The Weird Politics of Republican Hostage Taking


So there’s a weird thing going on with the Republican hostage-taking strategy. All of them agree that taking hostages is hunky dory, but there’s a split over which hostage should be taken. Some Republicans think the party should go ahead and fund the government and then have an all-out fight using the debt ceiling as leverage. John Boehner, Charles Krauthammer, and Marc Thiessen are in this crew. On the other side, we have Republicans who think we should go ahead and raise the debt ceiling and use the government shutdown as leverage for conservative demands. Tea party firebrands Erick Erickson and Matt Kibbe are on this team.

Here’s the weird part: The (relative) moderates want to rely on the debt ceiling for leverage, even though breaching the debt ceiling would be far more catastrophic than a government shutdown. The (relative) extremists are shying away from the horror of a debt ceiling breach and just want to continue the shutdown. Doesn’t this seem backward?

It depends on what the real motivations are. Team Boehner claims that they want to use the debt ceiling as a hostage because it’s better leverage. But Team Erickson doesn’t believe them. They apparently think this is just cover. The moderates know perfectly well that a debt ceiling breach would cause a market panic that in turn would force Republicans to cave in. So they’re only pushing this line because they want a way out of the fight, and this will do it. Conversely, a fight over the government shutdown could go on for a long, long time, and eventually Democrats might end up caving in.

That’s my take on the oddness of which players are on which team, anyway. Is it correct? I’m not sure. I need Dave Weigel or Robert Costa or someone like that to help interpret the wall posters here.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate