The Republican party is built on a smorgasboard of special interests which are often at polar opposites. Here are a few examples:
Immigration hardliners vs Small businesses on accommodating migrant workers
Military Industrial Corporates vs Tea Party Deficit Hawks on spending cuts and war adventurism
Tea Party Deficit Hawks vs Wall Street Financiers on Debt Ceilings and Continuing Too Big To Fail Insurance
Gun Activists versus Small business/Urban Christian rightists on crime and gun controls
Gay opponents vs Big Corporates on tolerance of gays in government and business
Wall Street Financiers vs Small Businesses on loans to Small business
Gay Activist/Christian rightists/Gun control opponents/Right to Lifers/Immigration hardliners versus Wall Street Financiers+ Corporate Elites on continued Bailout Benefits and Outsourcing of Jobs
The last conflict of the two biggest constituents of the Republican base – the financial and corporate elites versus the special interest groups cuts to the bone of contention. The special interests groups have been particularly harmed by the Financial meltdown and the GOP’s continued support to Wall Street Interests with no help on foreclosures, no prosecution of meltdown wrong doers, with dismantling of Consumer Banking Protections, with
So lashing together a working coalition requires litmus tests, extreme party discipline, and strict party line votes. Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment – “Thou shalt not speak against a party member or policy” has a distinct purpose – keep the GOP from fragmenting into many easily splintering factions. Thus the tendency to extreme positions, adopting a propaganda network in Fox News and Shrill Radio Voices, and most tellingly with unprecedented attacks on the Obama Presidency. Nothing Obama does is right. The Senate is still holding up 100’s of judicial and administration appointments.Congressional budgets for new departments and regulatory offices are unapproved or cut so then the GOP can point to the fact that regulators don’t work or are “creating uncertainty”. Making Obama a one term President is a singular rallying point that unites and binds together an otherwise increasingly mutually repellent Republican interests and groups.
Republicans have already Split on Debt Ceiling
Time Magazine’s Jay Newton-Smith sees the same crisis trigger in the debt ceiling debate. She forsees constant friction no matter the outcome of the debate and an emerging Tea party Presidential candidate by early 2012. GOP commentator David Brooks has twice said that Republicans should have jumped at the Grand Deficit Reduction plan offered by Obama. In the second installment, David explicitly identifies the warring parties:
… The combined effect would have been to reduce the size of government by $3 trillion over a decade. That’s a number roughly three times larger than the cost of the Obama health care law. It also would have brutally fractured the Democratic Party.
But the Republican Party decided not to pursue this deal, or even seriously consider it…. It could be that this has been a glorious moment in Republican history. It could be that having persuaded independents that they are a prudent party, Republicans will sweep the next election. Controlling the White House and Congress, perhaps they will have the guts to cut Medicare unilaterally, reform the welfare state and herald in an era of conservative greatness.
But it’s much more likely that Republicans will come to regret this missed opportunity. So let us pause to identify the people who decided not to seize the chance to usher in the largest cut in the size of government in American history. They fall into a few categories:
The Beltway Bandits. American conservatism now has a rich network of Washington interest groups adept at arousing elderly donors and attracting rich lobbying contracts. For example, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform has been instrumental in every recent G.O.P. setback. He was a Newt Gingrich strategist in the 1990s, a major Jack Abramoff companion in the 2000s and he enforced the no-compromise orthodoxy that binds the party today. Norquist is the Zelig of Republican catastrophe. His method is always the same. He enforces rigid ultimatums that make governance, or even thinking, impossible.
The Big Government Blowhards. The talk-radio jocks are not in the business of promoting conservative governance. They are in the business of building an audience by stroking the pleasure centers of their listeners. They mostly give pseudo Crispin’s Day speeches to battalions of the like-minded from the safety of the conservative ghetto. To keep audience share, they need to portray politics as a cataclysmic, Manichaean struggle. A series of compromises that steadily advance conservative aims would muddy their story lines and be death to their ratings.
The Show Horses. Republicans now have a group of political celebrities who are marvelously uninterested in actually producing results. Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann produce tweets, not laws. They have created a climate in which purity is prized over practicality.
The Permanent Campaigners. For many legislators, the purpose of being in Congress is not to pass laws. It’s to create clear contrasts you can take into the next election campaign. It’s not to take responsibility for the state of the country and make it better. It’s to pass responsibility onto the other party and force them to take as many difficult votes as possible.
All of these groups share the same mentality. They do not see politics as the art of the possible. They do not believe in seizing opportunities to make steady, messy progress toward conservative goals. They believe that politics is a cataclysmic struggle. They believe that if they can remain pure in their faith then someday their party will win a total and permanent victory over its foes. They believe they are Gods of the New Dawn
These battle groups are the TeaParty = Small Wealth Special Interests vs Wall Street Financiers + Corporate Elites as outlined above. There are rabid beliefs at work here. No government is best government versus government that serves us with investment incentives, bailout protections and hands off the tiller is good government. The Tea Party members do not believe that a default will be catastrophic. The Wall Street and Corporate Elites know better. The Tea Party members secretly resent the Financial bailouts, the outsourcing of their jobs, and no help on mortgage foreclosures. The Financial and Corporate Elites disdain their Special Interest “fellow travellers”. So watch as in special effects movies like Transformers or Battle for Los Angeles as a truculent House GOP bring about a default whose slow-motion disintegration effects work economic chaos through to an end of year crescendo.