Sinking The Conservative Ship To Save It

The Article: The Tea Party’s Murder-Suicide Pact by Joshua Green at the Atlantic.

The Text: Congress cut short its July 4th recess and returned to Washington this week to try and reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Or, rather, some of its members are trying – a growing number of Republicans responsive to the Tea Party movement seem dead set again this. They not only claim that the United States won’t suffer any negative consequences if it doesn’t raise the ceiling, but that refusing will have the salutary effect of forcing the government to live within its means.

A lot is at stake here. Just about everyone besides these Republicans believes that a debt default would be catastrophic. And most of them, including President Obama, would accept trillions of dollars in spending cuts to avoid finding out.

We’ll know soon enough. The Treasury reports that as of Aug. 2 the government will no longer be able to meet its obligations. Among the many things that will be revealed on the way is whether the Tea Party can plausibly claim to be a constructive force imposing a new regime of fiscal probity or whether it will bring about the political equivalent of a murder-suicide, wrecking the economy and taking the Republican Party over a cliff.

Both scenarios are entirely plausible – a situation few could have envisioned when the Tea Party first rose up in the wake of the bailouts of Wall Street and the automotive industry in 2008. The movement’s influence has turned out to be almost the opposite of what most people expected. Initially, the Tea Party was regarded as a powerful grass-roots electoral force, but probably not one that was going to change the bipartisan culture of Washington profligacy.

That view reflected the widespread expectation that most of its members would go native upon arrival in Washington and rapidly come to resemble those who they had replaced.

But for the most part, this hasn’t happened. While the Tea Party movement helped Republicans carry the House last November, the limits of its electoral capacity were clear. Its candidates probably cost Republicans a number of key Senate races.

Where the Tea Party has been much more successful is in the profound effect it has had on Washington. At a time when the Democrats control most of the government and voters are obsessed with the weak economy – the latest Gallup poll shows 55 percent identifying the economy or jobs as their top issue, against only 13 percent who name the federal deficit – the singular focus in Washington is the Tea Party’s prime concern: cutting the federal budget.

What’s more, they are on the cusp of an almost unimaginable triumph. Until about a week ago, a grand bargain with Democrats and the White House seemed very near at hand in which spending would be cut by as much as $4 trillion over the next decade or so. These cuts included hundreds of billions from cherished entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid that conservatives have longed to confront for years, but from which they have always flinched for fear of the backlash that would inevitably ensue. Democrats have extended them a once-in-a-generation free pass, and ask remarkably little in return. In fact, the opening bid from the White House met the demands laid down in March (.pdf) by House Speaker John Boehner that any deal comprise 85 percent spending cuts and 15 percent revenue increases.

But key Republicans have decided they cannot abide any such deal, no matter how favorable to their own cause, a stunning reversal of position brought about by the Tea Party’s refusal to consider any tax increase and mainstream Republicans’ fear of getting crosswise with them. Crazy as this sounds, a number of Republicans from gerrymandered conservative districts appear more frightened of Tea Party wrath than the prospect of bringing about economic calamity (which would hurt those activists along with everyone else).

It’s not too late. On Tuesday, the president reiterated his desire to cut trillions in spending and to do what politicians rarely do: forgo a smaller deal for something very much harder but of historic magnitude, which by the Tea Party’s own professed standard, would represent a tremendous victory and establish it as one of the most successful forces in recent political history. But for the time being, its legacy seems to be approaching an ominously different outcome.


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  1. DCreamer says:

    When we have reached the point where the obvious, ever present and desperate desire for incumbency forces a whole party to risk annihilation rather than do the right thing and accept the incredibly favorable deal they forced on the president it is time for a change in the constitution. Our current system of finance campaign laws not only allow but foster legalized bribery. That combined with the normal politicians aristocratic view of his office and position driving his lust for incumbency in perpetuity creates a situation where the people’s best interest are not only not well served but not served at all.

    The senators and congressmen and woman we send to the hill represent the large corporate and special interest first and the people basically not at all. Their votes are and have been for a long time for sale to the highest bidder. All protestations to the contrary it is quite obvious to even the most disinterested member of the proletariat that their interest and what a modicum of common sense would indicate is best for the country gets a very short shrift from their elected representatives.

    To save and preserve this nation from those unwilling to engage any moral compass in their positions of leadership it will be necessary to drastically alter the campaign finance laws and implement term limits of two terms on senators and three terms on the congress. Amending the constitution this way will take the Supreme Court which has also become a partisan political entity out of the picture and prevent them from reversing these changes on some spurious grounds as was done in the Citizens United case.

    Corporations are not people in the political sense with all the rights and privileges attending thereto. They are business entities with certain protections for their officers, owners and boards of directors against non-criminal liability. They should be prohibited from making any political contributions at all and prevented from suborning the votes of their representatives. Their influence should be limited to the empirical proofs and arguments they can bring forth in a public committee meeting and not based on the depth of their pockets.

    Term Limits speak for themselves in that it is again quite obvious that the longer a politician stays in office the more he cares for power, influence and self enrichment and the less she cares for the people who sent them there. Service to ones country should not be part and parcel of a lifelong pursuit of public office when the character of few men and women can withstand the inducements to put self before country when wielding such power and influence over the long haul. If you care about the future of this country urge your local state party organizations to endorse these changes.

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