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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Lashed to the Mast

Weeks before the November elections, leaders of the Republican Party’s increasingly dominant right wing are spending nearly as much time fretting over the potential squeamishness of their own party about implementing a radical agenda as they are ensuring they get the opportunity to enact one.
In a CNN interview yesterday, Sen. Jim DeMint, the one-time kooky loner who’s now a Very Big Dog in the GOP, said the GOP would be “dead” if it didn’t keep its promises to repeal health care reform, balance the federal budget and radically reduce spending. Remember he’s the guy who thinks Social Security and Medicare have ensnared Americans in socialism, and likes to call public schools “government schools.”
Another fringe figure who’s suddenly become very relevant, congressman Steve King of Iowa, is frantic in his fears that a Republican House would fail to shut down the government as part of a strategy to repeal health reform. Indeed, he’s asking would-be Speaker John Boehner to sign a “blood oath” to include a health reform repeal in every single appropriations bill, which would have the effect of shutting down the government, just as Republicans tried to do, unsuccesfully, in 1995, in order to impose a budget on Bill Clinton.
This is a sideshow well worth watching. People like DeMint and King are trying to lash their fellow Republicans to the mast of their ship and make them immune to the siren song of the massive popularity of the public programs and commitments they aim to attack: Medicare, Social Security, federal support for educational opportunity, environmental protection, and on and on. It’s an interesting approach on the brink of what many expect to be a big Republican electoral victory, and says a lot about the gap between what Republicans are campaigning on and how they actually intend to govern when in office.

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