BROOKS SAYS THE GOP IS CRAZY (TRUE), BUT THE SYSTEM ISN'T (FALSE)
There's a lot of chatter right now about today's David Brooks column, in which he ticks off all the budget concessions Republicans have gotten from Democrats, and then expresses bafflement that Republicans won't declare victory and take their winnings:
If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases....
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That's because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.
Fine so far -- although, as Steve Benen points out, on the subject of GOP obstructionism, the scales fell off Brooks's eyes last December:
BROOKS: And my problem with the Republican Party right now ... is that if you offered them 80-20, they say no. If you offered them 90-10, they'd say no. If you offered them 99-1 they'd say no.
Well, who cares when he realized the GOP was crazy, as long as he gets it?
But the problem is that he doesn't get that the system rewards this craziness. And of course he doesn't get this, because he's part of the system, in a very cozy, plugged-in way, and he can't admit that he and his fellow insiders have been enabling this craziness for years, by rarely if ever mentioning it.
You know he doesn't believe that the system rewards the craziness because he ends his column with a completely implausible scenario in which the craziness is punished:
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's preposterous. Nothing like that is going to happen. If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters are going to blame everyone -- they're going to blame Republicans for being stubborn and Democrats for failing to get them to see reason (I don't know how Democrats are supposed to do this, but independents will say they should have done it somehow). Meanwhile, in the right-wing media, the message will be that all negative consequences are the Democrats' fault. So, on balance, the Democrats will get more blame than the Republicans. And Republicans who aren't in Congress -- e.g., most of the GOP presidential candidates -- won't be blamed at all. The party as a party won't be blamed, or punished, by voters. The Republican presidential nominee may even beat Obama next year.
The Republicans, in other words, will get away with it. We know this because they get away with most things, which is why they've controlled the White House for 20 of the past 31 years, the House for 13 of the past 17 years, and the Senate for 18 of the past 31 years (and they'll almost certainly control the Senate again after 2012).
The intransigence of the GOP -- the fact that they willfully undermine any government they don't control -- ought to be the main political story in America. But Brooks will stop talking about GOP intransigence the minute we're over this hump. His fellow insider pundits will do the same, or will never address the issue at all. Thus, the public will never truly grasp that one of our major parties is crazy and dangerous, and that that's an ongoing problem.
That's how insiders enable fanaticism, which is why the fanaticism won't stop here, and won't result in negative consequences for the fanatics.