By Ernest A. Canning on 9/30/2013, 2:11pm PT  

As the latest round(s) of GOP hostage taking play out in Congress, it's worth stepping back a moment to take note of what is at the heart of their ploy-slash-temper tantrum-slash-effort to undermine the very essence of American democracy.

It's also worth taking note of the fact that it's unlikely, ultimately, to work and, if we can take any lessons from what has happened here in California, is very likely to redound, big time, against the Republicans and their "contempt for the democratic process," as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) described it Friday, now on display in the nation's capitol.

"This whole debate over Obamacare is just a small part of what this right wing agenda is all about," Sanders observed during an appearance on MSNBC, as he described the twin threats of a government shutdown and defaulting on our financial obligations in the debt ceiling fight a few weeks from now, as but a part of "a right wing extremist agenda funded by people like the Koch brothers…who put hundreds of millions of dollars into the 'Tea Party.'"

Sanders' observation is vital to a comprehensive understanding as to why the very survival of our representative form of democracy may hinge upon a refusal to cave into a tactic that the Senator describes as "blackmail". Indeed, the New York Times describes the latest GOP tactics as the equivalent of a "ransom note" filled with "extortionist demands". President Obama, who once made the mistake of negotiating with Republicans on such terms, now aptly described the GOP threats, in a speech to The Business Roundtable, as a form of extortion.

Sanders noted that it's as if the Republicans now say: "Elections don't matter! We can shut down the government at any time to get our way!"

And, he's right. That's the plan. But it's not likely to get them what they want. More encouragingly, it's very likely to backfire on them completely...

A 'Revolutionary Power'

The so-called 'Tea Party,' which the mega-billionaire Koch brothers fund and control via several front groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, is, what Dr. Henry Kissinger described in his 1957 doctoral thesis, A World Restored, as a "revolutionary power" that does not accept the legitimacy of our existing constitutional framework. Specifically, the Koch brothers and their radical brand of libertarianism do not accept a core function of government identified by the framers of the U.S. Constitution in both its Preamble and in Article I, Section 8 --- "to promote the General Welfare."

"When one is dealing with ordinary political movements," Paul Krugman observed in The Great Unraveling, "it makes sense to presume that their policy proposals, right or wrong, are made in good faith. But when one is dealing with a revolutionary movement that does not accept the legitimacy of the existing system, there's no reason to make that assumption. Revolutionary movements, which aren't concerned about the rules of the game, have no compunction about misrepresenting their goals."

What Sanders and the others are giving voice to is the fact that the radical right cannot be assuaged by either a postponement or outright repeal of Obamacare. Ironically, it may more aptly be argued that both the target of and the solution to this latest round of 'Tea Party' hostage-taking is democracy itself...

Democracy Strikes Back

"The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself," President Franklin D. Roosevelt argued in 1938. "That, in its essence, is fascism --- ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power."

The true goal of the radical right, as Bill Moyers averred in Moyers on America, is inequality, both political and economic. It entails "a fanatical drive to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory cannons, and the intellectual and cultural framework that have shaped public responsibility from social harms arising from the excesses of private powers." It portends to what we have described as the "'Tea Party' Future: Fascism, Feudalism, Economic Collapse".

Ironically, the very tactic adopted by the radical right --- holding a gun to the head of government and the global economy --- is so extreme that it can and has served to engender revulsion on the part of the very democratic forces it seeks to destroy.

This, as we noted in "Why Isn't 'Tea Party' 'Hostage-Taking' a Crime?", is precisely what transpired in California in reaction to the past several decades of GOP hostage taking in the Golden State.

Year-after-year, the CA GOP utilized the state's requirement of a 2/3 vote for passage of either spending or revenue enhancing measures as a means to force austerity, such as former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's draconian $15 billion cuts to education and health care. By refusing to pass a budget, the CA GOP at one point forced the state controller to issue $2.6 billion in IOUs. And, all during the CA GOP reign of economic terror, the Golden State's budget deficit expanded --- reaching an indebtedness in excess of $20 billion despite those massive cuts.

Ultimately, democracy struck back. The percentage of CA voters who are registered Republicans dropped to less than 30%. During the 2012 election, CA voters passed a relatively progressive, revenue-enhancing tax measure supported by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) by a wide margin, and the GOP's ability to hold the state hostage was eliminated when Democrats achieved a super-majority in the state legislature.

As a result, fiscal sanity was restored. CA is now on track to achieving a budget surplus even as $5.2 billion has been added to the state's school, university and health care budgets.

Bill Maher sang the state's praises --- and, indeed, rubbed it in the face of Republicans and Tea Partiers everywhere --- on last Friday night's Real Time with Bill Maher (Maher's expanded text version here)...

"It wasn't that long ago that pundits were calling California a failed state and saying it was ungovernable," Maher explained during his "New Rules" segment. "But in 2010, when other states were busy electing whatever Tea Partier claimed to hate government the most, we elected a guy who actually liked it, Jerry Brown."

"Since then, everything Republicans say can't or won't work --- gun control, immigration reform, high-speed rail --- California is making work. And everything conservatives claim will unravel the fabric of our society --- universal healthcare, higher taxes on the rich, gay marriage, medical marijuana --- has only made California stronger. And all we had to do to accomplish that was vote out every single Republican. Without a Republican governor and without a legislature being cock-blocked by Republicans, a $27 billion deficit was turned into a surplus, continuing the proud American tradition of Republicans blowing a huge hole in the budget and then Democrats coming in and cleaning it up."

At the national level, 'Tea Party' hostage taking is immensely unpopular. According to a recently released New York Times/CBS poll, 80% of all "Americans find it unacceptable for either President Obama or members of Congress to threaten to shut down the government during budget negotiations in order to achieve their goals." (It is unfortunate that The New York Times and CBS found it necessary to include President Obama in their poll question, since there is no evidence that the President has ever threatened to "shut down the government" as part of budget negotiations. But, alas, such is the state of the charade of "fair and balanced" in the 21st Century MSM.)

Just as the CA GOP had to rely upon the undemocratic 2/3 rule to carry out their brand of governance by extortion, so too the 'Tea Party' has had to resort to the Hastert Rule to prevent more moderate members of its own party from joining with House Democrats, to vote in favor of fiscal sanity.

Even gerrymandering and "the largest legislative effort to roll back voting rights since the post-Reconstruction era," may not be enough to prevent Republicans at the national level from experiencing the same fate as the CA GOP.

As Maher explained:

Conservatives who love to brag about American exceptionalism must come here to California, and see it in person. And then they should be afraid --- very afraid. Because while the rest of the country is beset by stories of right-wing takeovers in places like North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, California is going in the opposite direction and creating the kind of modern, liberal nation the country as a whole can only dream about. And not only can't the rest of the country stop us --- we're going to drag you along with us.

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Video of Sen. Bernie Sander's 9/27/2013 appearance on MSNBC follows...

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.

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