The Tea Party As A Religion, Ctd

Dreher makes the same analogy I did:

Can the Tea Partiers’ beliefs be falsified? I don’t think they can be. I mean, is there any evidence that could convince them that the fault here lies with themselves, in the way they conceive politics, and in the way they behaved? It sure doesn’t look like it. In that sense, they think of politics as a kind of religion. It’s not for nothing that the hardcore House members stood together and sang “Amazing Grace” as the impossibility of their position became ever clearer. They really do bring a religious zealotry to politics.

Let me hasten to say that I’m not endorsing the “Christianist” meme, which I find far too reductive, among other things. Besides, many of the Tea Partiers and fellow travelers are not motivated by religious faith, but by a religious-like zeal for their political ideology. It was like this on the Right before the advent of the Tea Party. There has long been a sense on the Right that the movement must be vigilant against the backsliders and compromisers, who will Betray True Conservatism if you give them the chance. Again, the religious mindset: politics as a purity test. In this worldview, a politician who compromises sells out the True Faith — and faith, by definition, does not depend on empirical observation to justify itself.

Millman points out that treating politics as religion makes getting a majority near impossible:

In order to persuade someone, you have to be willing to entertain the possibility that there are multiple ways of looking at something, that there are arguments on both sides (albeit presumably better ones on your own), and that it is right and proper for someone to expect to be persuaded of the rightness of your position rather than merely be told what it is. That the truth is not self-evident, but contested, continuously. If entertaining that possibility is threatening to your faith, you won’t do it. If you don’t do it, you won’t be very persuasive to people who don’t already believe. Of course, you make make some converts of people who are looking for a new faith. But those who don’t convert will remain unpersuaded.

A political party that tried to build itself like a church could only succeed if it had monopoly control of the state – if, in other words, it was the ruling party of a totalitarian system. Under a situation of free competition, those principles of organization will inevitably lead to perpetual minority status.

The confusion of politics with religion also explains why the GOP is obsessed with punishing political heresy. For example, Molly Ball gets an incredible quote from a Tea Partier who seems to no longer care about getting a majority:

“There are two views on the right. One says more Republicans is better; the other says better Republicans is better,” said Dean Clancy, vice president of public policy for the Tea Party group FreedomWorks. “One view focuses on the number of Republicans in the Senate, the other on the amount of fight in the senators.”

Finally, it’s telling that Eric Erickson uses religious language when attempting to enforce Tea Party dogma:

Men like Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and others have preached a great sermon against Obamacare, but now conservatives who supported them see that these men have refused to actually practice what they’ve been preaching. They’ve refused to stand and fight with the rest of us.

Go Big, Mr President

President Obama Delivers A Statement

Tomasky is highly skeptical that new negotations over the budget can result in any different outcome next time:

The position of the chaos caucus is going to be: Okay Obama, you give us entitlement cuts, and we’ll give you…uh, what? No revenues. They’re inflexible on that point. No programs (outside maybe of defense, and even that’s a maybe) funded at levels above sequestration. So actually, they’ll give nothing.

Beutler’s view:

[T]here’s a high likelihood that these negotiations will end the same way as all the others that preceded them did: no agreement. An agreement is only compatible with the GOP’s anti-tax absolutism if Democrats drop their demand for tax parity and agree to pay down sequestration with other spending cuts. Possible, but unlikely.

One way out of this would be for Obama to go big, to propose in these new talks a Bowles-Simpson-style deal in which major tax reform and entitlement cuts are exchanged for much higher revenues. If the GOP were a genuinely conservative party, actually interested in long-term government solvency and reform within our current system of government, they would jump at this. They could claim to have reduced tax rates, even if the net result were higher taxes. And the brutal fact is that, given simply our demographics, higher taxes are going to be necessary if we are to avoid gutting our commitments to the seniors of tomorrow. They could concede that and climb down from this impossibly long limb they have constructed for themselves.

I’ve long favored a Grand Bargain, but recognize its huge political liabilities without the leadership of both parties genuinely wanting to get there. But for Obama, it seems to me, re-stating such a possibility and embracing it more than he has ever done, is a win-win.

