America has awoken from the collective drunken stupor that was the government shutdown. Groggy, unclear about what happened in the last two weeks and wondering who it was that shut down the National Zoo’s Pandacam, the nation is longing for a bit of calm.
They’re not going to find it.
Like a college student who swears off alcohol after a bad night and is back at it the next week, we will find ourselves right where we started again soon enough.
The crisis was averted, but the structural factors that were behind it have remained untouched. The Republican Party is still hopelessly divided, a substantial chunk of the electorate still wants to destroy Obamacare by any means necessary and the larger question of the proper spending levels of government is still not solved, only pushed back a few months.
Most problematic, the precedent has now been set that trying to bring down the government is an acceptable way to deal with legislation that you don’t like.
In a normal system the voters could be counted on to reward the residents of Capitol Hill with one-way tickets home, but the worst offenders are safely protected by expertly gerrymandered districts and won’t be going anywhere.
Some have talked of a breakup of the Republican Party, but that is very unlikely. Our system is simply too harsh on third parties in its very structure. Were a hypothetical Tea Party to form it would definitely have congressional seats, but it would ensure that the White House and most of the senate stayed Democratic indefinitely. As anarchistic as much of the Tea Party is, most of them do realize that and will stay in the GOP.
Which means the Republican Civil War will rage on for quite some time. The more establishment types, namely the pro-business faction and the national security hawks, will be stuck in a party that they no longer recognize.
Since it will be a very cold day in hell before they defect to the Democrats, their only real option is to fight back.
Who can say who will win?
If the Republicans want to be anything more than a regional party 20 years from now, they better hope it’s the moderates. The two groups that the Tea Party has had the least success reaching have been minorities and the young. As those two groups happen to comprise the future of the American electorate, this should be setting off alarm bells in the American Right.
On a more immediate note, the debt ceiling has only been pushed off for a few months. Neither Democrats nor Republicans came out of this looking any more likely to compromise on major questions such as entitlement reform.
We can only keep pushing back the debt ceiling in increments of a few months for so long. At some point the problem will have to be solved for good. The fiasco of the last few weeks has done little to inspire hope that such a grand bargain on spending will be easy to agree on.
When shown the Versailles Treaty that ended the First World War, French General Ferdinand Foch famously prophesied that this treaty did not mean peace, but instead an armistice for 20 years.
Generalissimo Foch would say something very similar if shown the deal that raised the debt ceiling.
This isn’t peace at all. It’s an armistice until next time.