Twitter was a flutter with constant information about NYT columnist David Brooks’ piece this morning. Brooks, who is a moderate Republican, took his own party to town by claiming that risking a possible default on U.S. debt for an ideology of “No New Taxes or Tax Increases” is more fanaticism and will not play well with voters. He writes:
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.
Is Brooks correct in his assumption? Yes and no. I think he is right that taking a tax increase off the table when you claim everything is on the table is contradictory. In my view, Democrats have given up more in the negotiations that the GOP was willing to concede. However, using the debt ceiling as leverage is just a tactic to get spending cuts by the Republicans. Both Eric Cantor and John Boehner have said they will end up raising the debt ceiling. The vote will just be last minute.
It’s the same story as the government shutdown. The leadership guaranteed the government would not shutdown and it didn’t because of a last minute vote. The GOP just wanted to extract more and score points with their base. Why would the story be any different here?
Meanwhile, the Democrats plan to say the GOP is obstructing the negotiations with impossible demands. Their hope is to make the GOP back down while the GOP wants to stand firm. Both sides are playing a dangerous game. But I don’t see it as more than a political strategy rather then an ideology taking control of the party. After all, even old H.W. and the sainted Ronald Reagan gave in and raised taxes.
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