The government shutdown and possible debt limit fiasco -- I think it more likely than not that Republicans will precipitate a default -- just reinforce the difficulty I am having with grappling with the day to day of politics at this point. I have a difficult time even going online these days and have retreated to old-fashioned things like reading books and going to movies instead. The problem is, at least as it looks to me from here, is that there is not going to be any end to this madness any time soon. In short, I do not see Republicans moving in meaningful ways on these kinds of issues any time soon. Indeed, the complete and utter triumph of the nihilistic right within the GOP means that those elements within the Party who are still contesting the New Deal are going to be in the driver's seat for the foreseeable future.
Despite the fact that in the aggregate the positions they are taking are unpopular with the public, it is doubtful that there will be meaningful electoral consequences to the right for quite some time. Nothing suggests that the Republicans will face a serious threat to their House majority in 2014 and it is quite plausible that they may take back the Senate. I suspect that they will fall short, but gain seats, the kind of outcome that will continue to reinforce this obdurate behavior. Should the Democrats win the presidency in 2016 -- always an uphill fight after two presidential terms -- it may prompt some sobriety in GOP circles, but I suspect that in the House that no great change will occur, even if they lose their majority, which I think remains unlikely. The sorting of Americans into like-minded political enclaves and the increasing correlation between cultural and political identity in this country suggest to me that white rural and exurban Americans will continue to overwhelmingly back Republicans in the near term.
As a result, I don't think that we will see a truly meaningful shift in the electoral balance of power until demographic changes really take hold and new congressional districts drawn after 2020. In the meantime, look to the right wing to try and grind down progressive opposition by using obstructionist tactics and voter suppression in an attempt to discourage political participation and the belief that politics can be a meaningful path to better the lives of ordinary people.
In other words, I think that today just marks one in a series of likely governing crises that will become the norm over the next several years, particularly if the Democrats continue to hold the presidency. A gutless and mentally flabby mainstream media will continue to engage in Chuck Todd-esque neutrality -- both sides are to blame -- and the disciplined minority -- however objectively crazy -- will continue to leverage the many veto points in the constitutional system to prevent effective governance, in the process proving its point about the lack of efficacy of government action.
I wish I saw some other scenario playing out, but I truly don't. I am afraid the disaster of the 2010 mid-terms is going to live on in a way that is almost unprecedented for such a politically ephemeral and aberrant event.
Your thoughts? Consider this an open thread as well.
Update: This New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza has details on the demographic data of the congresman driving the government shutdown. To say that this is not a very representative group of reppresentatives is an understatement.