I’ve been wondering about the 2011 budget deal: why didn’t the Republicans take it? I’ve argued in the past that they were gambling on an Obama loss. In fact, all the evidence points to a Republican Party that was convinced that Obama would be defeated. It is all part of the echo chamber effect, where they really thought that the American people hated the president, rather than it just being the subset who listen to right wing radio. Regardless, the Republicans thought that it was better to pass on a bill that gave them 98% of what they wanted and instead go with a new Republican president who would give them 100% of what the wanted. Or at least that’s what I’d thought before.
Now I have a new idea. Boehner could have taken the very good deal he was offered in 2011. Then, if Romney had won the election, all the tax increases (really just limits to deductions) would easily have been repealed. Boehner would have had 100% of what he wanted. Or, if Obama had won, he would still have pocketed the 98%. Why didn’t he take this deal? It can’t be that he didn’t think of it. Even if you believe that Republican politicians are idiots, they have smart young aides; this would have been pointed out.
I think there are a few things going on here, but there is one that dominates. A large part of the Republican Party has become a revolutionary group. As a result, they are not at all interested in governing. This in itself is a very dangerous thing. But what is most important is that they do not think that the Democratic Party has legitimacy. Thus, they won’t make any deals. We saw this the week before last when the House Republicans would not vote even to allow incomes over a million dollars to be taxed at a higher rate. They were, however willing to vote to restore all lost military funding, because they are committed to the military, like most revolutionaries in their position.
Boehner isn’t part of this revolutionary group. But he is an enabler. He cares more about maintaining his power than governing as he would normally want to. But he’s made a very bad deal in the long-term. By pandering to this group, he makes the Republican prospects going forward all the worse. But even if the revolutionaries managed to continue to gain power, they would eventually replace Boehner because he is not one of them.
The only question now is whether Boehner, after securing another two years as Speaker of the House, will start acting like a regular politician or continue to side with the revolutionaries. If he sides with the revolutionaries, we may well get no fiscal cliff deal. And when the debt ceiling comes up, the United States government would almost certainly default. And this all really comes down to Boehner. He is in a typical position: he has power, but only so long as he doesn’t use it as he wants. As soon as he does what he wants, he loses his power. So what’s it going to be, Mr. Speaker?