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 –
- What do we mean by GOP “brinksmanship” and “blackmail?” How is this different from typical hardball politicking?
- 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?
- What is the latest crisis all about? How is it likely to be resolved?
- 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?
- What can break this dangerous cycle? (If you don’t think it is dangerous, feel free to argue that.)
What do We Mean By “Blackmail?”
- A must-read: Republicans now routinely lurch us from crisis to crisis by design and this is a brand new way of practicing political opposition.
The Upcoming Crisis –
- The latest crisis, a straightforward account of it. Recommended.
- This threat is real.
- No it’s not real. At least on the debt ceiling, they are bluffing this time; the GOP leadership understands this and they will prevent disaster..
- But, playing chicken like this still is dangerous and irresponsible.
Why Does This Keep Happening?
- It’s because the Republican Party has grown so dependent on its ideologically radical base.
- Specifically, the GOP base hates the idea of compromise. The House Republicans are playing to their base and don’t care if Obama’s successor isn’t a Republican.
- No, this is all wrong (and it’s my view, too): It’s because the GOP has become dysfunctional, not because (even if) it has become ideological. A must-read.
NEXT WEEK: A guest speaker (an academic) will help us understand, “Are racial and ethnically based politics making a comeback in American politics?”