My father just emailed me about the debt-ceiling agreement and I wrote back about some of the feelings I’ve had today. Since I went on a bit, I thought I would put my thoughts up here:
My rep voted no, but it’s hard to avoid feeling like this was theater. The Republicans and Democrats each let enough members of their caucus off the hook that they could cast a phony protest vote when the outcome was not in doubt. Republicans should have been forced to get a majority from their own caucus, so the Tea Party couldn’t indulge in any fiction about this deal not being what they want. And if they really were so extreme they couldn’t pass it by themselves, that should have been Obama’s cue to say, “I can’t reason with these people,” and go the 14th Amendment route.
I have been discussing this online and reading reactions and I have reached the conclusion everyone, but particularly liberals, puts far too much emphasis on what people say and not enough on what they do. All last night I was hearing that this deal was better than a default, and the Democrats had no choice but to bargain with the hostage-takers. I could not disagree more.
The current GOP, like North Korea, derives much of its bargaining power from the belief that it is crazy enough to do anything, regardless of the cost to themselves or the country. From the rhetoric and symbolic maneuvers, yes, they do indeed seem crazy.
But deeds and outcomes tell the real story. The Republican Party has pushed the country to the brink repeatedly, and each time it extracts positive outcomes. It profits by its extremism so consistently that any argument that their actions are irrational is false on its face.
Note that the TARP went through under a Republican president with Republican votes in the House and Senate. Oh, they hate bailouts, but they only drew a line in the sand after the banks had received their money. When it came to mortgage relief or financial reform, they turned into radical anti-government insurrectionists.
They threated a budget shutdown in December, and walked away with the Bush tax cuts extended and major budget cuts. Then they say they are ready to see the country default, and get another massive round of cuts, and a commission that they already vow will not be permitted to mandate tax increases.
I believe someone is crazy when they do harm to themselves and their loved ones. Perhaps Tea Party foot-soldiers do burn with fanatical zeal. But as a movement, they have never known defeat. This does not happen by accident. It is a product of cold calculation, and they will continue making those calculations until the Democrats force them to either see their rhetoric through or acknowledge they have limits.
But we don’t have Democrats like that. Perhaps Pelosi. Certainly not our president.