by Doctor Science
Reality in the sense of "Reality TV", i.e. "not reality". A performance.
I don't think it is. I think that, for the Tea Party end of the GOP, the attack on Obamacare makes good business sense. It's just a question of what business they're actually in -- and I don't think that business is politics in the sense of law-making. Their business is performance.
It's like one of the cooking-contest reality TV shows -- Top Chef, for instance. Contestants on Top Chef make food, but the show is not in the business of making food. People watch the show for entertainment, but the show is only partially in the business of providing entertainment for viewers, considered as customers. For the most part, Top Chef's customers are advertisers, the audience is its product, what it is actually making and selling. It makes entertainment and food along the way, but those aren't the core of its business as a business, they are not what it gets *paid* to do. It gets *paid* to put together an audience, so it is in the audience-making business, not the entertainment or food businesses.
Robert Costa at the conservative National Review reports that traditional Republican leaders don't want a government shutdown
-- and they blame the conservative movement’s cottage industry of pressure groups.Less conservative reporters are saying the same thing, though less respectfully. At Salon Alex Pareene says:
But these organizations, ensconced in Northern Virginia office parks and elsewhere, aren’t worried about the establishment’s ire. In fact, they welcome it. Business has boomed since the push to defund Obamacare caught on. Conservative activists are lighting up social media, donations are pouring in, and e-mail lists are growing.
As I’ve said a hundred times before, the conservative movement is essentially a self-perpetuating fundraising machine. This is not to say that Republican lawmakers and conservative activists are insincere in their belief that subsidies and a network of statewide exchanges for the purchase of private health insurance will destroy liberty forever, I’m merely saying that the campaign to convince voters and legislators that Republicans can delay or defeat Obamacare this month is a lucrative one, for many people.And Jamelle Bouie at the Daily Beast quotes Costa, and gives examples:
To illustrate the point, Heritage Action for America—the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank—has a standing website devoted to collecting donations. “Conservatives in Congress have proposed using the fight over a key budget bill, called the continuing resolution, to strip funding from this law. But Establishment Republicans and special interests in Washington are resisting this plan,” it explains. But there’s no reason to panic: “You can ensure Obamacare is defunded,” it asserts. All it takes is a small donation to Heritage. “Time is of the essence. Please donate now to ensure we have the resources to fight and win.”Republicans in the House have now voted to defund Obamacare 42 times. To lot of people, this looks like the definition of insanity, but I'm arguing otherwise.
As of Tuesday afternoon [Sept.17th], this particular push had raised over $327,000, and it’s no stretch to assume that other, similar efforts have raised as much if not more cash. To wit, the Senate Conservatives Fund—a political action committee devoted to electing “true conservatives to the United States Senate”—also has a specific website that collects donations for Obamacare repeal. It asks supporters to “Join Mike Lee and Ted Cruz in the fight to stop Obamacare” with a small contribution. The same goes for the National Liberty Federation, a Tea Party group that wants to know if you have a few dollars to spare in the fight against Obamacare.
GOP Congressmen aren't trying to pass laws and failing, they are trying to perform reactionary conservatism and succeeding. The repeated votes are no more nonsensical than repeat performances of a concert, because people keep paying them to do it. It's a perfectly rational, market-driven business decision.
Jamelle Bouie and many other liberals think these Congressmen and the conservative activists pressuring them are "shameless grifters" raising money from "gullible customers", but I don't think that's true. They are performers raising money from an audience, but that audience is also buying a sense of participation.
Costa notes that "It’s the appeal of a righteous battle over Obamacare, however messy it may be, that’s driving the fervor." Pareene says
Some annoyed Republicans are accusing shutdown-pushers like Ted Cruz of “not dealing in reality,” but Cruz is decidedly reality-based. He’s just selling unreality to his constituents — not just Texas voters, but the entire nationwide network of pissed-off and increasingly delusional conservatives who fund the great right-wing money carousel. He becomes a star, and they get to feel like they’re an integral part of an existential fight for America’s future. [emphasis added]This is very similar to what Slacktivist calls the Anti-Kitten-Burning Coalition and similar movements among American fundamentalists.
Americans in general really *want* to feel part of a righteous struggle against evil, and being part of such a movement feels *good*, feels exciting and meaningful. This is as true for Occupy Wall Street as it is for the Tea Party. That feeling is what conservative donors are getting for their money: they're paying people to perform reactionary conservatism on the national stage, and they're not just the audience, they're part of the performance. It's not just small, grass-roots donors, either: billionaire donors get to hang around backstage and even work on the scripts, to actually *control* the performance.
This is Reality Politics -- one reason the participants hate Republican realists so much. I have no idea (yet) what we do about it, but I think we have to start by recognizing what it *is*.
 Chris Weigant's Friday Talking Points is a useful list, though in a snide liberal wrapper.