Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Are the Republicans Going Crazy?

A lot of people who aren’t known for flying off the handle (like David Brooks, Megan McArdle and Jonathan Bernstein) are afraid the Republican Party has gone crazy. Here we are, coming down to the wire on the debt ceiling negotiations and, if this New York Times report is to be believed, Democrats are ready to make substantial cuts in entitlements without raising tax rates in exchange for a few face-saving gestures about closing tax loopholes. That sounds like a deal that's too good for sensible conservatives to pass on.  Yet lots of Republicans are they're still making sounds indicating that they’re unwilling to take “Yes!” for an answer.

It’s not reassuring Brooks and the others that those are the kind of sounds you’d expect to hear out of  determined negotiators in the last legs of a high-stakes negotiation. Here’s Brooks:
“A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth. . . .

“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.”
Sorry, I’m just not seeing it. Yes, the debt-ceiling negotiations are going down to the wire, just like the negotiations over the continuing budget resolutions did last spring. And yes, the Tea Partiers in the Republican congressional caucus are making a lot a noise, just as they did back then. Remember, however, that the parties still came to a deal back then when the stakes and the rewards for Republicans were a lot lower than they are now.

What's happened lately to lead level-headed people like Brooks, McArdle and Bernstein to believe that a party that was ready to accept mostly nominal budget cuts back then rather than chance a temporary government shutdown is suddenly ready now to chance a meltdown in the bond market, or even a default on government obligations, rather than pocket much more substantial Democratic concessions? If anything, moderate Republicans are showing a lot more muscle in intra-party affairs now than they did last spring in the wake of the NY-26 special election. I wouldn’t have bet in March, for instance, that Mitt Romney would still be the undisputed front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination after going out of his way not to pander to the party’s right wing on health care and the environment or that so many Republican donors would be taking the presidential candidacy of a Jon Huntsman seriously.

Call me a Pollyanna, but I’m betting that Republicans are still a “normal” political party in Brooks’s sense. If Republicans are offered, and don’t take, something substantially like the deal from the Democrats that’s being reported I’ll know I’m wrong.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Why is it that so many liberal journalists are so determined to see the Tea Party as kooks, flakes, and racists? I'm stunned by the strength of their disgust (or is it horror?) in reaction to this movement.

Your typical Democratic voter (aka "people I know personally") might roll his or her eyes at mention of the Tea Party, but still recognizes them as rational people with a coherent agenda. I've never spoken to anyone who would think of characterizing the Tea Party as an infection -- and yet that assessment seems, among liberal journalists, to serve almost as an axiom, needing no support or explanation.