Steve Coll, in the New Yorker, on Mitch McConnell and “The Tea Party’s Revenge“:
… Like a guerrilla army, the Tea Party is learning how to influence public opinion even when it loses a conventional battle. The budget caps that Obama conceded in 2011 have already enshrined in law a portion of the movement’s draconian fiscal agenda. And although Cruz and his allies in the House won no additional cuts this time, they managed to spread magical thinking among their followers about a possible future debt default. (The next debt-ceiling deadline arrives early next year.) Cruz and the others systematically promoted the idea—the fantasy—that, if the Treasury Department were prohibited from issuing any new debt to finance interest payments and government operations, the country would do just fine. The global economy, this story goes, far from collapsing into crisis, would prove resilient, and, while some nonessential federal departments might wither for lack of funds, that would only demonstrate how Americans could get by with a much smaller government.
This campaign has been dismissed by some Wall Street analysts as just a form of coercive bargaining. Washington is a grand opera of phony crises. Congress has raised the debt ceiling more than seventy times since 1960 without forcing an actual default. It’s tempting to believe that even a diva like Cruz, who, after all, holds a law degree from Harvard and evidently aspires to higher office, would never countenance a final default. Yet history is rife with political radicals who have shocked the world by doing just what they always said they would: Confederate secessionists, for example, who seem to inspire so many Tea Partiers today…
As recently as 2007… it still seemed possible that a modernizing Republican Party might build a formidable political coalition of Latinos, evangelicals, disaffected Catholic Democrats, high-tech entrepreneurs, libertarians, social and educational reformers, and eclectic independents. Instead, as Geoffrey Kabaservice puts it in his history of the Republican decline, “Rule and Ruin,” movement conservatives have “succeeded in silencing, co-opting, repelling, or expelling nearly every competing strain of Republicanism from the party.” Political purges have no logical end point; each newly drawn inner circle of orthodoxy leaves a former respected acolyte suddenly on the outside. That a Tea Party-influenced purification drive now threatens such a loyal opportunist and boardroom favorite as Mitch McConnell seems a marker of the times.
McConnell’s would-be usurper is Matt Bevin, a businessman who owns a bell company; his campaign slogan is “Let Freedom Ring.” He told Glenn Beck recently, “We have got to wean people from this idea of free lunches.” (He might start with fellow Kentuckians; their state pays sixty-six cents in federal taxes for every dollar of federal spending it takes in.) Bevin pleaded, “What we need to tell the American people is that the party’s over.” Presumably, he didn’t mean the Grand Old Party, but the American people may be forgiven for thinking that he did.
What’s on the agenda for the start of another week?