MAYBE THEY DON’T MIND BEING SEEN AS ‘A BUNCH OF YAHOOS’…. About a month ago, Eric Cantor (R-Va.), soon to be the House Majority Leader, was asked if we’re likely to see a replay of the partisan showdown that led Newt Gingrich to shut down the government (twice) after the 1994 midterms.

Cantor replied, “No. I don’t think the country needs or wants a shutdown.” He added that when it comes to pursuing their agenda, Republicans “have to be careful” or they’ll be “seen as a bunch of yahoos.”

It seemed at least somewhat reassuring. Cantor is a powerful and influential GOP leader, and if he recognizes the foolishness of such radicalism, maybe it’ll be less likely to happen.

That, however, was before the election. Note the evident shift in Cantor’s rhetoric yesterday.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday this morning, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the #2 Republican in the House, threatened to take the nation’s economy hostage if President Obama does not comply with House GOPers’ as yet undefined demands. When asked if he would take a government shutdown on forcing the United States to default on its debt off the table, Cantor responded that it would somehow be President Obama’s fault if House Republicans press this agenda.

Chris Wallace asked a straightforward question: “Are you willing to say right now we’re not going to let the country go into default, and we won’t allow a government shutdown?” A month ago, Cantor’s response was direct and sensible.

Yesterday, he dodged the question, saying only the president is “as responsible as any in terms of running this government.”

In other words, Cantor, like some of his colleagues, want to start laying the groundwork for his party’s recklessness.

Also note the specifics of the question — Wallace wasn’t asking about health care or taxes; he wanted to know if Cantor would at least rule out letting the United States go into default. The incoming House Majority Leader wouldn’t even answer that one.

For all the talk about Republicans preparing to reassure markets and add some certainty to the economic outlook, the incoming GOP majority is implicitly threatening to cause a global economic catastrophe, threatening the full faith and credit of the United States, unless Democrats give in to their demands.

I don’t think the typical American has any idea how drastic a mistake the country made last week.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.