‘Forced by the momentum of their ideology’

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Michael Gerson has a curious column today on the status of the larger fiscal talks between President Obama and congressional Republicans, and Gerson’s concerns that they’re not going especially well. But in the process, the conservative columnist used one of the greatest phrases I’ve seen in a long while.

The debt ceiling is a form of leverage they can’t responsibly use. A partial government shutdown or full implementation of the sequester are less toxic alternatives but of questionable utility. […]

Given this weak Republican position, Obama must be tempted by a shiny political object: the destruction of the congressional GOP. He knows that Republicans are forced by the momentum of their ideology to take positions on spending that he can easily demagogue.

“Forced by the momentum of their ideology.” I wish I’d come up with that one.

As Jon Chait joked, “They’re forced by ideology. There’s nothing they can do about it! The ideology has momentum. Republicans are merely along for the ride.”

Quite right. Under Gerson’s argument, Republicans have no choice but to adopt an extreme ideology, no choice but to follow this ideology’s “momentum,” and no choice but to take positions on spending that the American mainstream finds offensive and unacceptable.

And it’s not very sporting of President Obama to respond to this set of circumstances by drawing attention to the fact that his radicalized rivals – the folks who’ve spent four years trying to destroy him at all costs – are pursuing a dangerous agenda that most voters would consider ridiculous.

After all, it’s not the Republicans’ fault – they’re simply forced by the momentum of their ideology to take unpopular positions.

Gerson added that this dynamic will prevent “serious action” on debt reduction – that is, aside from the more than $2.5 trillion in debt reduction Obama has already adopted, which goes unmentioned in the column – because Obama insists on a responsible, balanced approach that enjoys the overwhelming support of the American mainstream, including, incidentally, Gerson.

What a strange column.

Michael Gerson

'Forced by the momentum of their ideology'

Updated