Anyone who thinks the end of the government shutdown showdown spells relief for John Boehner or the country hasn’t been paying attention.
In fact, in the wake of a deal that produced, to quote the House speaker, total surrender by his party to a president who refused to pay ransom for keeping the government open and paying the nation’s bills, Boehner’s headaches are only likely to get bigger.
Matt Kibbe, head of FreedomWorks, the group most famous for its $8 million buyout of former Congressman Dick Armey (himself most famous for going to the Supreme Court to avoid having to give up his gold-plated government healthcare when he became eligible for Medicare), told The Wa shington Post’s Matea Gold as news broke Wednesday of a Senate deal that cut Boehner and the House out of the negotiating: “We don’t have regrets.”
No regrets about triggering 800,000 furloughs and many outright layoffs. No regrets about the peril visited on Head Start preschools and nutrition programs for pregnant women and kids; not to mention threatening to default on the nation’s debt, halt Social Security checks to seniors and, yes, keep our national parks shuttered (folks, when the government shuts down, it all shuts down.)
Kibbe went on to proclaim that the shutdown —and default threat — “was a very winnable fight, if the Republicans had been willing to fight.”
That sentiment: that elected Republicans need only “fight” in order for magical things to happen, has its mirror on the left, where entreaties to President Obama to “fight” a Republican Party determined to use every parliamentary procedure to grind his agenda to a halt in the Senate, and create total, unfettered chaos in the House, used to be common currency.
But there are big differences between the core left and the core right. One is that the left tends to react to political disappointment by withdrawing, as many did in the 2010 midterms that paved the way for the House to devolve into a gerrymandered freak show, and various red and purple states to resurrect early 20th century barriers to everything from voting to union organizing to aid to the poor.
The right, on the other hand, often reacts to political disappointment with what can only be described as all-out insurgency.
The right-wing fringe has, time and again, split off from its host and attacked the political body. The John Birch Society did it in the 1950s, Barry Goldwater in the 60s, Ross Perot in the 90s and the tea party today. Yes, Sen. Ted Kennedy “primaried” sitting President Jimmy Carter in 1980, but Kennedy didn’t lead a liberal movement to take the Democratic Party hostage, and the nation’s economy with it. The closest parallel on the left is Ralph Nader and the Green Party, which reached its diminutive but destructive peak in the 2000 presidential election.
Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator and true speaker of the House, given his veto power over what legislation is allowed to come to the floor, left elected politics to run the once august Heritage Foundation, which he has turned into a saw mill, specializing in carving the Grand Old Party apart.
DeMint’s creation, the Senate Conservatives Fund, fuels the Joe McCarthy-Sarah Palin hybrid Sen. Ted Cruz, who along with Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, and various Koch brothers-funded entities, exert an iron discipline over fellow Republicans, who don’t dare defy the 40 or so members of the tea party’s revolutionary guard in the House, for fear of being “primaried.”
Even before leaving the Senate, DeMint refined the art of taking down Republican incumbents and preferred establishment candidates, in favor of true believers like Rand Paul, Cruz and his sidekick from Utah, Mike Lee. Some, like Richard Mourdoch in Indiana, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Joe Miller in Alaska, proved disastrous.
But win or lose, DeMint’s strategy of targeting fellow Republicans first, and the staggering success of those candidates in attracting funding outside the traditional spheres of Republican influence like Wall Street and big business, from small donors and extremist, curmudgeonly billionaires who don’t wish to pay taxes or give their employees healthcare, worked.
Traditional Republicans are terrified of these guys, and fear a primary more than the consequences of a government default. And their increasingly isolated, disillusioned base doesn’t believe the business leaders who warn of the staggering consequences of default any more than they believe in climate change.
For them, it’s all lies and tricks, designed to pry them away from true conservatism.
So buckle your seatbelts, America (and you too, Mr. Boehner). The howling, enraged core of the Republican Party is even angrier now.