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What Does It Mean?
Let's get some handy links out of the way first:
- CNN's 10 things a government shutdown may mean to you (not much).
- Here's an NBC Link that shows some functions that will continue (Air Traffic Control) and some that won't (Centers for Disease Control)
- The Heritage Foundation answers some basic questions (Yes, a shutdown will impact Obamacare's full implementation)
- Here are the lyrics to the Beach Boy's "Shut Down."
What Does It Really Mean?
Looking at the battle-space it appears that this is going to be a self-inflicted wound for the Republicans. How can I say that? Am I precognitive? No--and I could be wrong--but the crux of the matter is this: Obamacare may either be an economy ending economic disaster--or the best thing ever to come out of congress--but it simply cannot be both. Just as the Left and Right messaging disagrees so does the internal Republican messaging--and in a crisis of spin that's fatal.
Let's check and see:
- The party of "Let It Burn" is going to get more blame when anything burns. This is just common sense. Now, to be sure, "letting it burn" ought to mean allowing Obamacare to go through and ruin the economy--but the fear is that while that'll hurt, it won't burn things fast enough. Right? Or maybe it'll be addictive to the poor (like heroin) while wrecking the middle class's health insurance? Okay--but that should still be burn-y enough as we all know poor people don't vote in mid-terms, right? I mean, that's like the whole strategy. Something is wrong here (and what is wrong here is that the LIB crowd doesn't, in their hearts, believe it'll burn badly enough to kill the patient--they think it'll 'burn' like Social Security, a Ponzi scheme--a very, very popular Ponzi scheme--burns). That's The Fear(TM).
- The strategy has been compromised. The "larding up" of the bills sent to the House (such as the Conscience clause) make it clear that the position of the GOP base, right now, is not serious and unfocused. This looks bad to both a casual and clever observer. If the House was relentlessly on-message that might move the dial--but they're not and that doesn't give them the strategically defensible position they're going to need.
- The media, it is going to be awful. David Frum (who appears here twice) cites a study that shows young voters get their news from ... MSN and Yahoo News. What the heck? A key portion of the electorate get their information from people who "do not know how to change the default settings on an internet browser." Chilling. Probably true. If you think this purely a spin game, fine--but if you think that, why are you taking a position you cannot win? I'll tell you in a moment.
- The Tea-Party Framing. This is similar to 'The Media' but it's deeper than left-wing news-outlets. The problem is the use of the term Tea-Party to refer to the group of conservatives driving this behavior. The problem is two fold: (1) The term Tea-Party is really, really unpopular and (2) it's really, really accurate in this case. I have read a bunch of conservatives being upset about the use of the term Tea-Party to frame all the drivers. After all, didn't EVERY Republican vote against Obamacare--like--EVERY TIME!? Yes--but this is also crashingly dishonest. Ask yourself--in the middle of the night, in the darkest hour of your soul--if you believe for a second that the GOP Establishment without the Tea Party would have the guts to stand up to the rest of congress on this? Right. I know, I know--it's a dark night of the soul moment--but yeah: both things are true. The Tea Party is unpopular ... and they're responsible for this.
- Reality. David Frum, on a roll, checks three possible happy-state end-games for the GOP: Obama folds, Dems get the blame, the base is ALL FIRED UP. He concludes each of these has a basic problem with it in this reality (Obama might as well resign, the Republicans are cheering a shutdown, and if / when the GOP folds it'll demoralize the base).
What next, of course, is the Debt Ceiling. A government shutdown, like the sequester, is probably bad in ways that aren't either agonizing or, for many, immediately apparently (especially if the troop stay funded--although apparently some of those essential functions get paid in IOUs or something, I'm not sure). Blowing the debt ceiling--even without a literal bond default--would be catastrophic. With a bond-default it would be ... another 2008. But maybe worse.
That's really the problem here: what the Republicans appear committed to doing (and let's be clear: Boehner was trying to get through the Shutdown phase for more leverage in the Debt Ceiling phase) is saying "if you don't repeal / defund this bill that the majority of Americans hate ... we're going to BLOW UP THE NATION."
Now, let's take a quick look at that: if a majority of Americans hate Obamacare enough to risk blowing up the nation in order to get rid of it then why not just have an election on that?
You could argue it's because we "just did"--but any True Con (TM) will tell you that (A) Romney was the wrong guy for that issue (Romneycare, right?) and (B) it hardly ever came up at all in 2012 anyway. Right? Well, uh ... maybe there's a reason for that. If this was such a winner of an issue it'd take care of itself, right?
Well, right--but, see the Senate and the President are HOLDING THE ELECTORATE hostage. I mean, they're being totally intractable and threatening to shutdown the government if a minority of one of two legislative houses don't speak for The People--or, at least, Their People--who are demographically quite different than a lot of the country in total.
The problem here is that after SCOTUS declared Obamacare legal through a Gordian Knot of twisted logic the battle came down to this: in order to get rid of it you'd either have to win the Nov 2012 presidential election --OR-- do something so ridiculous that the leverage would be existential in nature. Having lost the 2012 election by a wide enough margin to be decisive the back-up plan is to assume that no-how, no-way would Obama risk the nation's stability for his own selfish aims.
Are You Listening To Yourself?
Of course the base has done nothing since 2012 but argue that Obama is exactly the guy who wants to destroy America and is so arrogant he wouldn't think twice about plunging us into Mad Max territory for his own selfish aims. In fact, according to the narrative, those are his own selfish aims.
So one of two things cannot be true: either (a) Obama is a relatively sane man who cares about his legacy and wishes to preserve America. In this case, if faced with an unyielding opponent, he will fold or (b) he is a secret Islamicist who wishes to destroy / weaken and humble Amerika (as he calls her) and will Let Her Burn.
If you believe (b) what are you doing handing Obama the torch to light the country on fire with? If you believe (a) then, uh, you're threatening to light the country on fire (even if you're telling yourself you have the best-of-intentions of saving it: get those good intentions together and, HEY--they look like paving stones ... WHERE ARE THEY LEADING US!?).
Why Are They Doing This?
The GOP establishment is going this because they are afraid of their base. Ted Cruz is doing this because he wants to be president or, at least, the 2016 nominee. The House reps who represent their base are doing this because they were elected to.
So why is the base so behind this--in this way? It's because they believe they are "the good guys" and "the good guys don't lose" (unless they lose their nerve). In short, because we all think of ourselves--wherever we stand--as the heroes of our own stories. We believe that things will work out right in the end and we'll come through to that credit-rolling screen where we leave the theater with a heart full of hope.
Against the massive forces of the presidency, the senate, 53% of Obama voters, about 40% of moderate or, at least, not-defaulty Republicans on top of that, SCOTUS, the media, and just maybe their conscience, they have to just Not. Lose. Their. Nerve.
You do this by chaining yourself to the locomotive and then sending it out of control--knowing everything will work out for the best.