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The Fundraising Message That Ate America

The Fundraising Message That Ate America

by William Rivers Pitt
1 October 2013

He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.

- Benjamin Franklin

On Monday afternoon, with a government shutdown looming, more than 200 disabled Americans swarmed the Longworth House Office Building in Washington DC and demanded that Speaker Boehner abandon his party's ongoing attempts to screw them over by defunding the Affordable Care Act.

He ignored them, of course.

And the government shut down at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday.

At exactly, precisely the same time as the Affordable Care Act activated itself.

Because Republicans.

GOP Rep. Peter King of New York, who generally spends all 365 days of the calendar year inventing new and interesting ways to sound like a crazy person, spent Monday imploring his fellow crazy people not to shut down the government over a law they had no chance of thwarting. There was a breath of hope in the hours before the shutdown hit that King and others might band together to pull their party back from the brink, but when push came to shove, their little insurrection managed to gather exactly six votes.

When Peter King is the voice of reason in your party, you have traveled to a strange and scary sector of deep, dark, cold space.

Things have come to a pretty pass indeed when all one needs in order to explain the House GOP's governing principles is a cat .gif.

But there it is, in a nutshell.

For the record, let it be noted that I said the following exactly one week ago: "They'll work it out one way or another before doom strikes us all, even if they just kick the can down the road a ways. Almost none of them have a real taste for Armageddon. This whole kerfuffle will get settled with a few ticks left on the clock, and the 'mainstream' news coverage will be breathless, and the gears will grind on."

Not so much with me and the predicting, there. I guess I forgot what country I'm in. A recent poll on the health care law showed a massive approval gap between "Obamacare" and "Affordable Care Act." The approval rating for the latter is a dozen points higher than the approval rating for the former, even though they are the same exact thing.

Because dumb.

Thanks to the GOP-controlled redrawing of a number of district maps across the country, and to the small-but-still-influential number of voters living in those districts who don't believe the dinosaurs existed because they are not mentioned in the Bible, we currently endure just enough members of Congress who think this debacle is a good thing.

A couple million people will wake up tomorrow not knowing when they will see their next paycheck. FHA loans for people looking to buy a home are on hold, as there won't be anyone at FHA to process the loans, because the housing market isn't important to the economy or anything. Medical research at the NIH is officially on hold, because tough luck if you're sick. The FDA won't be doing most of their routine food safety inspections, so eat up if you dare, unless you're poor, because food assistance programs like WIC are going to take a big hit. Oh, and buckle your hardhat on extra tight on Tuesday, because occupational safety and health inspectors will be sitting on their couches waiting for word on when they can go back to work again.

That's for openers, and P.S., the sequester is still happening, because screw you. If there were dinosaurs, Jesus would have mentioned them and stuff. I read that in a Texas high school textbook, so it must be true.

Because America.

A lot of people have a lot of ideas about why this cluster came to be. John Boehner is the weakest House Speaker in the history of the country; Ted Cruz is pulling the strings; GOP House members from preposterously gerrymandered districts don't have to worry about blowback from their constituents, because their constituents are barking mad.

Yes, yes, and yes...but that's hardly the whole story. A truly massive number of people are going to take it on the chin because of all this, but there is one very select group that is not complaining right now. They are, instead, stacking green paper in very large piles:

As Americans awoke to find Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) still conducting his all-night talkathon to stop President Obama's healthcare law on Wednesday, some also found a pleading email in their in-boxes.

"We can win this fight, but we must do our part," read the message from the Senate Conservatives Fund with the subject line "Still Standing." The group specializes in helping conservative Senate candidates - sometimes in campaigns against other Republicans. "If you want to help us continue to put pressure on wavering Republicans, please donate $5 or more," the message said. "We are doing everything we can to win this critical fight."

For candidates and groups on both sides, the budget fight comes at an opportune time - just before the Sept. 30 deadline for many of them to report how much they have raised. In Georgia, Michelle Nunn, daughter of legendary former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, is running for a U.S. Senate seat in a state where her party hopes to pick up a Republican seat. She contrasted today's Washington dysfunction with an earlier era, when collaboration and problem-solving were considered virtues.

"Name-calling. Brinksmanship. Political posturing," she wrote in a fundraising appeal. "With just days left to avert a government shutdown, Washington is yet again in paralysis." The solution? Send a donation, her missive said. And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a favorite of many tea party followers, told his donors the Senate needed more like-minded members. Rubio had just the candidate in mind: conservative Republican Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who hopes to topple Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor.

"Your donation of $5, $10 or $20 will make a real difference," Rubio's note said.

If you think the Democrats haven't been banging this particular kettle drum, think again. No less than twelve fundraising emails have hit my mailbox since 8:00 a.m. Monday morning, two of which came from "Barack Obama" himself. "I need your help today," reads the one I got around dinnertime on Monday evening, "because all of the progress that has been made since 2008 has never been about what I can do for you, but what we can accomplish together. I need partners in the Senate and House who share that focus. And tonight's fundraising deadline is crucial. Chip in $25 or more right now before the midnight fundraising deadline to help Democrats finish what we started."

As I am not beloved by the denizens of the far right, I am not on any of their fundraising email lists...but I am going to assume that Republicans all across the country have spent the last 48 hours watching their in-boxes fill up with JESUS IS LORD COMMUNISTS AND SOCIALISTS WANT TO TAKE YOUR GUNS AND FETUSES OBAMACARE IS A TROJAN HORSE FOR SHARIA LAW KENYA BIRTH CERTIFICATE HILLARY CLINTON GIVE US MONEY OR GOD WILL MAKE YOU GAY WHAAAAARGARBLE messages.

Because money. Period, end of file, turn off the lights when you leave...oh, wait, they're already off.

That's why I think this happened, and it started a while ago. Certain influential Republicans in the House and Senate, along with the outside groups that sustain them, figured out that slapping "Repeal Obamacare!" into a direct-mail fundraising message was better than winning the lottery, so they kept at it, and kept at it, and kept at it, and O my Lord, how the money rolled in...until the monster they created stomped out of the laboratory and began tearing up the joint.

And so here we are, smack dab in the middle of the most irrational, damaging, stupid, reckless, feckless fundraising drive in the history of currency.

One last thought: if you're one of those cute folks who believe quaint notions like "consequences" and "pain" will somehow exorcise The Crazy from the Republican Party, do me and everyone you know a big favor and slap yourself soundly across the face.

This isn't an endgame. It's just getting started. Next stop: default.

Buckle up.


William Rivers Pitt is a Truthout editor and columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know," "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence" and "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.

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