We’ve heard a lot lately about sociologists Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward’s famous “crisis strategy.” The idea was to allow things to get so bad that society collapsed and institutions could be redesigned. Specificially, Piven and Cloward were in favor of expanding the welfare system to the point that it collapased and an even more all-encompassing system could be created to fill the void.
I am wondering if in the more recalcitrant elements of the House GOP aren’t what I have taken to calling Piven Republicans. I think some of the more radical elements would prefer their own purity and default, with the hope of creating a new system from chaos, to a modest solution to the debt ceiling problem-the Boehner bill-with hope for a more gradual reform later.
In Vietnam War era parlance, this is similar to saying that we must burn down a village to save it. I tend to be a hardliner but I honestly can’t imagine what the Piven Republicans hope to gain from creating a more devastating crisis. It is destructive, though the Piven Republicans may emjoy feeling virtuous. John Podneretz has the best summary of the GOP dilemma:
Conservatives are terribly split. Some think Boehner has done his best to be responsible, to consider the concerns of his members, to find a path out of an unprecedented morass. Others think he is a sell-out, that he should be “holding the line” and insisting on a plan that actually eats into the burgeoning national debt and not merely the deficit (i.e, the interest owed on the debt). One of the leading voices of the “hold the line” side, Erick Erickson of Red State, suggested yesterday that those who feel differently-like Charles Krauthammer and Thomas Sowell?, among others-should be sent to “a mental ward.” He and other hardliners seem intent on staking out the position that a) a debt-ceiling collapse won’t be a disaster, or b) it will and it should because we need to get our house in order, or c) it’s somehow not fair that Republicans keep submitting plans and Democrats keep rejecting them without putting forward a plan of their own.
The long-term hardliner view of the crisis and the necessity to address systematically through the lowering of the actual debt are correct without question. No one on the Right disagrees. The problem is that Sunday night looms. And while the hardliners may feel like Churchill, saying “We will fight them on the beaches…” to my ears they are increasingly sounding like Otter, the devil-may-care Lothario of National Lampoon’s Animal House?, who is stirred to revolt against his college dean: “We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!”
To which Bluto, the barely sentient Id of the dorm, says, “We’re just the guys to do it.”