Political Animal


December 24, 2011 11:10 AM Understanding ‘suicidal’ political episodes

By Steve Benen

It wasn’t a great week for congressional Republicans, who ended up hurting themselves twice — they looked bad fighting to raise middle-class taxes, and then looked worse caving when the heat was on.

Jon Chait argued this week that GOP policymakers were so far around the bend, they looked politically “suicidal.”

The payroll tax debacle is now the third suicidal episode undertaken by the House Republicans since they took control of it at the beginning of the year. The first was when they voted almost unanimously for Paul Ryan’s budget, which was filled with grist for attack ads — huge cuts to Medicare, big tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulating Wall Street — despite it having no chance of passing this term.

The second was when they played chicken with the debt ceiling and turned a once-routine procedure into a white-knuckle game of chicken with the world economy.

And then this week, when they attempted to extract concessions in return for extending the payroll tax holiday, an anti-recessionary measure with strong support from economists, businesses, and voters. These are not just gestures. The right-wingers are really trying to off themselves.

I found all of this quite compelling, but it got me thinking about why Republicans, especially in the House, would be so cavalier about their own electoral futures. Usually, elected politicians want to win re-election, and take some steps while in office that voters will respect and appreciate. As part of the efforts that make it seem as if GOP officials “really trying to off themselves” politically, congressional Republicans appear to be making themselves less popular, almost on purpose.

Why on earth would they do this? I’ve been kicking around a few theories.

1. Republican lawmakers assume voters aren’t paying any attention. Politicians can get away with quite a bit if they think the public won’t know either way.

2. They assume Democrats, when faced with any pressure at all, will invariably surrender and give Republicans whatever they demand. That’s generally not a bad strategy, but it failed miserably in the fight over the payroll tax cut.

3. They assume the media will, under all possible circumstances, continue to tell the public “both sides” are always to blame for everything. This, too, is a pretty safe bet, but when even Republican media outlets turn against the GOP (take the Wall Street Journal editorial page, for example), this starts to fail.

4. They fear primary challengers. Under this model, Republicans know their extremism will offend the American mainstream, but if they’re defeated by even-more-conservative primary opponents, their careers are over anyway.

5. They figure major right-wing money — from the Koch Brothers, Crossroads GPS, assorted Super PACs, etc. — will come in before the election, destroy their Democratic challengers, and keep them in office no matter what they vote for.

6. They’re just nuts.

Why else would congressional Republicans take such breathtaking risks with their own electoral fortunes?

Update: Paul Krugman argues that I missed one: “reliable conservatives are assured of a safe landing even if they are defeated,” thanks to “wingnut welfare.” It’s a good point.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • e on December 24, 2011 11:14 AM:

    Inhaling your own exhaust for a prolonged period causes brain damage.

  • dweb on December 24, 2011 11:15 AM:

    Because they are ideological zealots who believe they were sent to Congress by God to root out corruption and Godlessness and a system they believe gives away too much to people who feed off a "system" they want to destroy and grind into dust.

    With this kind of view, they are frantic to complete the dismantling now that they have, however fleeting, enough power to control that system.

    And because they are so zealous, they blindly believe that much of the country supports their views. Too many of those who elected them to office had no idea what they were doing. Now they are waking up and what they are learning, they do not like. Tea Party values are steadily losing ground in poll after poll.

    The "reformers" if you can call them that, have peaked and are now in the decline. Their influence will not totally disappear and they will continue to be a force for chaos and mayhem for some time to come.

  • internet tough guy on December 24, 2011 11:16 AM:

    7. They assume that Americans hate Obama as much as they do.

  • reidmc on December 24, 2011 11:17 AM:

    5 - 4 - 6 - 2
    And you forgot 7. Even a little power can make a politician delusional.

  • wab on December 24, 2011 11:17 AM:

    8. They live in a bubble and believe Fox News and all the other standard right wing crazies in the media.

  • R on December 24, 2011 11:21 AM:

    9. Some or all of the above, plus they live in districts that always go Republican, so they don't see much risk from Democrats.

