The Usual Suspects

I’ve been enjoying reading through the nays on the roll call on the budget bill, and every one of the Fox showboat bigmouth Tea Partiers is on it: Bachmann, Flake, Steve King, Dan Quayle’s idiot boy and the ever-serious Mike Pence. This bunch, and the wannabees that tag along, are a herd of cats that’s all but uncontrollable.

In addition to the unfortunate fact that this crew answers only to Fox and their own ambition, the other problem Boehner faces is the lies that his more loyal, less crazy caucus members told to stave off Tea Party challengers. A good example is Tom Reed, the freshman representing my district, NY-29. Reed’s campaign was full of happy horseshit about how he’ll go to DC and demand deep budget cuts and fiscal responsibility. Yet there he is, voting with the rest of the Chamber of Commerce Republicans for a budget cut that’s almost indistinguishable from nothing if you use Tea Party arithmetic.

This group of Boehner loyalists will be waking to an avalanche of phone calls, emails and crayon scrawls from their district’s mobility scooter riders, and they’re going to be complaining to Boehner long and loud. I expect more defections and drama from all of them, especially since next year a few more Democrats are going to bother to vote. I really don’t see how Boehner holds his caucus together, and I think that the Beltway/Politico notion that Pelosi is a non-player is upside down. Pelosi just showed that the only way Boehner can get a deal passed in the House is through her caucus. That sure looks like power to me.

Also, too: I’m traveling and my net connection will be spotty, so see you in a few days.

51 replies
  1. 1
    SST says:

    Or: what if Boehner knew he had the votes he needed, so he “released” all of these true believers to vote nay, thus allowing them to maintain their purity in the eyes of the base? Just a thought.

    Also: OT, but…;seid=auto

    “Last week, Mr. Ryan unveiled his budget proposal, and the initial reaction of much of the punditocracy was best summed up (sarcastically) by the blogger John Cole: “The plan is bold! It is serious! It took courage! It re-frames the debate! The ball is in Obama’s court! Very wonky! It is a game-changer! Did I mention it is serious?”

    With shout-outs from Krguman, how long before Cole ups and leaves BJ for a younger, sexier, blonder blog?

  2. 2
    Ahasuerus says:

    …crayon scrawls from their district motility mobility scooter riders…

    Although it works either way. Regardless, I am so totally stealing it.

  3. 3
    WereBear says:

    All of our attempts to use logic to understand the Republicans are futile, because that is not a process they use in the first place.

  4. 4
    Lee says:

    I just read the Krugman piece.

    That is great for John.

    Just hope is does not hurt himself in his celebratory dance :)

  5. 5

    I wouldn’t guarantee anything, because politicians will still find a way to bullsh-t their way out of anything, but the coming vote on the debt ceiling may well shatter the GOP hold on the House… the possibility of defections out of the Republicans by the Tea Party Caucus is there, and if enough of them resign from the Republicans to form their own third party around the Teabagger banner, that could shift control of the House back to the Dems.

    I wouldn’t necessarily say if that’s a good or bad thing at the moment.

  6. 6
    Punchy says:

    Teatards go through life believing that a vast majority of peeps think like they do; b/c Rush tells them so. Wake-up call coming soon.

  7. 7
    Napoleon says:

    motility scooter riders

    Could be a tag, just saying.

  8. 8
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @SST: Boehner made noises about not bring something forward if he didn’t have the votes.

  9. 9
    Morbo says:

    loud and loud

    Isn’t the expression “loud and cle-” oh, right, carry on then.

  10. 10
    Dork says:

    my net connection will be spotty

    You have the maxi-pad service plan, I see.

