For GOP and the Debt Ceiling, Reality Crashes Into Campaign Rhetoric

Freshman Republicans toddled onto the electoral stage with promises they now--gasp!--may not be able to fulfill.

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I’ve written a few posts in this space criticizing Republicans for their intransigence on the debt ceiling debate. It was fun at the time, but now I’ve been forced to take a hard look at myself, and I’m not sure I like what I see.

It’s Marc Thiessen, writing in the Washington Post, who sent me on this journey of self discovery. You see, according to Thiessen, many of us have entirely missed the real victims in the debt ceiling debate. It’s not you or me or the trillions of people across the globe who will suffer economic calamity if Republicans continue to stonewall, it’s the Republicans themselves. And it’s especially those newly elected Republicans who toddled onto the electoral stage full of innocence and light and made all sorts of campaign promises that now—gasp—they may not be able to fulfill.

[Vote now: Will there be a debt ceiling deal?]

“Republicans,” explains Marc Thiessen, “campaigned on a promise to reduce the national debt.” But then something entirely unforeseeable happened—real events conspired to make that promise difficult to deliver. Huh?! What!? There’s a baseball bat on the wall and an alien holding my baby! Swing away Merrill! Swing away! (Sorry. Sometimes when the world gets too topsy turvy I retreat to the safety of an M. Night Shyamalan movie. #signsreference!)

In any case, now Republicans “are being asked to turn around a half a year later and vote to raise the national debt.” Hold on. Republicans are being “asked” to do something for the good of the country even though it might hurt their popularity in some circles? Stop. I can’t take it. It’s too painful. [See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

Now “the only way these Republican legislators can vote for a debt-ceiling increase without getting thrown out of office,” says Thiessen, “is to show their constituents that they secured unprecedented cuts in current spending—and ironclad constraints on future spending—in exchange.” Enough said. If there’s anything in the world that might hurt Republican poll numbers, it must be avoided at all costs.

Of course, there’s an alternative way of looking at this, I suppose. If to gain office, Republicans entered into an unsustainable and unrealistic electoral compact and are now confronting the discomfort that actual governing can occasionally impose ... oh well...

And I suppose the fact that Republicans admit that not raising the debt ceiling would mean a global economic catastrophe, but, in full possession of this knowledge, still think refusing to raise it is a responsible negotiating strategy, could be legitimate grounds to question their fitness for office. [See a slide show of 6 consequences if the debt ceiling isn't raised.]

And maybe if their posture had less to do with the naked pursuit of a narrow range of highly partisan goals...

But wait. There I go again. Blaming Republicans.

Don't look at me--I'm hideous.

  • Check out a roundup of GOP political cartoons.
  • Slide Show: 6 Consequences if the Debt Ceiling Isn't Raised
  • Slide Show: 6 Ways to Raise the Debt Ceiling