Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Apocalypse or Keystone Kops?

Today is either the beginning or the end.  It's hard to tell which will happen.  There will be no forecasts from me.  I gave my analysis a week and a half ago, with the only possible equilibrium outcome that John Boehner falls on his sword.  Nothing else is consistent with rationality.  But I've already been wrong about when (or if) this crisis will end.  My forecast in that post was for it to end last Friday.  The error light was lit with that one.

Since then I've read several apocalyptic visions.  One was by Gary Wills, who argued that we had secession in all but name before the Civil War, with the South over represented in Congress since 5 slaves counted as one person for apportioning representatives, and that the real deal happened only when new western states were admitted to the Union that would tip the balance the other way.  He then goes onto argue that in a replay of history, we've already had secession in all but name from the Tea Party reactionaries, who violate the law with impunity.  Even if the default debacle is somehow avoided, Wills analysis makes it seem as if we are steadily marching toward another great cataclysm.

Another was  by Elizabeth Drew, who points out the hidden culprit in the rise of the Tea Party - the apathy of the rest of the electorate.   She brings to light that voter turnout in midterm elections is very low, hovering above 40% of the electorate.  And here she is talking about what happens on election day.  She doesn't mention the primaries, but one has got to believe it is worse there.  When ordinary folks who are not so excited by the current regime stay away, in effect that is inviting the crazies to the party.  The gerrymandering may exacerbate the problem, but the first and foremost issue is that apart from the election of the President most people choose not to exercise the franchise.  If normalcy is to be restored, that must change.  The next midterms are a year off.  It will provide a good test case to see if the corner is turned.

There are many pieces today on the Keystone Kops interpretation of what happened yesterday, such as this one by Dana Milbank.  I'm hoping that John Boehner is smarter than he looks.  In this interpretation, he needed yesterday to set up today, and bring to the House floor whatever the Senate delivers, without getting a massive revolt on his right flank about his own leadership in response.  Now out of time, there is no other play left that makes sense.

But, of course, we could still end up going over a tremendously high cliff. 


Anonymous said...

From where you are living, I guess it looks like a crisis.

From over here, it looks like democracy at work.

John Beggs

Lanny Arvan said...

John - fortunately, it was resolved yesterday. Had it not been, that would have been a crisis.

Also on whether this is democracy at work or not, the approval of the Debt Ceiling is an odd business, since it is not about new legislation but simply verifies expenditures already implied by past legislation. From what I've read, most other democracies don't have anything like it.