He may alienate Democrats – but after his cold-steel resistance to Tea Party blackmail, he has surely won some chips to his left. With independents and moderate Republicans, now reeling from the last month’s brinksmanship, it would signal centrist leadership that could bolster his political standing, even if the GOP turns him down. If his political standing improves, then the chances for a Democratic wave in 2014 increase.

But it means taking a real risk now. And this president has shown in his second term a much greater propensity to risk than in his first.

Think of the boldness of his response to Assad’s chemical weapons attack and agility in roping in Putin to deal with it (so far successfully). Think of his steadfast refusal to budge right up against the threat of default. He has earned new cred and could bolster it some more with a new, bold reach for the political center he can still represent. I believe it would be the most politically effective domestic policy agenda the president can plausibly move forward, if the GOP maintains its rigidity against immigration reform past the next Congressional elections. It would also help bring back the core coalition that gave him such a huge victory in 2008. It would mean the president has not given up on the long-term fiscal health of the country. And it is vital that no president gives up on that, especially one elected on the principle of hope as well as change.

Resignation to gridlock is perfectly rational. But changing that dynamic is never impossible. It’s what we elect presidents to do. And this one still could, if he swiftly exploits the opening this near-catastrophe has presented to him.

(Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement at the State Dining Room of the White House October 17, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama said the American people are completely fed up with Washington and called on cooperation to work things out. By Alex Wong/Getty Images.)

Headline Of The Day

Screen Shot 2013-10-17 at 2.33.55 PM

Update from a reader:

It’s good to know Drudge has caught up to 1992:

“New Mainstream: Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Salsa”
March 11, 1992

KETCHUP, long the king of American condiments, has been dethroned. Last year, salsa — a retailing category that includes picante, enchilada, taco and similar chili-based sauces — took the condiment crown, outselling ketchup by $40 million in retail stores.”

Another goes Seinfeldian:

And an update from Drudge lui-meme:

Screen Shot 2013-10-17 at 4.46.41 PM

Amazing who reads the Dish, innit?

Whom The Shutdown Hurt Most

Americans like John Anderson:

He is a line cook at the American Indian Smithsonian Museum on the National Mall. Anderson is not a government employee. He’s a contract worker – the government hires his company to make the food for visitors to the museum. When the shutdown closed the museum, Anderson lost his job. He’ll now presumably be able to go back to work, but unlike federal workers, he won’t get back pay. And he could use that back pay: Anderson is a divorced father of two who usually brings home about $350 a week after taxes and child support. His 16-year-old son lives with him in Washington but commutes by bus and train to high school in Maryland every day.

Anderson has no savings – his wages don’t leave much cushion for savings – and struggled through the shutdown to pay his rent, put food on the table and pay for his son to travel back and forth to school.

When you think of the actual Americans that the Tea Party is playing with, like so many pawns on a chessboard, the repulsiveness of the ego of Ted Cruz and the fanaticism of Erick Erickson becomes even clearer. For them, for all their protestations to the contrary, this was a game. And nameless, struggling Americans were the losers.

Where’s Boehner’s Backbone? Ctd


A reader writes:

The fact is, John Boehner has made a deliberate choice all along in his speakership. You can moan all day about leadership and and herding cats, etc. But he has made the choice that his slavish devotion to the Hastert Rule is more important than anything else … more important than the financial health of the country, even the globe.

His choice of requiring a majority of the majority on every single vote continues to give unprecedented power to a relatively small minority in his party. He’s made a choice letting roughly 12% of the House drive the entire government. That’s all it is – a choice. There’s no law, rule or even recognized precedent for that. He’s taken the (occasional) practice of one of his predecessors and turned it into something more important than the law of the land. All he needs to do is stop, and everything immediately goes back to normal but for the screaming.

Another is far too generous to the Speaker:

I’ve never to be politically sophisticated but I did have a manipulative mother whose upbringing required me to develop survival skills in interpreting the underlying motivations of others.

