but our political extinction.
You cannot look at the standoff in Washington as an exercise in game theory, or in terms of rational self-interest, or even in terms of political gamesmanship.
If you do, you are going to be magnificently wrong in your assessment of Republicans' perceptions, assessments of conditions, decisions based on those assessments, motivations and reactions to your own existence and behavior, and the more subtle clues of mobilization, communications and morale.
Last but not least, you are going to come up with a completely wrong synthesis of WTF Are These People Up To?
The good news is, I am a native of upstate South Carolina. I am born to the overlapping worlds of fiscal, evangelical and Teatastic Republicanism. I have lived in close proximity with a wide sampling of our right wing brethren for my entire life.
And if they weren't saturated with so many racist, sexist effs I would probably be one of them. But I decided long ago I would never stand shoulder to shoulder with bigots of any flavor. The Democrats shed theirs, the Republicans picked up the spares. That's why you get me.
But I'm here to tell you the path that has brought up here today preceded the advent of Barack Obama as a public figure.
Most current-day Republicans have been ginning up for this inevitable showdown their entire lives.
And make no mistake: This is their big push to break the back of that most horrid of America-destroying things - New Deal socialism and its latter-day derivatives - once and for all.
Markos yesterday posted a most useful resource, compliments of Democracy Corps: A focus group study of Republicans and what makes them tick in the modern day.
The answer: They're absolutely terrified of Obama and the Democrats. I'd go a bit deeper: They've lost faith in representative democracy as a means to secure their interests.
Let that sink in. Let that sink in a LOT.
Most of our august right-wing brethren no longer believe democracy is the thing if the wrong kind of choices are produced by it.
Republicans see the repeat election of Barack Obama as THE final proof that perhaps something else should be tried. And that notion scares them terribly. They don't want to veer away from the type of government they've had all their lives.. but they want REPUBLICANS dominating it.
You have to understand what it has been like in the South for the past thirty years. A sudden sea change to Republicanism. No, strike that: A GIDDY pole shift to the GOP.
Then along comes Clinton (who they also referred to as a liar and a snake oil salesman by the way) who picks off the odd former Confederate state or two. That's annoying. Really annoying. Smart charming Southern white fellers aren't supposed to be Democrats anymore. And that Gore boy? Oh, hell. What's the world coming to?
The idea that the Democrats could regain the South by recruiting local talent was terrifying enough.
Then along comes some .. this is the metaphor... Harvard-educated community organizing ... "is he even AMERICAN?" fellow who wins even more Southern states than Clinton or Gore (oh, and wins Florida twice...an even more prickly topic with Republicans than with Democrats I can assure you!)
Oh, almost forgot. (Looks around to make sure no one can hear.) This new Democratic president is black. Or half. Kinda "high yeller" as the older and more circumspect might say. The more crass would say other choice words.
This painfully acute race consciousness is myopic. It's self-absorbed. It really is all about a sense of changes that weren't supposed to happen in THEIR part of America. Oh, yeah, integrations cool and we're the New South and whatnot but why do things have to KEEP changing? Stop. STOP! That's why we vote straight ticket! Make these weird things and people go someplace else! We want to be nice but we want our lives to have people like us, mostly. You know... real Americans. Is that so hateful of us?
Over time, the attitude changed from wanting to stop the clock, get a breather and process the huge social changes of the 1950s and 1960s (you know, just a generation or four, we're not unreasonable), to a desire to roll back the calendar and not just a little bit.
By the 2000s (you're all bloggers by this time, most anyway) the rhetoric is about ... wait for it... getting back to basics. The Tea Party mantra per the Democracy Corps focus study, and a refrain I've heard from Tea Party lips for years. Suddenly we go from conservatives who want to stake some political and public policy turf to a movement hell-bent determined to go on offense.
And the Republicans LOVE it. Not all conservatives identify as Tea Partiers but all Republicans identify WITH them, with their fire and energy and the sense that if any faction in the coalition can smack the Democrats and the three headed hydra of socialism, secularism and multiculturalism... it's these folks and their weird hats and their unshakable faith that, yeah, there's no need to accommodate the social welfare stte, no need for decent God-fearin' freedom-lovin' folk to do such a thing and NO DAMN WAY we're going to put up with its advancing one more step. And in point of fact, we Teasters have a plan to kick its damn ass down the street.
