The Shutdown Was Not a Failed Strategy. It Wasn’t a Strategy at All
By Jonathan Chait
In the wake of the debacle, reporters and mortified Republican pragmatists alike have attempted to reconstruct the erroneous thinking that led the GOP to undertake a doomed strategy. There certainly were elements of legitimate miscalculation at play. (The simplest and least appreciated is that many of them initially believed shutting down the government would halt Obamacare, and by the time they learned otherwise, they had already printed up the T-shirts.)
In the most important ways, though, the tea party’s strategy was not a strategy at all. On the surface, demanding an end to Obamacare in return for reopening the federal government was an insane negotiating strategy. Attempting to analyze these demands in strategic terms misses the point. It’s not a plan to achieve a defined legislative end. It’s a demonstration of dissent from a political faction that has no chance of winning through regular political channels. The problem they are attempting to solve in each case is not “how do we achieve this policy objective?” but “how can we express our outrage?”
And outrage has been the driver of the GOP for many years now, ever since the Gingrich "Angry White Male Revolution" of the mid-90s--which also proved futile from a governing standpoint. Outrage has been the big cash cow for propagandists like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. Conservative commentators have been very good at scaring people and riling them up over factually-challenged narratives of "real Americans" vs. "Anyone we disagree with."
The pollster Stan Greenberg held extensive focus group discussions with tea party voters and described their worldview in detail. Their most intense and passionate belief was that Obama has used the power of expanded government to build a majority voting coalition:
the most passions among Evangelicals and Tea Party Republicans — that big government is meant to create rights and dependency and electoral support from mostly minorities who will reward the Democratic Party with their votes. The Democratic Party exists to create programs and dependency — the food stamp hammock, entitlements, the 47 percent. And on the horizon—comprehensive immigration reform and Obamacare. Citizenship for 12 million illegals and tens of million getting free health care is the end of the road.
Lest this sound like a hostile exercise in anthropology, Pete Wehner, a former deputy to Karl Rove and Commentary blogger, endorsed his conclusion as “basically right.” Wehner’s own repeated (though unscientific) exposure to tea-party thought yielded the same grim conclusion:
Wehner argues forcefully against this vein of fatalism. The Republican pragmatists believe Heritage, Ted Cruz, and other hucksters manipulated the tea party into endorsing a doomed maneuver.
they believe that America is at an inflection point. That we are about to enter into the land of no return. That demographic trends are all troubling and that the “takers” in America will soon outnumber the “givers.” That for many decades (or more) we’ve seen a “one-way ratchet toward ever bigger government.” And that a majority of Americans will become hooked on the Affordable Care Act like an addict to cocaine.
The whole article is interesting.
Basically, it boils down to this: the GOP is being destroyed by the effectiveness of its own propaganda. It's made followers desperately concerned about the future of the country--a concern based mainly on an extreme caricature of The Left and Obama and a neat black/white, good/bad battle between the "takers" and the "givers."
Doesn't matter that it's 99% b.s. It works. People who believe the messengers on the right are in a state of desperation and righteous outrage. So they vote goobers into office who act out their despair and obstruct and posture and shut down the government to protest...."those takers!"
The good thing is that most of the country is tired of the hysteria. And as more find out that Obamacare isn't just something given to poor black and brown people, like the mythical "Obamaphone" they will be even less inclined to believe this crap.
Maybe then some semblance of sanity will return to the GOP.