  • Stuart Shiffman on December 24, 2011 11:22 AM:

    A pinch of each mixed well together. Bottom line---progressives must fight them with logic and votes. Reclaiming our democracy will not be easy but we can do it!

  • DRF on December 24, 2011 11:23 AM:

    Many of the hard-core Tea Party Congressmen are true believers in their ideology. They may not be well-informed, some of them are obviously not too bright, but they believe. It doesn't hurt that most of them also represent solid Republican districts, where there biggest risk is a primary challenge.

  • tcinaz on December 24, 2011 11:33 AM:

    Because they operate in a closed information loop, they believe their own nonsense. Most specifically, they believe Obama and dems are the ultimate evil, and that they were divinely chosen to fight that evil on all levels at all times. Believe that nonsense and you can't act any differently. Too them this is Armageddon, a battle to the death, thus the suicidal behavior.

  • Josef K on December 24, 2011 11:34 AM:

    Here's another possibility:

    They're such idiots, they really, honestly think wrecking the US government is a good idea. They've embraced the who "smaller government" meme, without really understanding most of what government does or how interconnected everything is.

    Sure, they like their salaries, benefits, and the corporate money that've come to them. And perhaps a few even grasp how dependent all those are upon the continued functioning of government. But overall? It strikes me the current Republican caucus is worryingly ignorant of the basics of American governance and the international system.

    I'm putting it down to Occum's Razor.

  • c u n d gulag on December 24, 2011 11:39 AM:


    All of the above.

    Including fellow commenter's contributions.

    Ok, who's got my Gibberish dictionary?

    How am I supposed to make out what CRAPTCHA wants without my Gibberish dictionary?

  • hells littlest angel on December 24, 2011 11:41 AM:

    The Republican party has come to be dominated by what you could politely call "low-information Congressmen" -- Louie Gohmert, Joe Walsh, Virginia Foxx, Michele Bachmann, Eric Cantor, etc.

    You know, dumbfucks.

  • Texas Aggie on December 24, 2011 11:41 AM:

    I'll go with those who say that several things are operating at once.

    First, they live in a Fox Tea Party bubble so they really don't know what is going on and think that more voters agree with them than actually do.

    Second, they know that primaries are more important in solid red districts than general elections and that more crazies vote in primaries than sane people. This also has the Darwinian function of selecting for the real shatbit crazies. See number four below.

    Third, they aren't mature enough to let their brains rule their emotions and therefore, the hate and the dogma easily overcome common sense.

    Fourth, some of them are just shatbit crazy. I give you Gohmert, King, and Bachmann as prime examples but there are many others.

    And finally, they really DO want to destroy our approximation of democracy and institute an authoritarian police state/theocracy where the powerful rule and the proletariat does what it's told and keeps its mouth shut.

  • c u n d gulag on December 24, 2011 11:42 AM:

    Oh, and if you spilled something on my Gibberish dictionary, that'll be ok!

    Letters melting into one another, or blotted out, will only make CRAPTCHA's latest Rorschack-test-like efforts all the easier to make out.


  • Robert on December 24, 2011 11:47 AM:

    Self deception. "The Folly of Fools" Trivers, Robert, Basic books 2011

  • JD on December 24, 2011 11:51 AM:

    It seems pretty simple to me: these folks are fanatics who, like all fanatics, don't even consider that those who disagree with them may do so in good faith. They are good, all others are evil. Therefore, they must continue to advocate the purest form of their Tea Party ideology at all times.

  • beb on December 24, 2011 11:53 AM:

    I think it's because no matter how crazy they may appear Republicans can expect to get 40% of any election vote. The trick then becomes how to increase their share by 11% or decrease voters by 11%. In this world reality-based governance is not a requirement.

  • pillsy on December 24, 2011 11:56 AM:

    I think they're just dumb. They had no idea that the Ryan Plan was straight up box office poison, because they have no idea that people actually like and rely on Social Security and Medicare. Then they went into the debt ceiling fight and took a great hostage more or less by accident, because they weren't clever enough to understand that intentionally defaulting on our debt would be an incredibly bad idea. They just knew they took a hostage and made the President look weak.

    So they take a totally different hostage with the payroll tax holiday, and are probably still confused as to why it didn't work.

  • Gretchen on December 24, 2011 11:56 AM:

    This is a question I keep asking myself, and my Congressman's office. This district was represented by a Democrat for 10 years, until he retired shortly before the last election. It's not a tea-party district, but we're usually good for a far-right primary challenge. But our new Congressman has gone full-on teaparty, and no Democrat has announced yet to challenge him, so we may be stuck with him no matter how ridiculous his positions.

  • oruacat2 on December 24, 2011 11:58 AM:

    They're confident that the nationwide campaign to disenfranchise Democratic voters will counter any bad PR.

  • xpatriate on December 24, 2011 11:58 AM:

    @e--ye-ha! Inhaling their own exhaust while watching Braveheart.

  • DAY on December 24, 2011 11:58 AM:

    just by pulling the voting lever one takes on ownership of the politician. And human nature being what it is, they are loathe to admit having made a mistake.
    You forgive you children, but not your neighbor's.

    Note to management: If you don't want us to comment, then just close down the section. Many, MANY other sites have quite simple "captcha" hoops, and seem to survive.

  • Not Anonymous on December 24, 2011 12:03 PM:

    I think they're doing this as part of a (if you can believe it); as part of a long range plan to destabilize and delegitimatize the government. The other part of the plan (conspiracy) was to artificially depress the US economy (which the corporate overlords were more than happy to do in the summer of 2008). Both are tactics which is supposed to lead to: 1) widespread public distrust of the government and 2) a populace that is desperate and willing do anything. All that is needed is a 24/7 propaganda machine to continually pound the lies into the American psyche (brainwashing).

    All of this would be hauntingly familiar to anyone that lived in Germany post WW1; as they witnessed Hitler rise to power by similar means. A notable exception and major flaw in the Republican plan is that artificially suppressing the economy to create desperate conditions similar to those in post WW1 Germany was woefully misguided and impossible. Although, it came close to actually happening and their efforts have left copious scars across this country.

    So is it really the Republican plan or is there something else behind it? Yeah - you don't need to look any further than Christian Dominionists. They are the puppet masters of the Republicans and Tea Party Zealots. Seriously, the apparent political suicide of the GOP is probably not an accident. Now that a lot of things are coming into focus and patterns are becoming apparent, fascism is (I think) making a play at taking over this country. They didn't go away after WW2 - they went underground and settled comfortably right here in the USA. I think once you see their true colors you will see them everywhere - if not in the flesh, certainly in spirit and in the deeds they're doing. They feel the time is right to make their move; they're hoping that the population has become ignorant enough of world history that they can breathe life into this hideous monster without anyone noticing.

    Try to explain the racism, the extreme brand of Christianity, the highly militarized culture post 9/11. Explain the xenophobia and open class warfare pitting American against American. How does abortion and gay marriage and immigration all of the sudden hijack the political intercourse every single time we need to be focused on more critical issues?

    Either this is a conspiracy of grand proportions or these people are completely fucking insane. Probably both actually. Thanks for listening.

  • MuddyLee on December 24, 2011 12:11 PM:

    Did anybody consider "possessed by demons" as a reason for the repub-tea-party craziness? I mean Palin's church in Alaska did have that preacher come in from Kenya (a Kenyan influence that the mainstream media has not talked about enough) and do some sort of service that was supposed to protect Palin from demons and witchcraft.

  • Bleh on December 24, 2011 12:14 PM:

    All 7 probably have some truth to them, but there's a BIG one missing.