Heh, cough. Kinda got lost in the part there. Let me regroup. But you see how mesmerizing it can be to a certain mindset. It's aggressive. It's positive. It's got direction and its got a plan.
However, it's not a very nice plan. In point of fact it's quite risky. Potentially, it's not just dangerous but deadly:
The Tea Partiers mean to destroy the Republic in order to save it.
Now, in normal electoral politics, in more sedate and deliberate times, this isn't a very sellable message. Moderate Republicans, people I think of as the Passenger Pigeons of our day but perhaps Ivory Billed Woodpeckers is more apropos ( a concession that they MAY in fact exist), are purportedly nervous about the zealots.
And I will believe that when they stopping voting with them to, say, forbid sharia law and cut Planned Parenthood funding and gut public pensions and - oh, how could I forget? - defund Obamacare.
And shut down the fracking government and pave the way for a sprint to hitting the debt ceiling and going over the default cliff.
Why would they do such a thing? Why, to deconstruct the social welfare state of course. Oh - this is a HUGE divergence from past Republican policy - the national security state as well. Or did you think the Republicans LOST ONE THING in the sequester?
Tea Partiers hate handouts. They might take them on the sly but their collective self image as robust independent MEN (even the women are independently manly in a stand by your manly, but independently, sort of way) will not allow them to empathize with their own off-an-on needs for a break when life comes at them sideways. They just accept it being 'them'. And they truly would as soon there be no recourse. Think of it as how an alcoholic with an earnest desire to keep away from the bottle would approach the presence of alcohol. This 'people are addicted and dependent' message? They adhere to it - poorly, shamefully poorly by their own reckoning - and they earnestly want to live closer to their own code.
Their solution, their message: Break all the bottles. Burn all the warehouses. Compel a kind of Prohibition against social welfare and common weal in all its forms, because freedom. Only this way can Americans be free. FREE. And if that means making Americans free of a super-sized superpower nation-state regime called the United States, well, those are the shakes. But you can't campaign in a U.S. election with that kind of talk.
Now, this flavor of libertarian Talibanism rankles the evangelicals, who are QUITE into reshaping American society into one very closely bound together in Christian love and nurturing...according to their own strict, blatantly revisionist view that the Founders Founded America As A Christian Nation And WE Evangelicals Get To Decide What They Meant By That.
The evangelicals' worldview has no truck with people going their own way. Oh, gosh no. We all have a code, God's code, and the churches (rather, ahem, real churches not those Presbyterians over there, never mind those Catholics...) rightly should have a say in who is qualified (read: Christian, to real churches' specifications) to stand for elected office, hold seat as a judge, teach, walk dogs in public, etc.
So, what on earth would bind fiscal, Tea and evangelical republicans together?
One thing: Sticking it to Obama. They absolutely cannot stand the man. He is the personification of conservative's failure, first to stop the clock, then their even more ambitious gambit to turn it back.
And it's not all him. And I think on some level Republicans get that their grievances of the world predated even knowing that Barack Obama existed. Likewise their flight to reaction.
Yet he represents that one thing that, bless their hearts, my awesome right-wing friends and neighbors back in the hometown have the most trouble absorbing:
That the future America will be well educated, scientifically literate, thoughtful, calm and rational, strong in faith at the same time ...and not nearly as white as the America of the past. That, despite the promise of the Reagan years, and the stridence of the Bush era, it's just not going to be a Republican Republic.
And they mourn this. It's not that Obamacare/ACA is on its face horrible - it is a Republican-crafted idea from the 1980s after all in almost every particular.
However, the GOP is now a party of reaction. They don't want to stop the clock; they want to roll back the years and they've long since rolled back their target date to long before the 1980s. They want ... back to basics. They seek... not a primitive but a MORE primitive version of nationalism. Something without so many bells and whistles. Something that doesn't make them have to see so much strangeness in their homes, their schools, their neighborhoods, their states, their TVs their websites etc.
They don't want to see or know a thing about people who aren't right there with them....except that they're gone.
