Which party is at greater risk from a debt ceiling debacle?

May 12, 2011

Stu Rothenberg thinks there is plenty of danger to go around:

The nature of the Republican risk is obvious. If the GOP looks inflexible, excessively ideological and extreme, voters are likely to turn against it. This is more likely, of course, if Democrats look reasonable and emphasize their willingness to compromise. (Swing voters love the idea of compromise.) It’s also more likely if the most vocal and ideological elements of the GOP define their party.

But even partisan Democrats agree that their party faces a considerable risk if they look as if they are insufficiently committed to cutting spending. Indeed, merely by supporting an increase in the debt limit, Democrats play into an image that they are trying to change — that they are fiscally irresponsible.

This is why, some observers speculate, that if a “clean” vote on increasing the debt limit occurs soon (as some predict), large numbers of Democrats will vote against it. That would give ammunition to House Republicans, of course.

While Democrats surely would attempt to blame the GOP for a spike in interest rates due to a loss of confidence in the U.S. government’s reliability, it is far from clear that the president would avoid serious damage if the U.S. economy were to suffer from any chaos produced by the government reneging on its obligations.

Still, the only group of players that doesn’t appreciate the potential negative fallout from a deadlock is House Republicans, many of whom seem to think that failing to raise the debt limit wouldn’t be all that big of a deal. That view may well be delusional, but it gives them a great deal of power in any negotiations, since they don’t feel the pressure to act that others do.



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There are societies that don’t see challenges coming, so they never take the time to develop solutions. There are other societies that see challenges coming, but they lack the skill and wherewithal to implement solutions. And then there are societies that see the challenges coming, know exactly how to respond, and still falter due to a dysfunctional political system that is sabotaged by misguided ideologues.

The near-collapse of the global economic system just happened. Wall Street isn’t exactly popular with the American mainstream, but Congressional Republicans don’t care, pursuing a strategy that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. They’re counting on the public not knowing the difference, and the GOP is paying no price whatsoever for their financial industry antics.

The debt ceiling is not the only easily preventable crisis area in which the United States fails to act, due entirely to Republican intransigence and foolishness. We face a climate crisis, and extreme volatility in the energy sector, but the GOP refuses to consider sensible solutions even they supported a few years ago. If we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we risk a crisis of Congress’ own making. All because our political process has placed enormous power in the hands of incompetent ideologues who prefer inaction to action, and crisis to stability, even when the threat is staring us in the face.

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