Because at this point, if Republicans are bending over backwards to please a militant, wild-eyed subspecies of ultra-conservatives, maybe we should just acknowledge who's actually in control of the Republican party (it's the militant, wide-eyed subspecies of ultra-conservatives). Oregon's only Republican representative apparently laid it all out at a fancy-pants lunch for rich people in September:
On a Monday last month, Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, met with some top GOP donors for lunch at Le Cirque on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The donors, a youngish collection of financial industry types and lawyers, had some questions for Walden, a mild-mannered lawmaker from eastern Oregon known for speaking his mind.
Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party—their party—seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.
“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.” (Via.)
Much has been made about how ineptly John Boehner's been handling all this, but it's worth remembering that despite the fact Republicans are responsible for this stunt, and will continue to bear responsibility the longer it goes (and the longer that their dreaded Obamacare keeps on rolling out), this is a party that isn't nearly as monolithic as its voting would imply. Let's take a quick flashback to the time just before the shutdown happened, when a few centrist Republicans tried to wave this thing off, Nic Cage-in-The Rock style:
As Monday afternoon slipped into evening, Boehner showed no sign of letting up. He turned aside a centrist effort by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) to block amendments to the Senate bill from coming to the House floor.
King earlier in the day had said that as of Saturday night, between 20 and 25 Republicans were prepared to buck any new attempts to hold up the spending bill with extraneous measures. But when the vote came to the floor, just six Republicans defected, and four of them were conservatives who felt Boehner was compromising too much.
“I don’t want to continue to be a facilitator for both a disastrous process and plan,” he told reporters, summarizing his remarks to his colleagues in a private meeting Monday afternoon. He said he told members that “there are too many who are living in their own echo chamber.”
King joked that after he was done speaking, Republicans responded with “overwhelming silence.”
After the vote, King said Boehner had personally asked wavering members to back him. The Speaker’s message, he said, was: “Trust him. It will work out.” (Via.)
And work out it has!
I'd like to say that the long the shutdown goes—and the longer that Republicans try to figure out some way to save face—the better the chances are that these guys will get voted out when they're up for reelection. That assumes two things: (1) That American voters' memories are that long (they usually aren't), and (2) That centrist Republicans won't have a moment of clarity in which they realize they have to do something to curb the influence of the Tea Party if they want it to continue functioning. A while ago, I would have said (2) was out of the question, but all the heat Republicans are getting (and will continue to get) for the shutdown, it might not be.