When thieves fall out …

Part of the reason for the policy success of the Tea Party crowd is the willingness of the people who pretend to be the adult supervision in the GOP – especially the business lobbies – to tolerate Tea Party nonsense. Combined with the willingness of the ultras to “primary” anyone who casts a sane vote, that means that the lunatics get to run the asylum.

The moral, for those of us who used to be occasional split-ticket voters – I supported Agnew (against a frank segregationist), Mathias, Brooke, and Hatch – is never, never, ever to vote for a Republican for any office, until some Heracles comes along to clean out the Republican stables. (Come to think of that, the Clean Water Act would almost certainly prevent doing it the way Heracles did it, using a navigable river.)

But a key factor in changing the behavior of Congressional Republicans would be a change in the existing asymmetric threat structure: voting against the crazies risks a primary, while voting with them risks nothing. That’s why it matters that, even as lunatic basecamp Heritage Action “key-voted” a vote against ending the shutdown and avoiding default, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “key-voted” a vote for it. Of course, it matters enormously whether that symbolic gesture is backed by a credible threat of turning off the money spigot, and from this distance I can’t tell; if most of the House Republican Conference votes (symbolically) for default, will that mean that those Members aren’t eligible for truckloads of business cash?

Even at a merely symbolic level, though, this has to score as good news. As in the Syrian case, it’s remarkable how a President and an Administration everyone agrees is so maladroit seems to keep coming up with such unexpectedly good outcomes.

Footnote Note the heading. I don’t regard the Chamber’s plutocratic, anti-labor, anti-poor-people, anti-regulatory agenda as in any way morally superior to the Tea Party mishegas. But any breakdown in the alliance between the pure plutocrats and the theocrat/racist/”peasants-with-pitchforks” is good for the rest of us. Speaking of theocrats, did anyone else notice that both parties seemed happy to ignore the Catholic Bishops’ willingness to keep poor people hungry, and wreck the country, in order to deny women reproductive choice?

Second footnote As to the dishonest use of “conscience clause” to mean that bishops rather than patients should decide matters of medical care, when’s the last time a Catholic hospital respected the conscientious beliefs of the health-care providers who work there, as opposed to insisting that everyone adhere to Church dogma regardless of individual belief?




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

27 thoughts on “When thieves fall out …”

  1. “…never, never, ever to vote for a Republican for any office, until…”

    I would have ended the sentence before “until.” I don’t care whether they root out loonies like Steve King and Michelle Bachmann. It won’t bring them back to legitimacy. They’ve proven themselves unfit to govern, over and over. They should be treated as such. Permanently.

    If the right wing nuts are running the Republican Party, and if the (alleged) moderate Republicans don’t resist them, then they should all be treated at right wing nuts, indiscriminately.

  2. Well, it would be a good day in this country for a falling out between money and its most devoted servants to happen.

    On the other hand, while the boss may be unhappy with the lack of finesse and the employees may be griping that management is behind the times, I do not see anyone getting fired or even reprimanded over this. The crazies got what the public display of dysfunction they wanted and the bosses likely see some benefit in reminding the rest of us that a minority has ruled this country for a long time.

    What this country really needs is a left that could hold the feet of Democrats to the fire in order to build a counter-movement of the majority. The problem is the Dems are reluctant to do anything that could be interpreted as “rabble rousing” even when it’s clear most of the rabble is singing Tea Party tunes these days. The Dems are as afraid of the Reasonable Left as the Republicans claim to be — even though Obama is clearly not a member of any movement except institutionalization of the Democratic Party as the Reasonable Version of Republcanism.

    1. Given that we were just scolded about “primarying” (that is, voting against) politicians we disagree with, I’m not sure what is left. Sending all our contributions directly to the DLC and whoever the Washington Monthly has decreed is our neoliberal overlord and being thankful we haven’t starved to death yet?

      1. Don’t forget the public apologies for daring to disagree with them. That’s just as important: It’s not enough that you change your mind, you have to admit you never were entitled to have your own to begin with.

  3. If the government shutdown was unpopular even in Red districts, it seems that in some of them, a Democratic challenger for a House seat could say, “I pledge never to shut down the government and never to allow the United States to risk default on its debts when the debt ceiling comes due. Will you, Congress-entity Snerd, join me in that pledge?”

    Many Tea Party districts will still reward their Representatives who say “No,” but in some districts this could give the Dems some leverage in the general elections.

    1. The shutdown was unpopular in Red districts, but there the perception tends to be that the blame goes to Obama and the Dems.

      1. In many districts, yes. But in districts where Democratic incumbents were defeated by Tea Party challengers in 2010 this could make a difference. The seats that turned over once could turn over again if the opponents of extremism play their cards right.

        In addition, people who actually run businesses could start to support primary election challenges to some of the far right members of Congress if they see their interests threatened by the ideology of movement conservatism. Two can play that game, it would seem.

        1. “…if the opponents of extremism play their cards right?”

          Hmmm…when was the last time THAT happened?

  4. I don’t know, Mark. This kind of fiasco may just make it more likely that some *house-broken* neoconfederate wingnut like Lindsey Graham will end up looking to a low-informatign voter like a Pres candidate that a moderate could get behind, just by virtue of his being potty trained.

    Remember, all Dems are paintable with the Dirty F****ing Huppie brush, whereas the fascist extremists of the RepublicanParty are always *separate* from the other Republicans. White House, here we come!

    No doubt the High Broderist press corps will help out with that. But I repeat myself (Washington press corps being functionally synonymous with “low-information voter”).

