However disastrous or ridiculous the outcome of this crisis ultimately proves to be, the sub-democratic structure of American politics will guarantee that the consequences will be non-existent for those who initiated it: the regime of repressed competition will ensure no consequences for the individual legislators, while its separation of powers will probably ensure no consequences for their party either.
In the last debt ceiling crisis, two years ago, the public expressed overwhelming revulsion and blamed the GOP by a wide margin; the next year, Republicans won the House again, and ended up with three-fifths of the governors and state legislatures. Most likely the same or worse will happen again in 2014.
After two centuries laboring under a Constitution crafted by principled opponents of democracy, who saw as one of their central goals the suppression of any chance that concerted majorities might ever use the state for positive ends, how can anyone be surprised that this country is hospitable to anti-government extremists?
Roll over James Madison.
This whole piece is worth reading. Its main thrust is to argue that the Tea Party as a movement has nothing inherently to do with the South or the Neoconfederacy. The Neoconfederate types are joining this tea party, but they are not throwing it.
Its driving force has an intellectual pedigree that is related more to the anti-government ideology of Northeastern economic elites who never got over the New Deal. The South by and large supported New Deal policies.
It's rather that elites in the New South, as they became more integrated into the national economy, found their thinking aligning with this already existing social Darwinist Yankee economic ideology. This fits with the analysis by Michael Lind I posted about a few weeks ago. I think that Lind adds a dimension not covered in the Ackerman post, though, which is that we see in the Tea Party a combination of Northern economic elite rightist ideology combined with Southern political tactics--voter suppression, nullification, obstruction, and using every parliamentary trick in the book to effect these. There's a racial aspect to this, but it has more to do with local poobahs hanging on to power. And these tactics are effective precisely because the Constitution is set up to make it so easy.
And so one has to wonder whether the Republic with this particular constitution will last for another hundred years. Let's face it, it's not that great. I have said in the pat that we have a ceremonial democracy, but I think "sub-democratic" is a better adjective to describe it. One could argue that democracy is working for the conservative movement, which has used legal means to dominate the state legislatures and to send enough of their representatives to Washington to obstruct policies they don't want. Even so, the will of the majority is thwarted because this minority is forced to use guerrilla tactics rather than normal procedure, and that these tactics are bringing the old girl to her knees..
There's a reason any new democracy whose founders had any sense have not imitated ours. If we've learned anything since 2010 midterms, it's that this old girl is more fragile than it is venerable. We may continue muddle through with it, but I don't need much convincing that we are a major crisis just waiting to happen.