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Monday, October 14, 2013

GOP Collapsing Under the Weight of All That Crazy/Stupid

Demolition crew implodes Kingdome in Seattle
Things are going very, very badly for the GOP right now. Their poll numbers aren't falling, so much as crashing in a precipitous fashion that one pollster described as "jawdropping." The Obamacare demands have been dropped -- looking back, those demands had the lifespan of a fruit fly. The discussion now isn't about how much spending to cut, but whether we'll continue on with sequester-level spending levels. There was never a time when this government shutdown/debt limit gamesmanship wasn't a disaster for Republicans. Instead, it's an ongoing catastrophe that keeps getting worse.

"It’s just a question of the terms of surrender right now," Mark Halperin told the panel at Morning Joe. "Part of what’s driving the dynamic is Democrats know they are winning and Harry Reid and the White House have the attitude of, ‘Why should we give anything because they’re coming our way,’ and they’re waiting"

In other words, this is over. Not because Republicans are in a surrendering mood, but because it cannot possibly turn out any other way. Republicans have lost their little gambit.

But that's not going to be the narrative on the right after the dust clears. The base will hear only a Rambo-like "we could've won if only the politicians had let us" line of propaganda. That Barack Obama and Harry Reid were on the brink of caving in before John Boehner and Mitch McConnell lost their nerve. As a result, many of the right's most faithful voters will learn absolutely nothing from this beating and may make even greater and more suicidal demands of John Boehner.


Dave Weigel: Any future student of epistemic closure -- of groupthink sealed off from the wider world by partisan media and consensus -- will inevitably end up studying the great World War II memorial conflict of 2013. On October 1, day one of the shutdown, Republican congressmen discovered that the Honor Flight of World War II veterans who'd come to D.C. were met with a closed memorial. They helped the veterans move the barricades and shame the park rangers who'd shown up to haphazardly enforce them. Mississippi Rep. Steven Palazzo, who had warned the White House of the coming conflict, talked to conservative media about how the closure was surely "politically motivated."

From there on out, there were two shutdown "narratives." In the mainstream media and on the left, the shutdown had been driven by conservative Republicans who refused to fund Obamacare in the CR, as they had been promising for months. On the right, the shutdown was Obama's fault -- why wouldn't he compromise? -- and the most visible pain of the shutdown, the closure of parks and memorials, was engineered spitefully by the president. There are terms in conservative media and on Twitter -- "Spite House," "barrycades" -- that I don't think have made the jump beyond. Conservative media report that the memorials were not barricaded in 1995. As Garance Franke-Ruta has proven, by doing something called "journalism," many of the memorials were closed then. The World War II Memorial did not exist in 1995. Security on the Mall, and around all federal buildings, was bumped up after 9/11. And even when you factor all that in, the "barricades" have been enforced with all the oomph of a "no free refills" sign at a busy Del Taco franchise. No one has been arrested in D.C. for going past them.
What got me was the coining of the terms "Spite House" and "barrycades." No one else is talking like this. It's one of the hallmarks of modern conservatism -- to be absolutely, 100% wrong and to mock the people who are right for accepting reality. Pointing and laughing at "libtard" global warming realists comes to mind, but I'm sure you've had a similar experience. Like most bullies, conservatives are as ignorant as they are jerks.

Take for example a small gathering of people at DC this weekend. Billed as the "Million Vet March," it numbered nowhere remotely near a million -- or even a thousand. They symbolically "tore down barricades" at the National Mall, made some birther noise in front of the White House, then -- assumedly -- went back to their sore loser lives where they sit in front of Fox News and nod furiously to Hannity. Like the trucker protest that threatened to shut down Washington, the Million Vet March was a massively oversold pile of nothing.

That is, unless you ask Republicans.

"Despite the fact that the number of participants seem to have numbered in the low hundreds, House conservatives reportedly see the event as a 'game changer' which will turn the tide against the President next week and allow them to move on to victory," writes Josh Marshall.

My point in all this is to offer a counterargument to the whole "this is all going to blow over by the time the elections roll around" narrative offered by the punditry right now. Why is anyone assuming that Republicans are going to suddenly be struck sane or learn some sort of lesson from this? Ted Cruz, for example, shoveled coal into this runaway train from the gitgo, knowing full well that it wasn't going anywhere in the end. By mixing nihilism with political opportunism, Cruz was able to make a hero of himself to the endlessly chumpish base. Why does anyone think he's going to stop being an influence when this is over -- or that the lesson the rest of the GOP learns won't come from Cruz's example?

If this shutdown/debt limit disaster is supposed to have no effect on the 2014 or 2016 elections, then it follows that the Republican Party, rightwing media, and the Tea Party base will be struck sane by the experience and stop being kamikaze pilots/hostage takers/wild-eyed, unhinged warriors against reality. Hands up, who actually sees that happening?

No, they'll lose this fight, but they don't feel compelled to operate within reality. They'll probably even get worse. The fact that they lost here doesn't mean they're willing to stop fighting. It's Cruz et. al. vs. the Republican realists now and the rhetoric is going to get unhinged. We are in for brutal intra-party primary battles in 2014. It's practically guaranteed.

Like the shutdown skirmish and the debt limit battle, this is a fight that can't work out well for Republicans in the end. But they aren't going to avoid it unless people like Ted Cruz stop being grifters and the Tea Party base stops being gullible pigeons.

So there's pretty much no avoiding it, then.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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