These campaign donors are Republicans in the tradition of Calvin Coolidge, who said that "The business of Self-enrichment's their only real ideology. They may say "that government governs best which governs least," but what they really believe is that "that government governs best which enriches me most."
Most Republican politicians understand that. They'll cheerfully endorse all sorts of big-spending government programs, if they enrich large corporations like those who fund the Chamber or groups like Fix the Debt. Those groups' agendas are well suited to those donor-friendly Republican politicians (and some Democrats) who know when to dial down the small-government talk. Social Security cuts? Sure. But you won't find them cutting corporate farm subsidies or major defense programs.
It's a game: Small government for thee, but not for me.
The Cheap Seats
Boehner and like-minded Republicans seem to get it. But Cruz and the other Tea Party Republicans are True Believers. They really seem to believe that government, in all its forms, should be eliminated. Boehner and friends may pretend that Obamacare, made in Mitt Romney's image, is a Socialist plot. But the Cruz crowd actually believes it.
Old-line Republicans may be cynical, but Cruz and his friends are something even scarier: They're committed. Boehner and his contingent spout irrational rhetoric to hide their true agenda. Cruz's crowd does it because their thinking is irrational. When they spout incoherent madness, they do it with all the fervor of the deeply idealistic -- and with more than a hint of the fanatic.
And here we are, watching from the bleachers. It's tempting to grab a soft drink and a big bag of popcorn -- any brand but Pop Weaver -- then kick back and enjoy the action, especially since the party's popularity is taking a beating during this fight. But this is a game in which either side's victory -- or a prolonged stalemate -- is a loss for the nation.
If Republicans remain deadlocked, or if the Tea Partiers prevail, we could be facing a full-scale depression. But that realization could leave us in the odd position of rooting for the corporate interests. It's true that they're a safer and more predictable adversary, because they're rational and won't let the economy collapse. But their greed is profound and their resources all but limitless.
Let's face it: No matter who wins, we lose. So we'll keep our mouths shut and stay up here in the cheap seats.
And right now it is, as the expression goes, anybody's ball game. Here's some of the latest play-by-play:
Sen. Rob Portman, a Corporate Republican, proposed a "compromise plan" that reads like a wish list from Corporate America: tax "reform" that protects today's low rates for corporations and high-income individuals; Social Security cuts through the "chained CPI"; and even harsher spending cuts layered on top of the today's sequestration reductions. It's a non-starter, because the True Believers consider Portman a heretic.
The House toyed with proposing yet another "bipartisan supercommittee" to work on budget cuts, modeled on the unsuccessful efforts of corporate-friendly "bipartisan" groups like the Simpson/Bowles Commission, 2011's Senate/House "supercommittee," the Senate "Gang of Six," and other efforts designed to give big-money initiatives a noble and politically acceptable gloss. The public always hates their work anyway, so why bother?
Republican Congressional leaders may agree to delay the debt ceiling crisis in order to prolong negotiations, which undercuts Harry Reid in the Senate but apparently conforms to the President's preferences.
President Obama agreed to meet with Congressional Republicans and Democrats, which seemed to help reassure the markets, and hosted a number of major-corporate CEOs in the White House.
John McCain was yelling at other Republicans again.
Heritage Action, a conservative fundraising group which has received funding from the Koch Brothers, said it opposed linking Congressional debt ceiling action to Obamacare. The group did say it continued to support a government shutdown aimed at defunding the health care law -- which is somewhat ironic, since the law is largely based on the work of its sister institution, the Heritage Foundation.