  11. 11
    cleek says:

    Boehner doesn’t have a problem. everything worked out. so what if pundits think he’s weak? he saved his party from shutting down the government (which looks far worse than suffering three days of smirking pundits) and, he gave the hard-core conservatives an out.

    this kind of stuff happens all the time. if you know you have the votes, you can let everyone else vote their conscience.

    i’d even bet that this was exactly the deal that he worked out with Reid and Obama: “i can get you X votes; and if you can get Y, we can pass this thing. the hard-core of both our sides will have a way out, but the centrists will get this through. win/win/win/win”

  12. 12

    Excellent and succinct analysis — this kind of post is why I read Balloon Juice.
    Also, love the “crayon scrawls from the mobility scooter riders” line — that kind of wit is also why I read Balloon Juice!

  13. 13
    Face says:

    With shout-outs from Krguman, how long before Cole ups and leaves BJ for a younger, sexier, blonder blog?

    Let’s take baby steps. Perhaps this much pub can get him laid first.

  14. 14
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    This won’t come back to haunt virtually any of the Repups. The vast majority are in safe, gerrymandered districts.

    Plus, they are masters at convincing certain voters to vote against their best economic interests.

  15. 15
    SST says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: But if he had any prior indications of the number of Democrats that would vote for it, what was to stop him from allowing the real fire-breathers to melt off and maintain their integrity?

    Maybe that’s a dumb argument, ‘cuz I dunno how he’d know what Democrats would be thinking/voting, but it doesn’t seem totally impossible to me. The Republican leadership used to let the Maine maidens vote against zanier measures to seem less crazy and I wonder if he’d allow the loons to do the same thing in order to seem… more crazy.

    Maybe I’m just blowing smoke. And I never thought I’d be making an argument for John Boehner’s mastery of 11 dimensional chess, but I’ve read this in a few places and think it’s sorta plausible.

  16. 16
    mistermix says:

    @Ahasuerus: Ha, yeah, but I fixed it.

  17. 17
    Jay C says:

    and I think that the Beltway/Politico notion that Pelosi is a non-player is upside down.

    Any more cites for this? For while the Republicans have been getting most of the attention lately in the media (even if it IS the sort of “attention” garnered by, say, a highway bus crash) – ex-Madam Speaker has made sure she’s been seen doing her job: and in Washington, the “doing her job” part is less important than the “being seen” bit.

    It’s actually kind of impressive that Nancy Pelosi managed to hang on to her position: after the electoral debacle of 2010, it’s not hard to imagine her getting scapegoated, and tossed as Dem Leader – the GOP booted Newt Gingrich in 1999 for a lot less.

    If Orange Julius Speaker Boehner can’t paper over the cracks (and crackpots) in the House GOP bloc, I think even our lame-ass political media will eventually notice that there is a Minority Party still hanging around, and Ms. Pelosi is still a major player in it. But I think a few more buses are going to be crashing in the meanwhile…

  18. 18
    SST says:

    @Face: I also considered: This is excellent news for John McCain Cole

  19. 19
    Joel says:

    When I see the word “motility” I think “improved peristalsis.”

    Not out of place here, just probably not the word that was intended.

  20. 20
    Anya says:

    @SST: You beat me to it. I came here to mention that Cole is in the big leagues now, he’s mentioned in the freaking New York Times.

  21. 21
    Observer says:

    This group of Boehner loyalists will be waking to an avalanche of phone calls, emails and crayon scrawls from their district’s mobility scooter riders,

    Written as if this is a bad thing. You folks can mock them all you want.

    But if progressive Dems were able to build a loyal fanatical following even one quarter of its size, there wouldn’t have been a tax “deal”, there wouldn’t be a Ryan budget plan but there would be a single payer health system.

    Showing up one time for a rally headlined by a comic doesn’t count as loyal.

  22. 22
    debit says:

    @Joel: I think of that scene from The Right Stuff. “You want my sperm? What for?” “Sperm motility factor.”

  23. 23
    SST says:

    @Anya: Yup. I think it would be fun if Krugman had introduced the bloghost as the man who knows better than any other the joys of trolling his own commenters. That would be great reason for a big-time pundit to follow a blog.

