The myth about Washington being more divided than ever (a notion, for example, that legislators in 1860 might disagree with) is particularly frustrating to anyone to the left of Jon Hunstman because the “polarization” is glaringly lopsided. There isn’t much daylight between the President and much of the GOP.

So why is it that establishment Republicans ideologically aligned with many Democrats on a range of issues might be so reluctant to rein in the Tea Party? Why, for example, do Republicans compare Heritagecare’s sloppy roll-out to mass death without drawing rebukes from their own?

The obvious answer is that they think it will help them when elections roll around.

But, as a POLITICO piece shed light on, there could be another explanation–hurt feelings (emphasis mine):

“This is a competency problem,” [former George W. Bush Secretary of Veterans Affairs James’ Nicholson said. “I think it’s fair, as you know they sought in Katrina to portray that as a competency issue, that they be held to that level.”

Really? Comparing an inconvenience to fatal incompetence on a mass scale is an issue of fairness because Republicans have painful memories triggered when the Obama administration hits a snag?

It helps explain relatively more responsible Republicans’ encouragement of Katrina/ comparisons. If Republicans really wanted a comparable Bush screw-up to compare the ACA to, they’d probably point to the growing pains of Medicare Part D. Perhaps its easier for the center-right to simply pander to mouth-foaming wing of the GOP than to deal with their own emotional trauma stemming from having supported that 6-foot tall walking trainwreck that could barely string a few sentences together. Only when it becomes political suicide – i.e. backing Romney over Santorum, avoiding sovereign default at the 11th hour – do GOP leaders manage to beat back the insurgent right and stop treating political debates like group therapy.

Samuel Knight

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.