      1. There is no mainstream left-leaning media remaining–you have to go to the internet to get accurate political and scientific coverage. NPR is bending over backward to seem “balanced” to the right-wing. Since, as Colbert says, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias,” that means giving equal time and credence to nonsense, rather than accurate reporting of factual reality. It has the same effect as presenting “creationism” and “evolution” as both reasonable ideas, and inviting the ignorant public to chose based on personal preference, despite the reality that creationism is nonsense while evolution is as much a law of biology as gravity is a law of physics.

        Even NPR is helping Fox News et al create low-information voters, by consistently repeating, without correction, Republican talking-point lies like: Obama [who consistently compromises so deeply that I think of him as “the Great Capitulator”] refuses to negotiate with Republicans, Obamacare is an expensive disaster that will not work, Obamacare is (fill in the blank: cost jobs, socialist, death panels, etc.,) we have to cut government spending to reduce the deficit, the keystone XL pipeline will help create ‘energy independence,’ there’s scientific controversy over whether human activity is affecting climate change, and on and on.

        What reporter who cares for accuracy would say things like, “Polls show the public blames the government shut down on congressional Democrats, and, even more so, Republicans?” That’s distorting the message exactly like a push-poll does. Yet that’s just what I heard on NPR last week.

        Informed voters blame the shut-down on congressional Republicans exclusively, not on Democrats at all.
        Informed voters prefer Obamacare to the status quo, and universal cradle-to-grave coverage system to Obamacare.
        Informed voters understand that cutting spending without increasing revenue (taxes) is just as likely to increase the deficit as it is to decrease the deficit.
        Informed voters want a CO2 tax (rebated to the people) on fossil fuels, and to end tax support of fossil fuels.

        Why don’t we have more informed voters, Mainstream television and radio? When are you going to quit covering controversy and start informing the public of facts it needs to know?

    1. I would say that Graham is now somewhat more likely to lose his job. I honestly don’t know any Republicans in the area who actually like Graham, and his voting to cave isn’t likely to improve his reputation among Republicans.

      Really, whatever you think of this tactic, where’s the sense in pursuing it, and then giving up on it halfway through? Pick one or the other, not both!

  5. Perhaps RoCaMBLA emphasizes the anti-birth control shtick out of fear of a future shortage of altar boys.

  6. “it’s remarkable how a President and an Administration everyone agrees is so maladroit seems to keep coming up with such unexpectedly good outcomes.”

    Yeah, two far-right default deadline crises and they got the sequester on one and didn’t lose it (or anything else) on the other. I mean, I’m glad that Obama has at last lost his “surely, these are reasonable men!” delusion, but anyone who didn’t think that the GOP would threaten the debt limit in 2011 (e.g. Obama)is not exactly a master political strategist.

    1. Please, someone explain how this is a good outcome. We get to do this entire thing again in 3 months? How is that good? (Yes, I get that we *might* be getting rid of the sequester cuts. Oh, and weren’t those *never* supposed to happen?)

      If your answer is, because the Republicans will know better than to do this again, then … whatever makes you think so?

      I am mostly with Mike. This whole thing makes me rethink Hillary, competent as she is. No way can I take 8 more years of this pseudo Democratic leadership. I’m tired. We win elections and we get … what? I’ve never seen such horrible negotiating. I still haven’t seen any decent explanation of why the Senate went along with sequester cuts, unless they were hoping to play possum and embarrass the GOP leaders? But, to be embarrassed, they would need shame.

      1. Go back and check out the polling of rank-and-file Democrats. The reason these are the Democrats that get elected is because these are the ones the voters want. They WANT flexibility and compromise. If you can’t reconcile yourself to that then you will find yourself off by yourself.

        1. Do you mean, the polling in their districts recently, or do you mean, the list of Democrats who voted for not letting the economy go into recession today? It is not clear what polling you refer to.

          Plus, I am not sure that voting for the lesser evil is the same thing as WANTing it.

  7. when’s the last time a Catholic hospital respected the conscientious beliefs of the health-care providers who work there,

    Our local Catholic hospital is notably one of the most Muslim-friendly workplaces in the city.

    I think this question is just fundamentally confused. There are (in ANY organization) layers of restrictions; at a lower layer, there can be a conscientious restriction, but not an ignoring of the overall organization’s position.

    In other words, it’s not a violation of anyone in the University’s freedom of conscience to forbid sexual relationships between teachers and students; similarly, it’s not a violation of anyone’s freedom of conscience for a Catholic hospital to forbid abortion and sterilization.

    1. Speaking of “fundamentally confused”– your comment just about pegs the meter. Putting aside the fact that “freedom of conscience” doesn’t actually exist in American law…

      “it’s not a violation of anyone in the University’s freedom of conscience to forbid sexual relationships between teachers and student”
      What in the world can this possibly mean? Forbidding such relationships has to do with abuse of a supervisory relationship.

      “it’s not a violation of anyone’s freedom of conscience for a Catholic hospital to forbid abortion and sterilization.”
      Nice elision of whether you’re talking about refusing to allow employees to perform such operations at the hospital, or forbidding their employees to choose to have such operations. I’m pretty sure that you’re pretending that the issue is the first one, when it is in fact the second one.

      1. I should say that “freedom of conscience” doesn’t actually exist in the Constitution. Obviously, the wingnuts, in their drive for an authoritarian society, have jammed through a couple of these lately.

  8. Cardinal O’Malley, cosignatory of the reckless letter, is one of Pope Francis’ “College of cardinal advisers” he has set up to reform the Curia.

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