  24. 24
    rikryah says:

    I just can’t wait to have ON RECORD them voting for the RYAN PLAN.

    DNC- there’s your political ad right there. run it morning, noon and night.

  25. 25
    Napoleon says:


    I just hope John has somewhere where he can buy a dead tree edition to hang on the wall.

  26. 26
    Mandramas says:

    @WereBear: Oh, there are logic on what they do. Just don’t try to apply logic on what they says.

  27. 27
    SST says:

    Cripes. Melzer beats Federer in Monte Carlo. And Cole got a mention in the NYT. Those are two horsemen. Be on your toes, people. And I’m going to bed.

    / no one gives a shit about tennis, I know
    / but it is surprising

  28. 28
    geg6 says:


    Guess you haven’t noticed all those people in Madison, Columbus, Indianapolis, Harrisburg, etc., etc., etc.

    Now, granted, I found and still find the whole Stewart gig stupid and completely unproductive and it made me see him for what he is (no better than any of the other Villagers, high on Broderism). But there have been lots of rallies lately, with very good turnout, of people out to show that they have had enough with the destruction of the social contract and the middle class. Many, if not most, of these people wouldn’t call themselves progressives (a word I hate, by the way), but they do see themselves as being under attack by the GOP. The idea that you can’t even acknowledge that makes me just that much more disdainful of the word “progressive.” They are fighting for their lives and livelihoods and all “progressives” can do is whine about single payer and bitch that Democrats aren’t brainwashed, brainless masses lining up to support whatever their “progressive” betters think is the most important thing ever.

  29. 29
    Jay C says:


    Teatards go through life believing that a vast majority of peeps think like they do; b/c Rush tells them so. Wake-up call coming soon.

    So? What makes you think they will hear it? Their (Medicare-provided) hearing aids are permanently tuned to Fox News and AM talk-radio: even the worst electoral disaster will be spun so as to feed into one or another of their prejudices/resentments.

    27% Crazy….

  30. 30
    Damned at Random says:

    I have a mental vision of Boehner crying on Pelosi’s shoulder while she says “there, there, you’re doing fine” and tries to suppress a laugh.

  31. 31
    tom p says:

    But if progressive Dems were able to build a loyal fanatical following

    Observer, … yep.

  32. 32

    I could be far off on this, but I think that Boehner will have less and less trouble getting his people to vote how he wants them to as the year wears on.

    I’ve been mulling this over for a while, but I’ve come up with a theory about right-wing authoritarians, which is that the intellectual leaders and “thinkers” such as they are, are fundamentalists, and the base are fascists. (I know those are loaded words, but I don’t know any other better ones to use instead.)

    Now, fundamentalism is more than just religious fndamentalism. Any belief can be turned into a fundamentalist belief, as long as the believers raise it to an unquestioed truth, and obsess over every little arcane question of doctrine, and try to find an intellectual justification for it.

    That’s the thing, I think, that defines fundamentalism: the endless musings over dinky little things and dull debates over obscure points of doctrine. You see it in Christian fundamentalists, you see it in Muslim fundamentalists, you can see it among free-market fundamentalists, you even saw it among Stalin’s marxist fundamentalists. And one interesting thing about fundamentalism is that membership in the group of believers is provisional, it’s probational. Anybody who strays at all over anything is excommunicated. Loyalty, among fundamentalists, is never to people; it’s only to the ideas, the beliefs.

    Now fascists are not thinkers. They’re emotional and visceral and tribal. They don’t debate doctrine. You can turn your back on what seem to be the most basic, the most fundamental, even, values and beliefs that the group says it stands for, and still be a member in good standing. What you can’t do, though, is betray the group itself, or, especially, those seen as leaders. Fascists aren’t loyal to ideas, they’re only loyal to people.

    You can see it in the way the 2 groups behaved about George Bush. When he strayed too far from free market orthodoxy, the fundamentalists turned on him. They said he wasn’t a “real” conservative. The fascist base, though, stuck with him, no matter what he did, since he was “one of them”. He was a “good man”. Hell, that 20% or whatever still think he was a good president.

