Don’t understand the GOP shutdown strategy? Think “gambling addict”

If you can’t figure out why the Republicans keep upping the ante in their ongoing battle to defund health care reform, simply ask yourself why a gambling addict doesn’t walk out after losing the rent money. Because such a move would mean accepting his loss, and facing reality.

Instead, the addict’s thinking is that by betting the car payment too he could win everything back and more.

The Republican party’s first bad bet was sitting out during the health care reform debate.  As is their way of late, the Republicans didn’t try to make Obamacare better, they tried to shut it down every step of the way. (So, actually, we’re dealing with really bad gamblers who have more than a touch of hubris.)

GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the authors of the government shutdown to kill Obamacare.

GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the authors of the government shutdown to kill Obamacare.

Remember how the health care reform debate started?  That’s right, the Republicans sent their black-helicoptered thugs to shout, and shut, down Democratic town hall meetings in August of 2009.  They didn’t show up to express another point of view, or to make the bill – and our health care system – better.  They went for broke, put all their bets on the most extreme position possible – saying “no” to any reform at all – and ultimately they lost. The Affordable Care Act passed, and while it wasn’t everything we wanted, it was a bit step in the right direction.

So, the Republicans did what any bad gambler would do.  They lost the car, so they decided to bet the house.  (In this case, judging by recent polls, the literal US House.)

Tea party obama hitler guns

The Republicans petulantly shut down the entire federal government so they could defund Obamacare.  If they can’t get what they want, then you can’t get what you want, whether that’s your cancer drug trials at NIH, Head Start, nutrition for women, infants, and children, food safety inspections, or even death benefits for the families of US service members killed in the line of duty.

But of course, like any good bad-gambler, the GOP was able to find just enough money to help themselves, that’s why John Boehner deemed the US House sauna and swimming pool “essential” while cutting off money to the families of dead US troops. That’s not to say that the congressional Republicans aren’t entirely heartless – they did give up towel privileges at their “essential” taxpayer-funded gym.

tea party

Tea Party rally. The Islamic symbol at the bottom right of the poster is a nice touch. Ira Bostic /

As John wrote the other day, the Republican party is now at a whopping 70% disapproval rating for how they’re handling the budget talks.  That’s down 7 points from last week.  In a perverse way though, the more the Republicans Obamacare strategy backfires, the more motivation they have to keep gambling, and upping the ante.

The GOP refuses to “surrender,” but the rent-money’s spent – so what do they do? They gamble with the money set aside for families of our fallen troops, the money used to feed infants and teach preschoolers, and the money used to keep our food safe. They’re betting with the earnings of 800,000 furloughed workers (now around 450,000, as DOD workers were deemed essential), and as if that’s not enough, they’re prepared to bet the entire world economy simply to save face.

The latest GOP threat, to default on the national debt, is no joke.  While the Republicans continue to insist that a default wouldn’t hurt the US or world economy, and in fact wouldn’t even be a “real” default at all, the experts say otherwise.  All the experts – Republican ones included.

Bloomberg News posted a horrific story the other day, titled “A U.S. Default Seen as Catastrophe Dwarfing Lehman’s Fall.”  It’s difficult to misinterpret where that story’s heading.  Just as difficult as it is to misunderstand where the Republican party is heading.

What’s needed with this people isn’t a negotiation. It’s an intervention.

Or perhaps a SWAT team.


Chris Andoe is an author and seasoned activist. After meeting John Aravosis at a Chicago “” protest in 2000, Chris was inspired to organize his own major demonstrations in St. Louis, which drew national attention. Since then, his activism has revolved around LGBT, affordable housing, and mass transit issues. In 2011 Andoe made headlines taking on the amorphous hacker group Anonymous for publishing nude photos of a Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesperson, saying “Puritanical shame-based tactics have no place in the capital of sexual liberation”, and he extensively covered San Francisco's jarring gentrification, from mass evictions to the nudity ban. Andoe was on the ground in Ferguson at the height of the unrest, recording events as they unfolded. Always in the fray, Andoe’s been interviewed by NPR, CBS, and has been quoted from CNN to The St. Louis Post Dispatch.

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26 Responses to “Don’t understand the GOP shutdown strategy? Think “gambling addict””

  1. MACV says:

    Or in the words of George Carlin (RIP)

    “They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking…They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting screwed by a system that threw them overboard 30 years ago…They want obedient workers…People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shitty jobs with the lower pay, longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now they’re coming for your social security” …

  2. Bill_Perdue says:

    ” The Tea Party doesn’t like the Koch bros either.”