And that means Democrats, more often than not. They think the word and then they think weird, socialist, minority, gay, black, immigrant, illegal, corrupt...and we probably eat French fries with mayo sometimes. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
And these are just nice things they say about us!
And yet, somehow, we're still here. We keep growing in numbers. We keep getting stronger. We're finding our confidence. We once again feel part of our own country. I can even tell you the first day I felt that: the day after the November 2006 election when we won back both houses of Congress.
And it was a magnificent feeling. I felt like part of my own country again.
And that's just it. The Republicans, at least their leaders, don't like that feeling at all. They do NOT like OUR co-presence in THEIR country if that means we share some hand in the governance of it.
And they really do not like having a Democrat in what they strongly feel is their entitlement: the White House. It would not matter if it was a black (sorry, biracial) man or not. But race is an easy banner to spot and track and, boy, do our right-wing friends do that...though, I would caution, it is mostly in myopic self-absorption with their own plight as a fading majority that no assurance will convince them is in ZERO danger of ever becoming the non-plurality in large, LARGE sections of the country.
They're absolutely scared that everything they hold dear is about to be wiped out. And there's no convincing them otherwise. They're terrified and desperate...and sometimes it breaks my heart.
But I'm not going to let them break my country.. sorry, OUR country, theirs and ours, apart out of desperation to strike back at a threat (that would be all us liberals, personified right or wrong by our twice-wrong choice of president in GOP eyes) that really only means them well, except for all the drama.
And that's probably the hardest part of facing up that we are tragically in a kind of war now with our right-wing brethren.. again, at least their leadership but sorry. No. These guys get VOTED in by people who believe in them. And I don't think the Republicans hide their intentions.
They want less government.
They honestly believe there is no lower limit to how far you can cut government and still get net benefits.
And they have just paralyzed the government.
And all they have to do to cut government for a very long time, if not permanently, is stall...
run out the clock
and lament the necessity of pushing the Republic over the sovereign default cliff.
And then cluck about how they knew all along that Obama would destroy the country.
Thing is, the President doesn't seem to be very good at destroying America. So the Tea Partiers, the energizing heart of the modern Republican Party, are very thoughtfully helping him fulfill the destiny they've assigned him.
You might wonder what does default get them?
One, it destroys the reputation of Obama's presidency.
Two, it moots any issue about Obamacare; defunding's a given.
Three, it defunds everything else.
Four, if the government ever plans to borrow ever again it will have to do so at much higher interest rates. That will crowd out ALL domestic spending programs, even force the government to lapse some of them
Five, there will be far less money to fund national security initiatives among them drones and NSA super surveillance
Six, because it kicks Democrats' asses, that's why. Less crassly, it's a specific, achievable goal with immense impact that accomplishes specific ideological ends in which Republicans and Tea Partiers in particular embrace.
Seven, a hollowed-out catastrophically underfunded Federal government will be incapable of stopping subsequent initiatives toward the goal of creating a much more conservative-friendly regime.
Eight, yeah about 2014 elections. We'll probably have them but, wow. Polling places are expensive to maintain so we'll be consolidating those. You know, since the default... there's just no money...
And this is why I think Democrats have nothing to offer in trade that Republicans want in lieu of the default.
They get everything they want by pushing America over the edge.
Quickly the silver lining!
This is why I think of the current era as the Berlin Airlift of our age. We can't negotiate with Republicans any more than Kennedy could with the Soviets. We simply have to surpass them, sidestep them, beat them with energy and dare of our own. There are ways, some are quite risky, to moot the debt celing limit. For one, we owe a lot of so-called debt to ourselves; so discharge it off the boosk. Second, we carry a lot of crap paper for the banks on the Federal Reserve balance sheet. Novate it back to the private sector. Third, borrow a page from... wait for it... Islamic banking: equity not debt financing. World financial markets are accommodated to such practices (we call them project financing) we can do the same for the public sector.
There are ways and means to stick it right back up the Tea Wee's butts.
And I think we're gonna have to do these things because, bless their closet arsonist hearts, our Republican brethren really, really want to burn the whole thing down.
Anyhoo, that's my take on it, right or wrong.