Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A few thoughts on the tea party types' shutdown of the federal government...

Now that the shutdown is all but over (as I write this, the US House just passed a clean CR to re-open the government), it's time to put into writing some observations, thoughts, and predictions.

Not in any particular order -

...Prediction: 2014 went from being a year where Democratic candidates, especially federal-level candidates, were expected to face a headwind to one where Republicans will be the ones facing some hard questions.

Traditionally (meaning "more often than not"), the party that controls the White House loses Congressional seats during the mid-term elections of a president's second term.  This mess may have changed the likelihood of that happening in 2014.

Note: this may be a truism, though it's not an absolute truth.  As this chart shows, the midterm elections during a president's first term tend to be rougher on that president's party.

It's a year out from the 2014 elections, so the picture could change dramatically, but that would take a certain faction of the Republican Party pulling their heads out of their asses.  I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

Betcha they are, though. :)

...Prediction:  John Boehner's (R-OH) speakership is toast.  He may keep his job for the remainder of the term, but regardless of the outcome of the 2014 elections, he will not be Speaker of the House in the next session of Congress. 

Either the Democrats will retake the House (possible, but not likely, IMO) and choose Nancy Pelosi (or some other D) to be Speaker, or the Rs will hold on to a (probably) smaller majority and choose someone who isn't as weak as Boehner.

Bottom line: sometimes a leader has to give those he leads a little free rein; sometimes a leader has to "lead".  Boehner let the bat-shit crazy tail of his caucus wag the entire caucus and endanger the nation's, and maybe the world's, economy.

That's more than "free rein"; *far* more, and far worse.

...Observation:  One difference between the Democrats and Republicans (OK, one of the many :) ) that was highlighted by this mess is the fact that most Democrats in office want to govern; most Republicans in office want to rule.

Hence the R apoplexy over hearing the word "no" when the Democrats didn't give in to their ransom demands.

...Thought:  The CR funds the government until January 15 and suspends the debt limit until February 7.  That sets up the possibility of going through this mess again in a few months.  However, most of the people involved in this mess will be running for reelection by them.  While many of them will still be looking for a little payback over losing this fight, many others will be more concerned with making their voters happy.  While another big fight could take place after the holidays, my guess is that there won't be another serious blowup until after the midterms.

Note:  This one is more a "wish" than a "thought" or even "prediction".  When Republicans like Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) seem like voices of reason within their caucuses, the Congress and the country as a whole are in trouble.

...Prediction:  It probably won't happen during this term, but look for earmarks to return.  They were both the carrot and stick of party discipline in Congress.  Without them, the leadership on both sides of the aisle have few tools at their disposal to corral and control votes.

...Observation:  Many less overtly political people are calling for the creation of a third party, as the Republicans and Democrats have been in control for too long.  I understand the sentiment, but believe that it is a lazy and superficial one.

One of the reasons that the Democrats and Republicans have maintained their political prominence for so long is that, historically, they've adapted to society's changes.

The problem today is that one of the major parties is controlled by a small but vocal group that thinks society should adapt to them, not the other way around.

...Prediction:  In a few months, or even weeks, the more thoughtful of the Republicans responsible for this mess will sit up, look in a mirror, and wonder "Whatthehell were we thinking?"

Not because they think the possibility of crashing the world economy and destroying the US' credibility is a bad thing (they obviously don't think that), but because a few short weeks ago, the President was on the defensive over things like an impending war with Syria and the NSA surveillance of Americans and others.

His base was fractured (or at least showing a few cracks) and the tea party types had an effective rhetorical cudgel to swing at the President. 

Now?  The President's base and independents have unified behind him, and even people who heretofore had supported the tea party are now distancing themselves from it.

...More to come...

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