“A party of nihilists, anarchists, and extortionists”

Pete Wehner thinks that’s an unfair characterization. But I don’t see how.

Despite the massive gerrymander that allowed the Republicans to keep a majority of House seats with a minority of the votes, the “clean” Continuing Resolution (that is, one that doesn’t undo Obamacare) passed by the Senate would pass the House if John Boehner allowed it to come up for a vote (which he might in fact do, at the eleventh hour, though doing so might cost him the Speakership). So the notion that the Republicans have any sort of democratic legitimacy behind their threat to shut down the government and damage the economy unless the rest of us pay them ransom doesn’t pass the giggle test.

Today’s prize for the unintentionally funniest comment goes to Pete Wehner:

Pete Wehner, a former senior aide to President George W. Bush, said a shutdown “would play to the worst stereotypes of the Republican Party as a party of anarchists, nihilists and extortionists—charges that are ludicrously unfair, but have the power to stick.”

OK. I’ll bite. I understand why those charges have the power to stick. But what makes them unfair? If the Republicans don’t want to be thought of as a party of extortionists, here’s a tip: Stop practicing extortion.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

31 thoughts on ““A party of nihilists, anarchists, and extortionists””

  1. I wonder if this is just another case of Post-Truth Republicanism and Wehner’s analysis of the situation begins and ends at, “These stereotypes are a PR problem for the Republican Party.”

    1. “These stereotypes are a PR problem for the Republican Party.”

      Yeah, I’d say they have a PR problem along the lines of trying to make teabaggers with tri-corner hats and tommy guns appear user-friendly to Democracy.
      I mean my God, I hope all of you are reading the Southern Poverty Law Center Blog?
      Consider that de rigueur reading in regards to today’s Republican Party base…

      So again: PR problem?
      Check out this recent post from over there:

      Santilli’s idea of civil discourse is very similar to Kessler’s. Last May, Santilli told listeners that he wanted to “shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina” and then watch her slowly die afterward.


  2. Here’s a quick guide: It’s the one who’s demanding money be paid who’s committing extortion.

    1. Kevin Drum asked the right question- if this is negotiation, what are Republicans offering Democrats?

      They aren’t offering a single substantive concession.

    2. When you take the welfare of millions of Americans hostage, extortion is far too kind a word for it. It’s _terrorism_, at least as defined nowadays when even the mere expression of support for terrorists is considered drone-worthy.

      By those standards, we should shortly be seeing a Delta Team raid on Congress to rescue those who haven’t drunk the Rep kool-aid, followed by air strikes to deal with the deadenders who didn’t bother to check the results of the last election too closely before getting all out on a limb…

      Normally I’m opposed to such violent shenanigans, but the Tea Pukies are testing my patience.

    3. Very weird, Brett. The House of Representatives and Senate demanded that the money be paid. Obama proposes nothing that wasn’t specifically required by the House of Representatives.

      Now, the House is demanding both that the money be paid and that it not be paid. They’re fucking lunatics.

      1. The lunatics are the people who claim that the Republicans are terrorists/hostage takers for exercising their constitutional prerogative (As the house in which all funding bills must originate.) of passing a funding bill to their liking, while the Democrats are just innocent victims for threatening to shut down the government if the House doesn’t give them what they want.

        There are no innocents in this fight, and the claim of moral asymmetry here is just absurd.

        1. Nonsense. Congress has spoken, again and again. It’s pretty much the dictionary definition of hostage-taking to threaten the country’s well-being unless Obama unilaterally and illegally over-rules Congress.

          1. why waste the pixels trying to argue with mr. bellmore. he won’t be reasoned with. it would be best to let his gems sit there by themselves glistening with their own awful beauty.

        2. The House Republicans are refusing to pay the bill for the spending that Congress (including them) has already mandated, unless huge policy changes are made that could never be passed through regular order. Yes, that’s an attempt to achieve through hostage-taking what they could never achieve through the regular legislative process. If six months ago, the House had adopted a bill delaying implementation of the ACA for a year, what do you think the likelihood would be of it becoming law by being agreed to by the Senate and signed by the President? Zilch, that’s what. But now that the House Republicans are making this huge policy change a condition for their agreeing to keep the federal government operating, it’s the Democrats who are threatening to shut down the government? What percentage of the American public is likely to buy that argument? Three percent? Eight?

          And you might inform yourself a bit better regarding the U.S. Constitution. What is at issue here is an appropriations, or spending, bill (which you have decided to call a “funding” bill). The constitutional requirement is that bills for raising revenue, not for spending it, must originate in the House.

    4. “It’s the one who’s demanding money be paid who’s committing extortion.”

      Especially if they are the party that owes the money, amirite?

      What. A. Douche.

    5. Good God, Brett, what part of “bicameral legislature” is not clear to you? Obamacare is already the law, duly passed by both chambers of Congress.

      As for “constitutional prerogatives”, are you not familiar with George Washington’s famous explanation of why we have a Senate? Jefferson asked him one day why the Framers had chosen to have both an upper and lower house of Congress. “Why did you pour that tea into your saucer?” asked Washington. “To cool it,” said Jefferson. “Even so,” responded Washington, “we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” The present Senate majority is acting in precisely that role now, and doing a bang-up job of it in my opinion.

