The Differences Between Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry From a Personal Standpoint

The conventional wisdom out there is that Michele Bachmann (who won the Ames straw poll) and Rick Perry (who spoiled her victory by entering the race on the same day) are competing for the same religious conservative voters.  That masks some important differences between the two, differences that will become more evident as the campaign proceeds.

What follows is not meant to be formal political analysis, but some musings of someone who has moved in both worlds, first as an Aggie who followed Rick Perry in College Station and later as an institutional Evangelical with some political experience.

Let’s start with Michele Bachmann.  She is almost the perfect Boomer, post-Gothard Evangelical: natalist in both belief and practice, product of the Evangelical “system” (esp. her years at ORU) and theonomistic.  She defies her opponents’ stereotypes of gender roles in Christianity, but Sarah Palin showed that Evangelicals can be flexible about this if the situation calls for it.  As a Midwesterner, she’s more transparent and precise about what she thinks, as opposed to Southerners, who always muddy the waters with Celtic, relational politics.  Her goal is to restore an ideal construct on this soil, not an uncongenial goal since the United States is, in many ways, an ideal construct.  But the complexity of our society, the creeping tendency of our people to simply gauge everything in terms of outcomes rather than principles, and the endless influence of moneyed interest groups make the restoration of an ideal construct beyond the realm of possibility.

“Old Army Rick” Perry reminds me of something a friend of mine in the Corps of Cadets told me the first semester I was there: the Corps encouraged its members to get any religion they could.  Perry’s religion doesn’t strike me as opportunistic but neither does it seem as deeply internalised as Bachmann’s.  He is a product of a conservative culture which spawned parsimonious government, and he is faithful to that.  He’s not afraid of bare-knuckles politics if he thinks it suits his purpose.  The results of a Rick Perry presidency would not be as “pure” as a Michele Bachmann one, but they would be more sure to come to fruition.

So which one to choose?  It depends upon how you look at our present situation.  If you want to go for a restoration of whatever conservative ideal is in your mind, then Michele Bachmann is the one for you.  If you’re looking for more expedient results and pain for conservatism’s political enemies, Rick Perry is more likely to deliver.  In late Roman Republic terms, a Bachmann vs. Perry comparison would be a Brutus vs. a Julius Caesar; in late Empire terms, a Gratian vs. a Constantine.

I’m also inclined to think that Perry, as these differences become apparent, will cut more into Mitt Romney’s camp than Bachmann’s.  But all bets are off if Sarah Palin gets into the race, because she in some ways combines the attributes of both.

Note on the Corps of Cadets: some background articles on Rick Perry emphasise the animosity between the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M and the “non-regs” (civilian students.)  I as a “non-reg” always got along with people in the Corps because I was raised with a deep respect for the military, but there were others on both sides who had other opinions.  There was friction between the two; Texas A&M is a deeply conservative university where change comes with difficulty, and there are periods in its history when that conservatism in the student body clashed with the administration.

Month of Sundays: Truth

On coming into the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples this question–“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Some say John the Baptist,” they answered, “Others, however, say that he is Elijah, while others again say Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets.” “But you,” he said, “who do you say that I am?” And to this Simon Peter answered: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” was a strange question for Jesus to ask his disciples. Time and time again in his ministry, Our Lord showed justified disdain for the opinions of men. But now he was asking his disciples that very question—about his own nature!

People are always either trying to figure out what people around them think or appealing to it to win an argument. Anyone who watches cable news knows that polls are being taken constantly on a wide variety of opinions. We ridicule politicians who “stick their finger in the wind” to see where public opinion blows and then go with it, but we get angry at those who don’t as “unresponsive!” When we try to prove something to someone, we fall back on “they say” or “everybody is doing it.” Such an argument is an appeal to the crowd, logically fallacious as it is unbiblical.

But Jesus asked the question as the setup to the most important one of all: “who do you say that I am?” Peter characteristically blurted out what came to mind first, but in this case he was correct: “…no human being has revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven.” (Matthew 16:17b)

It’s not what man says, but what God says that counts. Jesus’ argument stopper with Satan in the wilderness was simple: “Scripture says…Scripture also says…Scripture says.” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10) Do we live as if we believe that? Are we making our decisions based on what God says, asking him “…with hands reverently uplifted, avoiding heated controversy.” (1 Timothy 2:8b?) Or are we just sticking our fingers in the wind?

