The Deal, and beyond

The Washington Times reports on the shutdown-ending, debt-inflating, ObamaCare-saving deal struck in the Senate:

Top senators struck a deal Wednesday to reopen the government and extend the federal government???s borrowing authority into next year and both sides of the Capitol are hoping for quick action to reassure nervous financial markets eyeing a Thursday deadline set by the Treasury Department.

???The compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs,??? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said after he and his GOP counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell, struck the deal.

For Republicans, the deal was more about getting an embarrassing couple of weeks behind them than in being able to claim victory in a deal that they felt compelled to make.

???It???s my hope that today we can put some of those most urgent issues behind us,??? Mr. McConnell said.

There’s the whole problem with the Republican establishment, distilled into a single sound bite.  Why should we want to put urgent issues behind us?  Shouldn’t we be throwing ourselves into the debate over urgent issues with creativity and passion?

Doubtless what McConnell means to say is that he wants to get the shutdown and debt ceiling crises settled, since the polls were not running in their favor, and the greater crisis of the impending debt-ceiling collision was about to bury those embarrassing stories about Americans barely noticing the horrible “shutdown” unless the media screams in their faces, while a Park Service trooper drops a barricade on their toes.  The debt ceiling was going to be much rougher, especially if President Obama – emboldened by the efforts of his loyal media servants to hold him accountable for absolutely nothing – decided to provoke a full-on financial meltdown and blame it on the Republicans.  Given his chronic attempts to spark up a market panic during Shutdown Theater, there was no reason to put it past him.

The Deal is evidently going to involve restoration of the status quo, which will clearly be seen as a win for the intransigent Democrats, at least in the short term:

The deal would reopen the government with a stopgap spending bill running to Jan. 15, and would extend the government???s borrowing authority through at least Feb. 7. It would also require both the House and Senate to name negotiators to try to reach a final deal on a 2014 budget, giving them a December deadline.

The only major concession Republicans won was to include strict income monitoring of those seeking taxpayer subsidies under Obamacare.

Well, there’s your first step for taking this “win” away from the Democrats, kids.  Protecting the taxpayers from fraud was a sop to Republicans?  It’s a “concession” to oblige this Administration to obey the law?  Take that ball and run with it, Republicans.  Never stop talking about it, all the way through Election Day, and I don’t just mean in 2014.  Every Democrat in the media should look mildly sick to his stomach when his Republican guests trot out this talking point a year from now.

The Republicans should never stop talking about the damage this little drama has done to the Constitutional separation of powers.  The Democrat demand was for submission to a despotic executive – an explicit claim that the House is irrelevant, our elected representatives have nothing to say about the “urgent issues” Senator McConnell referred to, and Americans effectively get only one chance every four years to weigh in on their fate.  Is that really what everybody wants?  Does anyone recall those stakes being laid out by the Obama campaign in 2012?  Continuing resolutions and more debt forever, with nothing more than ceremonial show votes by a rubber-stamp legislature?  It would be a mistake for Republicans to let this teaching moment slide, or mutter about it under their breath.  These are not trivial matters.

I would suggest Republicans scrapbook all those Democrat talking points about how the 2012 election validates every ounce of the Obama agenda, too.  Not only will that come in handy under the next Republican president, but it’s going to annoy a lot of the people who stayed home in 2012.  They’re not going to like being told they are now de facto Obama foot soldiers.  The GOP wants them nice and energized next year.

We’re back to a status quo nobody likes.  The Democrat “victory” is preserving a disaster that’s only going to get worse once more people can log into it and see their sky-high premiums.  A party can be bled to death with “wins” like that.  Hearings into the disastrous launch – a no-bid contract to a firm with cozy Obama connections – should be percolating right along as the midterm elections get under way.  Remind voters, at every opportunity, that this is what Democrats shut down the government to protect.

Never stop reminding them about Obama’s Shutdown Theater antics, too.  The Republicans didn’t do a good job of keeping our memories of Sequester Theater fresh.  The director of the National Park Service just admitted, in congressional testimony, that all those outrageous open-air monument closings were discussed with the White House.  If Obama defenders want to trot out the Empty Chair defense, fine: ask how much of this titanic government is operating on a rogue basis, and suggest maybe the President should golf less and manage more.  Obama’s perpetual cover-ups and evasions of responsibility should be an anchor around his neck, a card he should never be allowed to play without facing ridicule.  A lot of people out there in flyover country – including a lot of the folks who didn’t vote in 2012 – are getting really sick and tired of hearing those buck-never-got-here excuses.

