Sunday, October 11, 2015

A—let's be frank—tribal identification

Or a Tea Party is just where you invite your poupées. Image via Tudor House, Georgetown.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, under the headline, "Wanted: a Tea Party Speaker":
maybe the lesson of those struggles is that the speakership simply isn’t a job for a professional dealmaker and institutionalist at the moment. Instead, maybe it’s a job for a conviction politician, an ideologue (in the best way!) who’s also interested in governing.
That's certainly thinking outside the box! After all, it's only been a job for a professional dealmaker and institutionalist for the whole of US history. And if your ideologue (in the best way!) is interested in governing, maybe he wouldn't mind pitching in, in the busy season.
Maybe, in other words, House Republicans need a speaker who’s an ambassador from the Tea Party to the G.O.P.’s K Street/Chamber of Commerce wing, rather than the other way around.
But an ambassador who's not a dealmaker or an institutionalist. Because (according to an article he links by Michael Needham at the National Review)
Conservatives in the House and across our nation don’t want chaos. We don’t want a vacant speaker’s chair. And, contrary to the prevailing Washington narrative, we don’t even want leadership that promises to accept all of our tactical play-calls. What we do want is an end to the vision vacuum that has prevailed for years.
They want a Speaker who will infuse the chamber with a fragrant miasma of vision. They need a Speaker who will (as Yuval Levin, quoted by Needham, puts it)
see the value of championing policy proposals even when they cannot get enacted (given a Democratic president and enough Senate Democrats to sustain a filibuster). That is how you put your agenda before the public, how you get used to articulating it, and how you force your opponents to defend unpopular positions.
(Poor myopic John Boehner couldn't see the value of championing hopeless policy proposals; that must be why he stopped letting the House repeal Obamacare after they did it for the 56th time last February. What a tyrant.) They're looking for a Speaker, in other words, who may be interested in governing, but not so vulgar as to try to do it. (Funny, that's just what the Koch brothers want, see below).

For which there should be a lot of candidates, in the House, representing whatever the Tea Party currently thinks it is. Actually, the Monsignor can't think of any; the closest he can come is a senator, Mike Lee of Utah (in theory, as we all keep reminding each other, the Speaker of the House doesn't have to be a member), who combines the
outlines of the kind of agenda that might satisfy (some) intransigents and also provide some (very) modest ground for bipartisanship
a — let’s be frank — tribal identification with insurgency that might make easier for him to persuade the G.O.P.’s right flank to accept the real limits on the House’s power.
Because nothing spells change for a dysfunctional legislature like a couple of satisfied intransigents and some (very) modest bipartisanship, and convincing all these people that the House's power is limited, when they keep telling everybody they don't want it to exercise the power it has (except on the battlefield of women's bodies, of course).

In short, the column is such a mess that it could virtually have been written by David Brooks, if Brooks could ever be brought to acknowledge a—let's be frank—tribal identification with the forces of reaction and intolerance (in the best way!) that the Monsignor is rarely shy about displaying.
Screenshot of Ross getting so excited his verb fell off ("has", between "Lee" and "been"). He lost a pronoun up there, too, in the "tribal identification with insurgency that might make [it] easier..." passage. I love the idea of Senator Lee being a "policy entrepreneur", like he rejects all that socialistic collective policy making ("policy entrepreneurs... are public entrepreneurs who, from outside the formal positions of government, introduce, translate, and help implement new ideas into public practice")—keep your government hands off my Senate office!
Which is not to say it doesn't have a weaselly agenda, because of course it does (in the best way!), on the subject of the Tea Party. The most significant thing about the Tea Party is that, in the immortal words of Driftglass: There. Is. No. Tea. Party. It's a kind of conceptual Rorschach blot people use to explore their own political views, inside or outside, and Douthat is using it here in a neo-Palin sort of way to sketch out a picture of the small-r republican virtuousness of his own idea of what government ought to be, an ideology of stern and simple men, not necessarily totally realistic because not sophisticated or corrupt, completely distinct from the wicked cosmopolitans of the Republican Party leadership, in a way from which one possible Speaker for instance, Paul Ryan, falls short:
The suspicions that the right always had about Boehner, and would have had about McCarthy — that they care more about the deal than about the outcome, more about the party’s donors than any defined small-government principle — does not attach to Ryan in the same way.... But Ryan is not really of the Tea Party. In the Bush era he voted for bills like No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP, all of which today’s conservative insurgents despise. And he’s a dove on immigration, the issue where the party’s base always expects — with good reason! — their leadership is poised to sell them out.
Note that allusion to "the party's donors", in opposition to "small-government principle", on whose behalf the teahadis expect to be "sold out". This is the subtextual heart of the column, which uses the word "donors" three times altogether, urging a break with the
G.O.P. donor class’s orthodoxies
and be
a force that moves conservative policy making away from donor service and toward genuine reform...
Because (quoting Needham again) guess what?
while the House GOP does contains some self-interested holdovers from the bygone earmark era, its most conservative members recognize that they don’t need K Street to raise money in an Internet age.
I think this odd view is somewhere between lying and delusional, based on the demagogic smushing together of the traditional right-populist idea of lobbyists ("pointy-headed", as George Wallace always said, and invariably shod in white shoes) with the fact that different lobbyists push different agendas, and the Tea Cozy is most cozy with those from banking and insurance, the energy industry and medical practice, as it was in 2010, when
The Center [for Responsive Politics] research shows, for example, that the average Tea Party caucus member received more than $25,000 from the oil and gas industry, compared to about $13,000 for the average House member and $21,500 for the average House Republican.
The biggest organizational contributors to Tea Party caucus members are the people and political action committees associated with AT&THoneywell International and the American Bankers Association.
Like, say, ideal Speaker candidate Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who took his $3,860,376 for the 2009-2014 election cycle most importantly from the finance/insurance/real estate sector, energy, lawyers-and-lobbyists, communications-and-electronics, and health industries.

And saying nothing, of course, of the dark money of players like formaldehyde kings Charles and David Koch, the creators of the Tea Party illusion, which operates in a legally protected secrecy that organizations like OpenSecrets are unable to penetrate, paying congressmembers to support less government meaning less regulation of their filthy and inhumane industries. And this is something Republicans are totally in agreement on—what they're squabbling over in the current drama over the Speakership isn't principle, but a (let'sbefrank) tribal competition over pure power.

As to why the Monsignor should be trying to spread the ridiculous story that the "Tea Party" is in some sense opposed to the Republican donors, that's just par for the course (in the best way!).

Koch Brothers' Americans For Prosperity dark-money astroturf organization loves it some Senator Mike Lee, though how much it loves him in dollar terms is a secret, because freedom.


Old Howard Kurtz on the Foxovision (via Crooks&Liars) complaining among other things that "liberals" are exploiting the rumors of an affair between ex-Speaker candidate Kevin McCarthy and congressperson Renée Ellmers. Mentioned here because you know who is in fact doing that? Monsignor Ross Douthat on behalf of the "Tea Party"!
Kevin McCarthy, another genial dealcutter distrusted on the right, who would have recapitulated Boehner’s struggles had his candidacy not been doomed by gaffes and whiffs of scandal.
Not so undignified as to retail the story himself, just linking to its prurient "whiffs" in Politico.

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