If Elected, the Tea Party's Oddball Candidates Will Spell Long Term Disaster for Republicans
While I consider a lot of the progressive anger at the administration to involve a degree of naïveté about how Congress functions, the Tea Partiers are no more informed. Alexander Burns examines in Poltico the question of whether the GOP will be hurt by all its oddball candidates. Even Republicans are struggling to understand the results of their primaries.
“A great many Americans think that the entire Washington political process is terribly broken, and they’re not interested in candidates who come from that process or defend that process,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “They’re far more attracted to people who want to radically change the status quo.”
But Washington doesn't do radical change and even if all the oddball Republicans are elected to Congress, they won't radically change the kind of legislation that it produces. What they'll do is prevent any legislation from being produced at all.
It gets tiresome to keep repeating myself, but it must be understood what it means that the Senate operates by unanimous consent. It means that one ornery senator can grind the upper body to a halt. To see what I mean let's go back to July 2008:
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is planning a “Coburn Omnibus” for July that would wrap most if not all of the bills held by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) into one large measure to be voted on by the Senate, according to a Coburn aide and two Democratic leadership staffers. Coburn is blocking roughly a hundred bills that are generally non-controversial or have broad support. By placing a hold, Coburn prevents the bills from passing quickly through the Senate under a unanimous consent request. With floor time at such a premium, Reid would have trouble bringing up each bill for an individual debate and vote.
But in a stroke of legislative creativity that may have no precedent, Reid could lump all of the bills into one package and bring up the Coburn Omnibus for a single vote. Coburn can still object, but the broad popularity of the bills means that there would likely be more than enough support for veto-proof passage.
Julian Zelizer, a professor of the history of public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, said that the move is most unusual when viewed in historical context. “I haven’t heard of something like this,” he said.
As it turned out, the Tomnibus Bill didn't pass until January 2009. It was the first bill passed by this Congress (before Obama was even inaugurated). Tom Coburn made history with his unprecedented level of obstruction, but that was only a prelude to Mitch McConnell adopting the strategy for the entire party (now dubbed the 'Party of No strategy').
To take just the case of Rand Paul, he doesn't seem to differ from his father on any significant issues. Ron Paul operates in the House, which doesn't require unanimous consent. But, given how often Ron Paul is the single vote against a bill, it's obvious that there very few issues where he'd be willing to grant his consent for something Congress wants to do. If Rand Paul follows his father's example in the Senate, he'll make Tom Coburn seem like a piker. And the same thing can be said for Ken Buck in Colorado and Sharron Angle in Nevada. These people may be radicals, but they won't be rolling back the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or amending the Constitution to end birthright citizenship. What they'll do is create total gridlock.
Mainstream Republicans do not always approve of Tom Coburn's actions, and he's still reasonable enough to follow his leadership most of the time when they want to cut a deal and let something proceed. But this new crop of candidates has no respect for the Senate leadership of the Republican Party. They won their nominations over the active opposition of that leadership. They are attempting to come to Washington to radically oppose the Obama administration, and cutting deals will not be big on their agenda.
Washington has a way of taming radical politicians over time, but the senators who will be elected this November will serve for the remainder of Obama's presidency (whether he is reelected or not).
These candidates are a threat to Obama's agenda, but they're not going to succeed in doing anything they're promising to do other than obstruct his agenda. This will lead to gridlock which infuriates 75% of the country and disillusionment for the remainder.
I don't know how many of them will win, but they're a recipe for short-term disaster for the country and long-term disaster for the Republican Party.