Grand Old Party, or Grumpy Old Protesters

President Obama hosts another Big Budget Meeting tomorrow at the White House with a deadline looming for raising the nation’s debt ceiling to keep the country from defaulting on its loan payments, and both political parties are acting as if they’re serious now.  (Now?  Yeah, now…finally, now.)  Republicans, who’ve been spurred in part if not entirely by tea party pressure, have been very tough in the negotiations, demanding that Democrats agree to trillions of dollars in spending cuts and no tax increases in return for the votes to increase the debt ceiling.  Sounds like the Republicans have won this round, doesn’t it?

Columnist David Brooks makes a very good case that the GOP has wrought amazing concessions from Democrats on the economy, spending cuts and debt reduction, and that if it takes what’s been offered it will be good for the country, set a new starting point for future negotiations on more cuts, and be a significant political victory for Republicans to campaign on in 2012.  But he also warns that if they don’t agree soon, people will have good reason to wonder if the GOP has ceased to be a political party capable of governing and turned finally into a mere protest movement that has a “no tax hike” fetish—even when the effective tax rate in this country is now the lowest it’s been since 1950!  The long-time conservative idea man is worried that no-tax-hike-ers threaten the future of his party:

The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms…The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities…The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency…The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name.

(snip)

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.

That makes sense to me, and I hope it makes sense to everyone, even the very fanatics that Brooks warns about.  The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait praises Brooks’ column for its emperor-has-no-clothes statement about GOP radicalism, and assigning all of the blame to “Republicans” who would stand in the way of shrinking government, who would cripple the economy and emasculate the recovery, just to make a point.  Something for all of us to keep in mind, as the clock tick-tick-ticks down to possible, and completely avoidable, national default.

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