The Crack-Up Continues
Via Sully, that’s a clip of Freedom Watch’s Larry Klayman speaking at the veteran’s rally in Washington yesterday. He called President Obama an Allah-worshiper, and urged the people to wage a “non-violent revolution” to “demand that this president leave town, to get out.”
The elected, lawful president of the United States.
Is this what American conservatism is turning into?
On issues like drones, executive power, and NSA spying, some Tea Party leaders have taken principled stands that set them apart from their GOP colleagues.
It is vital that those particular Tea Partiers stay in Congress. The U.S. is well-served by the bipartisan civil-liberties collaborations among (e.g.) Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Rand Paul, and Representative Justin Amash. Some Tea Partiers played a role in avoiding an imprudent war in Syria, too. The political press ignores issues like those when it portrays Tea Party legislators as uniquely irresponsible ideologues pushing their party to adopt dangerous policies. Recall that when Republicans were last in power, the most catastrophic policies were collaborative efforts between the establishment and the neocons, who don’t like the Tea Partiers because they’re insufficiently bellicose. The GOP establishment spent $6 trillion on wars of choice (!), abetted by pro-war, Patriot Act-supporting Democrats like Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, whose reckless ideology and irresponsible votes go mostly unmentioned.
Tea Partiers should nevertheless understand that, fairly or unfairly, they’re saddled with a reputation for unusual recklessness. Voters aren’t sure whether they can be trusted to govern. That’s why their behavior in the debt-ceiling standoff is so idiotic. Paul and Amash, whose principled stands I frequently cheer, and Senator Ted Cruz, whose phony affect makes me mistrust him, could demonstrate themselves to be staunch fiscal conservatives and fight for small government in any number of ways. They could embark upon any number of long-term strategies for reforming public policy in line with their beliefs. Among all the fights they could pick, why choose the debt-ceiling?
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
It’s like when left-wing radicals took over the Democratic Party, allowing Richard Nixon reap the political benefits of looking normal and responsible compared to the passionate ideologues who came to dominate Democratic politics.
Did you see Molly Ball’s report from the Values Voter Summit, which is the big annual DC meeting for religious conservative political activists? These guys — and I say this as an unapologetic religious conservative — are living in Cloud-Cuckoo Land. Excerpt:
I asked Tony Perkins, the veteran conservative activist who heads the Family Research Council, what way out of the shutdown he would consider acceptable. He said a delay of the health-care law’s individual mandate—a proposal already rejected by the Senate and president when the House passed it—was the absolute least conservatives would settle for, and that any deal that didn’t substantially affect Obamacare would inspire a revolt. “Ted Cruz has done more to help the Republican Party, I think, than anyone in the last 10 years,” he said, by “reengaging the people Republicans need to win elections.”
Do you care about the polls showing this is hurting the Republican Party? I asked. “No,” he said. “Who are they polling? Just GOP voters? No, the general public.” And what about the schism within the GOP that has resulted? “It’s long overdue,” Perkins said. “Where did that go-along, get-along view get us? Into a mess. It’s time to challenge the status quo.”
Remember Occupy Wall Street? Remember how some people said they weren’t going to get anywhere because they had no strategy? That you couldn’t actually change things with mere outrage? This is the same, but worse. If he stands by this quote, Tony Perkins actually believes that the opinion of non-Republicans doesn’t matter. How does he figure this? Republicans are not a majority in this country. To win elections, they have to win the votes of Independents too. Lots of Independents look at this lot and want to run the other way.
An old friend who works in Democratic politics sent this recent James Carville/Stan Greenberg focus-group study of current Republican voters. The report says you can’t understand the government shutdown without understanding how the GOP base thinks. I read the long memo (the link only takes you to a summary, but you can get to the full memo from there), and it really does give insight into the mindset on the Right driving all this. It comes from a sense that they’re losing the country. And you know what? They’re mostly right about this. But it’s making them arrive at crazy conclusions, and behave in self-destructive ways. Excerpt:
Reading the entire memo (PDF), I found myself agreeing with some — some — of the things people in the various factions believe. For example, the Evangelicals are right that elite culture looks down on them and marginalizes them. The thing that alienates me in the extreme from the GOP base is the hysteria, and the apocalypticism. It’s not enough to call Obama a conventional Establishment liberal, which he plainly is; he has to be a “Marxist” in their eyes. They cannot seem to grasp that if Republicans in Congress compromise, it’s because they control only one house in the legislative branch of the government. They have to compromise. This is what happens when you emote instead of think, when you give your mind over wholly to ideology, abandoning empiricism, and live inside an information bubble that enables confirmation bias: you lose touch with the real world, and make decisions based on what you feel.
On the other hand, it’s not all reckless abandon. One of you readers posted in a comments thread this past weekend a TPM item about how the House Republicans slipped in a parliamentary rule change on the eve of the shutdown, a change that prevented the possibility of any House vote on a Senate resolution unless it was approved by the House Majority Leader. The gist:
In other words, if the House and Senate are gridlocked as they were on the eve of the shutdown, any motion from any member to end that gridlock should be allowed to proceed. Like, for example, a motion to vote on the Senate bill. That’s how House Democrats read it.
But the House Rules Committee voted the night of Sept. 30 to change that rule for this specific bill. They added language dictating that any motion “may be offered only by the majority Leader or his designee.”
So unless House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wanted the Senate spending bill to come to the floor, it wasn’t going to happen. And it didn’t.
“I’ve never seen this rule used. I’m not even sure they were certain we would have found it,” a House Democratic aide told TPM. “This was an overabundance of caution on their part. ‘We’ve got to find every single crack in the dam that water can get through and plug it.'”
Congressional historians agreed that it was highly unusual for the House to reserve such power solely for the leadership.
“I’ve never heard of anything like that before,” Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told TPM.
Is this a party that can be trusted to run the government? David Freddoso points out that one GOP Congressman who signed on to defund Obamacare was last week defending agricultural programs that keep foreign sugar out of the US, and therefore the price of sugar here artificially high. So he’s against socialistic government policies except when he’s for it. Freddoso says this is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the Right at the current moment:
Symbolism is trumping substance. Conservative lawmakers and activists are plunging into dead-end conflicts that do little more than inspire e-mail fundraising pitches; at the same time, they fail to stand up for basic conservative principles when given opportunities to win.
Unfortunately, Obamacare passed Congress in 2010 without a single Republican vote, thanks to their heavy losses in two elections in a row. At the moment, the Republican Party lacks the clout in Washington to repeal Obamacare.
Yet, even as conservatives were beating their chests in an obviously doomed, pretend effort to make Obamacare go away, 85 Republicans voted on Saturday morning to block any reforms to a far more socialistic scheme that could probably be abolished or at least scaled back tomorrow if they’d only stick together and vote their beliefs.
There are no indications that any conservative group will primary any of them or even urge constituents to call in and turn up the heat against the anti-free market measure they just supported..
It’s almost as though conservatives are determined to fight only the battles they can’t win, and ignore those they might.