America’s Cold Civil War, Ctd

Jul 25 2011 @ 1:53pm

Ezra Klein is unsure if the GOP can take yes for an answer:

Republicans have leverage because the debt ceiling needs to be raised and it can't be raised without their support. But they don't have popular support behind their position or their leadership. They can push this up to the brink and win, because Democrats really, really, really don't want a debt-ceiling crisis that could set back the economy. But if they push it over the brink, they're likely to lose, as the public really, really doesn't want Congress to create an economic crisis that will set back the economy, and they're primed to blame the GOP if one does in fact come to pass.

David Frum likewise sees danger for the GOP. I remain of the view that the extremism of the right – their refusal to accept that in a divided government, there has to be some give and take – is related to what I called a "cold civil war." John Harwood put it in less graphic terms in the NYT today:

What most complicates the chances for compromise is the broad political realignment that has played out over the decades since World War II. Once, partisan differences were blurred by intraparty factions in a Democratic caucus with Southern conservatives and a Republican caucus with Northern liberals.

Now, partisan and ideological boundaries are powerfully self-reinforcing — a double-layered Great Wall of Division, buttressed by fund-raising patterns and gerrymandered House districts. A National Journal analysis of voting patterns earlier this year showed the trend essentially perfected. The 2010 record of the most liberal Senate Republican lay to the right of the most conservative Senate Democrat.

This Nixonian achievement has turned the GOP into the party of the South – a minority country within a country. With no ability to communicate within the Democratic party to bring the South and the rest of the country together, we have stalemate. Recall that the map of the 2008 presidential election was almost identical to the map of the states in the Civil War, with now Northern-infiltrated Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida the only exceptions. And that, to my mind, is why we don't just have a refusal to compromise; we have an essential refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the president or the Senate, because they are not controlled by the South. Heaven knows how this dynamic is made worse by having a miscegenated president. But I do not doubt that, somewhere in the psyche, it has to be. Hence the whole birth certificate/Muslim/Kenyan fantasies.

And so the whole promise of post-partisan Obama founders on the determination of one faction to bring him down, regardless of the costs – even to themselves. I have not yet seen Obama so perfectly forced into Lincoln's position: trying desperately to accommodate a force that refuses to be accommodated, except by dictating the national outcome of every debate. But their rage will not be assuaged by appeasement. Any deal with this president will be seen as a betrayal by the Tea Party faction. Hence the agony of John Boehner. Hence the need to cut the president out of any resolution.

[Correction: The first version of this post missed North Carolina as one of the Confederate states to back Obama in 2008.]