The God of the Dollar

There are many things about these United States that stick in the craw of atheists, and one of them is the requirement that “In God We Trust” be emblazoned on all of our currency, both paper and specie.  Their hearts are warmed at the thought that, like the Euro, any references to God would be expunged from our currency.  And they’re hoping that someday that magic lawsuit (or more accurately the right mix of judges) would grant them their wish, not only about our currency but also about everything else in American life.

It’s interesting to note that our currency has not always carried this motto.  The first time it did was in 1864, during the Civil War, when the Union, in its efforts to free the slaves (among other things) ran short of specie for everyday commerce.  So it devised the two cent piece, with the motto at the top of the reverse.  Theists, while Sherman marched to the sea and Grant tightened his grip on Richmond and Petersburg, literally got their two cents worth in, although it was years later that the motto was extended to all United States currency.

Whether atheists would forego the freeing of the slaves in order to achieve their agenda is a question they would have to answer.  But that’s not the only conundrum facing such people.  The motto “In God We Trust” is an expression of faith, the traditional faith of the vast majority of the American people.  But wiping this off of American currency will not eliminate the element of faith with regards to our money.  Our paper money has another statement of faith at its top, and that is “Federal Reserve Note.”  It has been many years since our currency has been backed by physical assets of one kind or another, or for that matter our coinage contain precious metals which approached or achieved its stated monetary value.  But that last declaration of faith, along with “United States of America” on all of our money, is the basis not only for its acceptance as legal tender, but also for the dollar being the world’s reserve currency.

The history of faith based currency—starting with FDR, coursing through the Bretton Woods system, to Richard Nixon’s abandonment of fixing the value of the dollar to gold and onward to the present—is a story better told elsewhere.  But the simple fact is that, for the lifetime of most Americans, the value and acceptance of U.S. currency has been based on people’s faith.  That faith in turn is grounded on two things: their basic confidence in the U.S. and its wealth generating capability, and faith in those who manage the currency to do so properly.

Both of these pillars have been shaky lately.  The U.S.’ inability to meaningfully restart its economy—in spite of or because of TARP, the 2009 stimulus, QE1 and QE2—has challenged the unalloyed confidence people have had in this country’s ability to remain the anchor man of the economic world and its status as the safe haven.  The recent debt downgrade indicates that the financial world finally realizes that the long term dysfunction of American government and politics really do have consequences (took long enough…)  And frankly improvement on neither front is in sight.

Loosening such faith places us in uncharted waters.  It reminds one of the old Renaissance drawing of a man, previously in the safe Ptolemaic, earth-centered universe, poking his head into the new Copernican cosmos where planets orbited around the sun and the stars were no longer fixed in finite spheres.  Atheists and secularists tell us that this is the kind of progress one should expect when science marches forward, and they rejoice.

But deities are always the most dispensable when they’re not yours, and the sad truth is that it’s the atheists’ favorite deity—the state—which is on the line these days.  To a large extent the state has displaced God in Europe, and this process is proceeding on this side of the Atlantic—that is, as long as the state can perpetuate two illusions: a) the illusion of democratic process, that people have a say in the way things are done whether they actually do or not, and b) the illusion of the ability to provide the basics of life, which in turn is dependent upon the “limitless” resources of the state.  Both are jeopardized in this new outgoing tide of faith, which will leave many ships of state high and dry.

The last time atheists had command of the situation, we had the state controlled currencies of the Marxist-Leninist states.  (Marx had predicted that the state would wither away in the dictatorship of the proletariat, but that’s another atheistic promise that didn’t get fulfilled…)  For the Soviet Union that ended badly with the bankruptcy of the nation, a superpower default that haunts the present situation as an uninvited and unwanted guest.  China has attempted a more gradual transition for the renminbi, but their mercantilist ambitions cloud the long term course of becoming a truly world currency.

But all of this tour of the history of fiat currency underscores the whole point of this diatribe: getting “In God We Trust” off of the currency will not eliminate the element of faith—or religion—in our finances, it will only change the altar at which we might worship.  That in turn illustrates an important point about postmodern atheism and secularism: far from being an escape from religion, it simply mandates a change in same.  Is this progress?  I don’t think so.

