We should be able to take it for granted that our legislators won’t petulantly crash the economy or offend rape survivors. That the House GOP leadership had to mount an organized campaign to convince GOP members of those things is evidence that something has gone wrong in the Republican Party.
No one knows that better than Republicans themselves. But it’s very difficult to be a Republican in a time of GOP dissolution. And so recent weeks have birthed the strangest strain of commentary I can remember: The Republican Party’s crazy opinions are President Obama’s fault.
The logic here is weirdly impeccable. The Republican Party’s dilemma is that House Republicans keeps taking all kinds of unreasonable and unpopular positions. If Obama weren’t president, the House Republicans wouldn’t be taking so many unreasonable and unpopular positions. But since Obama is president, and since he does need to work with House Republicans, he is highlighting their unreasonable and unpopular opinions in a bid to make them change their minds, which is making House Republicans look even worse. And so it’s ultimately Obama’s fault that House Republicans are, say, threatening to breach the debt ceiling if they don’t get their way on spending cuts. After all, if Mitt Romney had won the election, the debt ceiling wouldn’t even be a question!
My colleague Michael Gerson wrote one of the earliest versions of this column. As he put it, Obama “knows that Republicans are forced by the momentum of their ideology to take positions on spending that he can easily demagogue.” So he has, in a bid to “break his opponents,” decided to “force the GOP to surrender on the debt limit, with nothing in return” and to “require Republicans to accept new taxes in exchange for any real spending reductions.”
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