Goaded by the press, Republicans make a habit of flagellating themselves after setbacks, as though they believe they deserve a certain number of scars for every effort that doesn’t work out.  Some of this is self-serving backbiting from Republicans looking to gain advantage over other members of their caucus, but it’s so widespread that it can fairly be described as a general attitude, if not a psychosis.  This would be an excellent time to get over it.  The Democrats don’t portray themselves as losers when they make a big push for something that doesn’t go their way.  The vast majority of government shutdowns have been instigated by the Democrat Party over the years, but that tidbit of information always comes as a surprise to casual observers of politics, because they don’t recall Democrats moping around and punishing themselves when the tactic was unsuccessful.  Likewise, you don’t hear the Left insisting that it needs to be punished for going against the will of the people after a failed push for something like gun control.

Nor do the Democrats make a habit of offering their visionaries and radicals up as sacrificial lambs to appease Republicans.  The popular mind can only be changed by people who disagree with it.  By definition, anyone who takes a stand outside the comforting warmth of conventional opinion is a “radical.”  Somehow that word is a badge of honor among liberals, but they’ve convinced Republicans to hear it as a curse.  This is a very useful double standard, because it keeps timid Republicans from rallying behind energetic leaders, which in turn keeps much of the conservative base enervated and grumpy.  Rest assured that Democrats would be smart enough to insist that a member of their party who conducted himself as Senator Ted Cruz has done should be treated as a man of honor and principle, who took a bold stand to “raise awareness” of a crucial issue.

Rather than accepting the debt ceiling as a looming crisis that stifled political resistance, Republicans should discuss why the situation was so perilous… and ask Americans if they’re truly comfortable with a system built around recurring crises that stifle political resistance.  Jim Geragthy at National Review described the situation thusly:

Yes, the federal government could avoid default for a while by moving money around and using all incoming tax money to pay creditors first, and then maybe having enough to pay for, say, Social Security. The government takes in about $10.8 billion per day and spends about $13.3 billion per day. The U.S. Treasury has about $30 billion in cash on hand.

The problem is that after a few days or weeks of moving money around, you end up not having money to pay for something important…

The point is, we can???t count on [Treasury Secretary] Jack Lew???s budgetary juggling to stave off a default for very long. And the consequences of default are bad: It becomes more expensive for the government to borrow money, almost certainly a downgraded national credit rating, probably a dip back into recession, and possibly something resembling a run on the banks. Oh, and the markets will take a dive and your 401(k) will take a hit after its recent happy run.

How’s that grab you, America?  Are you comfortable with that state of affairs – a constant dance on the brink of disaster, in which the slightest hesitation to constantly borrow several billion dollars per day could result in nearly instantaneous disaster?  It sure doesn’t sound like the voters of this “free and democratic” nation have much real control over their destiny.  Are you ready to live the rest of your life in submission to increasingly shrill demands for more of your income and liberty, until the not-too-distant day when it becomes mathematically impossible to keep the whole scam running?

What the Tea Party really wants – more than just a scrappy attitude from previously soporific Republicans – is a fundamental challenge to this rigged system.  They want political representatives who think outside the box, refuse to accept false premises, hold back the diminishing borders of choice surrounding much of American life, and insist on something better than a choice between evils.  They want to exercise their God-given, Constitutionally-recognized right to withdraw their consent from a system they see collapsing all around them.  They’re tired of being ordered to submit, or taken for granted.

There’s no reason for them to feel dejected after the shutdown saga.  A stand was taken; Democrats were forced to pay a political price and cast some votes.  The Republican base has stalwarts to rally around, which is good news, because a lack of energy among Republican voters was the big reason for Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012.  He did extremely well with independents, remember.  Today the GOP can show those independents a few people who were willing to stand up and fight for their independence, contrasted with the Democrat rhetoric of despair and submission.  The Democrat base seems to have rallied around Obama during the shutdown conflict, but now that it’s ending, they’ll soon remember why they were dispirited.

There’s no reason anyone in America, outside of the hardcore Left, to celebrate today’s Democrat “victory.”  It’s supposed to reflect badly on the Republicans that we ended up right back where we started.  Their task, running up to the midterm elections, is to make voters wish they could have done better.

Some parting words from Senator Cruz, who reminds us that real people living their lives outside the Beltway and TV studios will not long be concerned with who scored how many points in today’s political games: