Andrew Sullivan’s column titled “The Nullification Party” that Cassandra posted an excerpt of in the comments to one of our posts today is an absolute must read.
How does one party that has lost two presidential elections and a Supreme Court case – as well as two Senate elections – think it has the right to shut down the entire government and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States Treasury to get its way on universal healthcare now? I see no quid pro quo even. Just pure blackmail, resting on understandable and predictable public concern whenever a major reform is enacted. But what has to be resisted is any idea that this is government or politics as usual. It is an attack on the governance and the constitutional order of the United States.
When ideologies become as calcified, as cocooned and as extremist as those galvanizing the GOP, the American system of government cannot work. But I fear this nullification of the last two elections is a deliberate attempt to ensure that the American system of government as we have known it cannot work. It cannot, must not work, in the mindset of these radicals, because they simply do not accept the legitimacy of a President and Congress of the opposing party. The GOP does not regard the president as merely wrong – but as illegitimate. Not misguided – illegitimate. This is not about ending Obamacare as such (although that is a preliminary scalp); it is about nullifying this presidency, the way the GOP attempted to nullify the last Democratic presidency by impeachment.[...]
I regard this development as one of the more insidious and anti-constitutional acts of racist vandalism against the American republic in my adult lifetime. Those who keep talking as if there are two sides to this, when there are not, are as much a part of the vandalism as Ted Cruz. Obama has played punctiliously by the constitutional rules – two elections, one court case – while the GOP has decided that the rules are for dummies and suckers, and throws over the board game as soon as it looks as if it is going to lose by the rules as they have always applied.
The president must therefore hold absolutely firm. This time, there can be no compromise because the GOP isn’t offering any. They’re offering the kind of constitutional surrender that would effectively end any routine operation of the American government. If we cave to their madness, we may unravel our system of government, something one might have thought conservatives would have opposed. Except these people are not conservatives. They’re vandals.
This time, the elephant must go down. And if possible, it must be so wounded it does not get up for a long time to come.
Sullivan goes on to quote from a letter from our 16th President, a man who our current President has a lot of admiration and a lot in common with, and such commonalities do not end with them both being elected to the Presidency from Illinois. Abraham Lincoln was describing his political situation and opposition, and my God, tell me he is not talking about what our 44th President is facing today:
What is our present condition? We have just carried an election on principles fairly stated to the people. Now we are told in advance, the government shall be broken up, unless we surrender to those we have beaten, before we take the offices. In this they are either attempting to play upon us, or they are in dead earnest. Either way, if we surrender, it is the end of us, and of the government. They will repeat the experiment upon us ad libitum
Indeed. The Republicans have failed at the ballot box, in devastating fashion, and are still trying to foist their rejected policies and agenda upon the nation. An agenda that was rejected twice in presidential elections over the last five years. An agenda that was rejected in 2012 in the congressional races, as they lost 10 House seats, 2 Senate seats, and the popular vote by 2 million. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Republicans held onto their majority in the House, through very efficient and skilled gerrymandering (since they lost the popular vote and 10 seats as I mentioned) and thus it gives them a seat at the table. But that a voice in the debate over fiscal policy and a hand in the decision making is not what the Republicans in the House are asking for. No. They want complete and total control. They want complete capitulation and surrender by the President and Senate to their policy agenda. And it should be noted, the Republicans, in having control of the House, have already had a large part of their agenda agreed to by the President and the Democratic majority in the Senate. See this image below:
Look at this chart and tell me whose fiscal policy goals are being enacted here? It certainly isn’t the Democrats’ or President Obama’s? No. The GOP won a HUGE concession in spending levels. Their seat at the table already got them something.
But, no. They are not happy with that. They must have it all.
And so, they have shut down the government and have told the President and the American people that it will not reopen again unless they get to repeal the Affordable Care Act, unless they get to personally deny health care and health insurance to over 40 million of Americans. And if we don’t surrender, in Lincoln’s words, then they will allow the U.S. to default, which will break apart this country, and lead us eventually, after financial ruin and renewed economic collapse, to a new Civil War.
To put it plainly, this Republican Party must be destroyed. Completely. And not figuratively. And no, I do not mean the blood of Republicans must run in the streets. I am not calling for a rounding up and shooting of Republicans. No, I want their party as it currently exists destroyed as a functioning entity. How does that happen?
The Speaker of the House is elected by the whole chamber and, by the rules, does not even need to be an actual elected member of Congress. The Republicans could make Clint Eastwood or Rob Schneider the Speaker if they wanted to. And the Democrats could assure that Boehner keeps his job either by voting for him or by abstaining from the vote, or by some combination of both.
What this means is that Boehner can, at any time, decide that he can’t effectively lead the Republican Party but he can lead the House. The Democrats would have every reason to agree to that arrangement, because there are enough reasonable Republicans in the House to pass immigration reform and to restore the old system of using the appropriations committees to make sensible investments for the future, and to raise the debt ceiling, and perhaps even to do some (very) minor gun violence control legislation.
If Ryan Lizza is correct that Boehner can’t maintain support from the Republican caucus if he doesn’t win some concession from the president, then his career is over as leader of the House Republicans. If he makes a deal anyway, to avoid a financial armageddon, for example, then the division of the Republican Party will be completed whether or not Boehner stays on as Speaker because a rump of moderate Republicans will have already joined with the whole of the Democratic caucus to break the back of the Tea Party. That coalition might as well have a leader, and if Boehner doesn’t want the job then maybe someone else does [perhaps Peter King of New York].
Regardless of what happens, so long as Boehner doesn’t get any concession and he remains unwilling to destroy our country’s credit rating, the grip of the Tea Party will shortly be broken and the Republican Party effectively divided.
That is what we are currently witnessing. This is an absolute prerequisite if we want President Obama to have anything resembling a functional second term in office, and the administration is well aware of the need to have and to win this showdown right now.
One way or the other, the current Republican Party as we know it is about to be destroyed. If Boehner continues to allow Ted Cruz and his Teabaggers in the House to control the decision making and not back down, then what will happen is continued government shutdown going on months and a default on our debt, which will lead to Depression and collapse, all of which they will be directly and solely responsible for. The other path is the one Booman describes, where Boehner gives up, and either he or some other sane Republican newly elected as speaker by a national coalition of sane Republicans and all the Democrats passes a clean CR and raises the debt ceiling, and then resolves a host of other issues. Such a path would effectively split the current Republican Party into the two parties it actually has been for the last four years: 1) the normal Reagan-Dole-Bush party that is conservative but also interested in actually governing, and 2) the Sarah Palin-Michelle Bachmann-Steven King-Ted Cruz fascist party that is not at all interested in governing. The Tea Party would then officially become a third party, and perhaps the most successful third party ever, since they will have 30 House members and 10 Senators.
Such a split would not stay confined to the Congress. The party would split officially and completely nationwide.
That is what is needed for America to survive. The destruction of the Republican Party into its two component factions. Lincoln once said that a nation, much like a house, divided against itself cannot stand. Now, our nation cannot stand unless the Republican Party divides itself.