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Hullabaloo


Saturday, December 14, 2013

 
Village hostesses rejoice

by digby

So all day long the cable gasbags have been blabbering about John Boehner telling the wingnuts to pound sand with much "analysis" that says the stalwart Real Men of the GOP have just had enough of this childish behavior and are determined to be the grown-ups in the room the Villagers know them to be. Here's an example in print:
Ryan’s been talked about as a potential presidential contender, or perhaps a future House speaker. And there’s no doubt that his stock among conservatives on both fronts will drop to some extent as a result of the deal he just made with Murray.

But he seems okay with that — much in the way New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has been okay this year doubling down on his own argument in favor of getting things done even if it means working with the opposing party. Neither Christie nor Ryan, to hear them tell it, have surrendered their core principles in the process.

It’s not clear what the future holds for Ryan. But what is clear is that he’s adopted an approach to governance rooted in results. And that places him closer to Christie on the spectrum of the potential 2016 GOP presidential sweepstakes than to Cruz or Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.).
What a relief. Finally Cokie and Wolfie and the gang can hang around with their favorite Republicans without feeling uncomfortable. That's really all that matters.

Except it's all nonsense. The Tea Party is alive and well and will continue to be alive and well. This piece in the current issue of Democracy by Theda Skopcal explains:
At the grassroots, volunteer activists formed hundreds of local Tea Parties, meeting regularly to plot public protests against the Obama Administration and place steady pressure on GOP organizations and candidates at all levels. At least half of all GOP voters sympathize with this Tea Party upsurge. They are overwhelmingly older, white, conservative-minded men and women who fear that “their country” is about to be lost to mass immigration and new extensions of taxpayer-funded social programs (like the Affordable Care Act) for low- and moderate-income working-aged people, many of whom are black or brown. Fiscal conservatism is often said to be the top grassroots Tea Party priority, but Williamson and I did not find this to be true. Crackdowns on immigrants, fierce opposition to Democrats, and cuts in spending for the young were the overriding priorities we heard from volunteer Tea Partiers, who are often, themselves, collecting costly Social Security, Medicare, and veterans benefits to which they feel fully entitled as Americans who have “paid their dues” in lifetimes of hard work.

On the other end of the organizational spectrum, big-money funders and free-market advocacy organizations used angry grassroots protests to expand their email lists and boost longstanding campaigns to slash taxes, shrink social spending, privatize Medicare and Social Security, and eliminate or block regulations (including carbon controls). In 2009, groups such as FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth, and Tea Party Express (a renamed conservative GOP political action committee) leapt on the bandwagon; more recently, the Senate Conservative Action Fund and Heritage Action have greatly bolstered the leveraging capacities of the Tea Party as a whole. Elite activities ramped up after many Tea Party legislators were elected in 2010.

Here is the key point: Even though there is no one center of Tea Party authority—indeed, in some ways because there is no one organized center—the entire gaggle of grassroots and elite organizations amounts to a pincers operation that wields money and primary votes to exert powerful pressure on Republican officeholders and candidates. Tea Party influence does not depend on general popularity at all. Even as most Americans have figured out that they do not like the Tea Party or its methods, Tea Party clout has grown in Washington and state capitals. Most legislators and candidates are Nervous Nellies, so all Tea Party activists, sympathizers, and funders have had to do is recurrently demonstrate their ability to knock off seemingly unchallengeable Republicans (ranging from Charlie Crist in Florida to Bob Bennett of Utah to Indiana’s Richard Lugar). That grabs legislators’ attention and results in either enthusiastic support for, or acquiescence to, obstructive tactics. The entire pincers operation is further enabled by various right-wing tracking organizations that keep close count of where each legislator stands on “key votes”—including even votes on amendments and the tiniest details of parliamentary procedure, the kind of votes that legislative leaders used to orchestrate in the dark.
I see no evidence that this has changed. This one budget is just a tactical retreat in the wake of the government shutdown battle. The troops are tired, they need to rest up for the long march to the 2014 election. Unfortunately, the Villagers have rediscovered their love affair with Boehner and Ryan and we're back to square one with the Village narrative. Not that it matters all that much. But it does push the Democrats and they start talking about meeting the "moderates" halfway. And look where that's gotten us.

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