Josh Barro makes an important point: For Republicans, losing the political fight isn’t a downside of the strategy. It is the strategy.
Republicans are eventually going to have to agree to a compromise deal that is acceptable to a broad swath of Democrats and that substantially raises taxes. Their base is going to hate that. But if they drag their feet and get smacked around enough on the way to the deal, they will be able to sell the idea that they had no choice but to cave.
It’s very similar to the 2011 fight over the debt ceiling increase, which Republicans for a time insisted would have to be linked to congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment.
A good fight — or at least the show of one — placates the conservative base and helps Republicans avoid primary challenges. It also makes the Republican Party look incompetent and reckless, damaging the national brand. Indeed, Republicans actually lost the popular vote for House seats in November, though they held on to a House majority due to a favorable electoral map.
Barro points to California, where a small pool of very rich campaign donors funds a permanent cozy minority of obstructivist Republicans. They don’t get anything done, but their seats are safe.
Kicking and screaming and being unreasonable can help secure a cozy minority of legislative seats with a true-believing party base behind you. It’s a strategy that works. It’s just not a strategy that works for building electoral majorities.
Even NRO thinks “I’m alright, Jack” is too selfish a strategy for Republican politicians, “rational for an individual but highly destructive for a political party” unless it truly wishes to be a party of permanent and shrinking minority. The problem, however, is that there’s no stick with which the G.O.P.s leadership can beat these recalcitrant, obstructivist seat-sitters into taking a more competitive line except to abandon them and try to make co-operative deals with Dem Blue Dogs instead. That course will be the death of the current Republican Party.
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