    Now, so far, the two groups are more or less in harmony. The fundamentalists are against taxes and for spending cuts because that’s what they believe. That’s their doctrine, their orthodoxy. The fascist base are for spending cuts and against taxes because Obama wants higher taxes and higher spending, and, needless to say, he isn’t exactly one of them. They had nothing to say about Bush’s spending, after all.

    Now I think that a lot of these teabag freshmen are really more like the base than the fundamentalist intellectual leaders of the party, so, when it comes down to it, they’ll do what Boehner says. They’re still feeling important now, and they’re swollen with their own feelings of importance and power, but a lot of these guys in the end, I think, will choose to stay loyal to the tribe rather than to the doctrine.

    Now, obviously there’s some overlap. Some freshemn will be fundamentalists, I’m sure. And there’s likely even overlap within individual members themselves: they’ll feel pulled two ways at times, torn between loyalty to their ideas and their tribe.

    Boehner himself is another thing. I don’t think he really belongs to either of those two groups. He’s more of an old-fashioned crony conservative, small minded, selfish and unprincipled. He’ll do, in the end, whatever he thinks he needs to to stay in office and hold the majority.

    This is a long post, I know, but I’ve been working it over in my mind for a while, and I thought it kind of applied here. I’m sure people here can sharpen it even more than I have, but I guess this is somewhere to begin. Maybe we should try to put together a Balloon Juice Taxonomy of Conservatives…

  33. 33
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Dan Quayle’s idiot boy

    Apples don’t fall too far from the tree, do they?

  34. 34

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    Not too far at all. If anything, this bonehead is dumber than his father. A tall order, to be sure, but these Quayles are stand-up guys.

  35. 35
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @SST: You have a point, but I think it comes down to this (and we can’t know right now): Did Boehner have the votes and release them or did he need the Dems to rescue him? Even if he had the votes, I think he looks weak if he used Dem votes after talking tough in the week leading up to the vote.

  36. 36
    wonkie says:

    Ducan–excellent descriptio of two types of coservatives. I’ll add tow more.

    1. Upper middle class voters who vote Republica out of a belief that Republicans are somehow more respectable. These folks are too sophisticated to watch Faux, are put off by the obvious looniess of the Teatards, but really aren’t in their hearts much different from them. Their self-image is of thoughtful careful resposible citizeship but the reality is that they care about only two things–getting their own taxes lowered while getting those services they themselves use funded. They are deeply selfish in their approach to politics ad deeply sobbish in a carefully sanitized way. They aren’t conventional bigots because they secretly despise everyone, regardless of race or sexual orietation or religion who isn’t a fellow upper middle class Republican. They are Brooks and Broder Republicans, who dislike the tone, but ot the essential message, of the Rethuglican party.

    The sociopaths. Rove, Walker, may of the backgroud chareacters that ru various divisios of the party apparatus…These guys ad gals don’t believe in anything but power and see the Rethuglican party as a means to power for themselves. They are in politics for the thrill of fucking over as may people as possible for their own self aggrandizement. They love manipulation.

  37. 37
    jfxgillis says:

    m mix:

    Pelosi just showed that the only way Boehner can get a deal passed in the House is through her caucus. That sure looks like power to me.

    Such an OBVIOUS point, yet almost zero Village understanding of it. Sheeeeeesh. For a while yesterday, Politico had the “Pelosi has no power” and “Boehner calls Hoyer for help” stories directly adjacent to each other.

    Personally, I usually side with Pelosi over Obama when their interests or policy preferences collide, but in this case Obama made the right move cutting Pelosi out of the Budget deal–the House Minority leader is the least powerful leader in the Capitol. Generally powerless, in fact.

    But now that she’s demonstrated that her caucus is essential, she has every right to insist on a place at the table.