    All the polling data show that Republican VOTERS -- and especially the"base," who are the most likely to vote in primaries -- see it as a PRINCIPAL virtue when Congressmen "stand up" for their principles, even if the principles or ideas are foolish.

    In other words, it's a "character" issue, and the substance AND the politics are secondary. It's all about "standing up" to the hated libruls and the Kenyan Usurper.

  • Anonymous on December 24, 2011 12:28 PM:

    good vs evil, black vs white, liberal vs conservative, christian vs EVERYONE. There is no compromise. Nuts, plain f'ing nuts...or dumbfucks if you prefer.

  • majun on December 24, 2011 12:41 PM:

    Most of your theories are OK (I go for number 6 myself), but this one is completely off base:

    "5. They figure major right-wing money — from the Koch Brothers, Crossroads GPS, assorted Super PACs, etc. — will come in before the election, destroy their Democratic challengers, and keep them in office no matter what they vote for."

    Most of the Tea Party Caucus in the House actually believe their own propaganda - that they won election based on a popular uprising and they are the standard bearers. They don't realize that a lot of their victory came based on money spent by big donors who, along with on the ground organization supplied by people like Dick Armey. The fact of Sharron Angle, Christine O'Connell, and NY 23 were momentary aberrations. They are secure in the knowledge that they best represent the hopes and desires of the "real" Americans. And, by their definition, they do - since anyone who doesn't think the way they do isn't a "real" American. So, from their perspective, the money doesn't matter because they have right on their side. Why do you think they call them the "right wing"?

    The Koch Brothers, Rove, and the other purveyors of Super PAC money have to be crapping in their pants by now, realizing that they elected a loose cannon Congress in 2010, and if they don't get a GOP nominee who they think they can control, look for them to be spending some of their money in strange places.

  • Texas Aggie on December 24, 2011 12:41 PM:

    Another comment on craptcha: Go to some of the associated blogs (Mark Kleiman, Harold Pollack) and you find that craptcha isn't protecting from anything. There is spam from some jerk selling clothes.

    A better solution would be to drop captcha and institute a system where spam can be deleted.

  • TCinLA on December 24, 2011 12:51 PM:

    I'll go mostly with 5 and 6, with the following addition:

    These people are "movement conservatives," i.e., True Believers of the most fundamentalist type (politically and religiously) and they say they will "do the right thing" regardless, as a way of demonstrating their "True Commitment to the Truth" - and their fellow church-of-the-movement members will think better of them for doing so, so they will continue to get votes from the other True Believers.

    You have to recall that these people live in an alternative universe to the rest of us.

  • desertflower on December 24, 2011 1:02 PM:

    Couple all these great reasons with unadulterated arrogance, and you now have the complete package for Republican behavior disorder.

  • Anonymous on December 24, 2011 1:07 PM:

    I vote for 1, 5 and 6.

    The press, is very 'whorish' and eventually if enough public sentiment does go against them (I know, I know it already has, with their 9% approval rating), they will simply have to stop giving them every 'win' and every 'benefit of the doubt.' People are also catching on to false equivalency.

    But: the single most important reason is that they fully believe that Koch/Rove money will buy them the next election as it did the last. Everything they do is to please Herren Koch: even Romney's ridiculous anti-commie rhetoric is designed to please the big Brothers.

    and yes, they are completely nuts if they believe that the Kochs have enough money and patience to see all of them all the way through the next election.

  • tomb on December 24, 2011 1:09 PM:

    They live in a bubble where everyone agrees with them except socialists and those brainwashed by the "lame-stream media." They have a limited understanding because they have limited knowledge, getting most of their information from Fox.

  • exlibra on December 24, 2011 1:21 PM:

    Totally OT, but priceless and almost worth trying to fight the blasted Craptcha: Gingrich has not, after all the bragging, qualified for the Virginia ballot:

  • antiquelt on December 24, 2011 1:31 PM:

    they are bat shit crazy!

