Despite a strong aversion to anyone who brands themselves a conservative in 2013, I am really starting to like New York House Republican Peter King (not to be confused with “cantaloupe calf” idiot Steve King). King apparently has no qualms at all about refuting the claims of his party’s leadership in the interest of common sense. Despite endless G.O.P attempts to brand the current government shutdown as a development of Democratic choice, King will have none of it.
See King go toe to toe with Fox News host Chris Wallace this weekend, reminding the disingenuous network that Republicans “are the ones who shut down the government.” Listen to him blame treasonous Senator Ted Cruz for foisting a “strategy doomed to failure” on House lemmings. My enthusiasm is tempered of course by the fact that King has yet to agree to join Democrats in bringing up a clean continuing resolution for a House floor vote, but I wonder how long he can hold out. New York State is definitely not Tea Party territory, and for every safe and cozy gerrymandered Representative, there is a swing state House member that has to worry about his or her position in 2014.
There are other signs that the once quiet Republican moderate voice is converting to a dull roar. One of the lead stories featured in the New York Times this week, A G.O.P. Moderate in the Middle … of a Jam, evaluates the plight of Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Dent, who occupies the seat once held by unyielding conservative Senator Patrick J. Toomey, has demonstrated real leadership throughout this crisis. Last week he did the Tea Party unthinkable. Partnering with Democratic Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin, Dent rolled out a bill that would reopen the government with six months of spending. The proposal included a repeal of the ACA medical device tax but stopped far, far short of demanding the defund or repeal of the Obamacare horse that has already left the barn.
Then we have sometimes maverick Arizona Senator John McCain, who was ahead of the curve in March of this year when he labeled Cruz and fellow GOP obstructionist Rand Paul (among others) a crew of “wacko birds.”
Granted, these are just three voices and I join the chorus of many pundits at both ends of the political spectrum who assert that G.O.P. leadership owns much of the blame for this sorry state of affairs. By allowing themselves to be shoved so far to the right that the party is now hanging onto relevancy by the thinnest of threads, they exposed the entire country to the empowered bullying of extremists. But if there is any good to come from the shutdown and impending debt ceiling battle (and granted, it is precious little), I suspect that a coalition of humiliated Republican lawmakers are about to go all Farrah Fawcett from The Burning Bed on their cohorts.
Politico writer Manu Raju published a story last week about the party’s growing disenchantment, with Ted Cruz and his kamikaze tactics. “At a closed-door lunch meeting in the Senate’s Mansfield Room, Republican after Republican pressed Cruz to explain how he would propose to end the bitter budget impasse with Democrats, according to senators who attended the meeting. A defensive Cruz had no clear plan to force an end to the shutdown — or explain how he would defund Obamacare, as he has demanded all along, sources said.”
I know most of us are thinking, “Yeah, let me know when they start piling on Cruz in OPEN door meetings.” But as disapproval of Republican shutdown tactics surges to 70 percent and the stalemate continues with no end in sight, the dwindling caucus of sane G.O.P. leadership is bound to revolt. After all, 21st Century politics is all about the election cycle and dominating the news of the day. And with millions of workers displaced by the shutdown across party lines, with government tasks piling up and with mounting evidence that red states are faring worst of all in the stalemate, it won’t be long before high profile Republicans decided they’d like to try to keep their jobs, even as party mates cost taxpayers theirs.