Tuesday, October 1, 2013

American Appendectomy

Let's put this government shutdown in its political and historical context. The Republican Party is extracting its revenge on a nation that has rejected them.

The Republican party is finished in national politics. In 2012, Barack Obama became the first president to win two consecutive elections with more than 51% of the vote since Dwight Eisenhower. Democrats in the Senate picked up two seats while defending twice as much territory as Republicans, who had an extraordinarily target-rich environment. House Democratic candidates received 5 million more votes than House Republican candidates nation-wide. Republican officials openly acknowledge that gerrymandering and voter suppression allowed them to retain a bare majority in the House.

The Republican Party is a rump party on the national level. They are a vestigial organ in the body politic.

Organs being organs, they don't have much in the way of incentive structure. But parties require money, power, and attention. Their constituent parts are desperate for oxygen (Eric Cantor is thrilled to be eluded to at all, even parenthetically). Can we explain the GOP shutdown in any terms other than a plea for relevance? A significant portion of the House Republican Caucus has taken it upon themselves to dump the American Government in the Emergency Room, even though it has bills to pay, and really doesn't have time for this shit, right now.

What America needs is a good surgeon, not necessarily to remove the Republican House Caucus, but to sever it. There are assuredly 30-40 reasonable Republicans who would prefer to see a functioning government than the current mess, and recognizes that the prerogatives of party are subordinate to the demands of democracy. They must revolt against the Tea Party, and its hostage, John Boehner. They must be supported by the realist (and reality-based) business constituency that has been the traditional first leg of the Republican party stool.

But what about removal? The most convincing path is Article I expulsion. Two thirds of either house may expel one of its own members. The cause seems lost in the House, where more than a third of the chamber is devoutly unsuited for office, and our nation's troubles have taken hold. However, Republican senators up for reelection in 2014 may see some advantage in jettisoning the tea party albatross, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz.

There is also the constitutionally dubious recall election. No federal officeholder has ever faced a recall election under state recall law (18 states allow some form of recall election). A Michigan court enjoined such an effort in 2007, and a federal court prevented the recall of a U.S. Senator from Idaho in 1967. These arguments all seem to be sourced from the same "Recall of Legislators and the Removal of Members of Congress" report penned by Jack Maskell of the Congressional Research Service in 2012 (pdf).

Speaker Boehner has manufactured an acute constitutional crisis, and one that is already costing the nation dearly. States and their constituents rely on federal services to complete their daily tasks. Workers and businesses are facing layoffs and furloughs due to Republican intransigence. The economic costs of this shutdown are just beginning to mount. The House needs to end this national appendicitis now, and it can do so by bringing a simple funding bill to the floor of the house. It may not get a majority of Republican votes, but it will get enough moderates and Democrats to keep America's lights on. John Boehner must put country first. If he doesn't, moderate Republicans can be forgiven if they engineer an American first - an effective no-confidence vote and an intra-session realignment of Congressional power. Moderate Republicans can't afford to not sideline the far-right fringe and depose their captive Speaker.

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