The Republican Party Is Sinking. And That’s Bad for America.

Can the GOP right their sinking ship?

GOP Elephant sinking

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Sixteen days after shutting down the government and less than 48 hours before pushing America into default, Republicans in Congress have finally abandoned their fruitless effort to preempt the lawful implementation of the Affordable Care Act and allowed the government to re-open and pay its bills.

I’m not sure exactly what convinced them it was time to fold; maybe it was their party’s historic plummet in public opinion polls, or perhaps it was the scolding they received from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce–a committed ally–for their intransigence on the debt ceiling issue.


Maybe they simply got tired of being the laughing stock of the Twitterverse, or else God granted Senate Chaplain Barry Black the miracle he had been praying for.

My guess is that Republican leaders didn't want to be left holding the bag when the economy plunged back into recession–which some economists warned could happen if America reneged on its debt obligations.

Whatever the case, we can all breathe a big sigh of relief that we dodged a bullet. At least for now. The bill signed by President Obama this morning only funds the government through January 15th, which means we get to look forward to doing this all over again in a few months. But for all the drama of the ongoing budget battle, the intra-partisan logjam on Capitol Hill is indicative of a bigger problem; and what hangs in the balance is not just the fate of a once-mighty political establishment, founded on the noblest ideals, that has seen its pride shattered by a mutinous band of malcontents. The very mechanisms of our government are at stake.

The Republican Party is now an organization in disarray. Over the past several weeks the cracks that had been growing between the GOP establishment and the fire-breathing freshmen whose enormous hubris caused this mess have widened into a potentially insurmountable rift that threatens to tear the Grand Old Party to pieces.

Before the ink was dry on the new spending bill, angry GOP lawmakers were calling out Sen. Ted Cruz for torpedoing a potentially stable negotiating position with his sophomoric "let's hold our breath until they give in" brand of politics. Cruz may have been the ringleader this time, but he didn't hogtie John Boehner all by himself. Even last night there were 144 Republican nay-sayers in the House who were willing to turn blue with him and run the risk of economic calamity. And they would have succeeded if Boehner hadn't finally balked on the nonsensical Hastert rule and taken the bill to a vote without their support.

But the only thing worse than a sore loser is one with a vendetta. With just months to go before campaigning begins in earnest for the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans are being forced to take sides; and incumbents now have more to fear from their own right flank than their Democratic rivals.

If that's not bad enough, American voters have a lower opinion of Republicans than ever before in the history of polling. Reince Priebus and his RNC have exactly one year to convince the electorate they're not the crazy-talking, irrelevant wankers they're accused of being (and that's just what their own colleagues are saying). Of course, a year is like a century in political time. But what we just witnessed is more than a minor hiccup, and there is more than a single election at stake.

The worst-case scenario for everyone is that GOP leadership fails to rein in its errant and disproportionately influential fringe and we're forced to ride out the remainder of President Obama's second term with a congressional minority that defines itself by what it's against instead of what it's for.

Not much better is what happens if a civil war within the party propels the GOP into an extended period of obsolescence. That may sound like a good thing to some progressives, but the only thing worse than our two-party system is a nation dominated by a single political platform. Polls show a majority of Americans favor divided government, and while not everyone agrees, there is evidence that we get better laws when legislators are forced to grant concessions to advance their programs.

Unlike our parliamentary cousins, America is not designed to be a nation led by a single majority party; our founders saw the wisdom of a system of checks and balances, where compromise and conciliation ensure that laws are balanced and proportional. But the process only works if everyone is willing to follow the rules of play; you can't threaten to pick up your ball and go home every time you miss a goal. The GOP needs to clean house and kick the cry-babies off the playground so we can go back to legislating the way it was intended. The nation is depending on it.

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  • ajs1512

    First of all, the national politcal pendulum has been vacilating between Left and Right since the country was founded. I think its a bit naive that we are going to revert to some kind of single part system in the coming years. Besides, the Democrats still have the unpopularity/impact of Obamacare to deal with and the eventual day of reckoning in regards to the debt crisis.
    -Finally, its always a bit perplexing when Philly Mag offers politicized, non-regional articles when the general purpose of the publication seems to be more oriented towards local shoppring, dining, events, culture etc. I suspect it does nothing to broaden its readership and appeal.

    • nomarxistfarms

      Well the Tea Party helped boost the popularity of ObamaCare with this latest irresponsible stunt… designed to boost the career and ego of Ted Cruz. It seems the right wing has been taken in by a charlatan. What a bunch of chumps.

  • Default

    The Republican Party is the only thing standing in the way of our country actually defaulting.

    Real default.
    Not this “I’m not reducing discretionary spending one cent.” phony default that you knuckleheads have been threatening us with.

    • Cruz-teapartyanchorbaby

      You do know defaulting is not paying the bills on money they already spent.. It has zero to do with new spending bills. I for one will be eating popcorn as the GOP goes after all the “Rinos” I find it quite entertaining… But to claim the GOP is dyeing is not at all true,, The it just may be 30-40 years before the get back in the white house. I can not see Heros like Ted Cruz winning national Elections…

    • nomarxistfarms

      That’s an incredibly ignorant thing to say. Economics works to a large measure from expectations, and when you make the environment uncertain, like this stunt the Tea Party pulled did, you’re not helping business or the economy.

      • Spend more, it ain’t my money

        How does $17 trillion in debt — and nothing but trillions in “continuing resolutions” as far as the eye can see — help stabilize the economy?

        Maybe it helps you if you are the rent seeker on the receiving end of that cash disbursement.

  • JamesHovland

    Government spending will go down when stagnant wages go up and unemployment go down. It’s corporate greed and corruption at the top that’s caused both the recession and our record deficit. Unemployment and stagnant wages are the problem, not the extra spending they’ve caused. We need to get our economy back an track, not keep derailing it because the anti-government Tea Party doesn’t have the slightest clue as to how to govern the business of a nation.

  • netaloid

    Really, the best thing for America might be if the Republican Party fails to settle its differences and splits into two. There are so many people with so many ideological backgrounds in this country that two parties haven’t come close to representing that which is important to many – which is why so many, like me, count themselves as independents.

    The far right and center right should split, make their own way and thus free themselves to market their own ideas to the rest of the country. Similarly, the Democratic Party has been dragged so far to the right since the Johnson-Kennedy years that it no longer represents the far left.

    The problem is that those who cling to power at the national level of the Democratic and Republican parties *will* reach across the aisle to make certain that no third or fourth party has an equal playing field in the run-up to local, state or national elections. That’s because only representatives from the two existing major parties work with local and county election offices to set the rules. That system is outdated and does not well serve a nation with 350 million people.

    • theotherRJH

      I think having 5 to 6 parties might be exactly what is needed. This two party system is for the birds and what we have on any given day is really bad and worse than that. The system we have now is over and post-2014:

      1) we’ll have a Democratic super majority
      2) A crashed GOP
      3) …splitting into at least 2, if not 3 parties. Neocons (extreme right), Tea Party (constitutionalist) and moderates/centrists.

      The sad thing is we’ll be putting up with a Democrat/socialist majority for probably 2 or 3 decades until a multi-party system can get restarted and gain momentum. That also assumes we don’t get stopped by a Stalin like purge and re-education gulags.

  • Dandini

    125 TRILLION Dollar UNFUNDED Liabilities, and growing. . . 17 TRILLION Dollars National DEBT, and growing. . . almost 1 of 4 Americans on food stamps, and growing. . . more part-time workers than full-time workers. . . a DEBTOR nation in servitude to increasing debt. . . . . a President without LEADERSHIP Skills. . . a DYSFUNCTIONAL Congress. . . we desparately need TERM Limits on all federal offices including Supreme Court, and a FLAT Tax without deductions or exemptions for anyone.

    • nomarxistfarms

      $17T in Tsy debt is $11T of net financial assets in the private sector. Each dollar the debt is paid down is another $ in financial assets taken away from the private sector.

      Why would we want to do that??? The ONLY reason is if inflation was out of control. Newsflash: inflation is NOT out of control, it’s actually TOO LOW! And the Republicans KNOW it’s too low. The Fed targets a 2% inflation rate, but they’ve been falling short at 1.5% for years now. The GOP thinks 1.5% is too high of an ESTIMATE! They think the actual rate is better estimated by the chained CPI (CCPI) which comes in lower than 1.5%. Thus the GOP is pushing to adopt the lower CCPI estimate.

      This budget battle is based on ignorance and the cynical manipulation of that ignorance. The government’s budget is NOT like a household! They have a monopoly on the creation of money! They create the money they owe! Households don’t do that. When have they created too much? When inflation is too high. Inflation is not too high, it’s too low. The right is trying to push an issue which is false.

      The US is NOT anywhere close to being insolvent. The US creates the money it owes. The only thing preventing them from being solvent are ignorant and cynical Tea Party members in congress.

  • Day

    Crush the Tea party in the same way they tried to crush the full faith and credit of the United States.

  • eslesl

    The demographics in America are changing and this is the new America, which within the next 100 years will be a 2nd or 3rd world nation.

  • joe the plumber

    rush limbaugh … the icon the republican party cannot live without

  • nomarxistfarms

    Hatred, fear, ignorance, paranoia, racial anxiety, and conspiracy theories sells in Dixie. Thus the Tea Party exists and will continue to exist.

  • racknstack

    The GOP has run itself up a tree and doesn’t know how to get down.

  • IBIUBUOK

    I think the elephant is now underwater up to it’s neck and barely afloat, especially with all the latest republican scandals, i.e., New Jersey, Virginia, Kentucky. What a bunch of losers!