Friday, October 18, 2013

Forget the Shutdown

Lots of op-eds and blog posts today with headlines like Republicans' Devastating Defeat and Republicans Must Recognize Reality and End of the Tea Party? Nonsense. Tea Party Republicans have suffered a defeat, but it was not devastating and they certainly aren't going to disappear. No, they are still with us, they aren't going to stop fighting. The shutdown was a minor event and its long-term impact will be minimal.

I hope Obama and the Congressional leadership can wrap up a modest budget quickly without getting bogged down in "grand bargain" nonsense, because there is still no grand bargain to be had. The parties are too far apart. The same goes for immigration reform, which I think is a real will-o-the-wisp. The best we can hope for is to keep the country going on a reasonably normal footing.

The reason the Tea Party won't go away is that it represents 50 million Americans who are bitterly unhappy with the state of the world. We will not see real political change until something happens to make them happier with the status quo. Since the country is not going to turn white again, and gay rights are not likely to be rolled back, I think that has to be economics. Only economic change that benefits middle-class people will reconcile those angry millions to America as we know it. If Obamacare can be made to work, affordable health insurance will be a nice step. Otherwise I really don't know what can be done. And that makes me suspect that angry politics will define at least the next decade.

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