I will admit right upfront that there is a little bit of wishful thinking in what you're about to read.
But it's only a little bit. And my realizing that it exists hasn't changed my analysis that a government shutdown could be the point that historians one day point to as the beginning of the end for the tea partiers in Congress.
I've come to this conclusion for two reasons
First, many people don't remember that the beginning of the end of Newt Gingrich's speakership began when Republicans were blamed for the two shutdowns in 1995 and 1996.
The comparison is anything but perfect. But given that Gingrich and congressional Republicans were far more popular in the mid-1990s than the tea party is today, and in light of the fact that the tea party and not House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is most likely to bear the blame if a shutdown occurs, there's a good reason to think that at least some of the TP's supporters will find themselves cursing the tea party's name very soon, especially when the shutdown begins to affect them negatively.
One of the biggest differences between the current shutdown situation and the ones that occurred in 1995 and 1996 is that Bill Clinton could negotiate with Newt Gingrich knowing that the deal they agreed to would be accepted by their respective political parties.
That's absolutely not the case today.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) clearly does not speak for the House GOP caucus. Indeed, Boehner has been slapped down by his caucus so often and so hard in recent days that it's more likely almost anything he would agree to will be rejected out of hand than it will be taken seriously.
There's no one after Boehner. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has shown no willingness to take the lead. In addition, with Cantor supporting the Boehner plans that have been rejected, it is not clear that he has the ability to convince the House GOP caucus to do anything either.
And if that's not enough, Cantor's performance during the fiscal cliff negotiations, when he unilaterally stopped negotiating with Vice President Biden rather than compromise, creates grave doubts about his willingness and ability to be of help this time around.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) plan for dealing with the debt ceiling imbroglio has been described in detail -- or at least as much detail as is possible when there's no legislative language -- just about everywhere (take a look at Jackie Calmes piece in the New York Times and Lori Montgomery's/Paul Kane's story in the Washington Post, for example) so there's no need for me to repeat it here.
Two quick comments: