Republicans, as has been widely recognized, have painted themselves into a corner on funding the government and raising the debt ceiling.
They’re not going to get any of what they’re demanding. Instead, they’re going to be humiliated after having been revealed as incompetent fanatics. A Continuing Resolution will be approved, the debt ceiling will be raised, and—because, thankfully, even in what has become the Party of Crazy-Stupid there are still enough marginally reality-tethered people to understand that crashing the world economy might be a wee bit bad—the hostage (meaning, all of us, at a global scale) will not be shot.
The result will be the worst possible outcome for them: the Republican Party as a whole has crashed in the polls, and there is now a legitimate possibility that they could lose the House instead of sewing up both houses of Congress as they had hoped. That’s in the swing districts. In the safe ones, members of the Evil Semi-Lunatic Caucus risk primary challenges from the Batshit Caucus, meaning we could see more of this down the road if they do retain the House.
I said this was coming ‘way back, and I am certainly enjoying it now that it is here, despite the fact that I, like everyone else, happen to be sitting atop the powder keg over which these idiots are waving matches.
Today, though, I just want to make one brief observation, which is about True Believers and effectiveness:
They do not go together in the slightest.
Zealotry is about insistence on How The World Should Be. Typically, it is built on axioms about How The World Is. These are generally simplistic, absolutist, and without nuance. If you’re on the right, it’s Jesus the Mean-Spirited Fascist, and Obama the Kenyan Muslim Antichrist, and sociamalism causing Teh Gay and feminazism and science and other Bad Things, and the War on Christmas. Oh, and Tax Cuts Create Wonderland.
When you believe stuff like that, you are incredibly hampered in your ability to get anything done. No effective path—even one that moves things in the direction of your goals—can be charted that doesn’t involve some aspect of soft-pedaling, deferring, or deprioritizing some of your agenda in order to advance some other part of it.
Which is why we have the spectacle of the House sending a ransom note to the White House consisting of a demand that basically every hard-right wet dream that was repudiated by voters in the last Presidential election and could not possibly make its way through Congress be surrendered before the GOP will agree to fund the government.
Because, to hell with the legislative process in the Constitution, right? What we want is The Right Thing, To Be Had By Any Means Necessary.
It’s a losing strategy, and they’re going to rue the day they decided to let Ted Cruz use them as tools for his imaginary ascent.
My point, though, isn’t so much about that as it is about the zealotry. The noisiest grief I get from friends on the left (supposedly) is rooted in exactly the same kind of black-and-white oversimplification and fanaticism. If it wasn’t single payer health care, it was Obama and the Democrats being corporate stooges and selling out to the insurance industry. If it involved the possibility of killing anybody, it was off the table as a military/diplomacy strategy…even though that’s exactly what it takes to force an enemy to stand down.
You’ve heard something like this from me before, but I’ll say it again: principles are easy. Principles, in fact, are like opinions, which are like…
Well, in any case, everybody has them, of one sort or another.
The hard part is in making something happen in reality that conforms to some degree to your principles. And very frequently, that happens at the cost of something dear.
That’s why great progressive leaders are often criticized in some quarters because of the deals they had to make in order to achieve the strides they did. FDR’s salary cap on Social Security taxation, for example. Or Gandhi’s agreement to allow India to be partitioned in order for both of the resulting parts of it to be independent. Or Brower’s deal on Glen Canyon Dam.
Those actions, painful as they are to examine, weren’t outliers or aberrations. They were the cost of progress.
You cannot solve problems if you start from the standpoint of insisting on only one acceptable outcome and one acceptable path to get there.
100% or nothing really just means “nothing” here on Planet Earth. “No compromise!” is the motto of someone throwing himself into the wood chipper of history. It ain’t heroic. It’s just dumb. It doesn’t work.
The nutjobs holding the world hostage right now won’t learn the lesson even as they go over the cliff of their own making, because they are mentally ill.
But the lesson holds both for right and left: it isn’t True Believers that make things happen in the world. It’s problem-solvers with values, heart, and creative flexibility.
At publication, the Dragon was STUFFED WITH POPCORN