Saturday, October 5, 2013

Playing Hardball: How to stop the #BoehnerShutdown tomorrow - UPDATES: The roots of the current constitutional crisis in the USA

By Blueberry Tart

I admit from the outset that neither President Obama nor Senator Reid has contacted me to ask my advice about how to stop the government shutdown, but I’ll give it to them anyway. ;-)

Tell Speaker Boehner that he has 24 hours to put the “clean CR” already passed by the Senate up for a vote in the House.  If he does not do so, introduce a new resolution that restores the funding that was cut by the sequester.

This accomplishes several aims. First, it sets a “deadline” for the House to act on the “clean CR,” rather than leaving that open-ended, as is now the case. Second, it highlights the (not well understood) fact that the Dems have already compromised by voting for a CR that maintains the sequester cuts that they don’t like. Third, if the Speaker does not bring the “clean CR” up for a vote, it allows the Senate to reinstate funding that was cut due to the sequester, which is damaging the economy and hurting many of our most vulnerable citizens.

I understand that the Democrats fear that the Republicans will accuse them of introducing new conditions into the situation and blame them for perpetuating the government shutdown.  The realities are that the Republicans are blaming them anyway, while the GOP is introducing new "poison pill" conditions daily.

So, let’s play hardball.  Batter up!

The clean bill is already a huge compromise


Bonus (by Patrick):

During these sad and troubled times, a clear thinker like Andrew Sullivan brings things to the point (h/t mellybel):

I’ve long argued that you have to see the bigger cultural and religious picture when analyzing what has happened to American conservatism these past two decades or so.

The bewildering economic and social and demographic changes have created a cultural and existential panic among those most heavily concentrated in those districts whose members are threatening to tear down the global economy as revenge for losing two presidential elections in a row. They feel they have already lost and have nothing to gain from any constructive engagement with a president they regard as pretty close to the anti-Christ of parasitic minorities. They feel isolated in a more multi-cultural country. They feel spied upon and condescended to. They have shut out any news sources apart from Fox. It does not occur to them, for example, that Obamacare might actually help them. And you get no actual specifics on policies they like or dislike. It is all abstractions based on impressions.

More to the point, the bulk of these Republicans no longer believe in the Republican party. They identify more strongly with the Tea Party or Evangelical groups or Fox News than the GOP. On social issues, the defining issue is homosexuality – not abortion. That intransigence will alienate them them even further from the future mainstream. Their next big issue: denying climate change. Right now, I see no way to integrate these groups and people into the broader body politic or conversation. Their alienation is so deep it is close to unbridgeable. And further defeats will make their isolation worse, not better, their anger more, not less, intense.

This is the deeper crisis we face – and without strong economic growth, it is hard to see how it can be ameliorated in the near future. Perhaps if moderate Republicans – a mere quarter of the whole – jumped ship to the Democrats, then the electoral losses would be so great as to demand some kind of reform. But the center is not holding. And I fear it will get even worse than this until it gets better.

Except it’s hard to imagine political dysfunction getting worse than risking the first ever default by the Treasury of the United States because a key minority feels “disrespected.”



In a new article at New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait examines the roots of the current American constitutional crisis:

In a merciful twist of fate, Juan Linz did not quite live to see his prophecy of the demise of American democracy borne out. Linz, the Spanish political scientist who died last week, argued that the presidential system, with its separate elections for legislature and chief executive, was inherently unstable. In a famous 1990 essay, Linz observed, “All such systems are based on dual democratic legitimacy: No democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and the legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people.” Presidential systems veered ultimately toward collapse everywhere they were tried, as legislators and executives vied for supremacy. There was only one notable exception: the United States of America.

Linz attributed our puzzling, anomalous stability to “the uniquely diffuse character of American political parties.” The Republicans had loads of moderates, and conservative whites in the South still clung to the Democratic Party. At the time he wrote that, the two parties were already sorting themselves into more ideologically pure versions, leaving us where we stand today: with one racially and economically polyglot party of center-left technocracy and one ethnically homogenous reactionary party. The latter is currently attempting to impose its program by threat upon the former. The events in Washington have given us a peek into the Linzian nightmare.

