Yeah, the title is a tad inflammatory, but I’m with James Fallows on this:
This time, the fight that matters is within the Republican party, and that fight is over whether compromise itself is legitimate.** Outsiders to this struggle — the president and his administration, Democratic legislators as a group, voters or “opinion leaders” outside the generally safe districts that elected the new House majority — have essentially no leverage over the outcome. I can’t recall any situation like this in my own experience, and the only even-approximate historic parallel (with obvious differences) is the inability of Northern/free-state opinion to affect the debate within the slave-state South from the 1840s onward. Nor is there a conceivable “compromise” the Democrats could offer that would placate the other side.
Here is the footnote, btw:
** The debt-ceiling vote, of course, is not about future spending decisions. It is about whether to cover expenditures the Congress has already authorized. There is no sane reason for subjecting this to a repeated vote. And there is no precedent for serious threats not to honor federal debt — as opposed to symbolic anti-Administration protest votes, which both parties have cast over the years. Nor for demanding the reversal of major legislation as a condition for routine government operations.
First, I agree with Fallows and David Kurtz that this crisis is not a standoff between President Obama and the Republican Party. It’s between extremists in the GOP versus the “not enough Thorazine on the planet to deal with these whackjobs” wing of the GOP. And Abraham Lincoln couldn’t reason or negotiate with the whackjobs of his day, either.
Second, the time for polite and tempered rhetoric on anyone’s part is over. Steve Benen called out Senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer for saying “What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest.” No, Republicans are not al Qaeda. But it’s becoming a difference in degree, not in kind.
I don’t expect anyone in Congress to strap a real bomb to his chest. They and their followers are not so much motivated by a cause, or a faith, but by a fundamental belief that they are the real Chosen People, the real Americans, dammit, and they deserve to rule. Self-sacrifice isn’t their thing, I don’t believe. But if the current fiasco ends in their humiliation, expect the more-unglued among them to step up with “second-amendment solutions.” They’re more than flirted with the idea already —
Steve Benen again,
In 2010, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he could “empathize” with a madman who flew an airplane into a building on American soil. In 2009, shortly after President Obama’s inauguration, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said if congressional Democrats didn’t allow Republicans to influence policy debates, the GOP would have to emulate the “insurgency” tactics of “the Taliban.” Sessions added, “[W]e need to understand that insurgency may be required,” and that if Democrats resist, Republicans “will then become an insurgency.” The Taliban, Sessions went on to say, offers the GOP a tactical “model.”
If a White House aide compares Republicans to suicide bombers, it’s outrageous, but if a Texas Republican congressman compares his own party to the Taliban, it’s fine?
Yes, because freedom.
But if you’re familiar with antebellum history, you must recognize the strong parallels between the old southern fire-eaters and today’s wingnuts. So the traitor label works, too. And it serves no purpose for people in the national spotlight to be expected to mince words and extend the usual courtesies to them.
Do Dems have to give Republicans something in exchange for not allowing economic havoc to break out, and if so, why isn’t that threatening extensive harm to the country, and to all of us, in order to get your way? Or are Republicans of course going to raise the debt limit in the end, because of course they know it’s the right thing to do, and if so, why do Dems have to give them anything in exchange for it? …
… This gets to the core truth about this debate: As long as it’s an open question whether Republicans are prepared to allow default, the claim that Republicans are threatening to do extensive harm to the country in order to extort concessions from Dems that a radical faction of their party is demanding is 100 percent right.
So the suicide bomber metaphor is off. It would be more correct to compare them to hostage takers holding a gun to America’s head while they demand tax cuts for the rich and building the Keystone pipeline.