More on Whether McConnell’s Woes Will Destroy America


TPM Reader BY says yes, McConnell’s troubles may hurtled the nation toward debt default and destruction. But it’s even worse than that.

I worked in the Senate over the 2009-2011 period that saw the influx of the Tea Party folks, and while I think you’re definitely right to focus on the McConnell situation, I think one key fact is generally given short shrift in all of this discussion.

For years (centuries?), “I’m not a politician” has been a sort of empty phrase used by many politicians in this country to indicate their sincerity. But, in the case of many Tea Party folks, it’s true, and I mean that in a way that’s a little different than the way it’s normally used.

I saw some charts of the outside spending in many 2010 elections, and it was shocking how high the percentage of outside money was in some GOP-won districts. Like 95% high. This – probably combined with the general collapse of state GOP parties along the same time – meant the folks who won in these districts did not have to do the traditional political tasks of piecing together a coalition of donors and supporters that are necessary for just about any major office.

This means that some of them just aren’t politicians, in the technical, literal sense of knowing anything about politics. Which, contrary to popular belief, is a real problem when these guys have to engage in politics in the legislative sense since “politics” is the process through which you get things done at that level. It’s like making doctors out of a bunch of folks who never went through med school. A critical mass of Republicans just don’t know anything about coalitions or stitching together majorities to move the ball forward. They don’t have the slightest inkling of what the process of politics looks like and how to get things done within it.

Now, clearly this is just part of what’s going on, along with the epistemic closure, the related problem of gerrymandering, etc, but it’s one that rarely gets mentioned and is a real problem.


Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of