Monday’s Mtg: Why Another Round Of GOP Brinksmanship?

Almost forgotten in the Syria hoopla is the fact that we are on the brink of yet another  self-inflicted government shutdown or even another debt ceiling crisis.  Again.  By October 1 the Congress either must pass a new budget or continuing resolution, or it will shut down.  And once again, large number of Republicans are making seemingly non-negotiable demands in exchange for doing their basic jobs.  The demands include cuts to Social Security and Medicare, deeper across-the-board sequester cuts, and even the total repeal of Obamacare.

Worse,  just two weeks later, coincidentally, the U.S. government runs out of authority to borrow funds to pay for debts already incurred (from spending Congress previously authorized).  If the debt ceiling is not raised to pay these bills, the United States will default, and, even if it doesn’t, the brinkmanship will again rattle financial markets right in the middle of a fragile economic recovery.  Saner heads on both sides of the aisle are trying to prevail and they probably will.

Still, procedural blackmail and brinksmanship have become the new normal for one of our political parties.

Why?  After all, we’ve had polarized and highly ideological political parties and factions within parties before, like the New Left or Goldwater movements of the 1960s.  Yet, none has ever tried to use the tasks of routine governing to hold the country hostage to their demands (especially after losing a bunch of elections).  Why do so many conservatives now equate negotiation and a little compromise with surrender?

I’ll open us up Monday night with a recap of the sordid history of brinksmanship since 2009, and then I’ll list some of the explanations for why this keeps happening.  Then, we can discuss it, while I try to (1) keep us focused on the “why,” and (2) minimize the number of times I say, “unprecedented in our 230 year history.”  This needn’t be about loathing anybody’s ideology.  IMO, it should be about why a major portion  of Republican voters and politicians have come to believe they must resort to what’s been called, “procedural extremism.”


Discussion Questions – 

  1. What do we mean by GOP “brinksmanship” and “blackmail?”  How is this different from typical hardball politicking?
  2. What is the recent history of this tactic?  What did it accomplish for Republicans and did it hurt the country, as opposed to just democratic [Democratic Party] priorities?
  3. What is the latest crisis all about?   How is it likely to be resolved?
  4. WHY does this keep happening?  What changes within the GOP – among regular people and its elites – led to this?   Did Obama or the Democrats have anything to do with this?
  5. What can break this dangerous cycle?   (If you don’t think it is dangerous, feel free to argue that.)

Links –

What do We Mean By “Blackmail?” 

The Upcoming Crisis –

Why Does This Keep Happening?


NEXT WEEK:  A guest speaker (an academic) will help us understand, “Are racial and ethnically based politics making a comeback in American politics?”


5 responses

  1. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    Searching my head for an historical parallel, as I usually do, I came up with Czar (Speaker) Thomas Brackett Reed’s “quorum” coup at the turn of the last century.
    Members wouldn’t answer the roll call, thus preventing a quorum and the transaction of any business.
    Things were at a standstill until Reed simply proceeded to mark members present, whether they responded or not. When questioned, Reed said: “I am saying that the gentleman is present. Does he deny it?”

    So such maneuvers have an undoubted history. Seldom, however, have they been so fraught with peril for the country and economy as a refusal to raise the debt ceiling would be.
    In my view, it’s simply a tactic of desperation.

  2. What you refer to, Jim, is more like what has been termed, “Constitutional hardball,” doing anything not procedurally banned to get the outcome your party wants in the chamber. That has been increasing, too, in recent years, although Democrats have done it, too before then. Examples: The Democratic House pre-95 refusing to allow amendments by Republicans, or Delay’s GOP House rewriting entire bills in conference while freezing out Democrats so he could renege on deals made with them.

    This is not what I mean. I’m talking about holding hostage to non-negotiable demands the routine tasks that government MUST accomplish to function . By threatening to destroy our credit rating, raise interest rates, panic financial markets, and shut down the government, they are threatening to harm the country on purpose to get what they want.

    This is truly new, and literally unprecedented in the case of the debt ceiling, which had been raised 89 times in the past since the 1940s. Reiterate: It’s not GOP demands that are reckless and dangerous; Whether Social Security should be slashed or Obamacare repealed is a matter of political opinion – and for the normal course of politics. It’s using hostage taking of basic governmental functions to achieve them that is new and a frightening precedent. What if the Democrats do this the next time they are out of power?

  3. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    I agree.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: