Conservatives have often discussed the vulnerability of their enemy to such acts of sabotage. The most famous example can be found in a 1964 book by the conservative political theorist James Burnham, which diagnosed liberalism as “the ideology of Western suicide.” What Burnham meant by this was that liberalism’s so-called virtues—its openness and its insistence on equal rights for everyone—were in fact fatal weaknesses.
Either liberalism must extend the freedoms to those who are not themselves liberals and even to those whose deliberate purpose is to destroy the liberal society—in effect, that is, must grant a free hand to its assassins; or liberalism must deny its own principles, restrict the freedoms, and practice discrimination. It is as if the rules of football provided no penalties against those who violated the rules; so that the referee would either have to permit a player (whose real purpose was to break up the game) to slug, kick, gouge and whatever else he felt like doing, or else would have to disregard the rules and throw the unfair player out.
For its very survival, in other words, liberalism depends on fair play by its sworn enemies, making it vulnerable, as Burnham observes, to assassination, hijacking, or sabotage by any party that refuses to play by the rules.
The “suicide” that all of this was meant to describe was the destruction of the democratic West at the hands of communism, a movement in whose ranks Burnham had once marched himself. But after many flagrant decades of unsportsmanlike conduct by conservatives, his theory seems more accurately to describe the strategems of its fans on the American right. (Source)
The descriptions of the Republicans over the last couple of days as giddy and gleeful about the shutdown is not reassuring. And then we have another default crisis looming mid month. And then?
Even if disaster is averted this month, I don't see how this goes away any time soon. The idea that this is '95 and that this will damage the Republican brand the way it did then is wishful thinking. The crazies are not going away. They will not be voted out of office in '14. So in what scenario does the basic dynamic at work here change?
Frank ends his piece with these paragraphs:
The middle-class America that Falwell and Co. wrecked with such gusto is not going to be easy to rebuild. For one thing, the balance of social power has been so decisively altered since those days that the political landscape itself has been radically transformed. Dramatic economic inequality of the kind conservatism has engineered has inevitably brought political inequality with it. The rich vote at higher rates than others, they contribute greater amounts to candidates, and, should they choose, they are able to afford today’s expensive campaigns for public office. They can also subsidize authors, newspaper columnists, academics, magazines, and TV shows; they can fund the careers of friendly politicians and buy off dubious ones; and they can reward right-thinking regulators and bureaucrats when these worthies’ stints in government are done. They can launch cable TV networks, buy newspapers, and bankroll think-tank operations charged with making their idiosyncratic personal ideas into the common sense of the millions.
In this sense, conservative Washington is a botch that will keep on working even after its formal demise. It defunded the constituencies of the liberal state while constructing a plutocracy that will stand regardless of who wins the next few elections and that will weight our politics rightward for years.
So the current spat is about Obamacare on one level, but it's about so much more. Obamacare for these folks is something that ought never to have been allowed, and now that it's coming online, it symbolzes everything they hate about the liberal state. If they destroy the latter in their effort to destroy the former, all the better.