When the it comes to the government shutdown, Democrats are all on the same page -- they've grudgingly accepted extremely low spending levels; they've not making any new or extraneous demands; and they see no need to take Americans' health care benefits away to satisfy a bizarre far-right crusade.
Are Republicans equally unified? Not so much. A fair number of House Republicans see this tantrum as pointless and are ready to end this fiasco; quite a few Senate Republicans have no idea what party leaders are thinking; and no one in the party has any sense at this point of what GOP officials are supposed to do next.
And then there are Republican donors, some of whom are wondering why they should write checks to reward these policymakers. David Freedlander reported yesterday on a recent fundraising event in New York, where Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, fielded questions from wealthy supporters.
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."
Remember, this wasn't a Democrat condemning the Republican Party for having been hijacked by extremists; this was a Republican leader offering a defense for his party's radical tactics.
GOP lawmakers could be responsible, keep the government open, and tell Tea Partiers to grow up, but Republican members of Congress are too afraid of primaries to do the right thing. So, they allow themselves to be pushed around.
The problem, of course, is there's a tipping point at which less-unhinged Republican voters decide they've seen enough and walk away. Indeed, in this case, Walden's explanation hasn't won over skeptical donors at all.
Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based businessman who was a major donor to both of George W. Bush's presidential campaigns, told the Daily Beast, "I am not writing a check to anyone. That is not working for the American people." Munr Kazmir, a New Jersey-based businessman and major donor to George W. Bush, added, "I have raised a lot of money, but I am not raising any more for House candidates. I am angry. I am embarrassed to be a Republican sometimes, I tell you."
For what it's worth, there's occasional talk of a moderate GOP rebellion.
As the shutdown stretches on, a bloc of moderate House Republicans could be the key to reopening government.On Wednesday, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, held meetings with groups of "pragmatist" lawmakers -- as Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., described them -- who want to pass a policy-rider-free continuing resolution and end the government shutdown as soon as possible. [...]It isn't fast enough for Rep. Peter T. King of New York, who was one of the most vocal House Republicans criticizing the party's strategy as the government headed to a shutdown.King wasn't invited to any of Boehner's moderate meetings Wednesday, so he held his own. King said he met in his office with roughly 10 members who support a clean CR, and they discussed "what the strategy would be."
It sounds nice, I suppose, but we appear to be talking about less than 5% of the House Republican caucus, and so far, they've demonstrated a complete inability to influence the debate in any way.