By Brent Budowsky - 10/17/13 05:04 PM EDT
It is time to coin a phrase to describe the Republican crisis: the GOP, now dominated by a rightist faction that can be called conservatives in name only, suffers from a disease I call Ted bin Laden Syndrome.
The phrase “Ted bin Laden” was coined by conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, who recently described Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the most visible voice of Republicans as the 2014 elections approach, as “the guy who hands out suicide vests and then goes to lunch.”
I am not suggesting that Cruz, the Tea Party movement, the Heritage Foundation or extreme rightist voices who are destroying the GOP brand on political television have any affinity for violent terrorism. They do not. However, Ted bin Laden Syndrome causes powerful rightist factions to believe that centrist Republicans are as much the enemy as Democratic presidents (whether they are black or white) who must be demeaned, demonized, delegitimized and destroyed.
Ted bin Laden Syndrome is the GOP disease in which Cruz parades to the cameras (and his fundraisers) demanding (successfully) that Republicans force a government shutdown that is scandalous and appalling to most voters and threaten a U.S. default and global crash that would be destructive to all Americans, with the (failed) hope of intimidating and blackmailing Democrats and the (partially successful) hope of intimidating and — if necessary — destroying centrist Republicans unless they surrender to the fanatically extreme agenda of those I call Banana Republicans.
The message of Cruz and Ted bin Laden Republicans to centrist Republicans, whom the extremists would rather throw out of the party, as they have thrown out liberal Republicans, is this: you put on the suicide vests, strap the bomb to your chest, and blow yourself to political smithereens while we give television interviews and make money from your demise.
In this sense, the modus operandi of those who poison the GOP by spreading Ted bin Laden Syndrome is similar to terrorists who strap suicide bombs around the bodies of 14-year-olds and hide around the corner in safety to pull the cellphone trigger on the bombs that kill them.
Ted bin Laden Republicans will escalate their political holy wars until every centrist Republican is politically destroyed — they want them destroyed to move the GOP even further to the right of America, even at the cost of losing control of Congress to Democrats.
Control of the House is now in play. Democrats need to win 17 seats to regain control of the chamber. President Obama in 2012 carried 18 districts where Republicans now hold House seats, and came within 1-2 points of carrying another 19 districts now represented by House Republicans.
The fanatical and sometimes hate-filled obsessions of Ted bin Laden Republicans against Obama and ObamaCare, the collapse of the GOP brand after the shutdown and default-threat fiascos and the continuing brand damage of the GOP among women and Hispanics puts many of these 37 GOP House seats (among others) in play.
Similarly, Ted bin Laden syndrome has immeasurably helped Democrats maintain control of the Senate in recent elections (remember Sharron Angle?) and is likely to help Democrats keep control after 2014.
In 2016, when Senate Democrats enjoy the numerical advantage and the prospect of a Democratic ticket headed by Hillary Clinton, who would annihilate Ted bin Laden Republicans in a presidential election, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could achieve a generation of Senate Democratic control.
In the latest shutdown-creating and default-threatening fiasco, which will probably be repeated in 2014, Ted bin Laden Republicans offered suicide vests not only to centrist Republicans but to the whole nation.
In recent days, Ted bin Laden Syndrome promised poison to seniors worried about Social Security checks, to vets worried about veterans benefits, to small business worried about SBA loans, to stockholders and bondholders worried about a global crash, to bankers worried about a U.S. default, to Wall Street execs worried about a rerun of the 2008 cataclysm, and to Fortune 500 execs worried that Ted bin Laden Syndrome would kill holiday shopping. The mantra of those spreading Ted bin Laden Syndrome sounded to voters like: We have met the enemy, and they are the American people!
Here’s a memo to business Republicans: the way to purge the poison of Ted bin Laden Syndrome, which creates deadly political danger for Republicans and big scary economic danger to business, is to recruit and finance legitimate pro-business Republicans in primaries against Banana Republicans who might be safe from Democrats but can be defeated by real Republicans and true conservatives.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.