutdown has nothing to do with Obamacare. "This fight now has become about veterans and about national guard folks that perhaps -- reservists that are not getting paid," the North Carolina Republican said. "That's where the fight is today."

So the Tea Party tantrum has gone from being about the Affordable Care Act to being about the government shutdown in no time flat. And give yourself a moment to let the stunning stupidity of this position sink in -- Republicans could resume those paychecks within the next few minutes, if they'd just pass a clean continuing resolution to fund government. As Benen points out, this seems to have been glaringly obvious to everyone but Meadows.

This point was not lost on NPR's Tamara Keith, who asked Meadows why the House doesn't just vote on "a full CR if you don't care about Obamacare anymore." If you listen to the audio, there's an awkward silence that lasts about five seconds. Eventually, the congressman says, "Why not vote on, on a full CR?"
Yeah, why not vote on the CR?

Meadows didn't have an answer for that, so he threw a bunch of random words at Keith like a Dadaist might throw a handful of magnetic poetry strips at a fridge. I'm not going to waste bandwidth reposting it here -- although you can check it at Maddow Blog if you're so inclined -- because it's only a bad parody of an English paragraph. He says a bunch of words that don't actually mean anything, but are simply meant to fill what would otherwise be an awkward silence. "Flapjack noodle bottle cap oatmeal!" would be as good a response. He has no answer -- and he's pretending he does.

"You won't hear Democrats repeating it in speeches because gibberish makes for poor rhetoric, but Meadows' response reinforces what many have feared," explains Benen. "House Republicans haven't the foggiest idea what they're doing right now."

As Republicans race around the WWII Memorial, using veterans as pawns (and exposing themselves as bullies and jerks in the process), keep this in mind -- they're doing it because they're losing. And, by making the shutdown about the shutdown, they're just making their position worse. Think about it: Americans blame Republicans for the impasse and the Republican response is "this shutdown sucks and somebody oughta do something about it!"?

Real sharp thinkin' there, Einsteins.

This thing began the process of failing the moment it began and it's even more over now. Every day, they fail a little harder, they look more like boobs and incompetents, and they demonstrate a level of political tone deafness unparalleled in modern history. As Jonathan Chait put it, "For an act of comparable cost-benefit political stupidity, you have to look to politicians who screw interns or hookers, and even that has a biologically explicable motivation."

If you really want to know what this is all about, it's about the fact that the GOP is a dying party on the national stage and they're desperate to find some way to remain relevant. It's about making Barack Obama pay for beating Mitt Romney. It's about punishing the voters who made that victory happen, because Republicans believe that Democratic voters are all welfare queens dependent on the government.

It's not about Obamacare now, because it never was. And as the shutdown goes on, the pretense slips their minds more and more often, until the mask falls away completely. Then they're exposed merely as toddlers having a tantrum.


[photo by John Sonderman]

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