Consider recent columns by Ross Douthat, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Megan McArdle. All are right-of-center columnists but not reliable Republican water carriers. If the GOP were to receive signals that it is going beyond the pale and risking an extreme backlash among elites, these sort of writers would be the canary in the coal mine. Instead, they are sending the opposite message.
Douthat and McArdle do disavow debt ceiling hostage-taking. But, in pox-on-both-houses, assert that the prospective response of minting platinum coins is just as bad. (McArdle: “Silly loopholes are exploited for bargaining power, and the resulting stalemates are generally solved with a temporary patch that solves the immediate problem by creating a bigger one down the road.” Douthat: “One party behaves irresponsibly, the other side counters with a wave of irresponsibility of its own.”) And so, if Republicans do refuse to raise the debt ceiling, they can assume that the result will not be a wave of abhorrence directed at them but instead a diffuse disgust at Washington in general, perhaps accompanied by more calls for third parties, as happened the last time Republicans flirted with financial disaster in 2011.
It’s true that, as a matter of procedure, the platinum coin gambit is just as much of a boundary-pushing exercise as debt ceiling hostage-taking, technically legal but violating the spirit of the law. But one is an exercise in boundary pushing that deliberately creates the risk of economic chaos in order to advance partisan ends. The other gambit is an effort to forestall economic chaos. Surely there are important differences between pushing the legal line to create a weapon and pushing the legal line to defuse one.