The Pre-Election Mood of the GOP

There was a lot of talk immediately after the elections and even deep into the “fiscal cliff” negotiations of a new, chastened mood in the Republican Party, led by people who knew voters had repudiated their obstructionist habits and inveterate opposition to anything Barack Obama proposed.

Well, that’s clearly over. Their divisions over the New Year’s tax bill and the desperate need of its brokers to pretend that crossing the line on tax rate increases was a tactical retreat before a massive assault on the welfare state have restored that old familiar GOP rhetoric of total war. It’s evident in the immediate opposition being expressed towards former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary. And it’s even more apparent in the early positioning of Republican leaders over the debt limit and the spending sequester. Check out these key lines from a Stephen Moore column based on an interview with John Boehner:

Republicans won’t be agreeing to any more tax increases during the next two years. “The tax issue is resolved,” [Boehner] says, and it will be discussed only in the context of a broader debate about tax reform—specifically, lower rates….

So we’re back to the ancient Norquistian position that any loophole-closing has to be offset by lower rates, instead of generating revenue to reduce budget deficits. As for spending:

He says that Republicans won’t back down from the so-called Boehner rule: that every dollar of raising the debt ceiling will require one dollar of spending cuts over the next 10 years. Rather than forcing a deal, the insistence may result in a series of monthly debt-ceiling increases.

That’s a course that is guaranteed to reassure investors and keep the economy on an even keel, eh? Good thing the opposition party is so grown-up.

Seriously, it’s time for pundits to stop saying Republican leaders have “learned a lesson” from 2012. If they did, it’s now long-forgotten.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.