David Brooks sees a glimmer of hope for the Republicans.
Over the past month, the Republican Party has changed far more than I expected. First, the people at the ideological extremes of the party have begun to self-ghettoize. The Tea Party movement attracted many people who are drawn to black and white certainties and lock-step unity. People like that have a tendency to migrate from mainstream politics, which is inevitably messy and impure, to ever more marginal oases of purity.
Jim DeMint, for example, is leaving the Senate to go lead the Heritage Foundation. He is leaving the center of the action, where immigration, tax and other reforms will be crafted, for a political advocacy organization known more for ideological purity and fund-raising prowess than for creativity, curiosity or intellectual innovation.
Second, politics is being reborn. For a time, Republican candidates like Richard Mourdock of Indiana proudly declared that they didn’t believe in compromise. Political activists spent more time purging deviationists than in trying to attract new converts.
But that mania has passed. There are increasing signs that House Republicans are willing to unite behind Speaker John Boehner so he can cut a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff.” There has been an epidemic of open-mindedness as Republicans try to win minority votes and create a version of their party that can be competitive in states like Connecticut and California.
The Republicans may still blow it. If President Obama is flexible and they don’t meet him partway, Republicans would contribute to a recession that would discredit them for a decade. But they are moving in the right direction and moving fast. These are first steps, and encouraging ones.
In other words, when you’ve had the snot beaten out of you with a sockful of horse manure by an electorate that is tired of your demonization, racism, and xenophobia, it might be a good idea to rethink your business plan.
Charles Krauthammer throws cold water on Mr. Brooks’ sunny hopes:
Such nonsense abounds because Obama’s objective in these negotiations is not economic but political: not to solve the debt crisis but to fracture the Republican majority in the House. Get Boehner to cave, pass the tax hike with Democratic votes provided by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and let the Republican civil war begin.
It doesn’t even matter whether Boehner gets deposed as speaker. Either way, the Republican House would be neutered, giving Obama a free hand to dominate Washington and fashion the entitlement state of his liking.
This is partisan zero-sum politics. Nothing more.
What should Republicans do? Stop giving stuff away. If Obama remains intransigent, let him be the one to take us over the cliff. And then let the new House, which is sworn in weeks before the president, immediately introduce and pass a full across-the-board restoration of the George W. Bush tax cuts.
Obama will counter with the usual all-but-the-rich tax cut — as the markets gyrate and the economy begins to wobble under his feet.
Result? We’re back to square one, but with a more level playing field. The risk to Obama will be rising and the debt ceiling will be looming. Most important of all, however, Republicans will still be in possession of their unity, their self-respect — and their trousers.
The best part is that Joe Scarborough thinks Brooks and Krauthammer are saying exactly the same thing.