Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Doomsday Averted! (Or, I Truly Don't Understand Republicans)

Well, apparently we will not get to find out just how long after October 17 it would take for the US government to start missing payments.  Apparently Congress can act fast if it really wants to.  The Senate passed its bill at 7:56 p.m. and the House followed in short order.  Obama will sign either tonight or first thing tomorrow.  The vote was not even close, 81-18 in the Senate and 285-144 in the House, indicating at least 85 Republican votes in favor.

And given how calmly they seem to be accepting defeat, I can well and truly say that I don't understand Republicans at all. Ted Cruz made no attempt to block the bill.  John Boehner, after caving, got a standing ovation, and Republicans across the board vowed to stand by him.  Hard liners said that he did the best he could, and only succumbed to political reality when it became clear the moderates would not back him. What are we to make of that?  I don't know, but I can throw out a few speculations.

The whole thing was a show.  Republicans knew from the start that when a debt ceiling breach became a real danger, they would have to back down.  The whole shutdown and negotiations was just so much theater for the benefit of the base and/or the mainstream media.  This does not rule out future debt ceiling threats, but makes any future threats less credible.

We are in a short term post-crisis honeymoon.  After Obama won reelection in 2012, Republicans briefly made nice with him and promised to accept him as our legitimate President.  The phase did not last long.  Soon they simply doubled down on the crazy.  They may react to this defeat in the same way.  John Kenneth Galbraith, in his novel The Triumph says:
A political crisis has this in common with a sex orgy or a drunken bat.  Everyone enjoys it immensely, although they feel they shouldn't.  It so exhausts the participants that once it is over, an immediate repetition is unlikely.  But as time goes by and memory improves on past delights, the chances of a repeat grow.
(Taken from memory, may not be entirely accurate).  I have no idea whether this is true.  But every time there is a political crisis, I remember the quote and worry.

Republicans are attempting to mend a major fracture in their party.  The pro-Boehner love fest is part of the attempt.  We will see how it goes as time unfolds.

Republicans are putting on a facade of unity.  The knives will come out when people stop looking.  This one is actually closely related to the above.  The difference is that an attempt to repair the fracture may succeed; if this one is right, they have already given up.

They just had to do it once and get it out of their system.  If so, it is now well and truly out of their system and we can reasonably hope to avoid a repeat performance.

Republicans don't care about results, just taking maximalist stances.  This would tie in with their strong roots in Evangelical Christianity, which encourages members to focus on doing what is right (often defined as maximalism against evil) and leaving the results to God.  But then again, this does tend to come with the assumption that if you do right, God will reward you with good results.  And certainly many analyses of the Tea Party suggest that it grows largely out of frustration that Republicans have failed to bring about much in the way of results when the base elects them.  If so, then going home and telling the base, "Well, we did our best but it failed, let's move on," is unlikely to placate them.

The right wing of the Republicans are so out of touch that the somehow see this as a victory.  What can I say?

I guess over time we will know.

PS:  Obama has now signed the act into law.  I guess now we know how quickly it can be done.

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