The “Tea Party Shutdown” – Republicans are shutting down the gov’t because most of their voters want them to.


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I didn’t feel like writing about this because it’s not local, it’s a pain in the ass, it’s boring and depressing, I’m sick of partisan bickering, it’s political theater (even though millions of real people and a real economy will be hurt) and it will hopefully be over soon.  Plus I’m busy.  But I just can’t let Geoff’s provocation sit up at the top of the blog unanswered.

So here’s what’s really going on: The Democrats have done everything they could to avoid a shutdown, and I think the more old-fashioned Republicans, the ones who understand negotiation and compromise are part of governance – like John Boehner – have also done all they could.

But a huge chunk of the base of the Republican Party – some of whom identify as “Tea Partiers,” all of whom have convinced themselves and been convinced over the last 30 years that “Government is the problem” – are DEMANDING a shutdown.  I mean, look at the rallies, and don’t be silly!  They are screaming “Shut ‘er down!  Shut ‘er down!”  They see a shutdown as something revolutionary and orgiastic.

Exhibit one:  This new Wall Street Journal / CBS poll confirms that 56% of Republicans prefer a shutdown to any sort of compromise, versus 38% who would like to see a deal.  (In contrast, 64% of Dems and 66% of independents prefer a compromise to a shutdown – which is what the Dems have been trying hard to achieve.)

Exhibit two:  What are the sticking points right now, according to all accounts?  Abortion and clean air regulations. First of all, right, what the hell do those two things have to do with the budget?  That’s most people’s first reaction, as it was mine.  But this morning I was thinking – Abortion and environmental protection have never seemed to me to be big priorities to the Tea Party, and I’ve been to Tea Parties, listened to the speeches, talked to the folks.  No, this was my insight this morning – they’ve chosen women’s reproductive rights and clean air to attack, precisely because they know how important those issues are to Democrats and their base, and they know the Dems won’t cave on those – thus, they’ll get the shutdown they crave.  Make sense now?

It’s not about the budget & spending at all, or maybe just secondarily.  The Dems have not only compromised but come COMPLETELY ALL THE WAY OVER to the Republicans’ original budgetary demands, but the GOP just keeps moving the goal posts.  How do you negotiate with people like that?  How CAN you?

And poor John Boehner who is probably weeping into a Rob Roy right now obviously has no negotiating authority, but has been relegated to the status of a messenger between the most extreme members of his caucus and base, and the patient Dems.  I’m willing to believe that he and other more old-school Republicans don’t want the shutdown – if only because it will probably hurt their Party more than ours – but his hands are tied and he is not a leader.

I hope this is over in a matter of days or weeks, not weeks or months.  What should cure it is the experience of it:  These millions of folks who don’t realize what the government does for them in their lives need a LESSON in what the government does for them in their lives.  It’s just too bad that all the rest of us will have to sit in the school room with them.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.