  38. 38
    Fe E says:

    @Duncan Dönitz (formerly Otto Graf von Pfmidtnöchtler-Pízsmőgy, Mumphrey, et al.):

    Those are some interesting points and well worthy of follow-up investigation–but mainly I just want to go on record as saying the the screen name of “Duncan Donitz” is just pure win.

  39. 39

    @Fe E:

    Why thank you!

    I wonder how long we as a group would need to come up with a Balloon Juice Grand Unified Theory of Conservatives™. We need to get cracking on that, toot-sweet.

  40. 40
    Boudica says:

    @wonkie: Your first description fits my in-laws to a T. Although, my MIL was so disgusted with the GOP trying to throw Planned Parenthood under the bus that she said she may have to turn Democrat.

  41. 41
    bemused says:

    The problem is that I just don’t think that the Dem base call their legislators or write letters to editors nearly as often as rightwingers do. Very active Dems do and Dems really come out in a crisis as in Wisconsin. I don’t know what the reasons are for well-informed, staunch liberals not picking up the phone or writing letters more but it’s what I see in my neck of the woods.

    My Rep. Chip Cravaack voted nay saying he “listened to the people of the 8th District” reported in local paper this morning. Cravaack is the first republican to gain a seat (defeating Oberstar) in strong DFL area NE Minn in decades. He is basing his statement on a recent teletown conference call with constituents. Out of 35,000 calls, 8,000 stayed on the line and “helped” Cravaack make his decision. “People were clear about spending. Nobody’s saying raise taxes”.

    I had no idea there was going to be a conference call but I don’t visit his website. I think it’s a safe bet to say that few Dems in the district were aware of it either. I wonder if there were even any Dems at all in on that call.

  42. 42
    Glen Tomkins says:

    I don’t know.

    Had Pelosi really exerted power here, it would have taken the form of getting enough of her caucus to vote the way she did, against the budget deal, to bring it down. She either couldn’t get enough of her caucus to do the deed, or didn’t want to, despite her own (symbolic under this theory) nay vote, because she lacks confidence that the D nay votes would not end up taking the blame for the resulting shutdown, rather than the R, bagger, nay votes. Either way, that’s not powerful.

    Which is not to say that in the longer run, into the future, our side in general, Pelosi in particular, didn’t emerge from round one in a better position. But our strength is still potential, it still needs to be asserted all the more forcefully because it is still structured as counterattack rather than independent advance.

    Specifically, it looks like the other side has trapped itself into voting on the Ryan plan to end Medicare. And, specficially, it looks like we will have a great opporutnity to react to an R refusal to raise the debt ceiling.

    But both those opportunities rely on the Rs to take a foolish action, to which we only respond. To get back the initiative, our side will have to respond at some point, most likely over the debt ceiling, by taking the ball back even further down the field in our direction than where it started.

    This is an example of what I have in mind. Within 24hrs of the R refusal to raise the debt ceiling, our side comes out with its response to the genuine emergency this creates by threatening default within weeks. That response is a surtax of, say, 50% on all income over $500,000, and 90% on all income over $1,000,000, to be collected starting immediately, not waiting for 4/12. If this raises more than what is needed to meet immediate govt obligations, that’s fine, because we will need the extra for stimulus spending, maybe a tax cut for people making less than $100,000, to counteract whatever small anti-stimulus effect there is from taking money from people who aren’t much using it to generate demand anyway. It’s either the US meets its legal obligations that way, or we meet them by raising the debt ceiling — but the Ds categorically rule out either defaulting on our just debts, or any negotiation that gives in to hostage-takers by talking about spending cuts in exchange for raising the ceiling.

    That response would move the game our way. But I put it forward mostly as a reality check about how so much more rigid our response would have to be than it is likely to be, for our side to come out ahead rather than just somewhat less far behind.

