I’m receptive to arguments that presuppose that a lot of voters pay minimal attention to politics, and I’m not tied to the proposition that Plan B was the obviously right play. Still: Are there really a lot of voters who do not know that Republicans oppose tax increases on the rich? If Republicans vote for a bill that by its silence on upper-income tax rates allows them to rise, will voters really not know that they did only because Republicans were powerless to stop it? It seems hard to credit. If taxing job creators causes economic calamity, would Obama and the Democrats really be able to get a lot of mileage out of saying that Republicans supported it? I’m skeptical.
That some Republicans are willing to see higher taxes for the sake of anti-tax purity is topsy-turvy enough. Adding to the vertigo: The Republicans (inside and outside the House) who fret about blurring the party’s definition are the ones who are doing most to blur it. They are the ones who are, in most cases, accusing Republican leaders of seeking to raise taxes when they are actually trying to cut taxes as much as they think possible — cut them, that is, from the levels the law already has in place for 2013. They’re the ones who are accusing most House Republicans of “caving” to the Democrats, even as some of them prefer that the Democrats get their way entirely. That’s where the convoluted politics of this moment have led us.