We’ve spent some time examining the underlying historical and psychological reasons for Zombie Politics.
An additional bit of data came out today suggesting that liberal and conservative differences can be predicted by how our brains respond to risk. Fundamental physiological differences could determine political preferences. That further re-enforces wisdom of our founding fathers in setting up a government which requires compromise in order to function.
That still leaves the open question of what to do about the current problem where some conservative Republicans are so invested in their particular political views that they appear unable to compromise.
Fortunately, we live in a democracy where the majority of voters rejected the most recent Republican campaign based primarily on Zombie positions. Since politicians, just like the rest of us, share survival as a primary motivation; conservative politicians have already taken notice.
We’ve already seen John Boehner disciplining the worst Tea Party offenders in the House in an effort to regain control of that group.
Karl Rove has blamed the Zombie Politics of the Tea Party for the November Republican loss. He has pledged to run more moderate Republicans against Tea Party incumbents and protect moderate Republicans against primary attacks from the radical right.
The most recent example is Florida Governor Rick Scott reversing himself on the federally subsidized expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.
Scott built his political career on opposing Obamacare. His base of support has been the Tea Party.
He is clearly not the ideologue he has appeared to be. He made the calculation that he will gain more support from changing his position than he will lose. Florida Hospitals in particular were very concerned about how their costs would rise if Florida declined to participate in this expansion of Medicaid. So at the end of the day, Scott demonstrated that he wasn’t crazy after all. He was simply a politician taking advantage of whatever opportunities he could to stay in office. His erstwhile Tea Party backers are furious, but he has decided, just like Karl Rove, that it is time for him to move on.
Over the next several weeks we are going to see another sorting out of those who really are Zombies versus those who have simply been dressing up that way in order to avoid being eaten.
That’s because the Republicans are again poised to lose the battle over the sequester cuts. The Wash Post explains why very simply and it is reflected in this graph.
- Regular people have no idea what the sequester is right now and, even once it kicks in, aren’t likely to pay all that close of attention to it unless they are directly affected by it.
- Obama is popular with the American public
- Congress is not.
In fact, even cockroaches are more popular with the American public than Congress.
Pew Research confirms that almost half of the voters blame Republicans in Congress for the problem.
Given all of these facts, and the realities that even conservative politicians know all too well, why are Republicans still committed to what appears to be a suicide mission?
Republicans are still invested in the smaller government, low tax, cut spending philosophy that the American people rejected. They feel that they lost credibility in the tax hike compromise that was part of the fiscal cliff deal. If they cave now on sequester cuts, they fear that they will have lost whatever support they have left with their base. They are terrified of what Obama will do next if he wins this battle too. They also believe that they will be able to blame Obama for whatever economic damage the sequester cuts cause and perhaps ride that to a Senate majority in 2014.
The problem is that if they go through with their plan, it will not only backfire on them for the reasons listed above. It will re-enforce the majority view that conservative Republicans DO NOT have the best interests of the country at heart. It will further erode the whole conservative philosophy that government is bloated and wasteful. Instead, virtually every American will experience what life is like without the government services that we depend on and the underlying economic support that government spending provides. The most direct effect will be that unemployment jumps (it already has) as the economy continues to contract (it started in December). The stock market will tank. Air travel will slow. Major defense contracting states (mostly republican) will bear the brunt of the job losses. Meat and poultry prices will rise because of inspection shortages which will affect supply. Head Start classes would close. SBA loans would stop. Federal Research grants would stop. Grants supporting Mental Health treatment would stop. Courts will slow because of lack of investigators and attorneys. More first responders will lose their jobs. Tax return processing and refunds would slow.
Every American will discover that federal state and local governments do a lot of good things. They will discover that government is NOT bloated, inefficient, and wasteful. Government is not a collection of faceless uncaring bureaucrats. The government is us. It is our relatives, friends, and neighbors. They will discover that government is a vital part of everyday life and that the Republican vision of dramatically reducing the size of government is really a nightmare. And they will AGAIN punish Republicans in 2014 as they did in 2012 for intentionally damaging the economy for political purposes.