Right now, the minority of Republicans who are in or supporting the Tea Party mentality are in complete control of the party. And, as long as John Boehner and other (relatively) sane GOP Reps don’t find sufficient stones to stand up to them, they are the tail that wags, not just the GOP dog, but the entire country. The shrinking group of non-fanatic members of the GOP are terrified that, if they displease this dogmatic, absolutist group of reactionary ideologues even once, they will find themselves “primaried” in the next election. The Right keeps its rule by fear because it can summon up many millions of dollars from right-wing oligarchic billionaires to finance primary challenges against any Republican from a candidate far to the right of the incumbent.
After 36 years in the Senate, in a seat that was such a shoo-in that Dems sometimes didn’t even bother to run an opponent against him, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) will be leaving the Senate in a couple of days having lost a primary to an unknown Tea Party loony named Richard Mourdock by 61/39%. Mourdock went on to make a major embarrassment of himself, and was beaten by the Democrat Joe Donnelly by 5 percentage points. The Tea Party not only cost their party a major guaranteed Senate seat, but removed a Republican with the second or third highest seniority in the Senate. Talk about cutting your own throat to spite your nose.
Boehner also has had a personal motive for his obstructionism. There’ll be a vote after New Years (and after the deadline for the fiscal “cliff”) for Speaker of the House for the next two years, and Boehner desperately wants to retain the gavel. Eric Cantor, “Young Gun” Tea Party favorite, is the House Majority Leader and he has been openly working to unseat Boehner and become Speaker for years. If this shoulld happen (just about a certainty now that Boehner has lost complete control of his caucus), the minority of reactionary extremists will have completed their takeover of at least the House, if not the entire party.
Rather than risk his ever-shrinking chance of retaining his gavel (and fearing getting Primaried in the November 2014 election) Boehner has been totally intransigent, blocking anything that would help the people of the country – if it would anger the wingnut extremists.
Boehner is in an impossible position. He is just about a certainty to lose the Speakership to Cantor within a week, but has continued to refuse to let any bill come to the House floor for a full vote if his own Republican caucus won’t vote to approve it (an agreement among Republicans that he can easily break, not a law of the House).
As of the last few hours, Boehner has indicated that he will cede control of the floor of the House and allow ANY bill that comes from the Senate on Monday be submitted to the full House for a straight up-or-down vote. Most politically astute observers believe that a solid bipartisan majority of Democrats and a sufficient number of Republicans would be only too happy to vote AYE and avoid the cliff. Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are trying to hammer out a very narrow bill that would just prevent the tax increases on all Americans earnings below a given income level and would (even more importantly IMHO) continue the Federal Unemployment Insurance that will be cut off flat to over 2 million people at midnight on the 31st. All that appears to stand between them is the exact cutoff on the higher tax rate (between $400,000 and $1,000,000 for a single filer). I think that either can live at this point with the other’s numbers, so a compromise seems well within reach. If they can’t decide on a number, than Obama has instructed Reid to simply submit Obama’s last offer that Boehner rejected and have the Senate vote on it.
Note that Obama’s last offer has moved dramatically toward Boehner’s demands, while Boehner has not only not compromised, he keeps upping his demands (e.g.,demanding an even higher tax cutoff each time Obama raises his offer). If we go off the cliff, the resulting tax situation (not to mention a thousand other negative happenings) will be FAR worse than the Republicans are balking at now. All taxes will revert to 2000, including estate taxes and capital gains taxes on dividends and profit sharing. Nobody wants that.
We are all in a lifeboat right now and the Tea Party loonies, in their conspiracy-driven blind fear and rage, are continuing to shoot holes in the bottom of the lifeboat to sink the Democrats. It has yet to dawn on their acorn brains that their actions will end up drowning everybody.
[Except the obscenely rich, who are sitting in comfortable chairs in their luxury yachts sipping The MacAllen 25 year single malt and enjoying the show. Even though these rich-beyond-all-dreams-of-avarice rich have more money than they can spend in a hundred lifetimes, they won’t spend a penny to rescue any of the rest of us in the sinking lifeboat lest some peasant put his wet feet on their just-polished teak decks.
Then again, if you believe the Ayn Randites and Cato Institute anarcho-capitalists, the very aim of the Right is to destroy all vestiges of democratic government and replace it with the Social Darwinism of their beloved “free” market, in which an oligarchy/plutarchy of the monied and corporate elite will basically rule over everybody else in a root-hog-or-die world. These people actually believe that the government, which at least is answerable to the people (when not corrupted by big money) is a bigger threat to their “freedom” than an absolute dictatorship of an unaccountable elite in it only for their own personal benefit.
It fair boggles the mind…