Part of the reason for the policy success of the Tea Party crowd is the willingness of the people who pretend to be the adult supervision in the GOP – especially the business lobbies – to tolerate Tea Party nonsense. Combined with the willingness of the ultras to “primary” anyone who casts a sane vote, that means that the lunatics get to run the asylum.

The moral, for those of us who used to be occasional split-ticket voters – I supported Agnew (against a frank segregationist), Mathias, Brooke, and Hatch – is never, never, ever to vote for a Republican for any office, until some Heracles comes along to clean out the Republican stables. (Come to think of that, the Clean Water Act would almost certainly prevent doing it the way Heracles did it, using a navigable river.)

But a key factor in changing the behavior of Congressional Republicans would be a change in the existing asymmetric threat structure: voting against the crazies risks a primary, while voting with them risks nothing. That’s why it matters that, even as lunatic basecamp Heritage Action “key-voted” a vote against ending the shutdown and avoiding default, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “key-voted” a vote for it. Of course, it matters enormously whether that symbolic gesture is backed by a credible threat of turning off the money spigot, and from this distance I can’t tell; if most of the House Republican Conference votes (symbolically) for default, will that mean that those Members aren’t eligible for truckloads of business cash?

Even at a merely symbolic level, though, this has to score as good news. As in the Syrian case, it’s remarkable how a President and an Administration everyone agrees is so maladroit seems to keep coming up with such unexpectedly good outcomes.

Footnote Note the heading. I don’t regard the Chamber’s plutocratic, anti-labor, anti-poor-people, anti-regulatory agenda as in any way morally superior to the Tea Party mishegas. But any breakdown in the alliance between the pure plutocrats and the theocrat/racist/”peasants-with-pitchforks” is good for the rest of us. Speaking of theocrats, did anyone else notice that both parties seemed happy to ignore the Catholic Bishops’ willingness to keep poor people hungry, and wreck the country, in order to deny women reproductive choice?

Second footnote As to the dishonest use of “conscience clause” to mean that bishops rather than patients should decide matters of medical care, when’s the last time a Catholic hospital respected the conscientious beliefs of the health-care providers who work there, as opposed to insisting that everyone adhere to Church dogma regardless of individual belief?

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.