But all this assumes that Boehner could sell this approach to his caucus. His problem is that even a “compromise” that tilts hard in the Republicans’ direction will be branded as capitulation by hard-core conservatives who believe controlling one chamber of Congress should be enough to get them everything they want.

It’s a peculiar view of democracy, and it’s also the black hole in this negotiation. If Boehner can’t assemble a majority with Republicans, he will have to negotiate with House Democrats, who will have trouble voting for a package that doesn’t include some revenue. But concessions to Democrats will further alienate conservatives in Boehner’s own party.

Boehner could thus either court a rebellion against his leadership or push the country toward default on its debt.

I’d actually feel bad for Boehner — an old-fashioned sort who’d normally reach for a deal — if he and his party had not shamelessly stoked the Tea Party to win power.