Thursday, October 29, 2015
The Spoiled Children Caucus
Two days ago, as my twin daughters had simultaneous toddler meltdowns, I had a eureka moment: the so-called Freedom Caucus is using the same tactics as my three years olds. While my daughters' meltdowns can be annoying and even upsetting, I understand that they are part of growing up, and that they are gradually learning how to deal with their frustration in a more mature manner.
Evidently a lot of conservatives never made it through this stage in life, since they have been pitching a constant fit for the last month over the House leadership crisis and debt ceiling. They got Boehner out, kept his chosen successor (McCarthy) from taking his spot, and demanded that whoever filled the Speakership take the nation hostage once again by demanding massive budget cuts or else risk default. This is exactly what happens when weak parents give in to toddlers. The little tykes soon get drunk on their own power once they realize that if they pitch their wails high and loud enough that mom and dad will do anything for them if it just shuts them up.
Suddenly, the adults decided they had enough. Paul Ryan (admittedly a hard Right conservative) refused to agree to many of the Freedom Caucus' demands and was not barred from being Speaker. Then, this week, Boehner dropped the bombshell that he had negotiated a compromise with Democrats that would raise the debt limit until 2017, effectively postponing any new hostage crisis until the next presidential administration. The Spoiled Children Caucus (my name for them) has been apoplectic, kicking the floor and screaming like one of my daughters when I've denied her a second cookie. They never seemed to have realized that if Boehner was on his way out he could make a deal because he literally had nothing left to lose. '
The budget deal has passed the House without a majority of Republican support. (That's right, a majority of House Republicans are willing to risk a national default to force through policies that the country doesn't want.) In the Senate, Rand Paul has pledged a filibuster, and Jeff Sessions has threatened to hold it up in committee. Yes, these men would like to stand athwart the majority of both houses of Congress and potentially send the country into default because they don't like the compromise. What's crazy is that the compromise gives them what they want. All of the cuts come from health and social welfare spending. Republicans will not have to sacrifice a damn thing, except for their overweening pride.
At some level, all of this has nothing to do with policy. The Spoiled Children Caucus is obsessed with destroying the authority of the president. They want nothing more than to force him to be bent to their will. (There's a lot of racial and gender dynamics to this that I don't have time to talk about now, but hopefully will be able to address soon.) Yet again, they have failed to do so, and like toddlers who want their parents to obey their will, are screaming and crying about it. By postponing the debt ceiling issue until Obama has left office, Boehner has enraged the hard Right because they will never again be able to use their weapon of choice in their empty quest.
While it is fun to mock these adult toddlers, the effects of their tantrums are deadly serious. Just as my daughters' morning meltdowns make eating breakfast almost impossible, the congressional brats make governing impossible by constantly sabotaging any attempt at compromise. Unfortunately for the nation, dealing with adult children is harder than managing actual toddlers. At the end of the day, my daughters love me and I love them, and that mutual affection helps us pull though. The contempt that the parties feel for each other today means that only two solutions are possible. Either moderate Republicans have to be willing to risk their political careers for the good of the nation, or Democrats are going to have to win supermajorities in both houses. Neither solution seems likely, so while the Spoiled Children Caucus may very well now be at bay, it's not going anywhere.