Debt Default Crisis: What Republicans Have Achieved So Far

Four big things, the first of which comes from The Washington Post:

Financial experts much prefer a longer-term extension of the debt ceiling, but even a brief extension would ease some of the turmoil that has been brewing on Wall Street. By the time markets closed Monday afternoon, the Dow had dropped 900 points in 14 trading days, losing almost 6 percent of its value.

So that’s one. Harming the economy. And at the libertarian Reason magazine blog is a tart summary of the damage done to the Republican Party’s brand since the shut down and debt default crisis began:

Only 28 percent of the American public has a positive view of the Republican Party, down from 38 percent in September, Gallup finds.  It also is the lowest rating since Gallup first began asking the question in 1992. In fact, since 2001 it’s been on a fairly steady decline from 55 percent in 2001, to 40 percent in 2008, to 28 percent in October 2013.

That’s two. Hurting the Republican brand. And here’s the visually stunning over-the-cliff chart from Gallup showing Republican favorability, 1992-2013:

In other words, Tea Party hostage-taking has been threatening to drive into a ditch both the economy and the Republican Party. This raises two questions:

  • Are there even enough moderates left in the GOP to shift this course?
  • Who will play the roll for the Republican Party of “moderate Moses,” leading the GOP out of its current political Egypt (enslavement to the agenda of the new Tea Party pharaoh, Ted Cruz)?

If you think that person will be Marco Rubio, think again. The far right is already eviscerating the senator, as in Ann Coulter’s recent hit-job on him in her new book (as reported in the conservative Washington Examiner):

Coulter dresses him [Rubio] down for promising effective immigration reform while campaigning for the Senate but spitting out a more liberal alternative once elected.

She quotes him slamming amnesty for illegal immigrants as a Senate candidate in 2010. “And then he got to Washington and his big legislative initiative was a path to citizenship for illegal aliens! Yes, Rubio’s plan to solve the problem of illegal immigration from Mexico is to bring them all here,” she scolds.

And this brings us to the third thing that the debt default/Obamacare hostage-taking crisis has achieved: distraction from immigration reform, the one thing the Republican Party has to actually deal with if it hopes to compete for votes effectively in the 2020s. By making Obamacare the lightning rod of focus for GOP hate, a positive Republican approach to immigration reform has been put on the back burner.

And here’s the fourth Republican achievement: by once again hating on the first African American president in such an obnoxious way, trying to destroy his signature piece of legislation by shutting down the government and threatening default, Republicans have reinforced their reputation as racists.

And this suggests that the only Republican left to really play Moses to the GOP is New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, who actually tends to get a decent amount of votes from nonwhite people, as Josh Barro at Business Insider points out:

Christie’s pragmatism doesn’t just show up in policy; you can also see it in his style. He works openly and enthusiastically with Democrats. […]

Christie’s openness to Democrats has created openness to him. Dozens of local Democratic officials have endorsed him for re-election. Many polls show him drawing about a third of the black vote, an unheard of level for a Republican candidate.

The latest Fairleigh Dickinson poll shows him ahead by 8 points among non-white voters. Where else on this planet do Republican candidates win among non-whites? […]

Republicans are worried about how to appeal to voters in a country that is decreasingly white. Christie has shown how much credibility Republicans can gain with black voters simply by showing respect to the president, even while disagreeing with him on a broad swath of policy issues. 

This shouldn’t be hard, but for most Republican politicians, it is. Much of the party’s energy today is based on animus toward the man who happens to be the first black president. Christie is one of the few Republican politicians who understands how damaging that has been to the party’s brand.

So there it is: Republicans have harmed the economy, damaged the Republican brand, gotten their eye off the ball of immigration reform, and reinforced their racist reputation. Great work! A special thank you goes to Ted Cruz.

It’s way past time for the party to rethink its Southern strategy.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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