For the Christian, our hope and faith is in God, and that should and must transcend whatever secondary faiths we pick up along the way.  As N.T. Wright likes to say, one point of the New Testament is that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.  We spend far too much time in the church talking about God as our shield of protection around us from natural phenomena when we should concentrate on same shield from human stupidity.  (Sometimes that stupidity is our own!)  When we grasp the full meaning of that, we will have come a long way in our quest to advance our own faith.

In the meanwhile, “In God we trust, all others pay cash.”  That is, if they come up with a cash we can spend…

People who are Both Gay and Fat are in Serious Trouble

The lobby for the overweight strikes back at Michelle Obama’s campaign against swelling waistlines:

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Monday, NAAFA public relations director Peggy Howell said the First Lady “essentially gave permission to everyone to condemn the children with higher body weights.”

Howell called Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign “well-intentioned, but somewhat misdirected.”

“What I mean by ‘misdirected’ is that rather than educating and encouraging our nation to create healthy practices for all children, focusing on the health of all our children, children of higher body weight have been singled out and the focus of the campaign is on weight reduction and not on improving children’s health.

It’s orthodoxy in the LGBT community that being of same sex orientation is the reason for bullying, hence their campaign to protect young homosexuals in numerous ways, i.e., anti-bullying campaigns, hate crimes, teaching “gay history,” etc.  Unfortunately reality doesn’t always correspond with our politically correct rhetoric; in fact, it seldom does, which is why our society careens from one “insoluble” problem to the next.

The reality is that you don’t need to be gay or fat or anything else in particular to be bullied.  You just need to be different.  In a society obsessed with shared values and socialisation, being different is dangerous.  The LGBT leadership has operated under the assumption that, if they can change what people think of as “different” they can improve their own position.  But in the process they will transfer the label of different to other groups of people.  That’s not progress.

In the meanwhile, if you’re of same sex orientation, overweight and of school age, I’d recommend you’d lay low.  Your days of being a target for one reason may be over, but your days of being a target are not.

The Hole in the "Dominionist/Theonomist Plan" for America

Ryan Lizza’s piece in the New Yorker about Michele Bachmann brings up what must rate as the most incoate dread the left has about the Religious Right: the “dominionist” movement, which I prefer to refer to as the “theonomist” movement.  You see this in left wing blogs (both in the articles and in the comments) and in places like the New Yorker.  The fear, obviously, is that these dominionists will finally give legs to the Religious Right’s agenda, take over the system and force everyone else to zip their mouths and pants, and not necessarily in that order.

My own opinion is simple: if the Religious Right hasn’t accomplished this result in the thirty plus years it’s been at it under the circumstances it’s had, it won’t happen in the life of this Republic.  Evidently the left doesn’t share my view on this: they keep bringing this up, which makes you wonder about the level of paranoia floating around these days.

But there’s a better reason to believe that the “dominionist/theonomist” agenda is a non-starter, and that is a purely Biblical one.  Most of the wellspring of this movement comes from the Old Testament, and specifically the law.  Intimately linked with the law are such things as the Jewish priesthood, the sacrificial system, and ultimately the worship system centralised around same priesthood and the Ark of the Covenant.  That system ultimately became the Temple sacrificial system, same Temple built by Solomon.

That centralised system became a major issue in the life of pre-exilic Judah and Israel.  It’s not an understatement to say that the centralisation of worship, sacrifice and sacerdotal authority (all of which are necessary in the enforcement of the law) were a central issue in the history of pre-Exilic Judaism.  There was the running battle against the high places (which were syncretistic in many cases) but the major issue was the Kingdom of Israel, the Northern Kingdom.  When Jeroboam seceded from the Davidic monarchy he set up alternative worship at Dan and Bethel, specifically to solve both his religious and political problems at one shot:

And Jeroboam said in his heart: Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David, If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem: and the heart of this people will turn to their lord Roboam, the king of Juda, and they will kill me, and return to him. And finding out a device, he made two golden calves, and said to them: Go ye up no more to Jerusalem: Behold thy gods, O Israel, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other in Dan: (1 Kings 12:26-29)

The point of all of this is simple: without a centralised authority, both religious and political, to both authoritatively interpret the law of God and to enforce it, the whole “dominionist/theonomist” dream goes up in smoke.  A cursory inspection of the wildly fragmented nature of evangelical Christianity, with its dicey authority nature, will show that such a structure is not in the cards.  Liberals always fear that the state can carry this agenda out on its own, but in Christianity that’s just not going to happen, not on a broad basis in any case.  If political victory were to ever be achieved, I think that the fragmented nature of Evangelical Christianity would dissipate temporal success.