  • schtick on December 24, 2011 1:38 PM:

    Face it, this blog isn't big enough to for the whole list, but you've made a good start.

    crapcha....whichead was....was what?

  • tolkien on December 24, 2011 1:45 PM:

    Another reason might be that voters tend to have short memories, and what is done a week or a month before the election will have far greater impact on voting behavior then what occurred a year before the election.

    And yet another reason might be because the average voter will not have time to track exactly who did what and will tend to vote based on whether things are generally going well for him, or not, and who he perceives is currently in power. Since democrats control the white house and the senate it might be reasonable to assume that they are in power and if things go badly for the average voter he might vote the democrats out fo office. based on this scenario, the Republicans' chances of getting elected hinge greatly on how badly they can manage to tank the US economy.

  • Ken D. on December 24, 2011 1:48 PM:

    Unfortunately, they are pretty much all effective -- don't say "good" -- reasons for those so inclined. Unless and until the electorate collectively jacks up its game, American democracy is in trouble.

  • Jason L on December 24, 2011 2:13 PM:

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned a very obvious reason: Obama.

    Many republicans in Congress seem to believe their job is not to help govern the country, but to deny the President ANY victory, no matter how small or inconsequential. The people who are actually affected by these policies are barely even considered in these simple equations: Embarrassment or suffering for Obama = Good. Letting the president advance his agenda = Bad.

    Hell, even Mitch McConnell—who is much more of a sober strategist than most of the House Republican lunatic fringe—has said on-record that the Republicans' main agenda is to defeat Obama in '12. It's not surprising that some House members have taken that idea attached themselves to it with cult-like devotion. Not surprising at all.

  • liam foote on December 24, 2011 2:24 PM:

    All are valid points, but the outside spending is likely the most important. In the wake of Citizens United, the Rove-Koch machine was able to target and fund attacks on any Dem seen as vulnerable. Dem voters, dispirited by Mr. Obama having given in on a succession of issues, particularly extension of the Bush tax cuts, stayed home in 2010, shaking their heads at his continued attempts to be inclusive, only to be rebuffed at every turn.

    Meanwhile, a tsunami of Rove-Koch attacl slime pervaded the airways, convincing many independents to turn against the Dems. GOP has always been good at this and now, flush with millions of dollars of anonymous cash, managed to even take out some Dems who should have easily been elected. As a native Badger and Cheesehead, I was astounded to see Sen. Feingold fall victim to this dynamic.

    So, yes, the House wingnuts are expecting the same in 2012, as are many in GOP statehouses and legislatures throughout the land. But their extremism and arrogant overreach will not be tolerated in the future as we have learned our lesson. Turnout will be higher with Dem voters ansd the independents and GOP moderates won't be fooled again. Meet the new boss ...

  • SW on December 24, 2011 3:14 PM:

    They're on drugs.

  • Cha on December 24, 2011 3:24 PM:

    Yes, all of them and they have Kochs breathing down their necks. If they can make them they can sure as hell BREAK them.

  • Rick B on December 24, 2011 3:52 PM:

    The Goldwater supporters, facing a great deal of negative press, explained why they kept on doing the stuff everyone was yelling about. In their hearts they know they are right!

    That's what the "Braveheart" idiocy has been all about. They are each the heroes in their own play and they know the arc of the story. They, the protagonist, will face mounting challenges that build quickly and seem insurmountable. Then, at the last minute, their superior character and knowledge, and perhaps a surprise change in the rules they are working on, will allow them to win out over their enemies.

  • Rick B on December 24, 2011 4:45 PM:

    @hells littlest angel - have you noticed that all the "low-information Congressmen" are being elected by members of evangelical churches and are being funded by wealthy conservatives Like Bob Perry of Texas?

    They all come from districts in which there is no real political reporting, also. This is what happened when the Reagan administration stopped enforcing anti-trust on city newspapers and allowed the stronger one to buy up the weaker ones and shut them down. The result was a single newspaper per city that reported what the local developers wanted and no one vetting up and coming politician.

