An important thing to remember as we begin the first day of a House GOP shutdown of the federal government is that the Tea Party ideology that is driving all this is a distinctly minority point of view. Mitt Romney, Republican standard bearer who campaigned on a repeal of Obamacare in last year's presidential election, lost by 5 million votes. Republicans maintained control of the House of Representatives but lost eight seats in the process and Democrats candidates ended up winning 1.4 million votes nationwide. Gerrymandering has helped the GOP maintain its majority in the House. In the Senate, Republicans were widely predicted to regain control. But thanks to some extremely incendiary comments by Tea Party candidates, Democrats, in an amazing turnabout that was the highlight of the election season, actually picked up two seats.
The Tea Party is a revanchist movement that wants to return to a past which is a fantasy. It is a splinter movement that has been blown up into flame by plutocrats who were frightened to discover following Obama's 2008 election that a strong, multicultural Progressive majority exists in the United States.
We first saw the Tea Party on display during the orchestrated demonstrations against national health care legislation at Congressional town halls the summer of 2009. The paranoid types have always been with us. Go to any public forum -- any meeting of your city council or school board -- and they'll be there. But what was different this time around is that the kooks had some deep-pocketed backers who were willing to provide an organizational infrastructure.
It is this moneyed assistance that is important to keep in mind when noting that Speaker of the House John Boehner, a man who if nothing else is a dedicated servant of concentrated wealth, could end the government shutdown promptly by allowing the clean Senate continuing resolution a vote on the House floor. This is from Joe Nocera's column this morning, "Those Banana Republicans":
The House speaker, John Boehner, won’t bring “a clean C.R.” — that is, a continuing resolution without any of the anti-Obamacare language — not because it won’t pass, but because it probably would, which would infuriate the Tea Party wing of his party and jeopardize his leadership post. Indeed, as Boehner well knows, many House Republicans do not want the government to shut down and would probably vote for the Senate’s clean bill if given half a chance. Their unwillingness to speak out against the extreme faction in their party is shameful. And it’s tragic that, at a time when the House desperately needs a strong speaker, it has John Boehner instead.
What was clear on Monday was that if the government does shut down, the Republicans are going to be blamed. All day long, we watched the Democrats, starting with President Obama, make the case that Republican demands were unreasonable, and, indeed, dangerous, given what was at stake. Republicans spent the day on the defensive. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, described Republican tactics to me as “hostage taking.” Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, told reporters that if “we can’t pass this” — meaning a clean C.R. — “we’re only truly entering a banana republican mind-set.”Wall Street is on board the government shutdown because it couldn't take place without assistance from Boehner. Boehner is not a man who is going to buck the boss.
So what's going on?
I think what's going on is that the plutocrats who whipped a political movement into being have lost the degree of control that they come to expect. Active Tea Party opposition to bombing Syria no doubt upset the Wall Street types who don't like to see any loss of imperial prerogatives even if a black man is the commander-in-chief. And what really must dismay the plutocrats is the possibility of a government default in a couple of weeks if the House Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling, a default that would send shock waves through the global capitalist system.
The longer the government stays shut down the more the Tea Party caucus will splinter. In another week or two, assuming the government remains shuttered, the Tea Party will be thoroughly discredited, the public ire coming its way immense. It will be broken and in no position to engineer a default on sovereign debt.
There is a war on within the GOP. This very well could be the battle where the Karl Rove-led Wall Streeters route the Tea Party Birchers.