Back when our country was started and for many years thereafter, people understood that the greatest threat to religious liberty were organised, institutionally coherent and officially designated state churches.  The fact that the left spends so much time in fear of the amorphous blob that is Evangelical Christianity today is another sign of paranoia afoot.  Years ago, when Jack Kennedy ran for President, the fear was that the most accomplished of the state churches, Roman Catholicism, would run the country through its President.  (On the flip side, one reason I think Evangelicals deeply distrust Mitt Romney is that he is a member of the LDS church, which has the organisation to step into such a role.)

After the Exile, the Jews pulled their situation together the best they could.  Part of that was ejecting the Samaritans, whose worship on Mt. Gerizim recalled Jeroboam’s golden calves, both spiritually and politically.  Our Lord directly addressed this issue to the Samaritan woman:

“Believe me,” replied Jesus, “a time is coming when it will be neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem that you will worship the Father. You Samaritans do not know what you worship; we know what we worship, for Salvation comes from the Jews. But a time is coming, indeed it is already here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father spiritually and truly; for such are the worshipers that the Father desires.  God is Spirit; and those who worship him must worship spiritually and truly.”  (John 4:21-24)

The sooner that the theonomists–and the liberals for that matter–grasp what Jesus was saying here, the better for both them and the rest of us.

The Collapse of Political Trust = The Collapse of Expectations

In his interesting analysis about The Collapse of Political Trust, Jonah Lehrer makes the following observation:

And this returns us to the present dysfunction in Washington. If trust is about the distribution of rewards – about learning to expect bonuses from others – then it’s going to be a lot harder to share those rewards in an age of scarcity and deficits. For the first time in decades, congresspeople aren’t trading pork barrel projects and tax breaks – they’re negotiating steep budget cuts. Those cuts might be necessary, but they’re aren’t going to excite the caudate or generate that requisite burst of “social juice.” The traditional means of developing trust among Congresspeople have disappeared.

In making this observation, he’s overlooked something else: developing trust through horse trading of patronage not only depends upon the availability of resources, but also on the expectation that the end result will actually benefit you or your constituencies.  That’s especially true of the Republicans.

If we look at the long term positions of conservatives, we see an aversion to government action and control.   Although people today see that as a given, that hasn’t always been the case.  In the past conservative legislators and executives (especially conservative Democrats, today almost an oxymoron) garnered all kinds of benefits for their constituents, especially public works projects.  It was just the way things were done.

What changed dramatically in the 1960’s and 1970’s was the nature of government action.  We started to see the wholesale expansion of government activities such as the EPA, OSHA and the like, which conservative business people (especially small business people) saw as inimical to their interests.  The course of the tax code and the legal environment of the financial industry only add to the irritation.  The longer this has gone on, the easier it is to sell people on the idea that any government action is inimical to their interests, thus the Tea Party agenda.  (We can chart this course of action with social issues as well.)

That leads us to what almost brought the debt ceiling dance to a halt: increasing tax revenues.  There’s no way that our national indebtedness will decrease without these (and it’s more than probable that it won’t with them.)  But Republicans see any tax increase as only benefiting their enemies: those at the top of government, the financial industry and the legal one.  So they’ve gotten to the point where their interests are better served by bringing the house down rather than advancing a solution in a “rational” way.  So we forewent a tax increase, although the expiration of the Bush tax cuts extension means that the clock is running very fast on that.  (That is, if the gutless wonder we have in the White House doesn’t lose his nerve again, as he did in 2010…)

Liberals always work under the assumption that conservatives are blind to the growing inequity of income and wealth in our country.  I don’t think so, especially since most conservatives (the rank and file, not our leadership) are in the group that’s being left behind.  Part of the problem is that most conservatives are too ashamed to admit that, the way the system is rigged these days, they can’t make it to the top, even if that inability isn’t really their fault, but reflects changes in the social system.  But until liberals figure out a way to advance things in this country without immediately and endlessly lining their own pockets (and that’s unlikely) we’re stuck in a political rut that won’t get filled or paved (just like our road system) any time soon.

