It’s tough to negotiate with crazy

Politics isn’t supposed to be quite this difficult. It’s not like the parties have never sat down to negotiate a debt-reduction plan before. It’s happened plenty of times, and while agreements have never been easy, they’ve at least been possible.

But the equation changes when one of the major political parties, especially when it controls one of the relevant institutions, abandons any sense of reason. Jonathan Bernstein had a piece on this today, but it’s a point that’s been circulating for a while.

One really, really important point to remember about House Republicans right now: There’s a very good chance that a whole bunch of them just have no idea what they’re doing. […]

[H]ow do you negotiate with people who just have no idea what they’re talking about? Here’s another example, from the NYT write-up of the party-line vote against [Cut, Cap, and Balance]: “[T]he outcome was a foregone conclusion and leaders of both parties said the Senate needed to dismiss the House plan to show Republicans that the proposal was dead.”

This is just depressing if true; it implies that an unspecified number of rank-and-file Republicans are, I don’t know how else to put it, either too detached from reality or too stupid or too incompetent to know that CCB was DOA without actually seeing the Senate results.

Right. In this case, Jonathan is referring to Republicans who don’t understand the basics of how a bill becomes a law. His piece on this highlighted a GOP House member, who’s likely to run for the Senate next year, who doesn’t seem to realize what it means when the Senate “tables” a bill.

But this keeps coming up because congressional Republicans don’t seem to understand, well, much of anything.

One Republican lawmaker appeared on national television this week, and was asked to defend his pro-default approach to governing. He replied, “I don’t trust the words of any source.”

Another GOP lawmaker said a few days ago that our national credit rating will get better if we fail to raise the debt ceiling. Another Republican House member argued that if the government raises revenue, it will make the debt worse, because taxes lead to “fewer revenue dollars.”

Common norms suggest we’re supposed to simply acknowledge that the parties have sincere, philosophical differences. But eventually, I’d love to see the political world come to terms with the fact that Republicans aren’t just being right-wing; they’re also being dumb. I know that’s impolite. I also know it’s justified.

As Time reported this week, “Democrats are clearly baffled by the challenge of persuading opponents who not only have a different set of priorities, but a different set of facts. ‘There’s a question about how much the facts matter to them,’ says a Democratic official. ‘And I don’t know what to do about that.'”

Jonathan asked how any is supposed to negotiate with people who have no idea what they’re talking about. I wish I had a good answer to that. I suspect the only solution is to ask Americans to stop electing radical, conspicuously unintelligent candidates to positions of power and influence. Indeed, as our current fiasco continues to unfold, Americans would ideally realize that their 2010 votes (or lack thereof) created this mess in the first place.