Wednesday, October 02, 2013

As Usual: Boehner Attempts to Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory


I vividly remember when I finally and forever gave up on the notion that the Republican Party could ever be a reliable force for "smaller government."

The year was 1996 and I had already begun self-identifying as a libertarian ... but in the face of evidence that ran completely to the contrary, I still embraced the notion that the GOP was something like "half right" on economic issues and could occasionally be counted on to oppose the growth of government.

Then came the 28-day "shutdown," beginning in December of 1995 and ending in January of 1996.

I really dug it. The Republicans were standing up to out-of-control spending! They were shutting the government down rather than acquiescing to runaway debt! Huzzah!

Then "my" Congressman (Mel Hancock, R-MO) came home for a meet and greet and in response to an audience question (it may have even come from me) explained that Republicans weren't really trying to cut Medicare spending ... they were just trying to slow its growth.

And when I looked at the situation more closely, I realized he was right. The fight was over whether Medicare spending would be increased by X% or by X+.000X%, with the difference being represented by a small increase in user premiums. Actually cutting government spending wasn't even on the table, and neither side wanted it there.

And after that, Newt Gingrich threw a public whine-fest about being treated shabbily during a trip on Air Force One. And it just went downhill from there.

The whole "shutdown" thing quickly became a matter of each side trying to set itself up as the "victim," with the other side as "bully."

At the time, I wrote -- I don't remember where, it may have been a local independent paper I was doing a column for around that time -- that if the Republicans wanted to win this thing, what they needed to do was OWN the "shutdown." Instead of trying to  transfer blame, they should claim credit. "You're damn right we shut the government down, and shut down it shall stay until we get what we want."

Because frankly, playing the victim is a game that always works to the advantage of the Democrats. They are built on "identity politics," constituencies --  the identification and recruitment of "victim" classes which can be put in political harness (and, not coincidentally, kept perpetually in their alleged victimhood for continued political exploitation).

John Boehner just stepped in that smelly pile of stuff once again.

The only difference this time is that I'm not surprised.

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