In retrospect, the emergence of a suicide-bomber wing of the Republican Party should've seemed obvious.
Why use such an inflammatory term? What I mean by it is this: They would blow up the economy to fulfill a mission of otherworldly righteousness.
Their first attempt to blow up the economy arrived with the defeat TARP. It was a reckless subversion of the leadership of both parties and, at least for a day, brought equity markets to their knees.
With ideological bravado to match their breathtaking economic illiteracy, they positively relished the impact they could have on our national life.
Since then, they've become still more emboldened, knocking off an incumbent senator in Utah and propping up a bad joke of a senate candidate in Delaware.
Last year's wave election infested the party with additional scores of suicide bombers.
In a repeat of the TARP fiasco, the bomber boys and (and, lest we forget bomber-in-chief Michele Bachmann, girls) have, once again, made it impossible for congressional leaders to do the right thing. A grand bargain was in sight—but the itch for destruction overmatched the desire for reasonable compromise. [See our gallery of photos of Michele Bachmann.]
We may yet stumble toward some cobbled-together agreement that staves off a catastrophe. But the bombers will be emboldened again.
And why wouldn't they be? They've got a cheering section among Washington pundits.
The normally thoughtful Yuval Levin calls this suboptimal state of affairs, in which Republicans will secure far less in deficit reduction than they could have, a "stunning victory." New York Post columnist Michael Walsh compares the debt ceiling showdown to the Union's victory at Gettysburg. Most depressing of all is my former hero George Will, who calls the Tea Party "the most welcome political development since the Goldwater insurgency." [See our collection of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]
Will is dead wrong: Ronald Reagan's election—or rather his administration—did not simply bring the "Goldwater impulse" to "fruition." It signaled that the Goldwater impulse had matured into a governing philosophy—a governing philosophy that could accept compromise, could acknowledge reality.
The Tea Party's triumph has reversed that process of maturation; a governing philosophy has degraded back into mere impulse.
Enjoy your ascendancy while it lasts, Tea Partyers.
But know this: You are not legislators. You are vandals.