We’re approaching Week 3 of the federal government shutdown, and the possible government default on its debt is only a few days ahead.
Despite the running public stories about the two parties being gridlocked and that this is an example of partisanship at its worst, it’s already become clear this situation is the result of an organized, well-funded effort aimed at somehow destroying Obamacare:
To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known. (NYT, Page A1, Sunday, Oct. 6th)
More broadly, it’s also about taxes on rich people.
The business community, one of the pillars of the conservative Parthenon, Is getting pretty anxious. Some elder Republicans, likewise, as they can see where the American public places the responsibility. Even Heritage Action, one of the main drivers of the strategy, is having second thoughts, or a least tweaking its message a bit.
There’s a thread of irony running through there, and it’s also part of the reason why the Republicans keep pounding away on a strategy most of us would consider political suicide. The proposed continuing resolution, passed by the Senate, essentially caps spending at sequestration levels, about $200 billion below the administration’s FY 2014 budget. Meaning? The Rs have won another round.
So, why continue the kamikaze attack? I’m not privy to the thinking of the Koch brothers, the Tea Party, or the Republican Congressional leadership, so I can only suppose. But, having spent the first third of my life as a Republican, growing up in a household that would today be at least borderline Tea-istic, my suppositions have at least some grounding in experience.
Their blood is up, and they’re going for broke (pun intended), and they have decades worth of festering grudges to settle. And, besides, the last time they pulled this stunt, in 2011, they walked away with a budget deal that was all spending cuts and no tax hikes. A subsequent budget deal, struck on the eve of the fiscal cliff in 2012, still largely broke in the Republicans’ favor.
The Republican Party harnessed the energy of the Tea Party, which was and is more of an astroturf operation than a genuine, grassroots political movement, and were propelled to victory in 2010, not only seizing the House but winning crucial state-level elections that, the following year, resulted in re-districting that locked in many safe seats for the Grand Old Party. So rebellious House members have very little to lose, in terms of their political careers, by going to incendiary extremes. Their base loves that.
Meanwhile, groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, have been busy distributing regressive (and at times repressive) draft legislation that has become law in several states, undermining federal laws to the extent possible and laying the groundwork for an all-out assault on Fortress Washington. Besides, they’re pretty confident that, by November, 2014, most of the public will have forgotten all this.
So what if they look ridiculous to much of the public? Hey, from one point of view, they’re on a roll.