Four years ago, Democratic representatives went home for the August recess and found themselves under assault from angry Tea Partiers, who took over town meetings with shouting and fist-shaking over the Affordable Care Act in particular, and more generally, the theft of their country by the foreign Muslim usurper Barack Obama. This August, however, it's Republicans who are under attack by some of those same people.
At one town meeting after another, hard-right Republican House members are being confronted by constituents accusing them of not being quite doctrinaire and reckless enough (see here, or here, or here). Once again the immediate topic is Obamacare, but now the question isn't whether the law should pass, but whether Republicans should shut down the government in a futile attempt to defund it. The members catching the most heat are those who argue that shutting down the government is useless, because Barack Obama is never going to sign a budget that defunds his greatest domestic accomplishment, so the only thing a shutdown would do is create more political headaches for the GOP.
This outbreak of relative pragmatism on the part of some Republican members of Congress is of course seen by Tea Partiers as little more than weak-kneed appeasement. It suggests that there's a shift underway among the Republican base, from simply favoring the threatening of a government shutdown as a way to extract concessions, to supporting a shutdown of the government even with the knowledge that doing so will produce no concessions from Democrats.
As many a Republican politician will tell you (ask Marco Rubio, for one), convincing the Tea Party that you're sufficiently conservative and that you hate Barack Obama enough isn't just a full-time job, it's a game that almost everyone will eventually lose. At some point you'll take some position or express some opinion that is interpreted as less than maximal anti-Obamaism, and all it takes is one slip to be declared a traitor forevermore. So as crazy as Republican politicians sometimes seem, don't forget that they're under constant pressure from a base that is even crazier.
SO THEY SAY
"I do think in the media there is a tendency to describe conservatives as one of two things: stupid or evil. And those are the two categories that every conservative gets put in by Democrats and the media. A conservative is either stupid—too dumb to know the right answer—and even worse, if they actually know the right answer, then they’re evil. They want people to suffer. I suppose I feel mildly complimented in that they have recently invented a third category, which is crazy. It’s the alternative to stupid or evil."
—Ted Cruz, offering some media criticism to Time Magazine
DAILY MEME: REMEMBER THE SEQUESTER? YEAH, STILL SUCKS
- It's been awhile since we've talked about the sequester, but now that Washington has quieted down for summer break, it's a good time to look at the damage done.
- Especially since President Obama reaffirmed his intention to kick some sequester ass at a speech he gave to Marines in California today.
- Santa Barbara has been feeling the pain (and describing it in florid phrases): "The sky did not fall, the earth did not open up, and breadlines did not immediately form around city blocks. The cuts came in waves, and many are still to come, but enough time has passed that they are starting to batter our economic shores."
- In Massachusetts, coast guard pilots have been flying less, and public defenders are getting laid off.
- The Minnesota public defender's office will likely have to cut their staff by 45 percent.
- Lori Ames, the president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1882 in Wisconsin says of the sequester, “We’ve already taken a big hit. I think we all feel we’ve paid our pound of flesh."
- Things are pretty bad at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where wounded soldiers are, according to Representative Jim Moran, "being discharged earlier, they are not getting to surgeries when they need to."
- Senator Barbara Boxer has expressed frustration that the cuts are hampering California's ability to fight the ever-lengthening forest fire season.
- And, weirdly enough, the sequester has cost the federal government a lot of money: “I wish someone could put a price tag on redoing who knows how many budgets, who knows how many times, this year alone. How many dollars have we spent across the federal government because of sequester considerations?"
- The programs that have been hurt the worst by the sequester? Ones that affect the poor and the young. One laid-off teacher says, "It flabbergasts me that our government can't get its crap together. With the air-traffic controllers, Congress fixed that right away because it affected the planes going in and out of Washington. But they're not doing anything that benefits the people."
- As a whole, Americans are still uncertain what to think of all of this. But, as time goes on and the cuts sink in, it's hard to believe that opinions won't harden against the sequester.
WHAT WE'RE WRITING
- Detroit, as you may have heard, is bankrupt. Why then, asks Anna Clark, is it spending $650 million on a new hockey arena for the Red Wings?
- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a viable presidential candidate in 2016, which is why, Jonathan Bernstein writes, he is much different from the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani.
WHAT WE'RE READING
- Before becoming the steward of the NSA's data collection, Barack Obama wanted to reform many of the agency's practices.
- Here is a story about goats having a feast at the spot where J. Edgar Hoover is buried.
- Immigration reform still has a window to get passed.
- Time Magazine has an interesting Q&A with Ted Cruz.
- Julia Ioffe dresses down Lawrence O'Donnell after their dust-up on MSNBC.
- Some Democrats are coming out against Obamacare's Independent Payment Advisory Board.
- Boehner is using his financial war chest to avert a potential government shutdown.
POLL OF THE DAY
Around 40 percent of whites and one-in-four non-white Americans interact only with friends of their own race, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. Some groups are much more racially integrated than others. Nine in 10 Hispanics have friends of another race, and 50 percent are in a relationship with someone who is not Hispanic. That said, just 10 percent of black and white people have a significant other not of the same race.