Monday, July 18, 2011

No, They Won’t

It’s kind of fun to watch the Very Serious conservative pundits realize that the Republicans headed to a trainwreck with their staunchly-never-budge approach to the debt ceiling negotiations. David Brooks has had his OMG moment; now it’s Ross Douthat’s turn.

Their inability to make even symbolic concessions has turned a winning hand into a losing one. A majority of Americans want to close the deficit primarily with spending cuts — which is to say, they’re primed to side with conservatives in the debt-ceiling debate. But in trying to turn that “primarily” into a “completely,” the right has squandered this advantage. By 48 percent to 34 percent, a Quinnipiac poll found last week, Americans will blame Republicans if debt-ceiling gridlock precipitates an economic crisis.

That’s what he’s most worried about; not that going into default might wreck the economy, but that it might reflect badly on the GOP brand. After all, that’s the most important thing, right?

By backing into a compromise and shrouding it in procedural gimmickry, Republican legislators may hope to throw the Tea Party’s watchdogs off the scent. But both the politics and the substance of such a deal would probably be worse for conservatives than the kind of bargain that might have been available otherwise — if more Republicans had only recognized that sometimes a well-chosen concession can be the better part of valor.

That would be worthwhile advice if there has ever been any indication that the Republicans would A) ever conceive of conceding anything in their negotiations, or B) if they had any sense of valor.