      1. and you’re not even touching the most insufferable part of all which is that the clean cr represents funding at the level of sequestration. in other words, the clean cr represents the ryan budget which is a monstrous compilation of years of republican wish lists. if anything i’d like to see the senate rewrite the clean cr to reflect democratic priorities. you really would see heads explode if they tried to do that.

        1. No, the sequestration is not the same as the Ryan budget. I’m not in favor of sequestration levels of spending but that really is nothing like the Ryan budget.

          1. i apologize, i misread a passage at another site which said in part that the ryan budget continues the sequester as saying the sequester was like the ryan budget. i regret the error but not my scorn over the fact that the republicans are refusing to pass a budget with more of their priorities than those of the democrats.

  3. Our whole politics is becoming a form of hostage negotiation/extortion…

    First, there was the Iraq War, in whic George W. refused to draw down in Iraq, holding the troops hostage, even though the Congress had turned against the war…

    Second, there was the financial bailouts, in which high finance threatened to bring down the economy unless they were bailed-out…

    It is as if the country has been learching from constitutional crisis to constitutional crisis…

    And now, we have this debt ceiling hostage taking. And the guilty party in these terrible tactics is the Republican Party.

    It is ironic that the Republican Party, as it has become more Southern, have adopted the politics of the antebellum South. I think it was Lincoln in his Cooperstown Union speech who described Southern seccessionists as highway robery extortionists, who argue that if they don’t get there way, you are guilty of murder. If we don’t get expansion of slavery to all of the terretories, we will leave the Union. We if don’t get our way on Obamacare, we will blow up the Federal government and world financial system…

    These have been some great posts on your part Mark…

  4. What´s the Venn diagram for ¨nihilists, anarchists, and extortionists¨¨? The first two are adherents of mutually exclusive ideologies. But either sort can be an extortionist.
    So a modern Republican is ((EITHER anarchist OR nihilist) AND extortionist.)

    1. Most anarchists I know would take great umbrage at being lumped in with Republicans, whose ideology they specifically reject. Please, I know anarchists have been the go-to whipping boyzandgirlz of the capitalist establishment for a century and a half, but let’s try not to be so trite in dismissing anarchism as a triviality. Proudhon and Bakunin are actually pretty reasonable characters versus say Ryan and Cantor.

      1. I was trying to undertand the statement, not endorse it. Is there a connection bewtween anarchism and libertarianism that would justify the ¨änarchist¨ tag to some extent? But on the whole the first two charges are needless distractions. The observed lunacy of extreme contemporary US conservatives does not come from any European import (apart from Rand) but it seems a home brew of nativism, racism, sexism, a local Christian heresy and sheer ignorance.

        1. Understood.

          I’ll note that it’s only in the US where there would be a tendency to confuse anarchism and libertarianism. They tend to be polar opposites, so including them in a Venn diagram is going to be interesting, but rather nonsensical as there is very little to no overlap.

          But really, anarchism is a respectable ideology with roots in both US and Europe. Emma Goldman was an anarchist. Chomsky has positioned himself as an anarchist. Anarchists are not so much about anarchy as they are about a fundamentally democratic decision-making process that is most easily explained as trying to reach consensus. There’s nothing resembling that amongst the Reckless Social Looters of the 1% who fancy themselves as in charge of our nation, even when it’s clear they represent a very minority view, even among the paleoconservatives that rule the Republican Party these days.

          1. “I’ll note that it’s only in the US where there would be a tendency to confuse anarchism and libertarianism. They tend to be polar opposites…”

            “Anarchists are not so much about anarchy as they are about a fundamentally democratic decision-making process that is most easily explained as trying to reach consensus.”

            Exactly: In America, anarchists are about anarchy. Outside the US, ‘anarchists’ are about government, but just don’t like admitting it.

  5. Your use of the word “extortion” is tendentious in the extreme. Recasting the process of negotiations between duly-elected representatives as part of legislative bodies inside a functioning constitutional republic as “hostage-taking” is cute but also,objectively speaking, nauseating.

    And about that “massive gerrymander?” A reality-based analysis suggests it’s not as big a deal as you may think. Also see here.

    1. It is extortion. If the Republican party doesn’t like Obamacare, they can pass a bill in the house and senate to repeal it. If the President vetoes the bill, they can override the veto. If they don’t have the votes to get this done, it stays the law of the land. The Republicans lack the votes (read: popular democratic legitimacy) to do this, so instead they’ve refused to fund any of the government and are threatening to allow the US to default on its debts.

      As Abe Lincoln noted in his Cooper Union speech*

      Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events. This, plainly stated, is your language…

      In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”

      To be sure, what the robber demanded of me – my money – was my own; and I had a clear right to keep it; but it was no more my own than my vote is my own; and the threat of death to me, to extort my money, and the threat of destruction to the Union, to extort my vote, can scarcely be distinguished in principle….

      Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored – contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong…

      *I assume this was given before he was inducted into Cooperstown, per Herschel

    2. Your use of the word “negotiations” is neither cute nor accurate; it is merely silly.

Comments are closed.