    True, but in the same way the Brownshirts claimed to despise the Krupps. They were being used, just as the TP is being used. And when the time came, the Brownshirts became bully boys for the Krupps just as the TP will for the Kochs.

  3. RepubAnon says:

    The difference between negotiating and backing down is quite clear: if both sides make meaningful concessions to reach a deal – it’s a negotiation. If one side makes concessions while the other side gives up nothing in return – it’s backing down.

  4. karmanot says:

    First the bully calls in advance to get the exact location and contents of the lunch and is told all the details, plus an additional dessert of the bully’s choice will be included.

  5. karmanot says:

    Yep. Now it’s entitlements, which gives Obozo another chance to cut Social Security and ‘negotiate’ chained CPI as a typical Dem cave.

  6. karmanot says:

    And the end of the Dixicraps, I hope.

  7. MyrddinWilt says:

    I think I called it months ago when I said that trying to predict GOP behavior with any confidence is a mugs game.

    At the weekend I wrote a piece that said Boehner looked set to fold on the default thing then he went and doubled down on the Sunday talks show saying that default was definitely on the table. Now he is busy telling folk they are going to delay default six weeks. Anyone who doesn’t think the Koch bros are pulling the strings here is an idiot, they write a letter and the stupid stops, well for a while.

    Chis has the analogy right in part, the problem is that the Republicans are playing for different stakes to everyone else. The fear that was driving them till today was the fear of Koch funded Tea Party challengers. If that is all they fear then the game is over and Obama wins.

    But they might have a new thing to fear right now, a third party movement:

    The emergence of a third party could seriously damage the GOP in the 2014 general election. Even if it only takes 5% it can cost control of the house because that 5% is going to be concentrated in the blue states. And gerrymandering seats to get more of them means reducing your majority in each one.

    Like the libertarians, the GOP really isn’t offering the Tea Party folk anything right now. The Tea Party doesn’t like the Koch bros either.

  8. Badgerite says:

    I’d go with the Swat Team.
    On the website ‘I Am Obamacare’ there are stories from people for whom this law has made a huge difference. In some cases, saving their life.

  9. ArthurH says:

    In many of the bigger casinos they have systems in place to keep problem gamblers out. Perhaps a similar system could be installed at the door of the House of Representatives to screen out the Tea Party gamblers who refuse to recognize that they have lost and want to redouble their efforts?

  10. Bill_Perdue says:

    I was speaking in terms of public support. They have the same program as the Democrats so politically they their owners, the .01% can’t lose. The fix is on. We’re being gamed.

  11. lynchie says:

    Wait for it in 5, 4, 3, 2 ……

  12. lynchie says:

    Wall street doesn’t care about food safety or any other issues. If the shit hits the fan in this country they have their money off shore and we can all suffer. The 1% have been allowed by us to treat us as dogs. We never get pissed off enough to do anything and with a Military style police force little likelihood they ever will.

  13. lynchie says:

    Don’t be so sure they lost. They got dems to agree to the Ryan budget and they are really after SS and Medicare. I am not convinced the dems won’t give in to keep O’Highness’ signature plan. That is his legacy. He can blame loss of the social safety net on Republicans.

  14. Bill_Perdue says:

  15. Bill_Perdue says:

    I remember hearing the same thing before.

    The duopoly established by the great Betrayal of 1877 is still in place.

  16. Bill_Perdue says:

    The Republicans are gambling and they’re going to lose this hand.

    Their strategy of injecting deeply polarizing partisanship and more than a little racism into the fight with Obama and the Democrats over what is essentially their health care scam is, for them, a loser.

    Obama stole Romneycare and adopted it’s provisions pretty much entirely. He learned that trick, outflanking the Republicans from the right, from Bill Clinton. Clinton stole DOMA (1), NAFTA (2) and deregulation (3) from them when he was president. The other way of looking at it is that when Republicans can’t pass unpopular legislation the ruling rich, who own both parties, pass the torch to Democrats who, because they lie so much better than Republicans, can get the job done.

    Many of the most odious provisions of Obamacare won’t come into effect until after 2016 so the long term opposition to the bill won’t be seen for awhile. But what will be seen is the extreme partisanship of the Republicans. That may or may not shift the House next year but it will make bipartisanship difficult except for wars of aggression and attacks on the Bill of Rights, which both parties agree on.