    @Not Anonymous [12:03 PM] - I agree with you that a lot of it is the Christian Dominionists. They hate the social changes in the last 4 decades and demand that they be reversed. They want the eggs unscrambled and reassembled neatly, with everyone recognizing their rank in society and no one making waves.

    Also, the new politicians who have been elected in recent years often are elected on the basis that they do not understand or like politics as usual and want it destroyed. They are extremists playing the "If it's not perfect and my way we'll destroy the whole system and start over!" game. That plays well to low information voters frightened for their future.

    The extreme brand of 'christianity' is where people retreat when socially nothing is working in their favor and they fear for their future. The racism is a tradition of blaming the outsider for the bad things happening to you - and the extremist fundamentalist churches play that up a lot. The anti-gay rhetoric is part of this also. And low-information people who feel out of their depth and out of control try to regain control by focusing on control of sex, woman and children. Reject the outsiders and the different; and gain control of the women and their sexuality and things will turn out alright. That seems to be built into human beings at a level below thought.

    The conspiracy is there, too. The wealthy financial predators - especially the major banks - have had three very good decades of predatory lending, elimination of usury rates, hidden fees, outright theft and graft and all kinds of financial predations. Then there is the whole predatory industry of payday loans, IRS rapid refund "loans", high-interest car loans and title loans, stacked on top of the shenanigans the big banks have been pulling with their multiple fees and unreadable "agreement" documents filled with fine print and financial booby traps.

    I agree with you. This is a conspiracy of grand proportions and these people are really whacked out crazy. Worse, they think this is normal.

    @Bleh - Yeah. 'Standing up for principle in the face of adversity until after many defeats you finally win' is the mark of the ideological zealot. It can focus on any ideology - religious, political or economic. The soviet Communists were experts at it, and like American conservatives, when you failed it means you were not (communist/conservative/religious) enough. The solution to failure is to redouble your efforts doing the same (self-defeating wrong) things.

    This post and the comments generally are quite good.

  • MNRD on December 24, 2011 4:47 PM:

    I have a different theory. Republicans believe that even if they get clobbered in a given electoral cycle, let's say 1992 or 2008, that they'll come roaring back in, let's say 1994 or 2010, and meanwhile they've pushed the country further and further to the right. So they figure that even if they do wind up getting clobbered in 2012, they'll come roaring back in 2014. And when Republican lawmakers do lose elections they can count on their wealthy cronies to ensure that they make plenty of money to compensate for being out of office. So as long as they make sure that their wealthy cronies get as big of a slice of the pie as possible, they've got it covered whether they win or lose a particular electoral contest. That would explain why they would engage in seemingly suicidal behavior in order to increase the spoils for the 1%.

  • SW on December 24, 2011 5:03 PM:


  • Anonymous on December 24, 2011 5:39 PM:

    MNRD, your theory might make sense in regards to those financing the Republican Party but, in my opnion, falls way short in explaining the current crop of Republican candidates/Representatives/Senators. Or their state and local equivalents.
    My explanation for them follows Josef K's, they're stupid. They may have the ability to make money or be related to someone who DID have that ability and that is all that matters to them. They have interest in HOW government is supposed to work or, worse yet, WHY and they have no intention of learning. What are they, a bunch of school kids?
    Add their appallng lack of knowledge and information to their complete lack of any imagination and you end up with people who don't THINK they're right, they KNOW it!
    And Heaven help anyone who gets in their way...

  • j on December 24, 2011 6:01 PM:

    So Romney has a huge charitable trust that he uses to funnel (buy) into conservative causes, $100,000.00 to the Bush library and also a huge donation to a catholic school who'se challenging Obama's health care law in the courts, there are others, he really is buying friends, endorsements etc, this man is a fanatic for his longing to be president he has been buying his way there for the last 6 years.

  • Gwen Killerby on December 24, 2011 6:46 PM:

    I was gonna say "Steve, don't be silly, they do this because they KNOW their crazy voters AND the Big Corp media will let them get away with it. With whatever, except agreeing with anything Obama."

    But you've covered that one already.

  • SW on December 24, 2011 7:12 PM:

    The little radios in their dental fillings.

  • RD Padouk on December 24, 2011 7:38 PM:

    I think that they honestly believe that they are doing the right thing. Remember that fixation with "Braveheart"? I believe this was very telling. They honestly see this as a heroic quest. And I respect the power of this. I just think that it is extremely dangerous. History has shown that when one mixes self-mythology and government, the results are seldom good.

  • Rosali on December 24, 2011 11:24 PM:

    They have convinced many, many voters to vote against their economic interests. They have middle class voters believing that the so-called death tax will affect them personally, that Dems want to increase taxes on everyone, not just the $250k, that Dems want to tax them to give welfare to "undeserving" lazy minorities. I have a hard time understanding how repealing "Obamacare" is a popular platform when, surely, they or someone in their circle has experience a health insurance nightmare.

  • smike on December 25, 2011 12:11 AM:

    The last two, plus Krugman.

  • John on December 25, 2011 1:05 AM:

    The problem with explanations 1-5 is that it seems like the sane, calculating Republican politicians like Boehner and McConnell are mostly being dragged along by the nuts. It seems harder to credit a rational, calculating explanation when the rational, calculating types in the Republican Party generally seem to prefer different methods.

  • Big tuna on December 25, 2011 2:13 AM:

    One other thing.... Many are first time candidates who are not professional politicians. Many of these guys don' t care, or, at least initially, didn't care about getting re elected bc they have something to do if they got turfed. At least that was the theory. And by not coming up thru city councils, state legs., etc, they do not understand palimentery procedure, policy issues, etc., and do not care about institutional protocol, etc.

    Bill Clinton also theorized that most members are also dog tired all the time, raising money, flying to their districts every weekend, etc. many do not have families with them. So, as opposed to the old days, when congressmen went to dc with their families, and did stuff with other congressmen, and stayed in dc, they now never talk to the other side; never do functions with the other side, are always hustling the press whores, getting in their sound nuggets, etc.

    From what I see and read, damn few of these republican clowns have any knowledge of, or interest in, governing, developing policy, etc.

    Merry christmas

  • bob h on December 25, 2011 7:13 AM:

    8. They may genuinely feel uninterested in becoming long term fixtures in DC if they cannot carry out the goals they have set, however misguided. They probably prefer to return to whatever form of small-town Babbitry they were in before the Tea Party rather than sell out.

  • bluestatedon on December 25, 2011 7:36 AM:

    #11 (or whatever): A large percentage of teabagging GOPers are Christianists who believe that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden 5,000 years ago. If you're capable of believing that, it's easy to believe that cutting SS and Medicare, letting GM go under, eliminating the EPA and the FDA, and slashing taxes for the uber-wealthy are broadly popular positions.

  • SW on December 25, 2011 8:45 AM:

    Ancient Aliens

  • James Kusz on December 25, 2011 9:17 AM:

    It does seem suicidal but it as if they know it doesn't matter. Is it their confidence in voter suppression, hacking of voting machines or confidence in dirty tricks to come. Would Karl allow so many to be cavalier?
    Keep alert!

  • Steve P on December 25, 2011 10:10 AM:

    Reality distortion fields?
    Paul Ryan is a publicly practicing Catholic--it's in his publicity and all. He also requires his staffers to read "Atlas Shrugged"--a world of dramatic "philosphy" by a "philosopher" whose contempt for religion in general and the tenets of Christianity specifically are very well known.
    How does he reconcile this conflict?

    Anyone? Bueller?

    "Like all inconvenient truths, he ignores it."


  • George Conk on December 25, 2011 10:52 AM:

    3 - the media will blame both sides comes closest to explaining the strategy of NO. At bottom it is that hardball (routinization of the filibuster, no tax increases, new expenditures paid for by cuts, etc。)pays off by weakening the incumbent Democratic president. Chris Christie said just the other day that Obama is "the weakest president" he can remember. The strategy of NO is having its desired effect. (Though underestimating Obama is a dangerous error.)

  • Alex White on December 25, 2011 12:18 PM:

    I think the only way to create jobs is to solve problems with economically viable solutions. I'm following this guy in Austin, TX Andrew West. He's taking on entire industries - energy, agriculture, education and construction. I met him a few years ago and I think he's very bright. Maybe the rest of us should try to solve a few problems.

    Have a look: http://www.Solutioneur.com

  • Michael on December 25, 2011 2:19 PM:

    Many of the House Republicans are millionaires. Losing the election will allow most to go back to their businesses. Winning the next election will allow these millionaires to continue to protect their own wealth and collect more salary and benefits on the taxpayer's dime. Only in America!

  • Daryl McCullough on December 25, 2011 2:26 PM:

    There is nothing "suicidal" about the positions of Republicans. Republican Senators and Congressmen keep getting re-elected in their reliably red states, so there is no reason for them to moderate their messages.

  • Davd on December 25, 2011 5:33 PM:

    Krugman's point underwhelms. Wingnut welfare is hardly an animating factor for the behavior of the AVERAGE House Republican. A senator or House committee chair, okay. But the average GOP freshman who was just elected last year? Not so much.

  • DS on December 26, 2011 2:02 AM:

    They have bought into the delusion that "government is the source of our problems". It's a simple idea, in line with their preferred black-and-white thinking, and helps them avoid doing the heavy lifting, actually struggling to figure out how to resolve the many problems we face.

    The fundamentalist mind is uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, with having to figure things out for ourselves, with not having a simple map to follow. So the "shut it down, starve the beast" approach is a way of wishing it would all go away, that all our challenges and difficulties will just take care of themselves.

    It is fundamentally dishonest and an avoidance of responsibility.

    [Aside for the religious among us: Instead of showing faith their approach actually betrays a profound lack of faith that God actually cares enough about us to let us figure this stuff out by ourselves. ]

  • SW on December 26, 2011 10:22 AM:

    The Freemasons

  • Norbert on December 26, 2011 10:50 AM:

    Lots of contributing factors in the article and comments but there is something else too. This discussion is a little too focused on the nature of the reps. themselves and their motivations -- but there are much larger forces at work. Teaparty politicians actually in some represent a large constituency (not the interest of these electors, mind you). It's not really that freshman Republican congressmen, suddenly being handed some power, make outlandish decisions when presented with various opportunities -- they are merely voting the way they said they would and the way lots of voters in their districts want. So you need to look at the people who elect them and therefore bigger economic/social forces.

    In a period of economic contraction, and I don't mean just since 2008, people search for explanations & solutions and turn to more radical options. It's akin to polarization, except with only 1 pole in this case (the left having moved into the space formally occupied by the right, and the right having shifted to the "batshit" right). This rightward shift in policy has worked brilliantly for the 1% and been a disaster for, oh, 90% -- and the problem with the teaparty is that they are angry, have misdiagnosed the situation (false consciousness, etc.) and have concluded they need to move still further to the right, and the cycle continues.

    I'll just add too that if you take a wider historical view, progressivism was waxing for a large chunk of the 20th century, certainly since FDR, and we have the misfortune to be living in a long dark reactionary period that began around 1980. The pendulum could eventually swing back, likely after our lifetimes, as long as the pigs don't literally destroy humanity in the meantime.

    Christmas cheer!

  • Bruce Langston on December 27, 2011 12:09 PM:

    One other possibility, and the cynic in us makes this hard to believe, is that they believe they are doing the right thing.

    I don't think what they're doing is the right thing, but I think that they do is a distinct possibility.