We can argue over who is responsible for the sequester — though between two co-equal branches of government, who passed and signed the legislation, the point of that seems limited. But that doesn’t take away from the clarifying moment we’re witnessing, the scale of which we likely haven’t seen since the government shutdowns of the mid-90s. Republicans have run on big across-the-board spending cuts for literally decades.
As a rhetorical flourish they appeal not only to the base of the GOP but to a wide swathe of the electorate. As actual policy — or perhaps better to say as actual implemented policy — they are far less appealing and only really have traction with one part of the Republican base —after you set aside the military, transfer payments for old people and various other stuff.
But here we are. For the first time I think in our history we are about to go over the precipice of genuine across-the-board spending cuts. And Republicans are completely freaking out. There’s no other way to describe it.
These days, probably like some of you, I check in on Twitter to get a feel for the political chatter of the moment. One thing struck me last night: Republicans as a group couldn’t decide between two not really consistent takes on the drama. Either a) it’s a lie that across the board cuts in spending will damage domestic or national security or make anyone starve in the streets or b) it’s an unmitigated disaster for which President Obama is entirely responsible.
Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson says John Boehner will lose his Speakership if he agrees to more taxes (not likely). Folks in the House are pledging the President won’t break them. This is what a crack up looks like.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.