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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Princeton Professer Julian Zelizer wrote a piece criticizing  Tea Party republicans for being out of touch with political reality. His analysis, however, inclines me to believe that he is the one who is actually out of touch, not only with current political realities but also with the sentiments of large portions of the American electorate. What follows is a point by point critique of the original essay:

Just because a drag race doesn’t end with someone getting killed, it doesn’t mean that drag racing is a safe thing to do.

Mr. Zelizer begins with flawed analogy, specifically comparing a dangerous action that is performed for mere thrills with actions taken in Congress which are essential to addressing some very serious issues that affect this nation’s future. The Tea Party Republicans are not flexing their political muscle simply for show. I think the writer knows this but is making this poor comparison for the sake of rhetorical flourish.

Even though it looks like Congress will raise the debt ceiling, this is no way to run a government.
Many pundits have pointed to the crisis over the debt ceiling as further evidence that Washington is dysfunctional. They say the inability of President Obama and congressional Democrats and Republicans to reach a deal is another example of how partisan polarization, political incivility and 24-hour media have left our nation’s leaders unable to make deals. In their minds, we should not be surprised about what has happened. This was virtually inevitable.

While placing battles in historical perspective, it is also important to recognize when we are seeing something new. The “Washington is dysfunctional” argument has confused chronic institutional problems with the partisan strategy that has been used by the GOP.

The fault in this case is not business as usual, the blame lies with (gasp!) the guys on the other side of the aisle.

The trigger to this crisis, which threatens the health of the nation’s economy, was an aggressive move by tea party Republicans — hesitantly supported by the House leadership — to hold routine debt ceiling legislation hostage until they received exactly the spending cuts they demanded.

The vote was routine. The role of Congress is simply to rubber stamp everything for the Democratic President.

Lacking the votes they need for a clean vote on them through the budget process, they have instead forced everyone’s hand. Obama has little leverage to do anything but agree to their cuts.

How exactly “forcing everyone’s hand” any different than “exercising their political clout”? Are representatives not supposed to represent?

In 1994, Republicans who were elected also arrived to Washington sounding like renegades. They insisted that they would do whatever was necessary to change the status quo, and they refused to compromise with Democrats for the sake of appearing reasonable. South Carolina Congressman Lindsey Graham said, “Ain’t nothing was off limits, buddy. You could feed us, wash us and comb us, but we’d still bite.”

Most famously, in 1995 and 1996, they were willing to shut down the federal government in their pursuit of deep spending cuts. Eventually, most of the class of 1994 mellowed, realizing that governance required compromise, as did political survival.

Here is the key to this guy’s entire beef with tea party republicans. I think a lot of people were waiting for disillusionment on the part of the tea party, the crucial moment when their representatives would betray them to the inevitable forces of realpolitik and compromise. The left had it when Bill Clinton submitted to the “don’t ask don’t tell policy” and when Hillary’s Healthcare1 was shot down on the landing strip back in the 90s. The fact that the tea party republicans are (so far) doing what they were elected to do is putting a serious gun rack in this guy’s hybrid and he doesn’t like it one bit.

Also here is the part that people tend to forget when they recall the glory years of the Clinton administration: Bill Clinton did not singlehandedly lead the United States a fiscally sound promised land. Prosperity was effected with a Democratic President fighting tooth and nail against republicans in the house who forced a more moderate course. Not only are checks and balances an appropriate use of representative authority, they are absolutely essential in curbing the excesses of all Presidents be they Republican, Democrate, Whig or even socialist (yuck!).

What we are seeing with tea party Republicans is something even more dramatic. The new Republicans have been the driving force behind the decision to prevent a routine vote on the debt ceiling — a routine vote with potentially devastating financial consequences — to obtain massive cuts in federal spending.

Yeah we get it. Tea Party republicans failed to rubber stamp a debt ceiling and instead chose to exercise their political clout in order to effect change in line with their duty to their constituents.

When Obama and many Democrats moved toward their position, they were also unwilling to compromise on how to reduce the deficit. When the president proposed that revenue-raising measures should be part of the package, they refused to budge. House Speaker John Boehner barely received the number of votes he needed for his legislation late last week.

To be sure, this is not the first time the political parties have used the debt ceiling to make a point. In 1966, for example, every House Republican but one (former Speaker Joseph Martin) voted against raising the debt ceiling because, they charged, President Lyndon Johnson was lying about the size of the deficit.

“I think the president probably in a couple of months will come up and say that to win the war in Vietnam, we need a tax increase,” warned Missouri Republican Thomas Curtis. “I would much prefer to increase taxes to place a further burden on the national debt.” More recently, some Democrats, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, spoke against raising the debt ceiling to protest President George W. Bush’s policies.

The difference is that this time around, tea party Republicans have been willing to follow through on the threat, and they have control of the House. This is what has made the situation so dangerous. Previous opposition to raising the debt ceiling has been primarily symbolic.

Usually, the politicians making the argument knew the vote would happen anyway, or they were prepared to change their mind in the end. Tea party Republicans are not kidding. They forced their own leadership to bring the nation to the brink of disaster. They are not doing this through the normal budget process, and they are taking no prisoners.

Sooooo the reason the tea party republicans are the bad guys compared to people who have used this tactic in years past is because the tea party members were not bullshitting??? Is Mr. Zelizer really waxing nostalgic about the days when political talk was mere rhetoric and when representatives checked their principles at the door?

More than ever, it is incumbent on the Republican leadership to push back against its own members who use these tactics. Even Boehner has seemed to be aware of the economic and political dangers that loom. One can see throughout this debate that he was at pains trying to contain the right wing of his party.

The consequences of default would be potentially disastrous for all Americans, red and blue, and recovery would take a long time. There are other ways Republicans can push for their objectives. In the future, they must do so.

You’re advocating for the party that pushed through socialized health care and you want the other guys to reign in the more extreme elements of THEIR party? I think this is a case where excess is in the eye of the beholder.