This Isn’t Politics As Usual

Fallows describes what is happening on the Hill as “a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too”:

As a matter of politics, this is different from anything we learned about in classrooms or expected until the past few years. We’re used to thinking that the most important disagreements are between the major parties, not within one party; and that disagreements over policies, goals, tactics can be addressed by negotiation or compromise.

This time, the fight that matters is within the Republican party, and that fight is over whether compromise itself is legitimate. Outsiders to this struggle — the president and his administration, Democratic legislators as a group, voters or “opinion leaders” outside the generally safe districts that elected the new House majority — have essentially no leverage over the outcome. I can’t recall any situation like this in my own experience, and the only even-approximate historic parallel (with obvious differences) is the inability of Northern/free-state opinion to affect the debate within the slave-state South from the 1840s onward. Nor is there a conceivable “compromise” the Democrats could offer that would placate the other side.

Josh Marshall’s related thoughts on the extremism of the GOP:

For all the ubiquity of political polarizing and heightened partisanship, no honest observer can deny that the rise of crisis governance and various forms of legislative hostage taking comes entirely from the GOP. I hesitate to state it so baldly because inevitably it cuts off the discussion with at least a sizable minority of the political nation. But there’s no way to grapple with the issue without being clear on this single underlying reality. …

Many people say that the danger is that the Democrats, reasonably enough, will adopt the same tactics once they are back in a comparable position. I worry about that too. But not that much. I think the reality is that they won’t because the sociology and mores of the parties are just different.

It has become so pervasive that I believe it’s lost on many of us just how far down the road of state breakdown and decay we’ve already gone. It is starting to seem normal what is not normal at all.