Credibility

Republicans in Congress have lost all credibility with President Obama and must be prepared to hold out indefinitely on the shutdown and debt limit fights if they ever hope to regain any credibility with the president or with their own conservative base. 

When it comes to foreign policy, much is made of America staying the course to preserve her credibility around the world. Repeated to the point of becoming a cliché, the meaning behind this concept often gets lost amid the turmoil of foreign affairs. It is appealing to a certain segment for America to retreat to the safety of her shores at signs of trouble overseas, ignoring the reasons she became engaged in the first place.

The world has become globally interconnected through advanced communications and transportation systems to the point that it is virtually impossible for any country to remain isolated unless their leaders desire to forgo the advantages of global trade and have their people suffer in poverty to preserve their totalitarian grip on power. As the most prosperous nation on earth, America has created complex global business networks to satisfy both the domestic demand for products from around the world and foreign demand for American products. Thus, America has interests around the world which require her intervention and protection to manage these complex global networks and ensure the free flow of people, goods, and services for the benefit of all involved stakeholders.

Leaders around the world look to America to preserve this system with many relying upon America for the protection of their countries. They seek the reassurance that America will keep her word and that she will continue to be there in their time of need. When leaders lose this warm and fuzzy feeling of reassurance, they start looking elsewhere for the protection they feel America is no longer willing or able to offer. American credibility suffers as these leaders search elsewhere for the comfortable reassurance they no longer receive from our leaders. American influence dissipates along with her ability to protect the vital global infrastructure on which our economy depends.

When our leaders announce their intentions to withdraw from an area or their unwillingness to remain engaged in particular affairs or sudden shifts in American foreign policy that elevate new factions over established relationships, American credibility is damaged and American influence is lost. Countries that were once willing to share information and cooperate on regional endeavors suddenly withdraw their willingness to continue a relationship that no longer favors both parties equally. Other countries contemplating cooperation with America suddenly reevaluate their position in light of her shifting allegiances and potential relationships never come to fruition.

On the domestic front, the business of politics is one of negotiation and compromise with neither side getting exactly what it desires, but both working in cooperation for the benefit of the American people. This spirit of cooperation and compromise has become strained to the breaking point as the hard left progressive faction of the Democrat Party has come to power insisting on advancing its agenda against the wishes of the American people. Conservative resistance to this unpopular agenda has been met with a desire by progressives to win at all costs including burning down the country to get their way. A cloud of incivility has descended upon Washington as these factions have hardened into a focus to win with no consideration of benefitting the American people.

The Democrat Party underwent a war between its moderate conservative wing of classical liberals and its hard left progressive wing during the Vietnam War era culminating in convention battles in 1968 and 1972 with the progressives winning control of the party. Bill Clinton’s attempt to move the party away from the radical progressive agenda with his centrist Democrat Leadership Council was brushed aside in 2008 as the progressives dumped Hillary in favor of progressive poster child Barack Obama despite Clinton having won two terms as a centrist. Progressives completely control the Democrat Party and have managed to push out all of the conservative Democrats who either retired or fled to the GOP.

The Republican Party is currently undergoing its own war of control between the establishment party leadership and the grassroots TEA Party conservatives. TEA Party conservatives coalesced around CNBC reporter Rick Santelli’s February 19, 2009 diatribe from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and built a powerful movement that restored Republican control of the House in 2010. Establishment Republicans surprised by this groundswell of conservative activists quickly attempted to co-opt this movement for their benefit, but were rebuffed as TEA Party conservatives wished to remain ideologically pure to ensure fidelity to their cause.

Frustrated by their failure to co-opt this movement, establishment Republicans treated TEA Party conservatives with disrespect following the 2010 and 2012 election cycles by refusing to give due consideration to their conservative concerns. This was capped by the establishment ignoring TEA Party warnings not to engineer the Republican primaries to favor establishment candidate Mitt Romney as their anointed nominee with the threat that conservatives would refuse to vote for Romney. Establishment disrespect for TEA Party conservatives has now morphed into open warfare as the establishment is raising funds through Karl Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC to fight against TEA Party supported candidates in the 2014 primaries and establishment pundits consistently attack TEA Party conservatives in the media. This establishment warfare against the TEA Party has culminated in attacks against Senator Ted Cruz for his stance against Obamacare.

The establishment faction of the GOP controls party donations, party leadership, party process, party rules, and party access to information. This presents a formidable challenge to TEA Party efforts to wrest party control from this entrenched establishment bureaucracy, and continued exposure to establishment figures risks corruption of TEA Party members constantly exposed to establishment overtures to put winning above conservative principles. The establishment faction prefers to cooperate with progressives in the hopes of eventually securing a tactical advantage that would enable the strategic advancement of the Republican agenda. They fail to see that TEA Party conservatives are demanding principled stands despite tactical disadvantages to energize the base and reassure conservatives of Republican fidelity to conservative principles. Failure to engage in these tactical battles has demoralized conservatives and diluted the Republican brand as voters can no longer tell the difference between the two parties.

President Obama has skillfully exploited the establishment desire to appear cooperative to advance the progressive agenda. While Republicans unanimously refused to support Obamacare, the establishment faction of the GOP has been instrumental in supporting various budget deals and tax increases sought by the president by conveniently surrendering rather than risk shutting down the government over a principled stand. GOP fears of government shutdowns result from Senator Bob Dole’s rush to cave in to President Clinton back in 1996 during the prolonged government shutdown over the budget back when a shutdown meant more than the mere slimdown we are currently experiencing whereby some 85% of the government is still operating normally. President Clinton later admitted he was one day away from caving in to Republican demands on the budget when Senator Dole rushed in to snatch Republican defeat from the jaws of victory.

Republican fears of being blamed for another shutdown has left them wringing their hands in worry since 1995, paralyzed in the face of progressives more than willing to exploit their fears by casting them as villains through their media acolytes. Democrats are willing to get as rough as necessary to win, even to the point of burning down the country! If Republicans hope to compete successfully with an opposition that committed to winning, they are going to have to be willing to endure a lot more heat than is currently comfortable for the establishment.

Republicans have lost all credibility with President Obama due to their past willingness to surrender to the progressive agenda to avoid looking bad. President Obama treats them with disrespect because they have allowed him to do so for so long that he expects it. To restore their credibility, they must be willing to endure a long and bloody siege. The progressives realize that a failure to win this battle means the war is lost, so they will stop at nothing to achieve victory. They will be extraordinarily ruthless and longsuffering in this battle. Republicans are committed to the battle and must see it through, else they risk the loss of their conservative base to the TEA Party which will surely walk away to form a third party if the establishment succeeds in handing progressives a victory. A Republican loss would mean the loss of any future credibility on anything, and conservatives would have no choice but to walk away and start over with a new brand.

Barring attempts by the establishment GOP to surrender, this shutdown fight and its debt limit corollary will drag on for quite some time until President Obama realizes that Republicans are serious and his falling poll numbers force him to capitulate as prospects for Democrat success in the 2014 elections diminish. Without Democrat control of the House, Obama will be forced to nibble at the edges of the progressive agenda as a lame duck, and loss of the Senate would mean having to endure a strengthened opposition with the ability to investigate his administration and dictate legislative terms to him. Make no mistake, the progressives will fight their dirtiest and use their media acolytes to portray Republicans in the worst manner, causing their poll numbers to fall also. The establishment GOP is already held in such low esteem by the TEA Party conservative base that surrender will mean its downfall anyway, so they really have nothing more to lose. This fight has become a showdown for all the marbles on both sides.

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