Regarding John Boehner’s recent handling of the debt crisis, it seems to me by having the balls to let the extremist Republican element in the House play out their power play, while appearing to support them, has resulted in their demise.  This  greatly enhances his ability to control them in the future, which he managed without appearing to undermine their effort and, thus, gives him a much stronger hand in dealing with Democrats and puts the balance of power within their party back in the hands of their establishment.  The biggest winners in this show are Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who for his part and all at once, just neutralized his primary Tea Party opposition and his his eventual Democrat opponent, Allison Grimes, who has based her campaign on his perpetuation of gridlock.  These guys didn’t get to where they are by lacking in Machiavellian skills!

Another fumes:

I just can’t believe that this Speaker and his party will move on from this with no resignations, no apologies and no responsibility. This is an utterly disastrous event for the Republican party and the stories we read state that the Speaker’s position is not in question? WTF?

Previous Dish discussion here.

The Sabotage Of The American Economy

Fiscal Uncertainty

Derek Thompson puts the GOP’s economic damage in more perspective:

Counter-factual accounting is guess-work by definition, but a few research firms have tried to attach a number to the shutdown. Macroeconomic Advisers put the figure at $12 billion. S&P estimate the cost was twice as high, at $24 billion. Split the difference, and you’re talking about $18 billion in lost work.

What’s a good way to think about that kind of money—a sliver of the entire $15 trillion U.S. economy, but still, you know, $18 billion? In July this year, NASA funding was approved at around $17 billion for the fiscal year. So, there: The shutdown took a NASA-sized bite out of the U.S. economy.

But that’s just a nibble compared to the total cost of the budget showdowns stretching back to 2010. According to Macroeconomic Advisers, the total cost of Congress’s assault on the economy going back to 2010—including the budget cuts, including sequestration, and fights around the budget cuts—was about 3 percent of our entire economy. That’s $700 billion. That’s not just NASA. It’s one year’s entire defense budget.

Krugman thinks the number-crunchers at Macroeconomic Advisors are underestimating the fiscal drag:

The combination of the payroll [tax] hike and the [unemployment] benefit cuts amounts to about $200 billion of fiscal contraction at an annual rate, or 1.25 percent of GDP, probably with a significant multiplier effect. Add this to the effects of sharp cuts in discretionary spending and the effects of economic uncertainty, however measured, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that extortion tactics may have shaved as much as 4 percent off GDP and added 2 points to the unemployment rate.

In other words, we’d be looking at a vastly healthier economy if it weren’t for the GOP takeover of the House in 2010.

What The Shutdown Accomplished

The one concession Republicans got is meaningless:

There’s nothing about the income verification measures that passed Wednesday night that will change Obamacare, aside from a few staff members at Health and Human Services devoting some hours to gathering the data and writing up these reports. And that probably explains why Democrats were okay with passing this language in the first place.

Gleckman sighs:

Congress has just shuttered much of the federal government for more than two weeks and risked a market-shattering federal default in order to convene a meeting of budget negotiators.

And at the cost $24 billion in lost economic output. Sheer vandalism.

The Wave On The Horizon?


Republican Congressman Charles Boustany worried recently that actions by House Republicans “could trigger a wave of discontent that could wash out our Republican majority in the House if we’re not careful.” Nate Cohn continues to insist that the Republican majority is safe:

[E]ven if public outrage with the GOP persists at today’s levels, there good reasons to question whether the wave will endure through November 2014. Unlike real waves, electoral waves shrink as they approach the shore. Political scientists have found that the generic ballot overestimates the president’s party this far from an election. That’s part of why Alan Abramowitz estimates that Democrats need a 13 point Democratic edge on September 1 to win the 17 seats necessary to retake the chamber in November.

Enten disagrees and argues that “Abramowitz’s forecast is a good starting-point for understanding how uphill is the Democrats’ task in taking back the House, but it is far from perfect.” Furthermore:

The thing is that expert ratings (like most polling) are not all that predictive a year out from an election. At this point in the 2006 cycle, there were 17 Republican seats in the lean or tossup categories (pdf). That’s well short of the 30 seats that Democrats would ultimately take from Republicans. At this point in the 2010 cycle, there were 28 Democratic seats in the lean or tossup category. Republicans, of course, went onto gain 63 seats in 2010.

