Who Won Who Lost Who Cares?

Cruz budget agreement picFrom the Washington Times today (Senate leaders announce agreement to end shutdown, raise debt):

Top senators struck a deal Wednesday to reopen the government and extend the federal government’s borrowing authority into next year and both sides of the Capitol are hoping for quick action to reassure nervous financial markets eyeing a Thursday deadline set by the Treasury Department.

When I got word of the deal this morning I’d been on an explanatory rant trying to explain to whoever would listen that Ted Cruz, et al, and the Tea Party itself are operating in different terms than those being used by most mainstream conservative commentators.

Among my Twitter friends there’s been almost universal derision expressed toward Cruz, Lee, and their attempt to defund Obamacare while holding up funding the government in order to get their way. Much talk has been expended on losing strategies and wasted opportunities, of political distractions, bitter personal animosities, ambition trumping serving the public, and general political stupidity.

The consensus of my friends is that the blame for all this rests firmly at the feet of Cruz, Lee, and their Tea Party sponsors. Silence greets any observation that predictions of failure by anti-Cruz Republicans (including genuine conservatives) may resemble self-fulfilling prophecies.

While thankfully not coming from the majority of my anti-Cruz friends, there have even been accusations that Cruz in particular is not only guilty of the vilest political ambitions (he supposedly has his eye on the 2016 presidential contest), but that everything he’s been doing is designed solely to gather money from his unhinged base.

Personally, I don’t think Cruz is any more ambitious than any of the politicians who oppose him (or, indeed, than the pundits who compete to see who can think up the cleverest terms of abuse to dump on him).

What do Cruz and the Tea Partiers really want?

I also think too many of my friends are looking at this political brinkmanship through the lens of a partisan struggle. It’s not. It’s ideological.

A noted exception is Brit Hume. In the Fox video below, he concisely explains the real goals of the Tea Party, while clearly not embracing their means:

New Paradigm

To Cruz, Lee, and their Tea Party compatriots there is a new political paradigm, something I don’t believe either the mainstream media or their conservative counterparts recognize.

Somebody the other day compared the Tea Party politicians to the right wing in 1991, fighting against Bush 41.

To which I responded:

In addition to my earlier point about Tea Partiers viewing all this through an ideological rather than partisan lens, I think there are at least two more elements to this new paradigm:

  1. Asymmetrical Politics (think Iraq surge).
  2. Inside Game (what mainstream conservatives focus on) vs. Outside Game (electoral pressures, where most Tea Partiers focus).

Looked at in these terms, Cruz wasn’t blundering. At least not in the way most mainstream conservative commentators assumed (in rather knee-jerk terms, I might add).

Now these commentators are all high-fiving one another about how right they were and what idiots the GOPers are (which is mostly true, but for different reasons than these analysts assume).

Winners Losers

But they miss the point of where Cruz and the Tea Partiers are coming from. And in the process I believe with all my heart they’re missing the future.

Here’s something I tweeted to John Dickerson this morning:

I don’t know what he thinks of this one (yet), but I put it out there because I think most of the commentariat has the current (partial) government shutdown / debt limit thing wrong.

Fact is, everyone’s busy keeping score. And most of them, I believe, are wrong.

Let me expand a little on these points.

  1. The GOP lost because it thought this was a partisan battle and that the Tea Party was either stupid or traitorous (or both). They would’ve been better off had they left Cruz alone and attacked the Democrats. Instead, they chose to waste their precious ammunition in a nasty fight with one of their own.
  2. The Tea Party won because they can go to the grassroots and show them the now-stark difference between the Old Guard and the new insurgents.
  3. Democrats think they won, but didn’t because they think the GOP and Tea Party are the same and that they defeated both. What they don’t realize is that the paradigm has changed.
  4. The commentariat lost (big time) because the Tea Party movement won and the commentariat has shown itself to be utterly clueless about it.

It is about world view—ideology

On the Left is Leviathan. On the Right, Liberty.

In the middle are those who believe if only the Baptist and the Buddhist could come to an agreement, we’d all have heaven.

The real players in this new paradigm are Progressives and the Tea Party (or whatever we call this movement as it evolves).

The guys in the middle?

They’re going to choose one side or the other.

Or they’re going to finish their lives in a state of permanent befuddlement.

What’s at stake

David French of National Review Online has been a notable exception to what I call the commentariat consensus. He just posted this (The Reason for the Fight: Even Failed Programs Create Dependency):

There is an extraordinarily short window for truly blocking Obamacare’s pernicious effects, and it’s mistaken to believe that even resounding Republican electoral success will enable repeal after that window closes. With each passing month and year of subsidized insurance and health-care-industry adjustments, more Americans will hate their healthcare and yet fear any changes. Oh, they might punish Democrats for a season or two, but will they embrace true reform? Will they give up subsidies or other new entitlements when Democrats will repeatedly assure them that all would be well if only they were better funded?

Bismarck famously declared that “politics is the art of the possible.” But to know what’s possible, one has to on occasion test the limits. Since October 1, congressional conservatives have pushed those limits, yet they did not succeed. Our nation would be better off had they prevailed.

May David’s tribe increase.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

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