Monday, October 07, 2013 |
The Tea Partiers live in an alternate reality, in which up is down, the south is right and the shutdown is good for the Republicans, politically. Tea Party Republicans, now firmly in control of their Congressional caucuses, believe that if they can just carry on the insanity long enough, the American people will begin to look kindly on them.
Well, so far, there are only indications to the contrary. Despite Speaker Boehner's pronouncement that the Republicans are "locked in an epic battle" to deny health care to Americans, things are not going well for the Speaker and his caucus. Not only do Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the Republican tactic of shutting down the government because they don't get their way on a law they do not like, new polling has begun to hit specific GOP districts.
A poll from Public Policy Polling, sponsored by MoveOn, shows that in 21 of the 24 districts surveyed, incumbent Republicans would lose to a generic Democrat thanks to the GOP shutdown. In 17 districts, incumbent Republicans are trailing a generic Democratic opponent as is, and in four others, they fall behind when voters are told that they voted to shut down the government. Democrats will need to pick up 17 seats in next year's midterms to win back the House. Just as the GOP shutdown began, a Quinnipiac poll showed Democrats gaining the advantage in national generic ballot they would need to take over the House even in the current gerrymandered climate. Late last month, the Democrat in Virginia's gubernatorial race catapulted to the top, causing the Republican to beg his national colleagues to end the shutdown.
With the usual caveat about this being thirteen months before the midterms and GOP's hopes and dreams about the American people forgetting about the shutdown by the time the election gets here, the current posture of the Republican party is backfiring in more ways than one. In midterm elections, the president's party usually loses seats, whereas here, the reversal is significant enough to perhaps flip control of the House. Same story in Virginia - the president's party tends to lose the governorship in Virginia, and this time, at least partly due to the insurgence of the Tea Party, the Republicans seem to be on a path to lose, and perhaps lose big.
The Republican hostage taking isn't working out well. As more and more people are hurting - and as more and more stories are emerging of people being able to sign up for affordable health care with the Affordable Care Act exchanges - the Republican political front is growing more and more untenable. Next week, Republicans will be in a position of withholding veterans' checks just so they can continue their futile attempt to deny affordable health insurance to Americans, just as John Boehner doubles down by promising a default of the government if Republican ransom demands are not met.
The shutdown, despite Rand Paul's pronouncements, isn't good for the Republicans. I suspect the GOP leadership knows that. But what they can't decide, I think, is what is worse for them politically - the shutdown or ending it in a way that ticks off the teabaggers. Ted Cruz has led them over the cliff, and the same conservative right wing that gave Ted Cruz his wings is also holding the rest of the Republican party under its guns.
Republicans don't know what will hurt them more - the moderate backlash and the energized liberal base thanks to their shutdown, or the Tea Party primary challenges and general election GOP voter depression. What's more, now that they have jumped off the cliff, they have no guarantee that the moderate and liberal backlash won't happen even if they give up. But giving up will definitely bring them Tea Party's wrath.
Ultimately though, Republicans must cut off the Tea Party's wings. They cannot continue the shutdown forever - resistance within the party will intensify as we get closer and closer to the debt ceiling - from non-insane Republicans both within Congress and outside. They have no endgame, and they have no one to blame but themselves. There is going to be bloodbath within the Republican party. The sooner they get it over with, the better for them - and probably the better for American democracy in the long term.