We Have To End Republican Nihilism


Ezra Klein details where the president draws the line:

The Obama administration is utterly steadfast on this point: They will not suffer a repeat of 2011, when they conducted negotiations over whether the United States should default. If Republicans go over the cliff and try to open up talks for raising the debt ceiling, the White House will not hold a meeting, they will not return a phone call, they will not look at the e-mails. They will move to an entirely public strategy, rallying voters and the business community against the GOP’s repeated brinksmanship.

There are two procedural issues on which, it seems to me, true conservatives should be outraged at Republicans. The first is the massive, unprecedented, destructive and radical use of a non-filibuster filibuster to make the Senate unable to pass anything significant without 60 votes, rather than 51 (or 50 with the veep). This is not conservative. It's a blatant attack on tradition in defense of pure partisanship.

I think the president should at some point personally take this on. Most Americans aren't fully aware that a filibuster today doesn't need even a few minutes of what we always thought of as filibustering. The filibusterers barely have to speak at all. They just have to signal their intent to, and the entire legislative process grinds to a halt. This gives a minority party a near-veto that should be solely the preserve of the president. That's an attack on our Constitution. Expose them, Mr President, as the revolutionaries they are. Mock them. Expose their laziness and obstructionism at a time when a huge majority wants compromise; and the country and the world need it.

The second is the outrageous ploy to threaten to destroy the country's credit rating every time there is a conflict over debt. This is a form of legislative terrorism. It is an attack on the entire country in defense of a single fanatical faction. It's perhaps best summarized by the highly emotional torture fanatic, Marc Thiessen. Just read these extraordinary words:

Right now, it seems as if they are seeking the least painful way to surrender. It’s time to stand and fight instead. Republicans can still shoot their way out of their current predicament. It won’t be pretty and they will have to fight ugly — but they can still win … In the short term, Americans may blame you. You can recover from that. What you will never recover from is surrendering your principles and giving up your brand as the party of low taxes and limited government.

There is no mention of the last election, and what it was fought on. There is no mention of the American people or the global economy. There is merely an insular ideological determination to wreck the country if necessary in order to maintain a purer "brand" for a faction. This is what the Founders warned us of when describing the toxicity of factionalism in a democracy.

And we should be clear what using the debt ceiling as blackmail really is; it is not an attempt to cut spending, which is accomplished through budget legislation. It is a refusal to make good on the very decisions the Congress has already made on spending and taxation. It is the equivalent of not paying your rent as a way to protest the price you already signed up for. It's grotesquely irresponsible, and after the last election, reflects a near delusional amnesia and contempt for the voters. Frum paraphrases it correctly:

"Mr. President, give us what we want or we'll blow up the government. In return for your concessions, we'll … refrain from blowing up the government."

Thiessen is an anti-conservative. He saw the rule of law as something to be gotten around so he could enable the torture of prisoners of war, using Nazi techniques. He sees the very credit of the country he allegedly loves as a mere instrument for partisan brinksmanship.

When you see a political party that openly flaunts these attacks on the American constitutional balance and the country's credit for purely partisan reasons, you begin to see how deep the rot has gone. This is not a party worthy of any role in government. It's a destructive, self-interested faction, threatening the stability of this country's constitution and economy. Obama is absolutely right not to yield on this. This anti-conservative radicalism is anti-American, uncivil and unpatriotic.

It must not be appeased. It has to be ended.

(Photo: Getty Images.)