It’s not until later in the cycle when individual seat rankings become quite useful. That’s when potential challengers and incumbents read the national environment and decide to run or not. Chances are that if the 4-5pt Democratic lead holds, the individual seat rankings will reflect that edge. For now, individual seat ratings probably aren’t all that helpful to understanding which way and how hard the wind is blowing.

My view, for what it’s worth, is that this event has the potential to deeply shape public attitudes about the GOP’s fitness for public office and change the shape of the next Congress decisively. I mean, here’s Ross today:

However you slice and dice the history, the strategery, and the underlying issues, the decision to live with a government shutdown for an extended period of time — inflicting modest-but-real harm on the economy, needlessly disrupting the lives and paychecks of many thousands of hardworking people, and further tarnishing the Republican Party’s already not-exactly-shiny image — in pursuit of obviously, obviously unattainable goals was not a normal political blunder by a normally-functioning political party. It was an irresponsible, dysfunctional and deeply pointless act, carried out by a party that on the evidence of the last few weeks shouldn’t be trusted with the management of a banana stand, let alone the House of Representatives.

And the key thing for responsible actors in the next year is to remind voters again and again about what this crew voted for: a second great depression to appease their ideological purity. They nearly got away with it. The lesson should not be relief and moving on; it should be continued outrage at this vandalism and brinksmanship and a demand for accountability. That means voting Democrat next year even if you disagree about many aspects of their policy proposals. Because this is not about mere policy. It’s about a party threatening to break apart the country if they do not get the rest of us to bend to their minority will and their apocalyptic vision.

If that message can sink in with independents and moderate Republicans, then of course the Democrats can regain the House – and finish the job of the Obama presidency.

I don’t like partisanship. But if it is an indispensable means to ending this level of blackmail of the entire system, then it is a necessary, short-term price to pay.

(Photo by Miguel Teixeira)

Quote For The Day

“Even at the bitter end, on the last possible day to defuse the crisis before the debt ceiling was breached, over 60% of House Republicans voted to push the US government into default, with incalculable but almost certainly catastrophic consequences. This is a very important point, with very ominous implications, that shouldn’t be forgotten or obscured.

Is it unfair, one-sided, or exaggerated to suggest that the national Republican Party has become a dangerous menace to the republic, with no clearly visible redeeming features? I don’t think so,” – Jeff Weintraub. Me neither.

The Sabotage Of American Democracy

Negotiations Continue On Capitol Hill One Day Before Debt Limit Deadline

I suppose I shouldn’t in any way be shocked by the extraordinarily vehement attitude of Tea Party Republicans after they nearly destroyed the US and global economy. And yet I am somewhat grateful I can still be shocked by a column on Fox News’ website. Here’s how it starts:

American taxpayers have once again been trampled by establishment Republicans – a thundering herd of chicken-hearted Republicans in Name Only (RINOs) galloping to the Left. The debt ceiling deal struck between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a victory for President Obama and Democrats. ObamaCare is still the law of the land. The government is still spending money it does not have. And thousands of government workers just got a two-week vacation courtesy of the taxpayers.

Let’s take the last three disappointments/wishes from the non-chicken-hearted.

“ObamaCare is still the law of the land.”

Yes, it is. But that’s because the president who proposed it and the Senate that voted for it were re-elected in 2012. That’s how our system works. Is it possible Todd Starnes doesn’t know this? No, it isn’t. So it is fair, I think, to infer that he believes that because his party regards this centrist, private-sector-dependent reform as an “abomination”, the federal government should be shut down permanently and the country’s credit destroyed, prompting a global depression. And that’s why this episode has been so disturbing. It is not that the GOP doesn’t have a perfect right to vote against Obamacare a zillion times; it’s that they responded to their electoral loss in 2012 by threatening to destroy the entire polity and economy. That is not a tactic or a strategy; it’s a declaration of war against the system of American government.