Traditionally, when American politics encountered the problem of divided government—when, say, Nixon and Eisenhower encountered Democratic Congresses, or Bill Clinton a Republican one—one of two things happened. Either both sides found enough incentives to work together despite their differences, or there was what we used to recognize as the only alternative: gridlock. Gridlock is what most of us expected after the last election produced a Democratic president and Republican House. Washington would drudge on; it would be hard to get anything done, but also hard to undo anything. Days after the election, John Boehner, no doubt anticipating things would carry on as always, said, “Obamacare is the law of the land.”

Instead, to the slowly unfolding horror of the Obama administration and even some segments of the Republican Party, the GOP decided that the alternative to finding common ground with the president did not have to be mere gridlock. It could force the president to enact its agenda. In January, Boehner told his colleagues he’d abandon all policy negotiations with the White House. Later that spring, House Republicans extended the freeze-out to the Democratic-­majority Senate, which has since issued (as of press time) eighteen futile pleas for budget negotiations. Their plan has been to carry out their agenda by using what they call “leverage” or “forcing events” to threaten economic and social harm and thereby extract concessions from President Obama without needing to make any policy concessions in return.

Paul Ryan offered the most candid admission of his party’s determined use of non-electoral power: “The reason this debt-limit fight is different is we don’t have an election around the corner where we feel we are going to win and fix it ourselves,” he said at the end of September. “We are stuck with this government another three years.”


Cheeriogirl found an excellent article in the Australian newspaper "The Age" which explains further the reasons for the current political crisis in the USA:

This week's farce has its roots in 2010 when Republicans swept their way to majorities in both houses of Congress. It was a stunning return from exile, after Democrats had banished them from every limb of the government in 2008. But then Republicans tried to entrench their position through a colossal gerrymander. Several Republican-controlled states proceeded to redraw their electoral boundaries to make Democrat success nigh on impossible. And it worked. By 2012, results in the House of Representatives were so skewed that the Republicans comfortably maintained their majority despite Democrat candidates receiving more than a million more votes.

Take Pennsylvania, where Democrats won nearly 51 per cent of the vote, but Republicans won 13 seats to five. Or Michigan where the Democrat vote was nearly 53 per cent while Republicans took almost twice as many seats. North Carolina: 51-49 to the Democrats but nine Republican seats to a paltry four. And on it goes. That sort of result landed in at least 10 states - only one of which was rigged to favour the Democrats. To get a sense of the scale of it, consider that in the seven states redrawn by Republicans, near parity voting (16.7 million votes to 16.4 million) delivered 73 Republicans and 34 Democrats.

That's a clear perversion of democracy and it's no accident. Indeed the Republican State Leadership Committee made it explicit. They ran a $30 million project called Redmap, aimed at winning key seats at the state level, which would give them the power to draw electoral boundaries. What's more, they planned to do this in a census year so they could draw with precision - 2010 was exactly such a year.

So the plan worked. They played the system. But now the system is playing them. Sure, Republicans look set to control the House well into the future. But in the American system, the political contest doesn't simply vanish. It shifts to the primaries. Now if you're a Republican House member, your greatest threat comes not from Democrats, but from other Republican challengers hungry for your seat. The result is that Republicans are talking more and more to their own base, and less and less to everyone else. It's the rational thing for a politician to do. Even if that base is becoming increasingly irrational.

Old-school Republicans might shake their heads at the rising rabidity of their Tea Party colleagues, but the truth is they're currently no match for them. The last thing aspiring congressional Republicans need is a well-funded lobby group running campaigns lacerating them as closet socialists. Freed from the need to defeat any meaningful Democrat challenge, Republican politics is now such that everyone's racing to outbid each other for the mantle of true believer. It's a classic case of a closed system encouraging ever more radical posturing.

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