It has been instructive to witness the divide between conservative factions over strategy and tactics in the debt ceiling fight. On one side is the Establishment: the Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Dr. Charles Krauthammer, Dr. Thomas Sowell, and the GOP leadership, particularly John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. On the other side are the Tea Party supporters (or, as the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board calls them, the Hobbits): Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Sarah Palin, Mark Steyn, Erick Erickson, Jim Jordan, Tom Graves, Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul. As I was thinking about the perspectives that separate these factions, I found this article by Andrew McCarthy on National Review Online (or, as Rush now labels it, Krauthammer Review Online). Mr. McCarthy does a much better job articulating the Tea Party point of view than I can. First, on the courage of your convictions, standing up for the right thing, and winning the argument:
Even our best minds [Dr. Thomas Sowell] assume that a principled stand taken for the right reasons is a loser. Standing in the midst of what is already a catastrophe, even our best minds are content to pretend that the “disruption” is something from which we can be spared.
None less than the Dr. Sowell, as fine a mind as there is, warning that we can’t do the right thing because we’ll be wrongly blamed for the consequences. None less than the eminent Charles Krauthammer spouting the lamest of GOP talking points: Because Republicans only control one-half of one-third of the government, it is constitutionally problematic for House conservatives to continue demanding deeper spending cuts, to refuse to allow the nation to be driven trillions deeper in debt, and to treat an existential threat to our country as an existential threat to our country.
Our system is premised on the conviction that the right side can always win—that the strength of its arguments can turn the political tide and force even committed ideologues like Barack Obama to yield. And I believe the system works. If it didn’t, Guantanamo Bay would now be closed, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would now be in the seventh month of his civilian trial, and the president would be toasting Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the advent of single-payer health care.
Second, we’re in deep economic trouble, it’s rapidly worsening, and we need bold action:
With due respect to Dr. Sowell and the Republican establishment that breathlessly cites him, there is no chance of sparing the country. The major economic disruption is already happening, and it stands to get far worse.
The pass we are at is not an avoidable disruption. It is a disaster that has already begun to unfold, reversal of which cries out for bold action. The Boehner plan, or any other scheme that balks at forthrightly dealing with our financial straits, merely makes it more likely that our nation cannot survive as we have known it. In the shorter term, the Boehner plan ensures that, when serious steps are finally taken, the metastasizing debt disease will be trillions worse, if not terminal.
Third, not everything is political calculus:
The main lesson that should have been learned but hasn’t been is this: While every issue has political overtones and consequences, that does not make every issue political in its essence. The debt-ceiling controversy is not, as Republican leadership and its cheerleaders maintain, about politics. It is not a matter of, “If we don’t handle this correctly, if we push this too far, if Americans think we’re too extreme, President Obama will be reelected.” The debt ceiling is about the debt, not about how politicians can optimally position themselves to evade accountability for the inevitable consequences of the debt.