Contracting resources do make it harder to come to agreement, as they did in the debt ceiling crisis and will again.  But there are other things at work to bedevil our political system, and they’re not going away any time soon, either.

Month of Sundays: Time

Take great care, then, how you live–not unwisely but wisely, Making the most of every opportunity; for these are evil days. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Many years ago, my family business established a branch operation in West Palm Beach, Florida. We built a facility and lined up personnel to operate it. We also brought in people from other facilities to help set things up.

Across the street was a company called “U and Me Transfer and Storage,” who was helping to get the equipment into the new place. Unfortunately no one told the out of town people who “U and Me” were. When the plant manager went on and on about “U and Me will bring this in,” and “U and Me will set that up,” one man threw up his hands and said, “When’s you and me going to find time to do all of this?”

That is frequently the way things go in the church. Jesus promised that “For where two or three have come together in my Name, I am present with them.” (Matthew 18:20), and when work is to be done, too often that’s it! We know the time is short to do God’s work, but too often our churches fulfill another one of Jesus’ statements: “The harvest…is abundant, but the laborers are few.” (Luke 10:2a)

That’s why it’s important to disciple and train as many people as possible to do God’s work. We need to ask God first to send those our way, and then we need to disciple and prepare them for the work that needs to be done. We frequently skip that step, putting them to work before they have been discipled, but Jesus invested much of his earthly ministry in the preparation of his disciples. Can we do any less?

Therefore pray to the Owner of the harvest to send laborers to gather in his harvest. (Luke 10:2b)

Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the Faith of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)

Rick Perry's Prayer Rally: It's Really Midnight Yell Practice

This Saturday Texas Gov. Rick Perry is sponsoring a prayer rally called “The Response.”  In a country whose elites are sensitive to any serious demonstration of faith, the reactions have been predictable.  But in view of the buzz regarding Rick’s plans after The Response, I think we need to look at this another way.

Ags, this is Midnight Yell Practice, only this time it’s 1000-1700.

Rick Perry ’72 graduated from Texas A&M the year before I came there.  Not only that, Rick was a Yell Leader.  A&M’s whole cheering system was one of those culture shocks I experienced, but once an Aggie, always an Aggie.  So here goes, with some photos and reminisces in an era much closer to Rick’s time in College Station.

Most colleges and pro teams use cheerleaders to fire up the team.  Since the early 1930’s A&M has always used Yell Leaders.  There are five of them, all men (they’re elected, a woman hasn’t been chosen yet.)

Below: the five Yell Leaders, dressed in white, on the track during the game with Boston College, 29 September 1973.  They have an elaborate system of signals to keep the Aggies’ yell together, thus the need to practice.

Yell leaders and cheerleaders contrasted; the yell leader is at the right, the cheerleaders towards the centre and left, for the Baylor game 27 October 1973.  In the middle is the drum major for the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, a military band.   What Baylor was trying to accomplish with the armed rabble in the background is a mystery, but they didn’t stand much of a chance against the Corps of Cadets.  Up in Fayetteville the Arkansas Razorbacks liked to throw whiskey bottles at opposing bands during half-time, but they kept them in their brown bags when the Aggies came on the field.

Yell Leader Ron Plackmeier (one of the early civilians to get the job) trying to keep the yells going at the Baylor game.  The water on the track showed another occupational hazard of yell leaders: getting rained on, but everyone else had to put up with it.

I mentioned the elaborate set of signals, and this leads to the need (?) for Midnight Yell Practice.  Generally held the Friday night before the game, to be honest it was a combination of pep rally, revival meeting (sometimes candles would be lit or handkerchiefs waved), military drill and pagan ceremony.  Usually we would gather near the Corps Quad and march over to Kyle Field for the actual practice.  “March” is a stretch; what we did was go shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-to-arm behind the band as a tightly packed group.  Many of us were drunk (drinking at 18 was legal when I was at Texas A&M) and pity the poor soul who didn’t keep up, it was easy to get trampled in the rush.  (Sober and tall, I had something of an advantage over many others).

