The Democrats handily won the debt ceiling face-off. Today, conservatives are asking themselves how they came to where they are
In the two and half years since they took control of the House, Republicans have gone from early legislative victories that cut government spending to a string of defeats that have grown worse over time. The latest ended with a bill that was expected to pass early Thursday and that would leave the country almost exactly where it had been before, only billions of dollars poorer and as a puzzlement to the world.
Two years of failed strategies to handcuff the Democratic minority have left Mr. Boehner as mostly a bystander while the most conservative members of his conference — who propelled him to power nearly three years ago — took the tiller of the House in their hands. Their goal: to dismantle what they consider to be an overreaching government, one vote at a time.
I see three messages here. First, it is becoming very clear that the GOP and the TP really have become two separate entities -- in essence, we have three parties smooshed inelegantly into a two-party system. Second, the Republican position was undercut by crumbling poll numbers. Third, when it comes to the power relationship between the TP-ers and the GOP leadership, the TP has taken control.
If we take a closer look at the polling on the TP and the GOP, we encounter a "startlement": The Tea Party may now be the more popular of the two entities. That's the big development which everyone has ignored.
If my readers will forgive a repeated riff from the preceding post: The Tea Party's popularity has dipped
, as one might have expected, but the number is still at 30 percent favorable, 49 percent unfavorable, with the biggest drop in favorability among moderate Republicans. (Also see here
.) Basically, this is the same degree of popularity/unpopularity Dubya had to deal with in the last couple of years of his presidency.
Interestingly, there's evidence that the GOP overall is less popular than the Tea Party
-- 28 percent favorability vs. 30 percent.
The poll which gives the TP 30 percent favorability comes from Pew, while Gallup says that 28 percent of the citizenry has a favorable view of the GOP.
Yes, I know that polls can be fudged, and the sampling may be off in dozens of ways. Nevertheless, I suspect that these numbers are not too far afield of the truth.
Which means that musket-and-tricorner imagery may be more popular than the elephant.
So where is that extra TP support coming from? Independents, no doubt. As we saw in the 2012 election, there are quite a few conservative and ultra-conservative voters who refuse to label themselves Republicans.
To judge from the right-wing mass-mailings I receive (yes, all sorts of groups stuff my email inbox with all sorts of garbage), these independent teabaggers hate the "RINO" GOP leadership almost as much as they hate Obama. I've seen righties lob some truly horrifying insults at McCain, Graham, Boehner and McConnell. And as we've seen, there are plenty of moderate Republicans who have come to despise Ted Cruz and all he stands for.
So the TP and the GOP are "falling in hate" with each other.
Given that situation, what lessons should we draw from the poll results noted above? (For the moment, we will presume that those numbers reflect reality.)
First, we need to know how much the TP and GOP supporters overlap. If more than half of TP support comes from indpendents, then we still have roughly half of the country favoring some variant of conservatism or ultra-conservatism.
a depressing thought to chew on after last night's victory.
Here's something more depressing still: Some pundits are talking as though the debt ceiling debacle marks the end of the Tea Party. But such thoughts are premature. Even though it has been years since I took a math class, I feel pretty sure that 30% > 28%.
Thus, if the TP morphs into a truly separate political entity -- as many right-wingers are now suggesting should happen -- then the TP would be stronger than the GOP.
The TP would need its own animal mascot, to match the donkey and the elephant. I suggest the squirrel.
For a while, the Dems would benefit from a conservative split. But if the weaker of the two conservative parties (the GOP) were to wither away as once the Whigs withered, then the TP freaks in tricorner hats would be the only conservatives left.
That's a troubling possibility. This country cannot be governed if such a massive segment of our populace segues into nuttiness.
Maybe Dianne Reidy
-- the stenographer who just now interrupted a Congressional vote with shouted warnings of Freemasonic conspiracy -- is a harbinger. Maybe historians will one day say that the debt ceiling standoff marked the start of the real
weird times in America.