With the debt ceiling suspension, the order of budget battles has been reset in a way Republicans think is more favorable to them. The across the board spending cuts from the sequester go into effect March 1, and while Obama has said that they are reckless, House Speaker John Boehner has indicated a willingness to let them go into effect—and seems to have the votes to keep defense hawks in line. Then comes the big showdown: The bill funding the government runs through March 27, and a new spending bill will have to be passed to keep it open, affording Republicans the opportunity for a budget fight and, some hope, a shutdown. (One top GOP leadership aide told Politico that House Speaker John Boehner "may need a shutdown just to get it out of [the House conservatives'] system.")
Which brings us back to the question of which election experience the GOP is operating from. They are shocked that Obama dares to appoint a defense secretary they don't like; they presume to dictate the terms of upcoming fiscal negotiations (revenues are off the table!); and they are contriving a series of budget crises to push radical spending cuts. You would think they had just won a 1994- or 2010-style vindication at the polls.
Here's the reality the rest of us live in: Two months ago voters chose the Democrats' governing vision over the Republicans', decisively. Obama won re-election by 4 percentage points; Democrats expanded their Senate majority; and while the GOP kept control of the House, they lost seats, and nearly 1.4 million more people cast ballots for Democrats than for Republicans. Should the GOP roll over in the face of a progressive agenda? No. But as the conservative writer David Frum wrote on his blog last week, this isn't the moment for conservatives to go "big and bold. This is the time for defensive play; for rethinking, rebuilding, and retooling."
Instead, conservatives seem to see in the 2012 election results a hunger for a government shutdown or the threat of it. They should ask the ghosts of '94 how voters reacted to that the first time.