The party of ‘organized vandalism’

THE PARTY OF ‘ORGANIZED VANDALISM’…. I don’t intend to belabor the point too much more, but I’ve been encouraged this week by the broader discussion after my “sabotage” post from Saturday.

To briefly recap, I’d noticed some commentary of late suggesting an uncomfortable point about congressional Republicans: they may be tempted to keep the economy down on purpose to advance partisan goals. Matt Yglesias, for example, said the Obama White House should be prepared for “deliberate economic sabotage” from the GOP.

I made the case that this is worthy of discussion, which hasn’t gone over well with conservatives (Michael Gerson thinks I’m an “idiot”), but which nevertheless generated some noteworthy coverage at outlets such as The Week and The Atlantic.

Paul Krugman’s NYT column emphasized a related point yesterday, insisting that the Republican Party “isn’t interested in helping the economy as long as a Democrat is in the White House.” But similar arguments keep popping up. Here’s an Andrew Sullivan item from the other day:

The ghastly truth is that we have one political party that is as close to organized vandalism as one can imagine. START, the debt ceiling, civil rights, real spending cuts and tax reform: all these will be subject to the pure nihilism of the will to power. Their goal is the destruction of Obama. That is all.

And here’s Adam Serwer this morning:

[Congressional Republicans] use what power they have to prevent government from performing basic duties at any level of efficiency, and then turn around and argue that this reflects a failure of leadership on the part of the president. The pursuit of political power is more important to the party than civic responsibility. It’s a testament to the power of low expectations that this hasn’t produced more of an outrage, especially since they aren’t even pretending otherwise.

It’s interesting, in and of itself, that this sentiment has become fairly common. We are, after all, talking about prominent observers wondering aloud whether a major political party is putting its partisan hatred for an elected president ahead of the public good. There was a time such a suggestion was scandalous; now it’s widespread enough to appear in a Nobel Laureate’s print column in the paper of record.

For a slightly different angle, it’s also worth considering Greg Sargent’s take on this yesterday:

…I happen to think the “economic sabotage” argument is not going to work. Dems tried variations of this case for two years, and there’s no evidence they bore any fruit. I just don’t think voters will buy it, or if they do, they won’t particularly care about it.

Also: At a certain point there’s little percentage in making variations of the same old lament again and again that Republicans are out to defeat Obama politically at all costs and that it’s folly for Obama to keep seeking bipartisan compromise. It seems like the better argument to be having at this point is over what Obama specifically should do to adjust to this new reality.

That seems fair, though I’d add that it’s worth having the “sabotage” conversation, if for no other reason, than to make clear to the White House what it should expect from the president’s partisan rivals.