-- Chancellor Sutler
V For Vendetta
Starting off with a quote from V For Vendetta. THAT never bodes well.
It's not often that I agree with Barack Obama, but when the man's right, he's right. And he recently stated, with no ambiguity, that the Republican Party has "gone off the deep end."
Like I said, he's right. The R's have ignored a steady stream of warnings about their political stances and the causes they advance, refusing to acknowledge that times have changed. They've clung desperately to the old "divide and conquer" school of politics even as they are continually shown that the strategy is no longer viable. And now, they are looking at an internal revolution that could force out the Old Guard. And, no, I'm not talking about the Tea Partiers. I'm talking moderate Republicans, who just this week showed serious traction as the party Establishment dances on the edge of the cliff.
The Old Guard really has no one to blame but themselves. The 2012 Presidential elections should have told them everything. Obama was vulnerable in that election. Defeating him should have been a cakewalk. Instead, the R's continued to take cheap shots at "the 47%" who would vote for Obama. This angered people into mobilizing, creating that 47% -- when we plot the destruction of others, we often wind up destroying ourselves. The R's claimed stunning victories in Congress. And yet, for all their bragging that their central platforms are desired by the populous, they aren't getting those votes.
The problem is simple -- the R's don't think they need the popular vote for anything other than getting into government seats. Once there, the game becomes local to the chambers of Congress, overlooking not only the people who put them there, but that some people actually are taking their oath of office seriously. And these new moderates wouldn't be there without the R's being focused on their place on Capitol Hill instead of looking around them.
The hardliners in the R's are under assault from the moderates on two fronts. The most obvious and most devistating is a tactical strike right from the heart of the R stronghold of Florida. The R Speaker Of The House, John Boehner, decided to step down, having been in the middle of the taffy pull between the Tea Partiers the R's foolishly enfranchised and the Old Guard. One of the people who helped shove Boehner is Dan Webster, a member of the House Freedom Caucus and an R Rep from Florida who is eyeing his chance to be a kingmaker. He was one of the supporters of Kevin McCarthy, then turned around and cast him aside. Webster wants to be Speaker himself, you see.
The problem is, Webster's political career is on the line. Florida redrew its political districts a few years ago, in a process that has been called gerrymandering. There are more D registered voters in Florida than R's, but the R's outnumber the D's in the state's congressional delegation by 17-10. This prompted legal challenges and special sessions and just all around general chaos. Webster himself even got in on the act defending the new boundaries, because if the boundaries snap back, there is a sudden influx of D voters in the district that could tip the election, something the new boudaries tried to prevent. He could go to another district and run, but he's unknown there, so he'd have to establish himself as better than the incumbent and still beat a D, who could target him as a carpetbagger. This week, the lawsuit neared its final destination as Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled in favor of a new map with recommendations that spell certain doom for Webster, D Rep Gwen Graham, and R Carlos Curbelo, while simultaneously reviving the political career of Charlie Crist. The Florida Supreme Court is the last stop on the train, but given that Lewis has been on this since the first lawsuits were filed, it's pretty obvious who everyone is going to listen closest to.
That's Problem #1. Problem #2 is that the moderate R's in the House decided this was the perfect time to flex some political muscle. The R's weren't as worried about the Tea Partiers, but should be worried about the moderates. See, moderates, by their very definition, are not hardliners like the do-or-die Tea Partiers, the ones political wonks have nicknamed "the Kamikazes." Moderates can cooperate with others and form strategic alliances to get things done. And this week, they reached across the aisle to force a vote on the Export-Import Bank.
What is the Export-Import Bank? Well, the Export-Import Bank, called the Ex-Im for short, is an 81 year old federal lending agency that helps American businesses connect with overseas businesses. Tea Partiers and the Old Guard wanted the Ex-Im gone, while D's, moderate R's, the White House, and the US Chamber Of Commerce among others called for its preservation. Ultimately, both the House and the Senate simply never got around to authorizing a binding vote, and the charter for the Ex-Im was allowed to expire. (Side note: there is a bill authorizing the Ex-Im, but it's part of a highway bill that passed the Senate but hasn't come up in the House yet.) Business leaders big and small have been screaming to their Representatives that the loss of the charter is hurting them, but people like Jeb Hensarling of the Financial Services Committee are framing it as a tool for crony capitalism and refusing to allow it to continue.
That was July 1. On Friday, the equal and opposite reaction, as the minority party D's and over 50 moderate R's did an end run around the committees that stalled the Ex-Im. They used a technique called a "discharge petition." If you've never heard of it, it's because it's almost never used -- the last time it was employed was 13 years ago, and has only been used five times in the past 80 years. It enables lawmakers to bypass the committees and leadership to call up legislation that has been signed by a majority of House members.
This has now become a problem that the Old Guard has to deal with. It will pass the House easily, but there's no similar move for a quick vote in Senate procedures (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes the Ex-Im, but has said he won't block renewal of the charter). But with the House pushing it forward, and the charter technically approved by the Senate in the highway bill, it puts the Upper Chamber R's in a difficult position of risking shooting it down and it becoming another example of their self-righteousness in defiance of the populous they claim to heed.
Like I said, the R's brought this on themselves. They thought the Tea Partiers would be excellent foot soldiers to carry out their bidding. But Tea Partiers are actually a force of nature. It goes where it wants when it wants and does what it wants, and any belief that you control it is delusional at best.
This is what happens when an Establishment tries to harness an anti-Establishment force. In the 1970's, a sociologist named Donald Warren coined the name MARS, which stood for Middle American Radicals. MARS were generally white, lacked college degrees, and felt themselves generally under siege as big business and special interests got political clout and they didn't. Corporate welfare, programs for the poor, Affirmative Action, these were all signs that the deck was stacked against them. And their numbers were growing.
Because of this, a special political paradigm was formed with them. MARS are typically more focused on personalities than political parties, similar to the Peronistas. Come up with someone with a blustery personality that spoke against what they spoke against, and they went to him like drunks to a Hooters waitress. George Wallace. Pat Buchanan. Ross Perot. And now, three R nominess for President (Trump, Fiorina, Carson) are tapping that anger. Obama may have never run a ward or finished his term in the Senate, but at least he set foot in there. Trump, Fiorina, and Carson are all saying that the fact that they aren't politicians makes them better politicians. And given how the "outsiders" that created the government shutdowns likewise had no political experience, this is a very dangerous proposal.
The R's are in the middle of a war of ideologies with the Tea Partiers and the Old Guard, and neither of their ideologies is compatible with the world at large and their constituents in particular. The funny thing is, resources are finite. All that money that people are funneling to the two sides is spent. It doesn't get recovered. And as they drag each other into the mud, the moderates will be seen as the only ones standing. And because they didn't waste their money on a stupid pissing match, they can outlast the PAC's who squandered their pay. And then, the R's will join the Century Of The Pacific instead of clinging to policies that predate 1955.
The Old Guard is ignoring the warnings.
Just like they ignored all the others.