Ezra Klein: The shutdown is a Republican civil war:
We’re used to brinkmanship in Washington resulting from conflict between Democrats and Republicans. But this shutdown is different. It’s a fight between Republicans and Republicans…. In 1995 and 1996, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich proudly led Republicans into their shutdown fight with President Bill Clinton. In 2011, Speaker John Boehner was enthusiastic about using a possible shutdown and default as leverage…. But Boehner didn’t want this week’s shutdown. He didn’t want to sign onto Ted Cruz’s doomed effort to defund Obamacare…. What’s strange and fascinating about the shutdown debacle, however, is that a majority of House Republicans… didn’t want a shutdown…. The question that’s puzzling Washington is how a minority of the majority is managing to dominate the House of Representatives….
The threat to Boehner comes from the right of his conference. Consequently, he panders to the fringe; as long as they’re happy, he’s safe. Members of the Republican establishment are agog. Cruz “pushed House Republicans into traffic and wandered away,” said conservative stalwart Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. But the real problem is that House Republican leaders didn’t push back…. Traditional politicians such as Boehner have no playbook for dealing with a powerful faction that’s completely uninterested in strategic or pragmatic concerns…. [When] Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election, and the Republican establishment began to alter its approach. The tea party, however, didn’t….
Boehner’s problems aren’t such a surprise to Christopher Parker… Parker began running massive surveys of self-described conservatives in 13 states. He controlled for every demographic characteristic and political opinion he could think of. Tea partiers, he found, were simply different…. 71 percent of tea party conservatives agreed Obama was “destroying the country”--an opinion shared by only 6 percent of conservatives who didn’t identify with the tea party. On measure after measure, tea party members expressed fear that the country was changing in fundamental ways… likelier to view Obama as a literal threat to the nation… more conspiratorial… viewed politics as less like a negotiation among stakeholders and more like a struggle for survival….
The problem for Boehner and the rest of the Republican establishment is that the tea party ethos is now being turned against them. After all, mainstream conservatives will compromise with “evil” (or, if you prefer, “Democrats”). For tea partiers, that makes them suspect…