A couple of days into the so-called government shutdown and already some Republicans are scratching their heads and wondering why they’re losing the messaging war. After all, they have the facts — it’s Obama and his stooge, Harry Reid, who really want the shutdown and are determined to keep it going as long as possible — and the emotions (cancer kids being turned away from the NIH) on their side. Why, just today I heard the real face of the Democratic Party, Chuck Schumer, pointedly blaming House Speaker John Boehner, and loving every minute of it.
Conservatives are kidding themselves if they think, as some do, that the Voice of the People — making itself heard in such actions as the World War II veterans’ liberation of their monument in Washington yesterday and today, or a nebulous notion of “citizen journalism” — will be enough to force the Democrats to the reality side of the ledger. The recent history of the Tea Party — victorious in 2010, neutered (in part by Lois Lerner and her IRS) in 2012 — shows that. A disorganized, multi-headed movement is not a movement at all, but a rabble, a Children’s Crusade, and one that will end up the way the Children’s Crusade did back in 1212.
What the conservative cause needs now is a leader.
I have no idea who that leader might be. Now that civil war has broken out in the ranks of the GOP, the momentum is with the insurgents, so any leader, whoever he or she may be, is likely to come from the ranks of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Jeff Sessions, et al. It is, on the other hand, highly unlikely that he will step forth from the spear carriers who currently surround Boehner and Eric Cantor, but who will melt away like the Praetorian Guard after the assassination of the Emperor once Boehner is deposed. The banshee screech of a frightened and wounded Leftist establishment speaks volumes about who and what they fear — and they fear the Tea Party.
This time is different. What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule. President Obama must not give in to this hostage taking — not just because Obamacare is at stake, but because the future of how we govern ourselves is at stake.
What we’re seeing here is how three structural changes that have been building in American politics have now, together, reached a tipping point — creating a world in which a small minority in Congress can not only hold up their own party but the whole government. And this is the really scary part: The lawmakers doing this can do so with high confidence that they personally will not be politically punished, and may, in fact, be rewarded. When extremists feel that insulated from playing by the traditional rules of our system, if we do not defend those rules — namely majority rule and the fact that if you don’t like a policy passed by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the Supreme Court then you have to go out and win an election to overturn it; you can’t just put a fiscal gun to the country’s head — then our democracy is imperiled.
No names, please, though — we’re the Tea Party. The marginalization of the Tea Party is the point of nearly everything I read on the left these days; they are the giant ogres out to devour democracy. I have very dear and old friends who are convinced Tea Party “terrorists” are undermining our political system, that Obamacare is “settled law” (the Left’s fondness for “settled” concepts is striking for the Party of Reality and Science, and binds them philosophically with Islam, for which everything was settled in the seventh century), and that zealots have seized control of the House.
The ultimate messaging goal, of course, is the delegitimization of the other side entirely; if Schumer & Co. (and by Co. I mean the Legacy Media) can render conservative principles beyond the pale of polite discussion, they will; they do not seek accommodation but total victory — and I think we need to admire them for that. They know what they want, and this “crisis” comes as a handy tool.
And naturally the Republicans make it easy for them. In the figure of Barack Obama, the Democrats have the perfect front man, the living embodiment of all their dreams and aspirations, a man who hates constitutional conservatives as much as they do, and doesn’t mind the using the Bully Pulpit, and the media that comes along with it, to lambaste the other side as often as possible. And the GOP has… who?
Not John Boehner, the milquetoast speaker, who found Maureen Dowd inside his head today, and who clearly never wanted any part of this fight:
He scans Politico. “As if things weren’t bad enough, Harry Reid’s office leaked these e-mails to show what a hypocrite I was for raising hell about Congress’s special subsidy for health insurance this week after he and I had wheeled and dealed to keep the darn thing,” he rumbles. “I can’t stand Harry, but you gotta admire his methods. That’s how they do it in Vegas, baby. While I was hoping Democrats would slip on a banana peel, Harry labeled us banana Republicans.”
The phone rings. It’s Eric Cantor, in his oleaginous Richmond drawl, assuring Boehner that if the speaker wants to defy the Tea Party and make a deal with the Democrats, Cantor will be behind him all the way.
Ending the call as he leaves the diner, Boehner cracks to a member of his security detail, “Hey, pal, pull the knife out of my back.”
Mo shouldn’t quit her day job and try her hand in Hollywood, but you get the idea. And she’s right about the hypocrisy; Boehner’s real problem is that he belongs to the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party, and can’t understand why these pesky Tea Party types are trying to upset his applecart — nor does he particularly like having Schumer, Obama and the media hold his feet to the fire. And if those aren’t enough cliches to describe a man who’s pretty much a walking stereotype of a Country Club Republican, well, they’ll just have to do. Meanwhile, Cantor’s AWOL, nobody on the right trusts Kevin McCarthy, the whip, or any of the other prominent House Republicans. Ted Cruz has vanished and neither of the party’s past two failed presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and the distinguished senator from the Media, evinces the slightest interest in a leadership role, however symbolic.
Because, let’s face it: the Democrats are right. After their shellacking by the Tea Party in 2010, they vowed — by any means necessary — never to let that happen again. So they cut the Tea Party down with their favorite weed-whacker, government bureaucrats, exerted enough pressure on the weak-willed chief justice to make him switch his vote on Obamacare, and got Obama re-elected in 2012 despite a horrid economy and high unemployment. They sensed the paradigm shift — from the Orphanage to Big Brother — and are now trying to make it stick with a very effective pitchman.
On the other side… nothing. Even beginning screenwriters know you can’t have a commercial movie without a protagonist, lest your film become one of those adorable “character studies’ that nobody will pay to distribute or see. The hero makes things happen; he does not react. The hero overcomes adversity; he does not quit. The hero affects all those around him, both good guys and bad guys; he is not a cipher. Even when he’s a simple idiot, like Chance the Gardener in Being There, it’s his story we follow, his choices that matter, his the triumph or the tragedy.
In other words, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are very much alive and in charge of the GOP right now, hapless straw men blown in the wind, unable to understand their destiny or grasp their fate. And we all know what happened to them.
“Am I dead?”
“Yes or no?”
“Is there a choice?”