Erick Erickson is angry. I know what you’re thinking, but it has nothing to do with his frozen pig-face. He’s angry because the Republicans are caving. And even more than that, he’s angry at Mitch McConnell for not being smart. Early this morning, he wrote, “Reid used the Senate’s rules to toss aside numerous proposals from the House while McConnell looked on not knowing how to fight back.” It isn’t that McConnell didn’t know how to fight back. He didn’t have any options. Would it be fair to say that Nancy Pelosi didn’t know how to fight back against John Boehner? It sucks being in the minority.
But more to the point, Erickson is showing himself to be a perfect example of what’s wrong with the bitter enders. Think of an action film at the end of the third act. The hero looks beaten. He is surrounded by bad guys. But he struggles to his feet. He makes a clever remark like, “Now that I’ve had a little rest…” And then he defeats the bad guys. Roll titles.
That’s great in a movie, but that’s not how it works in real life. In real life, the party that has more power wins in almost all cases. Take the Civil War for example. Through pluck and strong leadership, the Confederates managed to do okay at the start of the war. But over time the enormous advantages the Union had in terms of men and money decimated the Confederacy. The same thing has taken place in Washington this month.
The Republicans control one-third of the negotiating units. And their control of that unit is not strong. The only real advantage is that John Boehner is Speaker of the House and so he can control what bills get votes. He seems to have only the slightest amount of control of how his own caucus votes. From the beginning of this fiasco, majorities in both houses of Congress wanted to end this fight—it was preordained. The only question was how much harm the Republicans would do to themselves. In that regard, they’ve been stunningly successful: they’ve maximized the harm they’ve done to themselves over the last two weeks.
But Erickson is angry. And I can see why. What the Republicans have done is the worst possible thing. If you aren’t willing to go all the way, don’t start. But it should have been obvious to the Erickson crowd that it was at most 20% of the House Republican Caucus who were willing to do that. There are a lot of Republicans who have to worry about electoral attacks from the left as well as the right. And I would go so far as to say that there are Republicans who actually think that they should be serving the public rather than extorting unpopular concessions.
The problem is bigger than even this, though. Erickson has sent mixed messages. He’s been all in favor of shutting down the government. But he wanted the Debt Ceiling raised. In fact, he was downright hysterical about it. (To be honest: when is Erickson not hysterical about anything?) But that just shows the ridiculousness of the government shutdown. Yes, the Debt Ceiling was a fairly hard deadline that would have caused economic damage that the Republicans would have been blamed for. But the government shutdown was hurting the economy more and more each day. Eventually, it would have lead to a crisis.
So Erick Erickson argument has been, “Take a hostage, but not a really good one, and don’t be too serious about it!” I don’t doubt that if this shutdown had gone on for another month, Erickson would have been part of the chorus yelling uncle. You can’t be reasonable while pursuing an unreasonable strategy. But I guess it is easy for a pundit like him. He isn’t held responsible. So now he can call for voting all the bums out. And I’m happy to let him try, because when the incumbent loses in the Republican primary it is more likely that the Democrat will win in the general election. And that’s because the incumbent loses to someone more like Erick Erickson.