Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Duck and cover

Down goes Cantor

That's a link to a "quick take" listicle at TPM.  Most of which is fine.  Except when it comes to this part.
The resurgence of the GOP establishment just took a devastating blow. So far 2014 has been marked by entrenched Republicans wresting back control of GOP from the rambunctious tea party. Cantor's stunning loss disrupts that narrative and puts every incumbent Republican on notice that they may be next. Any comfort from the string of victories for establishment-favored candidates so far in the primaries will evaporate on Tuesday night. RedState.com blogger Erick Erickson wrote, "[Cantor] kept his attention off his district, constituents, and conservatives while he and his staff plotted to get the Speaker’s chair."

That line about "entrenched Republicans wresting back control" was mostly bullshit to begin with; the product of wishful thinking on the part of an establishment press who love "entrenched Republicans" like they do their own mothers.  We just watched 3,000 term Mississippi Patrician Senator Thad Cochran dragged into a primary runoff  last week.  There's no way anyone should assume this is a good year for "entrenched Republicans."

The bright side, if there is one, is that these results are an indication that democracy still actually kinda works... at least within the framework we've allowed it to work.  The House is badly gerrymandered in order to maintain a Republican majority. The same gerrymander also guarantees that the Republican party will always have to answer to its most radical elements.

All of that is by design. But it is a design predicated on the idea that the voters in the gerrymandered districts get to decide what matters.  Some of the things they think matter are pretty interesting.  These would include shooting down drones with rifles, hog castration, and... yeah..  reality TV.
Now, Jindal is embracing the reality TV craze and boosting his profile.

“Duck Dynasty” is back at 9 p.m. Wednesday for its sixth season. Jindal — who was born Piyush but started calling himself Bobby, after TV’s Bobby Brady, as a preschooler — joins the West Monroe clan in front of the cameras.
It should be noted that Jindal became a Duck Dynasty fan only after his hand-picked candidate for Louisiana's Fifth Congressional District was defeated by insurgent Vance McAllister. McAllister's campaign was boosted by an endorsement from Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson.

In subsequent months, Jindal has taken pains to associate himself with Duck Dynasty also. Jindal stepped in to defend duckperson Phil Robertson when he was under fire for homophobic remarks. On tonight's episode Jindal will present the duckpeople with something called the "Governor's Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence."  This is the first time anyone has received this honor.
Jindal's office has not provided details about the specific criteria for the award or what other businesses have been considered for the honor. The governor said the award would be given out periodically to "homegrown Louisiana businesses" that are expanding.
Here is a preview of the award ceremony.

The point is the people like that Duck thing.  The Duck thing liked wildcard conservative Vance McAllister. Therefore, the people spoke and McAllister knocked off Jindal's guy. And so now Jindal has moved toward the Duck... um... wing of the party.

This is textbook political responsiveness. But it's still pretty calculated.  Jindal would prefer to give out a bullshit award to a TV show rather than cave to any of McAllister's other demands like accepting Louisiana's share of the Medicaid expansion that was supposed to come with the Affordable Care Act.

Will that satisfy the super-empowered GOP fringe base?  Eric Cantor (even Eric Cantor!) couldn't supply them with enough blood.  And so they ate him.  That's the deal the Republicans have made in order to keep governing even though they are a national minority party according to popular vote. Every now and then someone gets thrown to the beast they've created.

Policywise, it works out great for them.  Party discipline is maintained because everyone is afraid of the fringe. The party's rigid intransigence guarantees it wins practically every meaningful showdown with the hapless Democrats.  The whole national program lurches ever rightward

Theoretically it should always work like this.
And usually it does. Keep the malcontents just riled up enough they'll support you even as you continue to screw them.  That's pretty much been the Republican formula for most of our lifetimes already. 

But still, there's an element of chaos involved that could always make for interesting mischief when a jerk like Eric Cantor has to crash and burn for the cause or when their wildcard candidates get a bit off-script.  Like, for example, McAllister on Medicaid. Or even this David Brat character here.
In his campaign against Cantor, Brat turned every issue into a morality tale about big business cheating ordinary Americans. He attacked Cantor for supporting the farm bill (“Do those billions of dollars go to the small American farmer? No, they go to huge agribusiness, right? Big business again.”), the flood-insurance bill (“Who does that go to? A lot of the money goes to gazillionaires on both coasts who have homes in nice real-estate locations.”), and the STOCK Act, an effort to stop insider trading by congressmen, which Cantor gutted by including an exception for spouses. In his Randall-inspired stump speech, Brat was more worked up about the STOCK Act than anything else. He promised, “If you tell your friends or neighbors about this issue, I will be your next congressman!”

Granted, at the core of Brat’s ideology is an unvarnished belief, one that does not maintain majority support in any recent national poll that I have encountered, that the government should return to its pre-New Deal roots. This is not surprising. He’s a libertarian. But his message, which today is being embraced by Tea Party candidates around the country, is also sharply different from the Romney-Ryan view of limited government celebrated by Republicans in 2012.
For the time being, though, Tea Party populism is boxed in in such a way that it only further serves the establishment cause. But, unlike the perpetually moribund and bought off left, the populists on the right are the only players with even  a slight chance of shaking things up. In many ways that's a frightening prospect but it might also be the closest thing to a hopeful prospect one can imagine right now. 

McAllister really should consider running for re-election.

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