Once at Kyle Field the yell leaders would do their thing, interspersing the actual yell practice with all kinds of what Aggies call “good bull.”  Some of that good bull could be off-colour; A&M was still a predominantly male school, more so when Rick was there.  The best Midnight Yell Practice (and in some ways the most pagan) was before the t.u. game, when they lit the Aggie Bonfire, at the time situated on a high place in back of the Corps Quad.  When they lit the 70’+ high Bonfire, your face felt like melting off even when you were standing well away from it.

In any case Midnight Yell Practice was frequently more exciting than the game itself.  The 1973 season wasn’t A&M’s best (5-6) and we had to stand (yes, stand, as in 12th Man) through four quarters of Emory Bellard’s (of blessed memory, he died of ALS earlier this year) Wishbone football, some of the most boring college ball to ever hit the NCAA.

But to the present: Midnight Yell Practice was the natural prelude to the Aggie football game.  The Response, for its part, is the natural prelude to Rick running for President, and I would be surprised if he hasn’t made the analogy himself.  The big difference is that college football games are planned and scheduled openly years in advance, an upheaval in conferences (and A&M has experienced that) excepted.  With the complex theatrics we have in American politics, Rick’s announcement to run is anything but, although I have confidence that his team is warming up for that contest, too.

Below: between Midnight Yell Practice and the game, warming up, as the Aggies did here for the Boston College game.

Rick’s run for the Republican nomination is going to be one of the more interesting parts of this election cycle.  On  the one hand, his supreme advantage is that he is from the Republicans’ base region, the Old Confederacy.  People here may agree with the social and economic conservatism of a Tim Pawlenty or Michele Bachmann, but they’re still Midwesterners.  (Things really get dicey with Mitt Romney).  On the other hand, Rick, as an Aggie, is a product of a different kind of conservative than most social conservatives these days.  It’s a conservatism where religiosity coexists with some decidedly unspiritual things like Midnight Yell Practice.  (At A&M, the two coexisted well: the strong group strength and spirit was a boost to the various Christian fellowships there).  How a candidate who’s cool with NY’s same sex civil marriage based on the 10th Amendment will sit with today’s semi-theonomist remains to be seen.

For me personally, having an Aggie break the dreary procession of post-Reagan Ivy Leaguers would be very satisfying.  It won’t be easy; in addition to his elitist snob credentials, Barack Obama can woo an electorate which has grown more accustomed to the dole and/or helicopter parenting than ever, and that in a background of economic uncertainty.  But don’t underestimate Rick Perry: like those to try to stand in the way of the march at Midnight Yell Practice, it’s easy to get trampled in the rush.

The American Middle Class: When You Have Nothing to Lose, You Don't Care If The System Makes It Or Not

That, according to “Spengler” is what’s going on with the Tea Party’s stubbornness in the recent debt ceiling debacle:

The trouble is that both the Tea Party and President Barack Obama have existential reasons to force a crisis. Obama, as I wrote two weeks ago, faces probable defeat with a becalmed economy, and may benefit from a crisis in which he casts himself as savior-in-chief (see Obama could stir a Tea Party crisis, July 19). The Tea Partiers may conclude that no compromise will benefit them, and decide to take the system down in revenge.

There is an underlying economic motive for this confrontation: the cure for the American economy is not necessarily a cure for the majority of the American middle class. The only recovery thus far (and the only recovery possible under the circumstances) has occurred in corporate profits and equity prices.

But this benefits only the small minority of wealthy American families who hold financial assets. The majority of Americans hold most of their wealth in real property (mainly their own homes). They have had no recovery and have no prospect of one. And the quickest path to recovery is one that offers few benefits to them…

Neither the middle-class Republicans who support the Tea Party, nor the core Democratic constituencies who elected Barack Obama, have much of a stake in the outcome of the budget debate. That explains why the debt ceiling has turned into a cliffhanger, to the consternation of financial markets.

What we are seeing here is the disconnection of the prosperity and success of the country with the prosperity and success of a large portion of its population.  This is always dangerous.  We’ve averted disaster for the moment, but the cuts are inadequate, and there’s more political mischief to come.  Both Barack Obama and the Tea Party blinked, because the alternative is the abyss, and neither is sure who’s going to be alive when they hit the bottom.

If the recovery drags out–and that looks to be the case–the desperation may increase, and someone may finally decide to pull the plug.  There are plenty more opportunities for that to happen.