My Republican father used to say that conservatism was looking for stairs to walk down rather than a window to jump out. It wasn’t an original statement, but it was accurate. I wonder what he would say now.
Those were the days when one could be a moderate and conservative at the same time without fear of party reprisal, before adherence to rigid doctrine replaced a constructive approach to politics and, for that matter, good old common sense. It was a time before the virtual civil war being fought now every three months or so in this city threatened to bring down the economy and hoist us all on the petard of antisocial causes seasoned with unbending ideology.
Why, Republicans and Democrats even used to seek each other’s advice now and then, perhaps over lunch and dinner or in sharing a ride home or to the office. It was an era when “loyal opposition” wasn’t a phrase meaning capitulation.
The government shutdown that ended early Thursday barely averted a U.S. default. But another crisis, like the hurricanes that often plagues us, will be back in January, when we will have to deal with the prospect of closed government and possible default once again. In the meantime, estimates of the shutdown’s cost have ranged as high as $24 billion.
The latest polls reveal that 74 percent of the general public — Democrats, independents and Republicans — blame the Grand Old Party for the latest fiscal nightmare. Perhaps that will convince the party’s hard noses to reassess their positions next time out, but don’t count on it. The rebellious Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — backed by the now-activist Heritage Foundation and its leader, former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina — will still be around.
It is difficult to explain to those in the so-called tea party, who believe all those fiscal experts are just alarmists about the repercussions of default, that they are playing with fire, as Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said recently. Their belief that what would rise from the ashes would be better reveals an incredible ignorance about the realities of financial insolvency on a global scale.