Quote of the Day: If the GOP Was a Normal Party It’d Accept Victories In Economic Debate (But Noooooo) UPDATED
Our political Quote of the Day comes from the New York Time’s (traditional) conservative columnist David Brooks who notes that Republicans have actually already won significant victories in the debate over slicing government and how money should be spent — but that part of the party will not accept any compromise. And the party is in danger of becoming more of a kind of faction.
Here’s the main part of his column:
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.
The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.
The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.
The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name. Economists have identified many factors that contribute to economic growth, ranging from the productivity of the work force to the share of private savings that is available for private investment. Tax levels matter, but they are far from the only or even the most important factor.
But to members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation. They are willing to cut education and research to preserve tax expenditures. Manufacturing employment is cratering even as output rises, but members of this movement somehow believe such problems can be addressed so long as they continue to worship their idol.
Over the past week, Democrats have stopped making concessions. They are coming to the conclusion that if the Republicans are fanatics then they better be fanatics, too.
The struggles of the next few weeks are about what sort of party the G.O.P. is — a normal conservative party or an odd protest movement that has separated itself from normal governance, the normal rules of evidence and the ancient habits of our nation.
If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.
And they will be right.
I have had a similar conversation over the past few months with others who are a)independent voters or b)people who traditionally voted Republicans. And they are increasingly being scared off by the current talk radio show political culture conservatives who are not of the same ilk as David Brooks or (most assuredly) David Frum.
I’m still betting that what will emerge is what former President Bill Clinton has suggested: a short term debt ceiling agreement that will raise revenues in any way but actual formal tax increases.
And if it fails – or even fails once and has to go back to a vote? I predict the GOP will pay in November 2012 particularly if there is any additional progress on the economy.
Increasingly many are saying what Brooks is all but saying: this isn’t your grandfather’s or even father’s Republican Party. Some think that’s great.
But there are others including some who’ve voted for GOPers in that past who’ll either stay home and not vote or vote a vote against a party that they have begun to conclude is more of an inflexible faction than a party that tries to aggregate interests and solve national problems.
UPDATE: Brooks isn’t alone in his view.
—The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen has a column “A Grand Old Cult”
Someone ought to study the Republican Party. I am not referring to yet another political scientist but to a mental health professional, preferably a specialist in the power of fixations, obsessions and the like. The GOP needs an intervention. It has become a cult.
To become a Republican, one has to take a pledge. It is not enough to support the party or mouth banalities about Ronald Reagan; one has to promise not to give the government another nickel. This is called the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” issued by Americans for Tax Reform, an organization headed by the chirpy Grover Norquist. He once labeled the argument that an estate tax would affect only the very rich “the morality of the Holocaust.” Anyone can see how singling out the filthy rich and the immensely powerful and asking them to ante up is pretty much the same as Auschwitz and that sort of thing.
Cohen discusses various issues and the way GOPers are now handling them and concludes:
This intellectual rigidity has produced a GOP presidential field that’s a virtual political Jonestown. The Grand Old Party, so named when it really did evoke America, has so narrowed its base that it has become a political cult. It is a redoubt of certainty over reason and in itself significantly responsible for the government deficit that matters most: leadership. That we can’t borrow from China
—Pulitzer Prize winning columnst Eugene Robinson has a related column. Key parts of it:
Here’s how to negotiate, GOP-style: Begin by making outrageous demands. Bully your opponents into giving you almost all of what you want. Rather than accept the deal, add a host of radical new demands. Observe casually that you wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to the hostage you’ve taken — the nation’s well-being. To the extent possible, look and sound like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”
This strategy has worked so well for Republicans that it’s no surprise they’re using it again, this time in the unnecessary fight over what should be a routine increase in the debt ceiling. This time, however, something different is happening: President Obama seems to be channeling Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver.” At a news conference last Wednesday, Obama’s response to the GOP was, essentially, “You talkin’ to me?
Obama’s in-your-face attitude seems to have thrown Republicans off their stride. They thought all they had to do was convince everyone they were crazy enough to force an unthinkable default on the nation’s financial obligations. Now they have to wonder if Obama is crazy enough to let them.
He probably isn’t. But the White House has kept up the pressure, asserting that the real deadline for action by Congress to avoid a default isn’t Aug. 2, as the Treasury Department said, but July 22; it takes time to write the needed legislation, officials explained. Tick, tick, tick .?.?.
The difficult work of putting the federal government on sound fiscal footing can’t begin as long as a majority in the House rejects simple arithmetic on ideological grounds.
“I’ve met with the leaders multiple times,” Obama said, referring to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “At a certain point, they need to do their job.” The job he means is welcoming fantasy-loving Republicans to the real world, and it has to be done.
The stakes are perilously high, but Obama does have a doomsday option: If all else fails, he can assert that a section of the 14th Amendment — “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law .?.?. shall not be questioned” — makes the debt limit unconstitutional and instructs him to take any measures necessary to avoid default.
Maybe that’s why, in this stare-down, the president doesn’t seem inclined to blink.
UPDATE II: Cohen’s piece sparked debate on Morning Joe (which is nearly required viewing for serious politics junkies):