Will symbolism be enough for the tea parties?
Kevin Drum is puzzled by the way Speaker John Boehner is handling the effort to repeal health-care reform. "He's scheduling a quick vote with no hearings and no CBO scoring just so he can say he's done it, after which he can move on to other business he actually cares about." Why, Drum asks, does Boehner think that'll satisfy people who've been convinced that the health-care law will bankrupt their children and snuff out their grandparents? Jon Bernstein tries to answer:
I think it's an indication that Boehner believes that the Tea Partiers are going to be a fairly easy bunch to manage. Toss them some symbolic stuff, and then blame everything after that on Harry Reid and Barack Obama, and you've pretty much done what you need to do. Is he right? I'm not sure, but it's not a bad bet. That's partially because Boehner knows going in that he doesn't have the votes (in the Senate and the White House, that is) to actually fulfill the Tea Party agenda. If that ultimately is going to sink him -- if activists won't, at the end of the day, accept a quarter of a loaf and cheer -- then it doesn't really matter what Boehner does. If, however, Tea Party concerns are really just symbolic anyway, then it makes sense to address them with symbolism.
It'll be really interesting to see how the tea party does -- or doesn't -- adapt to having allies in power. It's certainly not been an easy process for Obama for America, which was the last major grass-roots movement that was going to reshape American politics.
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