StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

#Cliffgate Update: Is This The Beginning Of The End For The Tea Party?

29 Sep 2013
Posted by Stan Collender

I will admit right upfront that there is a little bit of wishful thinking in what you're about to read.

But it's only a little bit. And my realizing that it exists hasn't changed my analysis that a government shutdown could be the point that historians one day point to as the beginning of the end for the tea partiers in Congress.

I've come to this conclusion for two reasons

First, many people don't remember that the beginning of the end of Newt Gingrich's speakership began when Republicans were blamed for the two shutdowns in 1995 and 1996.

The comparison is anything but perfect. But given that Gingrich and congressional Republicans were far more popular in the mid-1990s than the tea party is today, and in light of the fact that the tea party and not House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is most likely to bear the blame if a shutdown occurs, there's a good reason to think that at least some of the TP's supporters will find themselves cursing the tea party's name very soon, especially when the shutdown begins to affect them negatively.

This group will still agree with the tea party's goals, just not with its tactics. But the tea party will alienate its more intense supporters if it moderates those tactics. Either way, at least some of its base will be lost.

Second, and far more important, there is a strong possibility that independents and marginal Democrats will be pushed away from the GOP if the tea party is blamed for the shutdown.

This will change the voting dynamic that has existed ever since the most recent redistricting, when so many congressional districts became dominated by one political party that the primary rather than the general election became the most important determinant of who went to Washington.

Energizing these additional voters will make more districts competitive and reinvigorate the value of the general election. That, in turn, will mean that at least a few tea partiers who otherwise would have been reelected will not remain in their seats. Those that remain may less willing to threaten shutdowns and defaults if those tactics are blamed for the losses.

I definitely am not suggesting that the tea party is going away any time soon because that likely won't happen until after the next redistricting in 2022. This is especially the case because so many deep crimson congressional districts exist today.

It is very possible, however, that a shutdown in 2013 will so change the way the tea party is viewed and will reduce the number of those who without exception support it that it's influence will never be as great again as it seems to be at this moment.

sadly, i suspect you know

sadly, i suspect you know what i'm going to say: if you look at the polling data as to whether or not people consider themselves supporters of the tea party movement, you basically see numbers in the very low 20s, which would be supportive of your perspective.

but if you consider that self-identified republicans are something over a third of the electorate, and you realize that the tea partiers vote in primaries, you realize that they still have a stranglehold over the gop.

now, if the upshot of all of this is that the gop loses seats in 2014, then conceivably we may see a turning point.

on the other hand, let's not forget: in november, 1998, the gop congress, having run on impeaching clinton, lost seats.

in december, 1998, they went ahead and impeached clinton anyhow.

this is how authoritarians are....

How does this end?

I'm still holding out hope that there is an 11th hour deal that averts a shutdown. But supposing that doesn't happen, and the shutdown goes forward, how does it end? Neither the Senate nor Obama will go along with measures to defund, delay, or gut the ACA, not going to happen. The House isn't going to agree to a clean CR once the shutdown actually occurs. So what then? Is the Tea Party really going to go on record as tacitly supporting Obamacare in exchange tor getting the Dems to agree to some of their other demands like approving Keystone XL and repealing parts of financial reform and environmental regs? They'll be remembered as the party of pollution and big banks. Maybe that is the endgame for the Tea Party.


How does it end?

It depends on those Republicans who do not believe that a CR and a debt limit raise are suitable for enforcing major policy changes.

Boehner or 30 Republican moderates could bring about a vote of the whole House on the Senate bills. They will be accused of treason against Republican principles, of course, so they need cover from an actual shutdown to point out the damage to the party and the failed prediction that Obama would fold. Boehner should get a promise of protection for his speakership from House Democrats until Jan 2015, the Democratic concession, or signers of a discharge petitions could get a promise from Boehner to not be punished by the leadership.

I don't know, however, how long they would have to wait to enable such a vote in the House without damaging themselves too much.

Hair on fire

I have a hashtag, #haironfire, which I'm using for twitter at the moment on this topic. Stan's welcome to use it, as is anyone else who reads this site.

Here's why my hair is on fire: the House GOP, plus the kamikaze caucus in the Senate (Cruz, Lee) knew the House had little leverage over the CR fight, because Reid would strip out defunding/delay/Vitter/other mischief-making amendments.

But they went ahead anyway - because Boehner and the GOP leadership calculated this was their best chance to maintain the unity of their caucus.

What Boehner and Cantor had wanted to do was get the CR out of the way with a token gesture over the CR, then have the Big Fight over the debt ceiling raise - because they believe they have more leverage there, and they believe Obama will quickly fold. And they will be heroes.

Guys, the CR/shutdown is a sideshow. The long term viability of the tea party, for now, is a side show. In the short term, the House GOP is being run on the basis of "we don't do compromise. We fight."

I literally cannot see a plausible sequence of steps that get a debt ceiling resolution onto the floor of the House in the next two weeks. The only way such a resolution passes is if Boehner tables it, it gets 30 Republicans and 190 Democrats and squeaks through - and Boehner immediately thereafter resigns as Speaker. Only scenario, and I don't think it's going to happen.

Then we're into managing the consequences of default. Assume, just for a moment, it!s not The End Of Western Civilization As We Know It. Does Obama, as one commentator on an earlier thread suggested, mint some platinum coins and invoke the 14th Amendment? He'll be impeached the next day, and the government won't reopen for months.


debt outlook

Here's how I see the worst case for the debt ceiling. Say that GOP doesn't back down. President (and Senate?) refuses to sign any un-clean bill. President waits right up to and past Treasury's target date (currently Oct 15). Now the President can categorically state that GOP was willing to default on the country; GOP will make the same claim on the President. President states that he now has to break the law - reduce spending below appropriations is illegal, increase taxes is illegal, borrow the difference is illegal. Then he tells Treasury to issue more debt in violation of the debt ceiling. House cries foul and moves to impeach (Senate will table that completely). House also sues the President. Arranging the legal case will take time. Before the hearings can start GOP backs down or finds an acceptable solution.

If it did get to Supreme Court, debt ceiling will lose. I suspect the main argument will be that Congress taxing and spending levels imply the President must borrow the difference. The first two are constitutional powers of the House, the debt ceiling is not, so debt ceiling loses. 14th amendment will be mentioned, but will not be the final nail.

Other possible illegal actions...

Another possible action by the president would be to raise taxes...If all possible actions are illegal than why not do the thing he has been trying to get the Republicans to do all along? Just raise the witholding on high incomes. That wouldn't be any-more (or less) illegal than the other proposed actions...

The Comparison Holds For Congress

But I cannot say the same about the American people. 1990's conservatives and post-2010 conservatives are night and day different.

If Democrats cannot convince GOP leadership of some rationality, I believe the GOP's radical faction may potentially get stronger, as this will be the end of Boehner's reign as Speaker and McConnell will be voted out next year.

¡No Pasarán!

I hope Obama does not give an inch to these crazies. A few days ago I saw an article about a GOP Rep who declared there will be a defund Obamacare provision in every bill the House GOP votes on from here to eternity. Seriously ?

What history tells us

Don't forget that the Republicans picked up seats in Congress in 1996 despite being blamed for the shutdowns. The same could happen for the Tea Party.

A shutdown might bring more

A shutdown might bring more consequences than people think.I hope something will come up and stop this otherwise it will trigger mixed reactions from all directions.

A shutdown might bring more

A shutdown might bring more consequences than people think.I hope something will come up and stop this otherwise it will trigger mixed reactions from all directions.

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