thedailybeast.com — You know how when you hear the long screech of a car braking for several seconds you’re a bit disappointed if you don’t hear the crash right after it? Well, that’s where House Republicans are now, in psychological terms. The brakes are screeching in their ears. They have been since 2011. The brakes have been screeching so long that they’re itching for the wreck to happen, just to make their point, just to see what goes down, just to say to Barack Obama and The New York Times and mainstream economists and the reality-based community across America that, no, they don’t care. They want to hear the glass shatter and the metal twist. They’ve been wanting to force a catastrophe, really, since the day Obama was first sworn in.
robertreich.org — A week before his inaugural, President Obama says he won’t negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt limit. At an unexpected news conference on Monday he said he won’t trade cuts in government spending in exchange for raising the borrowing limit. Well and good. But what, exactly, is the President’s strategy when the debt ceiling has to be raised, if the GOP hasn’t relented? He’s ruled out an end-run around the GOP. So it must be that he’s counting on public pressure — especially from the GOP’s patrons on Wall Street and big business — to force Republicans into submission. That’s probably the reason for the unexpected news conference, coming at least a month before the nation is likely to have difficulty paying its bills. The timing may be right. But Obama’s strategy depends on there being enough sane voices left in the GOP to influence others. That’s far from clear.
nationaljournal.com — The House of Representatives is not just divided between the red and the blue. It also fractures along lines of white, black, and brown. Four-fifths of the House Republicans in the new Congress represent districts in which the white share of the voting-age population exceeds the national average, according to a new National Journal analysis. In a near-mirror image, almost two-thirds of House Democrats represent districts in which the minority share of the voting-age population exceeds the national average, the analysis found. For each party, these stark patterns bring opportunities and challenges. The GOP’s strength in these preponderantly white districts helped sustain its House majority in a year when overwhelming minority support powered President Obama to a comfortable reelection. But the party’s disproportionate reliance on whites also means that few House Republicans have much experience in courting nonwhite voters—or much electoral incentive to do so.
inthesetimes.com — Many center-left political analysts tout Barack Obama’s re-election as affirmation that the unfolding demographic changes in the United States will inevitably vanquish the Republican Party as we know it. But before progressives sit back on their heels and wait for history’s just rewards, a deeper look at the 2012 election results is in order. Obama’s victory overshadowed the fact that Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives and won dramatic victories at the state level that seem almost mathematically miraculous in how they flout majority rule. Most strikingly, Republican congressional candidates were able to convert their national 49 percent of the major-party House vote into 54 percent of seats.
prospect.org — As any parent knows, when your children are young, you have one distinct advantage over them: you're smarter than they are. It won't be that way forever, but if it comes down to an argument, using words, with a six-year-old, you're probably going to win. Faced with this disadvantage, children often resort to things like repeating the thing they've already said a hundred more times, or stomping their feet. Which brings us, of course, to the House Republicans. I think by now all of us, including President Obama, know that these people are serious. But when they say "serious," they don't actually mean that they want to seriously confront the nation's problems without getting distracted by trivial concerns. That's not the kind of serious they're talking about. When they say they're serious and they want Obama's attention, they mean it in the way that a suicide bomber is serious and wants attention.
salon.com — The Republicans, we’re told, are going to have to start making some big changes if they want to start winning elections again. (Besides all the congressional elections they handily win.) Americans are tired of their stale rhetoric and old, white standard-bearers. The party needs fresh blood and bold ideas. It needs people like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a GOP rising star and highly regarded “ideas” guy. After the election, Jindal told Politico that the Republicans had to totally rebrand themselves to escape being known as “the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything.” And so Bobby Jindal’s big new idea for Louisiana is …eliminating all income taxes. And shifting the tax burden onto poor and working people.
salon.com — According to Politico’s reporting, John Boehner “will never allow a (debt) default, even if it puts his leadership position at risk.” The speaker, supposedly, understands the catastrophic economic fallout that a default would unleash and is busily trying to convince his fellow House Republicans to look elsewhere for leverage in their ongoing fiscal fight with President Obama and Democrats. There’s good reason to believe this reporting, since virtually no one outside the far-right echo chamber has any illusions about the consequences of failing to extend the debt ceiling. But could it really come to such a stark choice for Boehner: Stave off a default and lose his job as speaker or allow one and get to hang around? There are a few ways of looking at Boehner’s dilemma right now.
alternet.org — There's a new parlor game in your nation's capital, played by reporters and pundits who begin with a single question: Is the Tea Party dead? Endlessly entertaining to ponder, it's a question whose answer depends on your definition of the Tea Party movement. Are you talking about the 900 grass-roots Tea Party groups in 2010 whose numbers have now dwindled to 600? Or the popularity of the movement among most Americans? Or do you measure the "Tea Party" as a marketing plan by the right wing in its 50-year quest to bend the Republican Party to its will and bring the nation to its knees?
huffingtonpost.com — For years the NRA has struck terror into the hearts of many Members of Congress. The organization's officers and lobbyists purported to represent the interests and wishes of millions of American gun owners. Members of Congress believed that negative NRA ratings -- and a flood of NRA money -- could sink their political careers faster than you could say "AR-15." But the American people, and Members of Congress, are gradually awaking to the fact that -- just as with the Wizard of Oz -- there isn't much behind the NRA's magic curtain but the big booming voice of a special interest bully whose power derives more from perception than reality. It is of course true that in politics the perception of power translates into the reality of power. The problem is that once it becomes clear that you're all hat and no cattle, the myth of power rapidly collapses into a pile of dust. That is exactly what is happening to the NRA. Here's why.
talkingpointsmemo.com — My debt limit nightmare scenario goes something like this: Nothing of any substance happens for the next month or so. Then, a few days before the government’s borrowing authority lapses, House Republicans pass legislation pairing deep spending cuts — some specific, some asterisked — with a debt limit increase. The Senate, gridlocked by filibuster, can’t pass a clean debt limit bill, so instead they pass nothing. Republicans skip town claiming they’ve done their job, leaving Democrats to choose between surrender and economic havoc. Republicans used the same trick (or tried to) repeatedly in 2011 and 2012 as a negotiating tactic. But if Democrats are serious about not negotiating for a debt limit increase, then the “tactic” amounts to lighting a very short fuse and running for the hills. But thanks to Karl Rove I’m beginning to doubt Republicans can get it together enough to pull this off.