The Flake Effect

As you no doubt know, Democrats got shellacked yesterday. Not only did they lose the Senate in spectacular fashion, but Jim and I are stuck with our shitty Republican governors. Locally, the GOP succeeded in term-limiting our Mayor who wins with 80% of the vote.

Steve Vladeck has a post considering how this will affect national security politics. I agree with his ultimate conclusion:

Thus, the real question that I think yesterday’s results raise for national security policy in the 114th Congress is not what this “genuine debate about how best to preserve constitutional values while protecting the Nation from terrorism” will look like, but rather whether the absence of such a debate (which seems increasingly likely) will indeed provoke courts to play the more aggressive role to which Justice Kennedy alluded.

But along the way, Vladeck makes a grave category error by suggesting that Ted Cruz is a libertarian.

Although the realignment thesis requires decent support from the wings of both parties, the consequences of yesterday’s results are to put the focus squarely on how libertarian Republicans approach national security policy–since theirs is the party in power in both chambers. With that in mind, consider Senator Ted Cruz’s fairly remarkable unwillingness to openly endorse Senator Mitch McConnell as majority leader. Whatever that portends with respect to the leadership race, it suggests at the very least that, on some issues, the more libertarian wing of the Republican party may not exactly fall into lockstep with the party’s more moderate elements. And while that was an intriguing enough phenomenon when Republicans only controlled the House, how that plays out when Republicans control both sides of the Capitol will be very interesting to watch.

Ted Cruz is a dangerous narcissistic authoritarian piggybacking on Tea Party popularity and amorphousness to advance his own career. He is not a libertarian.

There are, to be sure, some libertarian senators. Along with Mike Lee and Dean Heller, who get little notice, Rand Paul has learned how better to use Senate procedure to advance libertarian aims. (One piece of evidence that Cruz is not a libertarian is that both he and Paul appear to be running for President, making it clear they don’t have the same agenda.)

That said, one of the most interesting aspects of this election is that Paul did some real campaigning for authoritarian hack Pat Roberts, lending him his Tea Party cred.

Ted Cruz, however, was not out campaigning. Update: According to this, Cruz also campaigned for Roberts.

But the question of how having Cory Gardner and Joni Ernst in the Senate has little to do with their politics, in my opinion.

They have a lot more to do with the difference between Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.

John Boehner is an ineffective leader whose attempt to discipline his party ended up creating leaders who had little to lose.

Mitch McConnell is not an ineffective leader. He has long been able to demand discipline.

Perhaps the best indicator of that is what happened when Jeff Flake, who was superb on civil liberties in the House, moved to the Senate. He’s terrible on those issues now. Pretty much runs and hides in a corner, whimpering, when such issues come up. I’m not sure how Mitch did it, but he managed to neutralize someone who challenged GOP authoritarianism. Completely. I expect the same of Cory Gardner (though will be happy to be proven wrong).

In any case, I would be shocked if Mitch made the error of putting someone like Gardner (or Paul) in one of the at least 3 new Republican slots that will open up on the Intelligence Committee.

The story of the next two years will be about what Mitch — and his heavy discipline — wants to accomplish in the Senate, not about what a few libertarians or pseudo-libertarians want.

6 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    this election MIGHT be very helpful to democrats. many of their politicians have been crawling or sliding into power for years, fearful of offending rightwing orthodoxy. it’s time that democratic office seekers and holders began effectively criticizing boneheaded, partisan, or vindictive republican policies for what they are and for the serious damage they do. and time for democratic politicians to talk about policies that support and enrich the community of all americans.

    first, though, it will be necessary to kill all democratic consultants.

    • fritter says:

      I’m hopeful the outcome will be that some voters recognize that putting party over country never works out and maybe celebrity should have nothing to do with politics or policy. It didn’t help when when lesser wevils tried to sell us on Obama. At some point people start to recognize hypocrisy and corruption even though the white noise generated by the entertainment / pacification industry and then just don’t bother to show up at the polls.

      I don’t really think voters are chosing one suit of the same party over another. I think they are punishing whoever they feel is in power. As far as the NSA goes, I’m not sure anything will change until they start indicting wall street using parallel construction. Our culture is too authoritarian / fascist for most to even notice. A populist movement to use all that saved metadata for financial crimes is about the only way to break the SIC. For that you just need to prosecute financial crimes..

  2. orionATL says:

    as for the constitutional misconduct of the nsa and fbi, the republican victory is a disasterous outcome, given that obama will offer the people no protection.

    this would be a fine issue for the born-anew democrats to use to distinguish themselves from the rightwing authoritarians and money-seekers of the republican party.

  3. Anon says:

    Ultimately both Paul and Cruz see now as their time. They know that Boehner and McConnell will not run for President and they both see how Obama turned a short senate career into a productive springboard by doing all the right favors for all the right people. Roberts needed them desperately to survive and now he owes them big as does McConnell. Neither one will get a good chairmanship but neither one wants it. What they want is for everyone else to support their rise which McConnell is smart enough to let them do. If they rise to the top then he will work with them. If they fall, he won’t waste time playing catch. That is why he succeeds where Boehner fails.

  4. TarheelDem says:

    I understand that we shouldn’t ignore Iraq vet Tom Cotton’s interest in national security issues. And the word is that he loves surveillance.

    Thom Tillis might show up on Armed Services, given the importance of Ft. Bragg and Camp Lejeune to his continuing incumbency.

  5. jerryy says:

    Hello Marcy,
    At the risk of falling into the ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy, I am going to disagree with you about Rand Paul being a Libertarian.
    Oh, sure he uses the rhetoric any chance he can, he wants to be president in a way that makes me recall the saying about those that want it that bad should never have it.
    But his voting record is pretty much right-wing-corporatist. He will throw states rights and individual rights out of the window in exchange for advancing corporate rights. I have a stack of his excuse letters to that regard.
    This is true: He goes around telling people that the oil industry creates and provides jobs for US citizens. Just before he (RP) was elected, Chevron closed every station in Kentucky and left the state. They continue to give him bribes campaign contributions to tell people the oil industry creates jobs. He picked Monsanto over farmers, etc., etc.
    His Libertarian background … he knows the chatter well, his father did teach it to him, but for all of his promises to do things like shut down the TSA, etc. they are alive and well actually growing much larger. He could have used his political office to end them but after the threats of a few filibusters and one short one, well the Libertarian creed takes back set to the Corporate Creed.
    But he does want to be president…

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