October 1, 2013
John Boehner (Jim Bourg/Reuters)
John Boehner (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

I like this point by Jonathan Chait:

The debt ceiling is the event that has the potential — faint but real — to awaken business. Business has complacently assumed that Republicans are posturing in their demands. The government shutdown may underscore the reality that they are truly cut off from reality, that the gun they are aiming at the head of the world economy has live bullets.
So far, there is no sign of any such awakening. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is calling for the government to be open and the debt ceiling to be lifted without conditions — which is to say it is backing the Democratic position. But it’s not organizing any kind of concerted attack on Republican rule of the House.

I like it, that is, except for the very last bit.

I think it’s generally true that GOP-aligned groups, whether they are in it for economic interest or other substantive concerns, have treated GOP brinksmanship with a kind of detached bemusement. Sure, having crazies to act on their behalf might not be as good as having Members of Congress who could actually get something done, but there’s not much harm in it, and it’s not as if Republicans can really develop and pass a far-reaching agenda as long as Barack Obama is in the White House. Chait is probably correct, too, that most business interests have assumed that Republicans wouldn’t really blow up the economy. The Chamber is no stranger to using extreme rhetoric while actually cutting deals.

Where I think Chait is wrong, however, is about the most likely solution. He spins out a scenario of moderate Republicans ditching their party and trying to put together an ad-hoc new governing coalition in the House, with one of their own as Speaker. Here’s the thing: dumping the party and getting a new Speaker would be a radical move; all the moderates had to do to this point was just vote against the CRs that the Ted Cruz faction were pushing.

Moreover, while it is true that 25 moderates could threaten Republican control of the House, what’s really the case is that if the bulk of mainstream conservatives in the House — the 175 or so mainstream conservatives who supposedly would vote for a clean CR, but in fact have supported brinkmanship — decided to oppose these tactics, it would end right away.

The likely problem for that ‘fraidy cat conference? They only feel pressure coming from one side. If GOP-aligned groups who were concerned about the economic effects of shutdowns and debt limit politics, as well as GOP-aligned groups who care about electoral success such as pro-life or pro-gun organizations, began to put pressure on mainstream conservatives, it’s very likely they would respond.

Especially if there was some real muscle behind that pressure.