The schadenfreude wore off quickly. Observing the tea party suffer a political defeat, with other Republicans like Rep. Pete King (R-NY) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) piling on, was entertaining for a solid 24 hours until the grim realization set in that this rogue faction of the GOP could very well try for a sequel -- or an entire series of shutdowns.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the chief architect of the tea party shutdown and subsequent debt ceiling brinksmanship, might have lost an endorsement from his home town newspaper, but he managed to raise $1.19 million during the third quarter -- nearly three times the haul of the second quarter total. That period of time didn't include the shutdown, but it included his filibuster, which, it turns out, had a very important purpose: the make money for Ted Cruz. He also beefed up his email database with a petition that gathered over two million names and addresses.
When asked who "won" the shutdown battle, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) told Politico the winners were "the people that managed to raise a lot of money off this." Now, I don't know if that means the tea party necessarily "won," but Cruz and the Heritage Action group, which pulled in $330,000, didn't walk away empty-handed.
While Cruz and the others cashed-in, the shutdown ended up costing the federal government $24 billion. Via TIME, here's a breakdown of just a few of the losses:
-About $3.1 billion in lost government services, according to the research firm IHS
-$152 million per day in lost travel spending, according to the U.S. Travel Association
-$76 million per day lost because of National Parks being shut down, according to the National Park Service
-$217 million per day in lost federal and contractor wages in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area alone
And we're supposed to continue buying the line that the tea party cares about government spending and the national debt? That's rich.
In spite of the losses, we should expect this to happen all over again anyway. First, on and before January 15 when the newly signed continuing resolution expires, and again on and before February 7 when the debt ceiling will need to be raised again. Incidentally, the State of the Union is scheduled for January 28 -- a massive PR opportunity for the Obama administration, thus further weakening tea party leverage in the event of another shutdown.
During a Fox News Channel interview, Ted Cruz refused to rule out another round of shenanigans:
KARL: So you would do it again?
CRUZ: I would do anything, and I will to do anything I can to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare.
Again, I have to ask: if Obamacare is a trainwreck with an approval of 38 percent, what kind of wreck is the tea party with an approval of 21 percent? The interview continued:
KARL: So you might do it?
CRUZ: What I intend to do is continue to stand with American people to stop Obamacare.
Meanwhile, Rep. John Flemming (R-LA) told the New York Times, "I’ll vote against it... But that will get us into Round 2. See, we’re going to start this all over again."
It's difficult to fully encapsulate in words the dangerous repercussions of the whimsical, nihilistic behavior of this faction. American politics and government hinges upon a basic respect for certain unwritten rules and traditions. The tea party, as we've witnessed for years and most prominently this month, is actively engaged in a contemptuous effort to rewrite those rules. We've witnessed signs of this trend early on when yokels like Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted "You lie!" at the president during a prime time joint session address. We've seen it when tea party members of Congress embraced Birthers and endorsed wild conspiracy theories. And since 2011, the brinksmanship with the debt ceiling has allowed a small, fringe congressional minority to not only have a staggeringly loud voice but also to be granted latitude to shove the entire economy to the edge of disaster in the name of its pet peeves and political action committees.
Perhaps in January and February it'll be about the birth control provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps they'll try to de-fund the entire law once again -- knowing full-well it'll never happen. As long as the money continues to flow, the tea party will continue to monkey with the system. The GOP establishment is the only group that can put a stop to it by marginalizing its influencs, if not entirely hacking off the limb.