The New Pattern of American Politics
The battle over the debt ceiling may be the best example of the gap between the reasonable wing of American politics and the extreme wing.
As the dance over the debt ceiling and the budget continues, a definitive choice about our nation’s future is taking shape.
I have written about the rise of the extreme wing of the Democrat Party and its refusal to follow the overwhelming wishes of the American people. And I have written about growing bipartisanship in the House. Some rational Democrats have supported 86 percent of the bills which Speaker Kevin McCarthy has brought to the floor.
It occurred to me that these two patterns may represent a profound new way of thinking about American politics and government.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders recognized the development of a new pattern in our system when she said, in her response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union, “The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left; the choice is between normal or crazy.”
Certainly, the extremists who rewrite American history, promote racial discrimination, impose sexual ideology on children, and want to use government to coerce the rest of us could be described as “crazy.” (Gad Saad’s amazing book, “The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense” certainly makes the case that we are dealing with a mental health problem more than a political ideology problem.)
How else do you explain Democrats rejecting the idea parents’ rights? While 84 percent of all Americans favor parents’ right to know what their children are taught in school, only 12 percent oppose it. Yet, every Democrat in the House voted against H.R. 5, the Parents Bill of Rights. That certainly seems crazy politically.
However, President Biden’s maneuvering around the debt ceiling and budget debate made me realize there is a different contrast that may describe what’s happening more effectively. There are reasonable people trying to reach agreements which fit the desires and values of the American people. And there are extremists who are fighting for a set of values supported by a small minority of the American people.
The fight over the debt ceiling may be the best example of the gap between the reasonable wing of American politics and the extreme wing. President Biden has said he will not negotiate. He does not want a single penny cut from spending, and he will not accept any spending changes added to the debt ceiling legislation.
The Biden position is resoundingly opposed by most Americans. Only 27 percent of Americans favor Biden’s position, while 45 percent would raise the debt ceiling only with spending cuts. Seventeen percent would not raise the ceiling at all, because they believe too much government spending is waste.
If those who want to raise the debt ceiling without cuts joined with those willing to raise the ceiling with cuts, then there would be a 72 percent majority coalition. On the other hand, if President Biden’s extreme position galvanized people in the other direction, he would face a 62 percent majority opposition.
Speaker McCarthy can (and should) continue to make the reasonable request that the two sides sit down and find a solution. If President Biden maintains his extreme position of no negotiations and no cuts, then Speaker McCarthy can bring forward a debt ceiling bill with modest, reasonable spending changes. He knows the vast majority of the country will find Biden’s stubbornness unacceptable. In that circumstance, some of the Democrats who have been voting with the Republicans may decide the best way to represent their constituents is to vote in a bipartisan coalition for a reasonable solution to the debt ceiling.
If these choices between reasonable, popular positions and extreme, fringe positions continue to define politics and government over the next two years, reasonable vs. extreme may be the theme of 2024.