Enabling the Tea Party Revolution

Tuesday is the first Democratic Presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle. It is 100% certain that you will not hear any one of the Democratic hopefuls discuss how the Democrats in the House of Representatives have enabled the current chaos in the House by Republicans.

How have they enabled Republicans? Democrats routinely save them from their dysfunction. On Sunday, we discussed that raising revenues and deciding where to allocate funds was the primary task of the party that controls Congress.

That would be the Republicans.

We also said that whenever John Boehner has tried to pass his own spending bills using just Republican votes, he’s failed. He then goes to Nancy Pelosi and asks her to get some Democrats to vote to keep the government open, and the Democrats then vote for a Continuing Resolution, or a short-term Debt Limit increase. This is enabling bad behavior.

Enabling is doing certain things for someone that they could, and should be doing themselves.

They enable Republicans by bailing them out when they have painted themselves into a corner on fiscal matters, in the same way that people help alcoholics continue to (ab)use their drink of choice, by allowing them to avoid the full consequences of their actions.

When John Boehner can’t keep the government open or pay our bills and protect our nation’s credit rating, his party should crash and burn. Instead, his “friend” Pelosi does the equivalent of hiring a high-priced lawyer to quash Boehner’s drunken driving arrest. Boehner drives on, but his party doesn’t govern on its own.

And when the smoke clears, the Republican leadership extracts no price from their Republican Revolutionaries, who are allowed to keep their committee assignments, and receive campaign funds from the National Republican Campaign Committee.

So, there is no political price that the Republican Revolutionaries have to pay for bad behavior.

Democratic enabling has allowed a minority of Republicans to not just persist with their brinksmanship, but along the way, they have vastly strengthened their political power. There is no reason why Dems should vote for Republican appropriations bills, that is the job of the majority. The GOP needs to act like a majority party, which means they must learn how to fund the government on their own, or share power with those who will work with them to fund it.

The value to Democrats for their enabling is that they can say they are saving the country from the Republican Revolutionaries. But, the opposite result has actually happened. Democrats have enabled the Republicans to badmouth Washington DC and Congress, to bluster about how they can insist on defaulting on our debts, or about shutting down the government.

This has allowed Republicans to develop an increasing tolerance for avoiding basic political realities. Now, the Republican Party has snapped its moorings. Now, they have to dig out of the hole they have spent time and effort digging, all the while “supported” by the Democrats.

There are two possible outcomes. First, the Republicans could elect a Speaker that they agree to follow, but that seems to be the opposite of what the Republican Revolutionaries want, which is a Speaker who will follow their demands. The link details the 21 demands of the Freedom Caucus, including that the Speaker candidate must agree to shut down the government until some of the legislative achievements of the Obama Administration are repealed. Otherwise, the Caucus will deny their votes to that candidate.

The second possible outcome is a bipartisan coalition that will keep the government open and pay our bills.

Since we definitely need to do that, then that coalition should elect the next Speaker. Given the makeup of Congress, that Speaker ought to be a Republican. But for Democrats to enter a coalition, they need to extract concessions: The Republican Speaker needs to bring some Democrats onto the leadership team, demoting recalcitrant Republicans.

We could be at a turning point in the House’s process. It has been a two-party place for most of its history, with the majority party electing the Speaker. But there was a four-party stalemate of the House during the Eisenhower administration. The Democrats split along FDR/Farm-Labor/Dixiecrat lines, while the Republicans were split between the Old Guard Republicans who supported big business and dismantling the New Deal; and the Modern Republicans, who supported individual freedom and the market economy, but thought the government should provide necessary social welfare assistance.

That split was the start of the modern conservative movement’s push for ideological purity, that push and the Democrats’ recent enabling has given us the three party split we now see in the House of Representatives.

The Republicans could elect a Speaker at any time, and restore the two-party process.

Otherwise, we could be in a three-party scenario that might function like a parliamentary system, with occasional votes of “no confidence”, and the formation of a new coalition that elects a new Speaker, and then, new committee chairs.

If a coalition happens, it will happen because the Republicans realize that they cannot elect a Speaker on their own who hasn’t promised to deliver a global economic catastrophe in early December when we have to raise the debt ceiling.

Interesting times, eh?


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