The noose is tightening on the TeaOP and especially on the house GOP leadership. They can, of course, continue the theatrics for some time longer (though not indefinitely), but with every passing day and every editorial weigh-in, it’s looking worse and worse for the arsonists in the teahadist wing of the GOP.
To start with, many of the tea party-aligned arsonists currently dead-set on burning down governmental norms as well as the full faith and credit of the United States if they don’t get to alter a duly-passed law haven’t been involved in politics for long. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that they may lack the personal perspective that comes with lengthy familiarity with the forces at work here. Senator Ted Cruz, for instance, appears to have misunderestimated exactly how this shutdown nonsense would play out in the rest of the (non-political-junkie) country. There’s a reason they call the inside-the-beltway press and culture a bubble: because it really does differ from the way the news gets reported in the rest of the country, especially when sweeping issues which materially affect a lot of people are at stake.
There’s no way to tell for certain, of course, but it appears Ted Cruz and many of the freshman tea party Representatives have all been breathing exclusively the same air for so long that they genuinely thought the local media throughout the country would simply repeat beltway GOP spin when the rubber met the road on the shutdown. Instead, what they’re getting are stories like this and this in local press around the country, which more-or-less cover this as a straight story of how local citizens are affected, not as a grand ideological struggle against collectivist moochers blahblahblah… (here’s the two headlines):
Analysis after the jump…These are both from the NBC affiliate in my hometown of San Diego. I chose these examples because A) they’re both live right now on the front page of their web site, meaning this coverage is quite thorough and widespread, and b) San Diego is not known as a liberal town. From Orange County down to Mexico, southern California tends to be quite conservative overall. Maybe not Dallas or Salt Lake conservative, but not too far off. Nixon was from San Clemente, and B-1 Bob Dornan was a legendarily wingnutty long-time congressman from SoCal, back before wingnuttery acquired its current luster.
The point is: this is how the stories are playing, everywhere in the country – even in the conservative districts. The shutdown really is affecting real people negatively, and people essentially know it’s the Republicans who are to blame for it. The Miramar air show is one of the country’s premier air shows. Miramar Naval Air station is the location of the famous “Top Gun” school (on which the even more famous movie was based). The Blue Angels perform at this show every year; it’s a big deal in the air show world. Cancelled due to the shutdown. This is news for San Diego residents who planned to attend, and for the local businesses who counted on show-based upswing in business. San Diego is a big military town in general, and the other story about the commissaries being depleted and soldiers facing potential food shortages is also certainly of interest to a great segment of the local population in San Diego. That’s why it’s news.
Unfortunately for the DC teaparty establishment, throughout the country, news like this is mostly being presented without the spin they would like to see put on it: that it’s the Kenyan Obamunist’s fault for not gutting his own healthcare law. That’s turning out to be a problem for guys like Cruz, who just today had to face a crowd of angry legislators not from the Democratic ranks, but from within his own caucus, who fired questions at him about why he hadn’t anticipated various things and seems to have been caught flat-footed:
“At a closed-door lunch meeting in the Senate’s Mansfield Room, Republican after Republican pressed Cruz to explain how he would propose to end the bitter budget impasse with Democrats, according to senators who attended the meeting. A defensive Cruz had no clear plan to force an end to the shutdown — or explain how he would defund Obamacare, as he has demanded all along, sources said.”
Said one Senate Republican: “He kept trying to change the subject because he never could answer the question. It’s pretty evident it’s never been about a strategy – it’s been about him. That’s unfortunate. I think he’s done our country a major disservice. I think he’s done Republicans a major disservice.”
Ow. That’s gonna leave a mark. And I’m betting that, despite all his formal debate experience, Cruz wasn’t ready for this kind of street-fighting pushback. Not from Harry Reid, not from the President, and certainly not from his own caucus. Welcome to the big leagues, Senator.
The main problem for the continuation of the GOP obstructionism this time is that – as everyone’s already aware – the shutdown fight comes just before an even larger and much more potentially damaging fight: the one over the debt ceiling. I needn’t go into the story of why the debt-ceiling fight, too, is a crisis wholly manufactured by the GOP. That story’s already pretty well-understood. The reason it complicates things for the arsonist defund-caucus in the House GOP is that when the subject is the health of the economy – and especially of the financial sector – then Wall Street begins to unholster their guns. John Boehner knows this, but it appears as if Cruz and the Teahadists (new band name!) may either not fully grasp it, or are in willful denial about it.
If the government shuts down, America likely looks like a bunch of idiots on the world stage. Some bad things happen to a sizeable number of people. But if the economy crashes and the world markets re-price American debt? We’re screwed. Badly. And maybe the rest of the world is too, since we’re still the reserve currency and biggest consumer. Paul Krugman takes a thoughtful look on his blog today at how this all may very well play out:
So what does the endgame look like?
As the date approaches, market will start to freak out. You can already see a faint hint of freakout coming, as interest rates on 4-week Treasury bills — which may not be repaid on their due date — have moved up above 6-month
The assumption has been that Republicans will finally be moved to act by the market freakout. But given their behavior so far, why would you believe this? I can easily see Ted Cruz making a speech declaring that the freakout is all Obama’s fault, and that what the markets really fear is socialism or something — and the base believing it.
My bet now is that we actually do go over the line for a day or two. And what ends the immediate crisis is not Republican action but a decision by Obama to declare himself not bound by the debt ceiling.
This sounds right, though it may also be the case that the financial sector brings so much crushing weight to bear on Speaker Boehner and the rest of the non-total-arsonist-loon GOP that they finally summon the courage to tell the teahadists to go pound sand, and work with Democrats to pass the necessary bills which fund the government and raise the debt ceiling cleanly. For better or worse, in this country, we’ve allowed the financial sector to accumulate MASSIVE amounts of real power. This means, in modern America, Wall Street (often) bats cleanup. And either way, Cruz and the Teahadists™ lose. Indeed, Wall Street is already firing warning shots to that effect.
But because I’m feeling whimsical, perhaps the most obvious, base-level indicator that things are quickly beginning to backfire badly on the TeaOP was this:
When the entertainment pages start covering unusual populist political statements from figures like Britney Spears? (who once (in)famously said we should all just support George W. Bush). Well…then you and your absolutist ideology and tactics are well and truly screwed.
You tea-weasels wanted to be unyielding and play hardball? Enjoy every damn minute of it.