The Republican establishment’s fear of a government shutdown – which led to the recent Omnibus spending accord – is by definition psychotic and reminds me of the 1969 comedy western Support Your Local Sheriff.
In it, dull witted outlaw Joe Danby (Bruce Dern) is imprisoned by a clever Sheriff (James Garner) in an unfinished jail without any bars. Danby’s captivity is based solely on the irrational yet paralyzing fear of drizzled red paint on the floor that looked like blood spatter. It was all in his head. There was no real danger.
The establishment’s fear of getting into a budget battle that might lead to a shutdown is just as contrived – and yet just as paralyzing. The media and the Democrats will enter into these budget negotiations by sprinkling a little red paint of assumed Republican blame on the floor, and the simple minded Republican establishment falls for it just like Danby.
Only it’s not nearly as funny.
And make no mistake about it, the chief catalyst in the serial pre-emptive surrender techniques employed by John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and now Paul Ryan – is the fear of a shutdown that is divorced from external reality. Yes, there is indeed a corrupt crony lobbying aspect to it, but the two concepts are not mutually exclusive – and that’s a topic for another article.
In a Thursday segment called The GOP Sells America Down the River, Rush Limbaugh said “the reason they did that is because for some inexplicable reason, they are literally paranoid and scared to death of even being accused of doing something that would shut down the government.”
This of course is what leads to the pre-emptive surrender strategy perfected by Boehner, Ryan and McConnell. Limbaugh explains, saying “so to avoid even the accusation that they were going to or would ever even think of shutting down the government, they signaled that whatever Obama wanted to spend, he would get, because they figured that had less damage to them politically than the allegation that they were shutting down the government.”
And as Limbaugh added, this has real long term consequences: “Very simply, ever since the Republican Party became the party of keeping the government open at all costs, we get bills like this. There’s simply no stopping the Democrats. There’s no mechanism. Every constitutional mechanism found in the power of the purse, Separation of Powers, the Republican Party years ago gave it away, in total fear of the media.”
They have done just that, and primarily for that reason. To understand it, it’s instructive to look at what happened in early 1995, as the new Contract With America Congress took power and elevated Newt Gingrich to Speaker. Newt had spearheaded the Republican message in the 1994 election, and it was all about reining in government power, spending and corruption – and defeating something known as “Hillary Care.” These all resonated with the voters, and 54 Democrats were thrown out of The House, including Speaker Tom Foley, and the Republicans were in charge for the first time in 40 years. It was historic.
The entire media and the Democrats were apoplectic. They threw a collective 24/7 hissy fit about mean-spirited, evil Republicans and their “draconian budget cuts” to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy. Okay, we’re used to this now – but early ’95 is when this really got ginned up. It was the first time in modern history when the Democrats had not controlled The House after all. New territory for almost everyone involved.
Remember, there was no Fox News, no Breitbart, no Mark Levin or Glenn Beck at the time – not to mention all the other talk hosts. There was a much smaller Rush show, but the narrative was mostly controlled by the three Jurassic broadcast networks, three Jurassic newspapers, CNN and a new network known as C-Span.
Clearly Newt and the Republicans were caught off guard. In their defense, this was a black swan event at the time. We all expect it now, but this is when the current media environment really kicked into warp speed of unabashed liberalism and bias. They didn’t handle it well, and I remain firmly convinced that this was the genesis of Newt’s erratic dalliances from time to time with liberal ideas.
John Boehner was just three years into his House career in 1995, and the traumatic fright the party absorbed remains stamped on his brain as well. Ditto Mitch McConnell, John McCain and many of the other GOP dinosaurs that were roaming the beltway at the time. They have never gotten over it.
So was the fear real? No. Even with a very weak Dole-Kemp Presidential ticket in 1996, Republicans held their own in Congress. Given the media environment at the time, that’s remarkable.
Fast forward to 2013 and the shutdown blamed on Ted Cruz and his ObamaCare inspired filibuster. The establishment Senators, not to mention Fox and The Wall Street Journal, assured us Cruz was “the minority maker” – meaning he was supposedly costing them the 2014 midterm elections coming up with this shutdown.
How did that projection hold up? Not so well. The Republicans rolled to yet another historic midterm rout of the Democrats all up and down the ballot – and not coincidentally – the last two weeks of establishment advertising in the close races focused on ObamaCare. Meanwhile, the backlash out in the country was against the thuggish Obama government doing things like shutting out veterans from War Memorials and so on.
Only in Washington was shutting down our precious government a big deal. We kind of liked it frankly. The GOP establishment remain sore winners however. They still blame Cruz for the loss, even though we didn’t lose. They govern as losers too. They are still spooked.
They still believe the red paint on the floor is their blood.
This is the 7th installment of Rove-Stupid: The New Definition of the Republican Establishment. Read the rest here.
Edmund Wright is a contributor at Breitbart, American Thinker, Newsmax TV, Talk Radio Network – and author of Amazon Elections Best Seller WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost..Again.