Republican Establishment Tries to Leash the Tea Party

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As John Boehner hunts for enough votes to pass his debt-limit proposal, the Washington-New York Republican establishment is coming out in vehement support for his plan. on Tuesday, the Chamber of Commerce announced its backing of the Boehner plan, calling the legislation “critical” and saying that “default is not an option.” (The Chamber’s statement, incidentally, appears to have blindsided White House chief of staff Bill Daley.)  Now conservative wordsmiths are also making a plea for Boehner’s bill as the best available path remaining. Check out GOP mandarin Bill Kristol’s pungent words for House Republicans on Wednesday:

To govern is to choose. To vote is to choose. To vote against John Boehner on the House floor this week in the biggest showdown of the current Congress is to choose to vote with Nancy Pelosi. To vote against Boehner is to choose to support Barack Obama. It is to choose to increase the chances that worse legislation than Boehner’s passes. And it is to choose to increase the chances that Obama emerges from this showdown politically stronger.

Meanwhile the lead editorial in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, the voice for market-oriented conservatives, frames the argument in more colorful terms:

The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.

This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees.

Will House Republican holdouts pay attention? Probably not. Anti-establishment fever still runs high within the Republican base, and it’s the base that those Republicans are responding to. Consider the way conservative activists have flocked to Michele Bachmann despite (and maybe in part because of) warnings from the salons of McLean and Manhattan that she’d be a kamizake nominee. A similar mentality seems to be at play in the debt debate. A loss for the establishment here would be a stunning development. It also makes you wonder whether the GOP really might nominate someone like Bachmann next year, regardless of what Bill Kristol and the WSJ think.