The crisis is nearly over – unless it isn’t — so it is time to ask ourselves what has been learned.
My guess: Not much.
The fact that so little has been learned may, in fact, be the basis for the settlement that the Senate has apparently agreed upon – and which the House, with its suicide caucus, will either accept or reject. (I’m laying 3-2 odds the House Republicans accept. Of course, I also took the Broncos this week and gave the points.)
If the House rejects the Senate bill and throws us into default, it is a disaster for America and also the world economy. If you can’t grasp that simple fact — I mean you, Ted Yoho — you can leave the conversation now.
If the House accepts it — which would mean putting together a coalition of mostly Democrats and just enough Republicans to pass the bill — that would mean the chance for another Republican self-inflicted disaster to match this one. That’s because Republicans — learning basically nothing — won’t agree to a long-term funding bill or a long-term debt ceiling bill, meaning that in three or four months, we’ll be doing this all over again. And why would anyone want that? (Hint: Almost no one would.)
As you may have noticed, Republicans have been getting thrashed in the polls. The latest Washington Post/ABC poll shows a 74 percent disapproval rate for how House Republicans have handled the crisis, with even self-described Republicans (49-47) disapproving.
So, what have we learned?
Do I really have to ask?
OK, maybe that’s not fair. Barack Obama learned that there is something to be gained by holding firm. Senate Republicans not named Ted Cruz learned that they will be repeatedly asked to bail out House Republicans. John Boehner learned that, whatever he does, he is toast.
And the rest of us have learned that if people in one party do something sufficiently stupid, it is likely, even in this divided country, that most people will call them on it. At this point, with only 21 percent approving of House Republicans, it’s pretty much down to everyone vs. the Tea Party.
But if Republicans are looking for solace, they can look to — wait for this — poll guru Nate Silver, who thinks it might not be that bad. Silver, who for some reason has gone to ESPN to write about sports numbers, crept back into view long enough to say that the talking heads/pundits are probably overstating the damage the Republicans have done to themselves. He points out that we routinely move from crisis to crisis and the latest crisis is always soon forgotten, or at least forgotten by the next election.
I think there’s something to that. This disaster will not lead directly to a 2014 reconfiguration of the House, which the numbers guys tell us would require an 8-point Democratic wave election. And, yes, there will be a dozen crises — some of them possibly even legitimate — in a year’s time to distract us before the end of 2014.
So, we get the math. But the history, sadly, is incomplete. Or should I saw skewed?
If you’re counting on history, you will recall the post-2012-election Republican report (white paper?) on how Republican voters were skewed too white, too old, too regional, too intolerant, too straight, too male, too too much. And the response to that from the GOP House was to basically say that the wise heads got it wrong and the real problem was that they needed to be so much more themselves.
And so there was the fiscal cliff and sequestration. And the refusal to consider an immigration bill. And the shutdown, now in its third week. And the default, now perilously close. And a Tea Party rally – in which Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin and a guy with a Confederate flag made headlines along with a speaker telling Obama to put down his Quran — protesting the closure of a World War II memorial, which was closed (this is too obvious) because the House GOP had shut down the government.
If the bill passes – and the suicide caucus blames the squishes for stopping them from cliff diving — here’s where we’re headed. There would be the next government funding deadline in early January. The fight then would be over sequestration, budget cuts and supposedly entitlements. Republicans have a budget number. Democrats have a budget number. If there isn’t a compromise, we get another shutdown showdown. Look at the poll numbers today if you can’t tell how that would turn out.
So, assuming there’s a compromise, the government remains open just long enough for another debt ceiling fight to take place in February. How do you think that would go? What would be in the ransom note this time – another go at Obamacare, or as Republican Sen. Bob Corker put it, that bright “shiny object” upon which Tea Partiers are so fixated? It should be clear by now that Obamacare will succeed or fail on its own merits. It should be even more clear how badly Republicans bungled the chance to take on the badly bungled rollout of the Obamacare exchanges.
The Democrats have heard — or maybe just anticipated — Nate Silver. Which is why they plan to put the next round of votes in play during the beginning of the 2014 election season. They want voters to remember. After all, how often do you win elections by promoting government dysfunction? You’d think the answer would be self-evident. But, if we’ve learned anything in this latest Tea Party faux crisis, it’s that not all lessons are created equal.
[ Image by Rob Chandanais. ]