    Yes, I am much more encouraged since the president’s speech than I was before. But that’s much more a function of what a deep hole our side was in before the speech, than any idea that we are now in a power position. Less powerless, that’s how I’ld characterize it. Tons better than just curled up in a fetal position getting stomped, but hardly back up to even a 50-50 position of equal strength.

  43. 43
    lllphd says:

    did anyone else hear that short report on npr yesterday morning? i was between stops, and only caught this smidge, but essentially it was saying precisely what mr. m has opined here: tho everyone was lauding the orange guy last week, and luvin’ ’em some serious ryan, the truth comes out now that boehner’s shutdown deal had no teAth, and ryan’s plan is dickens cruelty steroids (but without all those pesky waifs and suffering uncles).

    the reporter noted the rage of the teabaggers and the fear in the beltway ranks to point out that boehner doesn’t really have control and not even enough repugs have the cajones to push ryan’s venom vouchers through to legislation. leaving the party in (this is the part i remember most distinctly) complete disarray “more like typical democrats”!!

    more (or less) words to that effect.

  44. 44
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Glen Tomkins: I don’t know why, but Obama seems to shine most as a counter-puncher.

  45. 45

    @Glen Tomkins:

    I like that. One big problem Democrats have is their willingness to concede things before they even begin negotiating as a show of good faith, as a way to show we’re reasonable. The trouble is that we already know we’re reasonable. Otherwise we’d be Republicans. And the Republicans will never acknowledge that the Democrats are being reasonable or working in good faith, no matter what we do. And the reporters and pundits are still to wedded to their stereotypes of Republicans as grownups-Democrats as hippies rioting at the 1968 Democratic Convention to bother to see what’s really going on. David Broder really poisoned the press…

    Democrats need to stop being reasonable and begin to demand things like 90% on income over $1,000,000. I’d kill to see that.

  46. 46
    gwangung says:

    @geg6: I think that’s a good point, but the more important thing is that you say these people don’t acknowledge themselves as progressives.

    If they don’t acknowledge themselves as progressives, then they AREN’T loyal progressives who’re reliable block voters like the right has.

    There’s an opportunity here, but the key point is that these folks AREN’T in the tent…yet.

  47. 47
    Uloborus says:

    There’s something very important to keep in mind here with any call that Democrats be like Republicans. The Republicans are lunatic assholes.

    This is IMPORTANT. You expect lunatic assholes to scream and rant about every little thing. This is inherently, inextricably tied to their having lunatic asshole positions on every issue. The reality based community is almost by definition reluctant to show up outside their legislator’s office and scream because a law was passed that was good, but not what they’d like.

    The only way we could be like the Tea Jerks is to BE the Tea Jerks. That also applies to our politicians, as much as it pains us to listen to the GOP screaming lies and wish our guys could do the same back. But if they did, they’d be screaming *lies* and we’d end up where the GOP is, with a caucus in chaos and unable and uninterested in governing.

  48. 48
    Uloborus says:

    No, you have that backwards. Our reliable block voters don’t identify themselves as ‘progressives’. Our unsatisfiable libertarians and green party style nihilists define themselves that way, as do many of the more liberal and involved activist types (who are still not the ‘base’, because activists never exist in enough numbers). This creates a ‘progressives’ group that has no coherency at all where you can’t tell friend from foe.

  49. 49

    My friend and I discussed this over drinks and food last night. We came to the same conclusion: Boner is weakened by this, Pelosi is strengthened, and the Dems as a whole are strengthened (assuming they don’t fuck it up).

  50. 50
    mds says:


    Cravaack is the first republican to gain a seat (defeating Oberstar) in strong DFL area NE Minn in decades.

    I’m guessing it will have to be moved to “formerly strong DFL area” unless someone actually steps up to run against Cravaack next year. So far, everyone has “other priorities” while looking nervously at their watches. I guess a far-right teabagging shitstain is just too tough to take on in a longtime Dem district.

  51. 51
    S. cerevisiae says:

    @mds: I think Don Ness, the mayor of Duluth should run against him.

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