“The government is still spending money it does not have.”

Yes, it is. But almost all the current debt is a function of massive tax cuts in 2001 that were never paid for (by the GOP), two bank-breaking wars that were never paid for (by the GOP), a big new entitlement for seniors, Medicare D, that was never paid for (by the GOP), and the usgs_line.phprevenue sinkhole provided by the worst recession since the 1930s (begun before Obama took office.). The scale of the debt thus acquired is vast. I think Starnes is absolutely right to make its reduction a priority. The question is a pragmatic one – how do we cut entitlement and defense spending along with raising revenues to get there?

One side is prepared to consider cuts in entitlement programs it cherishes; the other side is resolutely opposed to any net revenue increases at all. One side could begin to negotiate a debt deal that was 2-1 spending cuts to tax hikes; the other side refuses to negotiate even a 10-1 deal. What, for example, does the GOP offer the Democrats on fiscal matters right now? I see nothing. If one side is prepared to give nothing, no deal can be done. And if the Tea Party is right about the urgency of cutting the debt, no deal is very bad fiscal news.

And part of the pragmatic solution is recognizing that immediately ending the government’s current deficit by spending cuts alone would so vitiate economic growth that it would be counter-productive. Starnes is therefore not actually serious about the debt, and neither is the Tea Party.

Their proposal for an immediate balancing of the budget would deepen the debt; and their absolute refusal to countenance any net new revenues to the federal government means they will never get an actual compromise that would actually cut the debt in a meaningful long-term way. In other words, their absolutism on taxes essentially destroys their debt-reduction position … as long as we remain in a constitutional democracy with two parties trying to represent all the people. If the president were saying that he does not care about the debt at all, it would be one thing. But, this president, on current trends, will have brought the deficit down from more than 10 percent of GDP when he took office to around 3 percent when he leaves, during a still tepid recovery (see graph above). What more can these people demand – except, of course, his resignation?

And again, that’s why this episode should not be regarded as anything but a deeply serious political and constitutional crisis. One party is refusing to accept that the other one exists, that not all of America agrees with them, and that democratic norms require compromise in that context.

“Thousands of government workers just got a two-week vacation courtesy of the taxpayers.”

This demonization of government itself, and generalized slur against all those who work for it (and who are also tax-payers) is not just an insult added to injury.

It is another attack on the entire system. As we found out in the fiasco, even Ted Cruz likes government sometimes. For him, it is about keeping monuments open. For other Republicans, it is about scientific research.  And the broader point is that government is the point of politics. There has to be a governing authority that commands universal assent in any functioning democracy. Yes, it should be solvent and run surpluses in peacetime. But it must exist. And conservatism in its proper sense is about governing firmly, securing the rule of law, and sustaining the legitimacy of the democratic system.

What the Tea Party represents, in stark contrast to conservatism, is a radical attack on the very framework of our governing system. It is not right or left within our democratic system. It is a form of secession from it and a de facto abandonment of the notion of one country under one rule of law. It is about sabotage rather than opposition. It is bad enough when one party will seek to sabotage the law of the land – by attempting to rally the public to spurn the new healthcare law, in the hopes of causing it to collapse. But when the dominant faction of one party is bent on sabotaging our democracy, it must not simply be tolerated or appeased the way John Boehner shamefully did. It must be defeated. Anything less is a form of appeasement of forces and ideas that are truly antithetical to the democratic way of life and to constitutional governance.

Yes, in my view, the situation is that grim. If the Republican right’s fanaticism still blinds them to the error of their ways after they nearly destroyed the global economy (and brutally damaged the American one), it becomes clear that only a total collapse of the American government and economy could truly teach them the futility of their deluded aspirations. The rest of us cannot and must not tolerate that. We must draw a line. That line, for those who still believe in the regular order of our democracy, is November 2014.

(Photo: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) answers questions from the media after meeting with Republican senators regarding a bipartisan solution for the pending budget and debt limit impasse at the U.S. Capitol October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. By Andrew Burton/Getty.)