So the standoff over Obamacare, the functioning of the Federal government and the debt ceiling is now over. Or, at least until January, at which time we may go through this all over again.
And the point of all that was...?
Seriously, who got what out of that saga?
Do mainstream Republicans benefit? No. Do Democrats or Obama himself "win" with this whole thing. Not really. The American public? Certainly not.
And, could the radical minority of Republicans in the House (Tea Party) really have expected the Senate and Obama to roll over on Obamacare? Not credibly or realistically.
Indeed, my belief is Tea Party Republicans never actually thought Obama and the Democrats would cave. Sure, they might have hoped they would, but that was not the goal of the Tea Party-fueled crisis this time around.
Rather, I think the Tea Party had distinct goals of their own on this action. Holding funding of the Federal government and debt ceiling hostage in an attempt to de-fund or neuter the already passed and Supreme Court reviewed Affordable Healthcare Act did four things quite nicely for the Tea Party - all related to electoral politics and power within the party. And that's why I think we saw what we did over the last month.
So well were the following things accomplished, I think they have to be considered as primary goals...
1. Establish renewed visibility for the Tea Party and a radical-right pecking order going into 2014 and 2016 elections. Had you ever heard of Ted Cruz before five weeks ago? How about some of the other Tea Partiers who got their mugs on the news? Me either. But, now the Tea Party is on everybody's mind and those interested in running the Republicans as far to the right as they possibly can now have a handful of nationally known leaders who will, without a doubt, be in line for House Speaker or running for President in upcoming elections.
2. Ferret out RINOs. One thing Tea Party Republicans hate more than Democrats are politicians they view as "Republicans In Name Only" or RINOs. The Tea Party definition of "Republican" is extremely conservative, so what most the rest of us think of Republicans would be too liberal for them. By pressing the issue they way they did over the last month, the Tea Party conference forced Republicans to take sides. Are you with the Tea Party or are you not?
And why do that? Well, midterm elections are coming up in 2014 and the well funded Tea Party leaders want to find out who to target in the primaries to try and unseat RINOs and get their own "Republicans" in office. And if shutting down the government and threatening the world economy is how they had to do that political dirty work, that's just fine with the Tea Party.
3. Make a point to the "true believers." There's nothing like grandstanding to make a point to the constituents back home. In this case, the Tea Party Republicans have focused on a law they view as an abomination and affront to "liberty," the Affordable Healthcare Act. By drawing attention to themselves as champions against the law, they assure their constituents back home in their districts are 100 percent sure they are as right wing as they are. By extension, they offer themselves up nationally as an "alternative" certainly to Democrats but also mainstream Republicans. Personally, I think that's radically delusional, irresponsible and foolhardy too. But that's the mindset of the Tea Party.
4. Frustrate Obama and the Ds at all costs. The one unifying goal among Republicans of all stripes since the moment Obama was elected president in 2008 has been to obstruct, frustrate and undermine his and the Democrats agenda at all costs. And there is no more a fervent group against Obama than the Tea Party. So their actions over the last month are just a continuation of this very consistent strategy by conservatives. If Obama is for something, oppose it. If Obama is against something, support it. Stymie, delay, filibuster...do whatever it takes to slow down, alter or stop legislation or policy by the White House. Through these tactics, the Republicans are attempting to make themselves appear to be a strong alternative to Democrats come election time. Why vote Democrat if nothing ever gets done? Get it?
So there you go. Four clear objectives accomplished by the Tea Party over the past few weeks.
And all of this is bad enough as a shallow, narcissistic and detached operation by small men and women with huge egos and ambition. But if that's all that it was, you'd just shake your head and move on. But the real tragedy here is that the shut down of the government and brinkmanship over the debt ceiling over Obamacare has impacted millions of Americans in a negative way - paychecks missed, benefits on hold, access to services cut off, access to public land eliminated and more. And, on the debt ceiling issue, you have the rest of the world watching this and becoming increasingly concerned over our financial situation and increasing dysfunction in government.