Here’s a description of the tea party Republicans’ strategy from a Washington Post column by Michael Gerson, former chief speechwriter and senior policy advisor to George W. Bush:
This, in the end, was the strategy: For procedural reasons, senators needed to vote against a House spending bill defunding Obamacare — in order to force a government shutdown, in order to cut off federal spending unrelated to Obamacare, in order to trigger a wave of public revulsion against Obamacare, in order to force President Obama to trade away his signature legislative accomplishment. And any elected Republican, by the way, who questions the practicality of this approach is a quisling.
It is the fullest expression (so far) of the view of leadership held by the new, anti-establishment conservative establishment: Exploit a legitimate populist cause to demand a counterproductive tactic in an insufferable tone, then use the inevitable failure to discredit opponents in an intra-party struggle. More Pickett’s charges, please. They are emotionally satisfying (and good for fundraising). And the carnage may produce new generals, who are more favorable to future Pickett’s charges.
In the process, the GOP is made to look unserious and incapable of governing.
Gerson goes on to say that the Republican shutdown-the-government advocates will probably damage their party’s future:
…An anti-compromise ideology can make for bad politics. In our system, Obamacare will not be overturned by one house of Congress. A tea-party shutdown strategy — if implemented — would make securing the other house and the presidency less likely for Republicans. And the political energy consumed by Cruz and crew has not been available to promote incremental limits on Obamacare that might have aided GOP political prospects.
Gerson notes the folly of the GOP’s tea party faction’s war against compromise:
…It is a revealing irony that the harshest critics of compromise should call themselves constitutional conservatives. The Constitution itself resulted from an extraordinary series of compromises. And it created the system of government that presupposes the same spirit. “Compromise,” says Rauch, “is the most essential principle of our constitutional system. Those who hammer out painful deals perform the hardest and, often, highest work of politics; they deserve, in general, respect for their willingness to constructively advance their ideals, not condemnation for treachery.”
Hard to say if the new signs sanity emerging here and there in the GOP will do any good and help them avoid a potential rout in 2014. But Gerson’s column further indicates that the rift in the GOP may get a lot deeper before it gets better. “Unserious and incapable of governing” — not a bad meme for Dems to mine for 2014.