Sources tell me the House GOP will probably avoid using a shutdown as leverage and instead use the debt limit and sequester fights as areas for potential legislative trades. Negotiations over increasing the debt limit have frequently been used to wring concessions out of the administration, so there may be movement in that direction: Delay Obamacare in exchange for an increased debt limit.Naturally liberal commentators are shocked, shocked. My reaction, I must say, was to say, well, duh, I knew they'd do that from the start. Suppose you want to kill the Democrats' signature domestic achievement, but you control only one house of Congress, so outright repeal is out of the question? Suppose it's getting really urgent because within just a few months people will start getting health insurance under it, and taking away people's health insurance is a surefire electoral loser. What do you do?
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Saturday, August 10, 2013
In the past, the Republican Party was an unwieldy coalition between its upscale wing that was economically conservative and socially moderate to liberal and its religious wing, that was socially conservative and economically populist. That split no longer holds. In fact, Pew Poll has found, solid Republican voters see eye to eye on practically all issues and disagree mostly in their intensity. This article has found much the same -- that (white) Evangelical Christians increasingly see God as operating through the free market, which makes regulation the instrument of the devil. (And, indeed, Pew found Tea Party types to be harder core supporters of free market economics than even small-l libertarians). Libertarians and Evangelical Christians also share an opposition government social programs on the grounds that such things should be funded through voluntary charity.
Nonetheless, I see the potential for a deep and severe split within the Republican Party -- with the Tea Party coming down on the moderate side. The Republican Party finds itself in the absurd position of being programmatically opposed to government spending, while having a base that disproportionately benefits from such spending. Studies of the Tea Party grass roots explains the seeming contradiction. The Tea Party rank and file are not, in fact, driven by a blanket opposition to all government spending, or even to all social programs. What they oppose is programs benefiting people perceived as "undeserving." "Deserving" people are ones who have worked hard and contributed to the system. The Tea Party rank and file support Social Security, Medicare, and veteran's benefits because they are seen as programs benefiting people who have worked hard and earned them. (And, perhaps not coincidentally, because a lot of Tea Party members either receive such benefits or expect to in the near future). The undeserving, roughly speaking, are the young, the poor, and illegal immigrants. Tea Party members also oppose taxes and regulation and consider themselves socially conservative, but these are secondary concerns. Their primary concerns are cutting spending for the undeserving and securing the border.
Meanwhile, the Republican base emphatically opposes such measures. But this researcher finds, conservative think tanks adopt the tea party name, but have no real association with grass roots organizations and, in turn, the rank and file have little knowledge of what such groups are advocating in their name. And there you have it. The Tea Party grass roots will stop at nothing to repeal Obamacare, even shutting down the entire federal government indefinitely and (perhaps) even defaulting on our debt. But it wants to repeal Obamacare to shore up Medicare. The leadership thinks this would be a tactical error and wants to undermine Obamacare by more gradual and subtle means. But it wants to repeal Obamacare as a preliminary to undermining Medicare.
Which, then, are the hardliners and which are the moderates?
[C]ommitment to the rules of the political game, which in democracies means adherence to transparency, honest voice, majority representation and acceptance of electoral outcomes in exchange for a chance to regularly compete for political office within formally defined timeframes and under universally competitive rules and conditions. [Emphasis added].
The goal is to bring down the government of the day regardless of cost or consequence. Hence disloyal oppositions hold little regard for established rules and institutional norms even if it suited them when in government or as a historical precedent. The strategy is to say anything, stop at nothing, lie, cheat and if possible steal in order to undermine the government in the eyes of the public and thereby weaken its ability to pursue a policy agenda and carry out its constitutional obligations. For disloyal oppositions, politics is war and the ends justify the means.
Trying to place the Republicans on such a scale is difficult. They cannot strictly be said to be seeking to bring down the Obama Administration. One can imagine such an attempt even in the absence of a military coup.Suppose, for instance, that House Republicans shut down the government and declare that they will not pass any spending bill whatever until the Democratic President and Vice President resign at which point, by the law of succession, the Republican Speaker of the House will become President.* Since the Constitution does not technically require Congress to pass any legislation or spend any money, none of this would be strictly speaking illegal. But it would be disloyal under Buchanan's standards because it does not "accept of electoral outcomes in exchange for a chance to regularly compete for political office within formally defined timeframes." It signals loud and clear that electoral outcomes will only be accepted if their party wins. It would not technically be a coup, but it is not too hyperbolic to call it one.
*Needless to say, this hypothetical assumes that the Speaker is not John Boehner, but a Tea Party Republican.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
In this way, the horror that was inscribed into the very structure of the East German system is relegated to a mere personal whim. What’s lost is that the system would be no less terrifying without the minister’s personal corruption, even if it were run by only dedicated and “honest” bureaucrats.But to make such a complaint is to miss the whole point. Any system in which the secret police (or anyone else) operates in the dark with no sort of accountability will necessarily be riddled with corruption. It is the nature of unaccountable and lawless power to be abused. And how difficult is it to imagine that some rigid, unthinking, bureaucratic functionary who never thought to question the system might nonetheless be appalled corrupt misuse of the system and gradually come to recognize that corruption is inherent in it. Or suppose there had been a secret FISA-like court (or any sort of court) that had to approve requests to bug a house to ensure that the surveillance complied with the law. The laws would be unjust and oppressive. Merely being a critic of the regime would be grounds enough for such an order. But “I’m sleeping with his wife and want information to destroy a romantic rival” would not cut it, and the mere thought of having to explain such a thing would have been sufficient to shame even the most shameless official.**
*This is a ratio of one agent per 50 phone lines. Presumably it was doable because phone lines are only in use a minority of the time.
***And quite possibly, if the suspect had not been a world-renowned playwright, things would have gone differently. Nonetheless, even an unjust and oppressive law offered some degree of protection.