But there is still something well-nigh-unprecedented about how Republicans have conducted themselves of late. It’s not the scale of their mistake, or the kind of damage that it’s caused, but the fact that their strategy was such self-evident folly, so transparently devoid of any method whatsoever.
Every sensible person, most Republican politicians included, could recognize that the shutdown fever would blow up in the party’s face. Even the shutdown’s ardent champions never advanced a remotely compelling story for how it would deliver its objectives. And everything that’s transpired since, from the party’s polling nose dive to the frantic efforts to save face, was entirely predictable in advance.
The methodless madness distinguishes this shutdown from prior Congressional Republican defeats (the Gingrich shutdown, the Clinton impeachment), when you could at least see what the politicians involved were thinking. And it distinguishes it, too, from many of history’s marches of folly as well.
You could compare the behavior of current House Republicans to the diplomatic sleepwalking that led to World War I, but at least, in that case, the various powers had reasonable theories of how they would actually win the ensuing war.
Or you could compare it to Paraguay’s decision in the 1860s to declare war on both Brazil and Argentina at once, but at least Paraguay’s armed forces managed to win some victories before being ground into defeat.
Now, admittedly, just because the Republican strategy has been irrational doesn’t make it inexplicable. The trends that brought us to this point are clear enough: the discrediting of the Republican establishment during the Bush era; the rise of a populist right that often sees opposition as an end unto itself; the willingness of too many media figures, activists and politicians to stoke that wing’s worst impulses; and the current Republican leadership’s desire both to prevent an intraparty civil war and avoid a true national disaster like default.
Given this underlying landscape, it may be that John Boehner chose a kind of rational irrationality these last two weeks — accepting the Kurtzian shutdown “strategy” in order to demonstrate its senselessness and persuade his members to behave slightly more sensibly in the future.
But even if Boehner’s decision-making ends up looking like a least-bad approach under the circumstances, he’ll only have won a temporary reprieve. Kurtz Republicanism isn’t likely to go away until somebody else within the party — someone with more movement credibility than the speaker, and more subtlety and vision than Ted Cruz — figures out how to take the energy driving the shutdown and redirect it to more constructive ends.
It’s clear, right now, that the populists can’t be trusted not to drive their party into a ditch.Douthat has to pay the lib tithe to keep his job at the NYT, and writing fatuous anti-Republican blather about the shutdown is his latest payment.
The shutdown is the consequence of a singular act of courage by a core of Republicans-- led conspicuously by Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and a few others. Republicans have voted to fund every aspect of government except Obamacare, which, in their obviously correct judgement, is a catastrophe for the country.
Democrats have shut the government down by insisting on linking funding of the rest of the government (or 20% of it, actually) to the Obamacare vote. With the leftie media, tithe-paying RINO commentators like Douthat, compliant goons in the National Park service willing to put on a show to make Americans notice the shutdown (nobody would notice or care otherwise), and the brain-dead-freebie-loving-Obama-re-electing-American electorate in the Democrats' pocket (pants actually), this singular act of integrity by the Republicans should be celebrated. A few politicians are standing on principle, for goodness sake. Call the Guinness Book of World Records.
Will the shutdown hurt the Republicans? Of course not. Angelo Codevilla described the dynamic well. Democrats represent their own interest, which is the State and the parasites feeding off of it. They have a bevy of loyal hungry followers. But the parasites-- the elites and the bought-off voters-- are only about a third of the country. The country class-- the people who actually keep this country working-- are about two-thirds of the population, but they have no one representing them. The Republican politician class is an alloy of honest decent types and the State-and-perks loving types. Republican politicians inspire little loyalty, because, unlike the Democrats, they aren't wholly thieves stealing for thieves.
The Republicans will succeed only to the extent that working Americans-- the non-parasite class-- sees Republicans fighting the good fight and representing honest working people. Undoubtedly the Repubs should have played it smarter-- Republican lawmakers personally going to the Mall and dismantling the barricades around the people's monuments and labeling the barricades the Obamacades (or Barrycades, but most Americans wouldn't get the pun), would have been a good idea. The good guys don't have such a flair for marketing, but they could learn.
Republicans in the House and Senate need a hundred more Cruzes and Lees and Pauls-- men of integrity and competence. Only then do they have a realistic chance of governing our degenerating nation, and, perhaps, saving it from the elites and government-fed barnacles who are taking it down.