It is certainly satisfying to see the almost-complete implosion of the tea party types in Congress today. Their most-harmful and most-lunatic demands have gone almost completely unmet: Obamacare is virtually unchanged, the government is reopened, and the threat of a default is off the table (for now). Best of all, their electoral prospects may have been badly damaged, especially in the Senate where the GOPers must compete statewide, instead of in heavily gerrymandered districts.
How did we come to this impasse, though? How did we arrive at a place where constant government-by-crisis seems increasingly to be the norm? On day one of the GOP shutdown, the definitive post was written by Charles P. Pierce of Esquire magazine. I knew it the moment I read it, and the post was featured prominently over the days that followed by commentators from Chris Hayes to virtually every blogger on the left side of the dial.
Today, as the very same GOP shutdown grinds to a depressing, predictable, pointless halt with damage aplenty done to ordinary Americans and likely to the economy and recovery, Pierce again has the definitive piece, this time summing it all up:
[The tea party extremists] have cast themselves in their own action adventure movie, and the rest of us serve pretty much the same function as New York City does in The Avengers. We’re the set decoration that gets demolished as Our Heroes fight evil. These are pathetic, worthless children, playing dress-up, and smashing things because they like the sound of things breaking.
Indeed. Yet, the passage that really struck me was this one, because it hit that point I’ve been making, obliquely and directly, for some time now:
The Republican party revelled in all the forces that are now tearing it apart. The Democratic party was criminally negligent and abdicated its profound responsibility to fight against those forces; indeed, it spent the better part of the 1980’s and 1990’s trying to surf the wave itself. The Democratic Leadership Council, and Blue Dog Democrats generally, bear a heavy burden of responsibility for failing to demonstrate to the American people in election after election how extreme the Republicans were becoming.
Yes. They do. In reality, that is. If someone were actually keeping the cosmic ledger adjusted properly, anyone who ever uttered the word “triangulation” or anything like it unironically would indeed bear such a burden. In the actual world we live in, unfortunately, the DLCers and Third Wayers and Blue Dogs and those who enabled them and told us we could do no better don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. Not then, and not today. The people who were dazzled by Bill Clinton’s rhetorical and political skills enough to overlook or actually cheer his “ending welfare as we know it” (until a genuine crisis showed how bankrupt those “reforms” had actually been) or his signing of the CFMA and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley bill, they still think they’re right. They got Democrats “winning” again, and have been part of the “greatest governing coalition in decades.”
In short: they’re not sorry. Larry Summers and Bob Rubin are not sorry for making common cause with bankers free-market ideologues and Alan Greenspan. DLCers and Third Wayers are not sorry for relentlessly caricaturing genuine liberals and then castigating those caricatures in public forums for decades. And the Obama fans who spent most of 2009-10 when Democrats had a supermajority (or the closest thing to one they’d ever have under Obama) cheering on the President’s relentless search for “bipartisanship” and his baffling pivot with unemployment still sky-high and Americans still hurting badly, from helping those folks to “debt reduction” and “entitlement reform” – well…they’re not sorry, either. They should be – in fact, they should be downright ashamed – but they’re not.
I have no idea whether this has anything to do with that fact, but it is indeed a fact that the single greatest failing of the left side of the political spectrum over the last thirty-plus years, when Republicans were getting not just tougher and more popular (and populist) but also markedly more nuts and damaging to the country, is not even acknowledged by the very people who led the charge toward embracing that mistake as brilliant policy and/or political strategy.
That’s a problem, and one we have yet to address, let alone solve.