    For now it’s a stalemate and federal workers and other working people and their families, as always, are paying the price for partisan squabbling between two essentially similar right wing political gangs. The ultimate conclusion is that both the Democrats and the Republicans and the rich who own them are unfit to rule and more and more people will see that.

    (1) From TIME: By the time Clinton arrived in Chicago for his party’s convention in August, nothing that hinted at liberalism was left hanging on him. When the President, who had begun his term advocating the rights of gays in the military, came around to supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition for gay and lesbian unions, Dole was wide-eyed. “Is there anything we’re for that he won’t jump on?” Dole asked. The answer, essentially, was nothing… John Aravosis quoting TIME magazine in a must read post



    Why are these people laughing?

  17. heimaey says:

    Exactly – that’s what I was trying to say.

  18. nicho says:

    What the Dems do is give the bully their lunch money — before the bully asks for it.

  19. nicho says:

    More people will suffer and die as a result of the GOP terrorism than were injured and died on 9-11. That should put things in perspective for you. The Republicans are terrorists — and traitors. Osama bin Laden was only a terrorist — not a traitor. How’s that for more perspective?

  20. MyrddinWilt says:

    Have people noticed that whenever the Republicans are making things politically difficult for Democrats it is fair play but when a Democrat refuses to make things politically easy for Republicans it is their fault that the country is at risk and they must back down?

    People are saying that Obama has to give Boehner a face saving compromise. I don’t see that at all. It makes no sense for a gambler losing at poker to up the ante but it makes total sense for a player with a big hand to go all in.

    Obama certainly should not permit a default, but he should up the pressure on the GOP to avoid default rather than let them off the hook with a face saving concession. The GOP has to learn something from this and they won’t learn anything if they can pretend that they have won.

    So imagine that Obama calls Boehner at 4pm next wednesday and says ‘the money will run out tomorrow and the US will default, I am declaring a bank holiday until the Congress abolishes the debt ceiling, I am going on the air at 5pm today, you have until midnight to avoid shutting down the whole country.’

    I think that the country would support Obama, people love decisive action even if it is completely counterproductive. Most people also like an unexpected day off work. I can even give you the start of Boehner’s speech to his caucus, ‘The debt ceiling crisis has proceeded not necessarily to the Republican Parties advantage.’

  21. heimaey says:

    There is negotiating and then there is what the Dems *usually* do which is back down. They are distinct.

  22. caphillprof says:

    This is hopefully the last gasp of white privilege by a Southern dominated, almost lily-white political sect.

  23. discus_sucks_ass says:

    well there is the root of the problem, negociating is NOT “backing down”. It is how governing actually works. the situation now is more akin to hostage takers demanding to be let go if they don’t shoot any more hostages.

  24. Drew2u says:

    The whole thing speaks to a larger issue of “Libertarian” anarchy and extraction. Mining/Oil is huge with Republicans, and it’s about extracting resources and not giving a damn about the environmental consequences. No taxes is about extracting money from the federal government to provide services with a, “I have mine” lasseiz-faire attitude of living in private communities with private security contractors. The no healthcare is less about personal responsibility and more of not seeing the humanity in others and taking care of them; same with food stamps. Subsidies are always “for me but not for thee”.

    It’s a fundamental difference between being in a Union and being in 50 disparate Hunger Games states.

  25. heimaey says:

    I think they are gamblers, they usually win. Obama standing up this hard is sort of unprecedented and Dems almost always back down and negotiate.

  26. RepubAnon says:

    I’d disagree that the Republicans are problem gamblers – gamblers tend to know the odds, and think they can beat them. Republican Tea Partiers are more akin to what psychiatrists call “folie a deux” – a shared delusion. If you got all your information from within the Republican bunker, you’d believe that President Obama and the Democrats were a bunch of spineless wimps who would cave in when faced by a determined opponent. After all, they’ve been told this for years. The 2011 budget negotiations would have confirmed this belief.

    Imagine your confusion if you lived within the Republican groupthink bubble when President Obama stood up to them on this round. It’s like not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when you thought it was a “slam dunk” situation.

    The New York Times is reporting that Wall Street is beginning to have buyer’s regret over their support for gerrymandered Republican districts. (Business Groups See Loss of Sway Over House G.O.P.) Wall Street gambled and lost – and that loss may again tank the economy. Perhaps we need to reach out to Wall Street and ask whether food safety regulations are really more costly than salmonella outbreaks…

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