A couple of months ago, Ramesh Ponnuru made a curious case in support of Mitt Romney. As Ponnuru argued, congressional Republicans "aren't going to change," they're not going to compromise, and they'll continue to make the nation ungovernable if President Obama wins. It's better, he said, to have Romney win so Washington can function under "unified Republican government."
In other words, GOP policymakers will simply never work constructively or cooperatively with Democrats, so if you want to avoid "gridlock," voters have no choice but to let Republicans control everything.
David Brooks makes a similar case in his column today. Republican lawmakers "still have more to fear from a primary challenge from the right than from a general election challenge from the left," so they'll continue to refuse to govern. If you want to "get big stuff done," Brooks concludes, you have no choice but to give Republicans power over the federal government.
It's rather remarkable to see the Ponnuru/Brooks thesis in print, as if this is somehow normal. The argument, in a nutshell, is that the politics of hostage strategies must be respected and rewarded, and that in an era of a radicalized Republican Party, Democrats should accept that they simply aren't allowed to govern, ever. They're free to work with Republicans, but that's it.
The argument is just astounding. Inflexible Republicans, allergic to compromise and obsessed with obstructionism, would rather destroy the government than work cooperatively with Democrats, ergo, don't elect Democrats. The hostage takers of American politics aren't fooling around, so it's better for everyone if they get their ransom.
Brooks added, however, that Romney will be a responsible moderate -- all of his campaign promises notwithstanding -- so there's no cause for alarm. And this reminds me of Brooks' interesting track record.
Exactly two years ago this week, the New York Times columnist assured the public that the Republican Congress wouldn't be that bad. On the contrary, Brooks said, the incoming Republican leaders would be "modest and cautious." They'd be "sober." They'd resist the urge to "overreach." The GOP's leaders, Brooks wrote at the time, are "prepared to take what they can get, even if it's not always what they would like."
The new Republicans may distrust government, but this will be a Republican class with enormous legislative experience. Tea Party hype notwithstanding, most leading G.O.P. candidates either served in state legislatures or previously in Washington. The No Compromise stalwarts like Senator Jim DeMint have a big megaphone but few actual followers within the Senate.
Over all, if it is won, a Republican House majority will be like a second marriage. Less ecstasy, more realism.
Two years later, Brooks' prediction looks ridiculous, if not literally laughable.
Nevertheless, he's certain a Romney administration and Republican lawmakers will be responsible, and the new Republican president with the far-right agenda would abandon everything he's promised voters and "govern as a center-right moderate."
Given Brooks' track record, his assurances are underwhelming.