Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How the Republican capitulation over the debt ceiling is good for Republicans

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Republican capitulation over the debt ceiling, finally agreeing to a clean increase instead of demanding a ransom and thereby threatening national and possibly global economic apocalypse, is indeed a very big deal. There was a great deal of Republican opposition in the House, where the increase required Democrats to join forces with John Boehner and the Republican leadership, as well as in the Senate, where enough Republicans joined Democrats to overcome a Ted Cruz-led filibuster, but at the end of the day the hostage-taking extremists who generally run the Republican Party were put in their place for the good of the country, and, yes, let's be clear about this, for the good of the Republican Party, whose corporate backers demand debt ceiling increases, which of course are good for business, and which would not have fared well in the eyes of the public, nor likely at the polls come November, in the event of yet another crisis.

Indeed, while I applaud this increase, as anyone who cares about good governance and the health of the economy must, there's no denying that it was a smart move for the Republican leadership to do what it did. Because while there will be some initial backlash from the Tea Party base, as well as from Tea Party Republicans in Congress like Cruz, and while those facing primary challenges like Mitch McConnell may have given the party's far right some ammunition, the party now avoids a protracted fight over the debt ceiling that would only have ended badly for Republicans, that would have deepened the already deep division within the party, and that would have been a significant distraction from the current Republican agenda.

And just what is that agenda? Basically, with the midterms in sight, to throw every possible lie and distortion at President Obama, to highlight the make-believe scandals (Benghazi, IRS) and to try to turn voters against Obamacare by scaring the shit out of them with sensationalistic falsehoods. That is, to assault the president with everything last smear at their disposal and thereby to try to turn the midterms into a referendum on the president and his record, as they define it and according to their own right-wing narrative, hoping with low voter turnout dominated by low-information voters they might just turn the tables on their nemesis.

That's really all this is: politics. It isn't a sign that Congress is in any way more sensible now than it was before, and it certainly isn't a sign that the Republican Party is in any way saner. As Frank Rich writes, Republicans remain "a hard-right party that will be happy to once again hold the government hostage to its demands if it gains a Senate majority to go with its House majority in November's midterms," while "yesterday's vote on the debt-limit will be remembered, if at all, as a fleeting pause in the Republican right's Obama-era surge." That sounds about right.

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