There Is No There There

Boehner, House Leaders Speak To Press After Republican Conference Meeting

What does the GOP want? It’s a question I keep asking myself. They say they want to kill Obamacare because it is allegedly killing jobs. But in order to do that, they are threatening a default that would wipe out more jobs than the collapse of Lehman. They say they want to reduce the deficit, but the deficit has been falling extremely fast these past few years – in part because of the sequester they got out of their last hostage-taking event in 2011. Government spending has already been pummeled in this recovery – far more so than in past recoveries.

usgs_line.phpThey say they want to reverse what they see as the end of American freedom because of the dawn of public subsidies for private insurance policies, based on a Heritage Foundation idea and implemented by their last presidential nominee in his home state. Okay, so how about running a campaign for Congress and presidency that explicitly promises to repeal Obamacare entirely? Oh, yes, they already did that and lost. How about upping the ante and making it explicit in the campaign that this is the very last chance to end Obamacare and save America? Oh, yeah, I forgot. They did that too.  So what do they want? I’m not sure they even know.

My best guess is that since they failed to make Obama a one-term president, they now intend to do what has become their custom with second-term Democratic presidents: impeach him. How to do it? Risk blowing up the entire global economy, bet on Obama caving at the end by some kind of dubious executive action, and then prosecute him for it. And what would that do exactly? It would not end Obamacare. But it would throw us instantly into both a Second Great Depression and a severe constitutional crisis.

public-sector-jobsI simply do not see here any actual constructive strategy to help the country recover from the worst recession in decades. I see absolutely no strategy to deal with what everyone agrees is a deeply dysfunctional and grotesquely inefficient healthcare system. I see no viable way to bring down the long-term debt, because such a goal can only be achieved in our system with compromises from both parties, and the GOP is offering nothing that only the Democrats want. That’s why this is such a serious crisis, because the key driver of it has no real idea what it wants to do except destroy a re-elected president.

This is a function of many factors the Dish has covered for years – the intellectual bankruptcy of conservatism under George W Bush; the rise of fundamentalist thinking in religion, economics and politics; the cultural marooning of the white rural conservativesoulpbc.jpg poor; the substitution of a political party with a media-industrial complex that simply wants conflict for ratings and money; the collapse of anything that might be called a conservative intelligentsia able to converse with a liberal intelligentsia on common, empirical grounds; the cowardice of Republican elites in the face of their know-nothing wing, epitomized most brutally by John McCain’s selection of a delusional crazy person as his vice-presidential candidate in 2008; and the recourse to purism of an almost absurdist variety on the right – see Mark Levin’s influential view that the entire Constitution needs to be made over.

The GOP vacuum – for what else can we call such a nihilist temper tantrum? – was best encapsulated for me by a story in yesterday’s NYT. It featured a district gerry-mandered for Palinism, one that seems very reminiscent of the Greenberg-Carville focus groups cited here. This is where my heart sank:

Mr. Tripcony, the surveyor, said he underwent heart surgery not long ago without health insurance, “a bad blow.” He has been making payments against the cost. He had heard of the online marketplace for insurance that opened on Oct. 1 under the Affordable Care Act.

“I just don’t trust it,” said Mr. Tripcony, who has an equal distrust of President Obama. “I don’t like him, and I don’t feel comfortable with anything he’s got to do with.”

Mr. Tripcony said he had a better idea for a system to provide health care at a fair price. “I think it should be the same for everybody,” he said. “One big company, whether owned by the government or private.” Informed that he had described the single-payer system that Mr. Obama abandoned when Republican critics called it socialized medicine, he said, “Yeah, I know, it’s crazy.”

He said he might eventually seek health insurance under the new system. “In a couple of months, when they get the Web sites working, I may do it.”

Mr Tripcony is doing us a favor. He is telling us the truth. This crisis has almost nothing to do with actual policy – as you can see from a base Republican’s rational support for a single-payer healthcare system and willingness to get Obamacare insurance. There is nothing to the current Republican strategy but blind, irrational hatred for a re-elected president: “I don’t like him, and I don’t feel comfortable with anything he’s got to do with.” Somehow, this “feeling” must be granted some “relief”, or they will bring down the world economy. But any relief granted on these terms would simply pave the way for more economic terrorism and blackmail in the future, which would mean an end to our system of government.

The GOP have driven themselves into a tight, airless corner of ideological purity and self-destruction. The trouble is: their own self-destruction means ours as well. And the world’s.

(Photo by Getty Images; graphs by US Government and Calculated Risk; cover from The Conservative Soul)