Week 42: Prats – The Congressional Republicans

by George_East on October 20, 2013

prat_iconThis Week’s Prats of the Week are the Congressional Republicans who shut down the US government and brought the US to the point of default on its debt, before backing down for precisely nothing in the game of political chicken they played with Barack Obama and the Democrats

Sometimes there are few things scarier to see in action than the current Republican Party.   This is a Party that since the Gingrich Revolution in 1994 which has been taken over by a bunch of revolutionary right wing extremists who will not (or in some cases cannot) accept that a Democratic President is legitimate.   This first happened to Bill Clinton, leading to the absurdity of the attempt to impeach him for a blow job in the Oval Office, as a result of failing to beat him in at the ballot box.   Initially  and naively Barack Obama thought that the insanity of the modern day Republicans was something brought on by the Clintons, rather than Democrats generally – anyone paying attention knew this was not the case .   Obama tried to deal with them in an non-partisan way and was rewarded (after severely watering down his own legislation) with not a single Republican supporting his stimulus plans or his healthcare reform.  This reached the apogee of absurdity when Obama did do a deal with the Republicans over their refusal to increase the debt ceiling in 2011.  That was perhaps the low point of his presidency.

It resulted in the Republicans thinking this time that Obama would again do a deal if they played hard ball with the budget – that he would voluntarily de-fund his own centre-piece legislation that they had failed to overturn through the ballot box or the Courts, so they shut down the government.  When a week into the shut down it was obvious that this was not going to happen, they changed their targets to massive spending cuts in Medicare and Social Security.  Again no dice.  What they failed to appreciate was that Obama had learned his lessons, and knew that not only could he not do a deal at the point of a metaphorical gun, but that if he did it would change the whole constitutional balance in the US – making the presidency (like the vice presidency was famously described by FDR’s first Vice President, John Nance Taylor) not worth a warm bucket of piss.

As the days went by and the polling became worse and  even worse for the Republicans, there was a palpable sense of panic amongst Speaker John Boenher and the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives.  This resulted in a nakedly face saving proposal last Tuesday to put a budget resolution before the House, containing only one substantive spending cut – a removal of the health benefits of congressional staff.  This went down like a lead balloon with their own hardworking staff members (resulting in some plaintive tweets from republican staffers working for loons like Senator Ted Cruz – the hypocrisy was glaring) and once it was clear that Democrats would not support it, left Boenher looking completely at the mercy of the Tea Party radicals who were also not willing to support it and as if he had no possible way through the crisis.  Fortunately for the US and the world, the adults in the Senate took over – with Mitch McConnell offering terms of abject surrender to Harry Reid, leaving Boenher with the choice of either refusing to put it to the floor of the House, thereby being directly responsible for US debt default, or putting it to the floor and not carrying the majority of his own caucus with him (the latter was what happened – with 144 Republicans of the 230 strong delegation voting against).

The Republicans have been left in disarray.  The Tea Party radicals who control much of the base are gearing up for primaries against members of Congress who supported the surrender (it was no compromise – as that would have required Obama to give up something meaningful, which he did not) and gearing up for another fight in February when the debt ceiling is likely to need to be raised again.  We have seen how this has ended up before – the selection of unelectable nutjobs like Christine O’Donnell and Richard Murdock.   On the other hand the establishment party – particularly that part of it in the senate (including those historically seen as being very much on the right: senators like McConnell himself, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Orin Hatch of Utah), have made scathing comments about the naivety and self-destructiveness of the Tea Party.  From the perspective of the American (and world) centre  left it has been beautiful to hold, as the prats have brought it entirely on themselves.

Although a Democratic Party victory in the House elections next November remains unlikely given the extent of the gerrymandering and usual mid-term effects, it is no longer completely impossible,    The world can only hope – it is only a comprehensive annihilation of the Republicans that has any hope of bringing them back to being a functional party of government, and until that happens the farce of the last month is not likely to be the last occasion that we see such tactics being used. The party of Eisenhower this is not.

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