If today's column from David Brooks is any indication, several months of GOP economic brinksmanship have finally accomplished what years of liberal hand-waiving couldn't -- forcing Beltway elites to recognize the dangerous extremism of the Republican Party.
As usual, Brooks begins his piece with effusive praise for some new conservative policy. This time, it's a prospective congressional debt deal that trades token revenue increases for massive spending cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, at a ratio of nearly five-to-one. This almost matches the ideal mix described by the right-wing House Republican Study Committee, and is a clear blow to progressive priorities. As Brooks points out, this deal is the "mother of all no-brainers," and Republicans would be crazy not to take it.
From there, however, Brooks moves from counseling Republicans to attacking the modern Republican Party with devastating fury. Of the deal, Brooks says that "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." He continues, offering more disdain for what the party has become, as my colleague Paul detailed earlier today.
As a signaling mechanism to other elites, Brooks' column is incredibly important, not to mention correct. As the days lead to a stand off over the debt limit, I wouldn't be shocked to see similar criticisms from other members of the conservative establishment. That said, even if Brooks is right -- and he is -- the truth is that GOP politicians will ignore this warning. As Jennifer Steinhauer reported for The Times, House Republicans aren't worried about establishment criticism, they're worried about attacks from their right-flank, and will commit to ideological rigidity for as long as they feel vulnerable to primary challenges from the right.
There's one other, equally depressing possibility. If Republican brinksmanship succeeds, then it will become routine practice for debt-ceiling negotiations. And while pundits will initially denounce it as detrimental to the economic health of the United States, it will -- like the routine filibuster before it -- eventually become "business-as-usual."
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