I thought I’d be a nice guy and give the U.S. House of Representatives a chance to actually get itself in order by electing a new Speaker but it looks like it is not going to happen anytime soon. The problem, as I see it, for the GOP House caucus is both simple and complex. It is simple in that the fundamental issues are easy to identify and define. It is complex because there is no easy way to resolve conflicts between these issues.
The first issue I’m going to identify is the newest and least expected. The major the GOP caucus has in the house is microscopic only three votes over the 218 needed to elect a speaker and only 9 more that the Democrats. This tight a margin makes for difficult going for any political leader but it is especially difficult if the party is badly fractured like the Republicans in the House currently are.
This brings us to the next issue facing the GOP, it is a badly divided party and the Republicans has historically not dealt with competing political factions well. Ever since its founding in the 1850’s the Republican Party has usually had a dominant faction that controls the party. This dominate faction then makes deals with either the minority faction(s) in it’s own caucus or, failing that, the could find the votes they needed south of the Mason/Dixon line in the Democratic Party (note: I call this strategy the Dixiecrat strategy). The few time this strategy was either not used or did not work the Democrats could gain control. The Dixiecrat strategy stopped working once the new “Nixon Southern Strategy was adopted in the late 60’s early 70’s.
Still things could, and did, be made to work in the House but then came the Newt Gingrich Revolution and the concept of constant conflict as the way to get things done in the House. An while this strategy work a little in the house it did not play well with the Senate.
So now we come to that one of the biggest mistakes made, the idea that Politics can be successfully modeled using ‘Zero Sum’ game theory. This is a very seductive idea because it looks so simple. The problem is that you can end up worse off using a game theory that is incorrect than you can using the correct game theory a loose. Also most people who just have a casual understanding of Zero Sum game theory is that it has one deadly trap, there are actually three results possible. You can Win, you can loose and you can end in a draw. Even worse is that given the rules of the game you can end up where ending is a draw is the most likely result. Don’t believe me, talk with a ‘rated’ chess player.
An now to the last issue, seeing your opponent as the embodiment of everything you despise. This can be expressed as anything “D” touches we have to oppose. This is the death knell to getting anything done in a democratic polity where compromise is the name of the game.
So that is where the Republicans in the House find themselves. They have a small (45) subgroup (the Freedom Caucus) that is to the extreme right of the party and they see everything in a win/loose view. Worse yet they see it as if ‘they win’ I have to have lost. Next the majority of the Republicans in the House have very little to trade away to the Democrats and nothing that doesn’t mater much to their local base. So we end up with game after game after game in a draw, but what is worse is that the larger game, that game of running the country is about to be lost.
Next Posting: Thought experiment “What happens if the congress can not function for 6/12/18 months?”