America is embarking on a fascinating and terrifying social experiment: the Republican Party and the Democratic Party now both have a spine. The Republican Party has a spine because that’s what they’re good at it. Whether it’s reducing taxes, bombing Iraq or impeaching President Clinton, the Republican Party knows how to rally around a cause. Personality studies back this up: conservatives tend to trust their sources and stay true to the team. The fact that the Republican Party is as divided as ever is a factor here, but that doesn’t mean John Boehner will throw up his hands and put a Senate bill on the House floor, like he was forced to at the end of the government shutdown.
Democrats have a spine because they just successfully got the Republican Party to paint itself into a corner on the government shutdown. Furthermore, the coming negotiations on the sequester cuts lean heavily on the military, which many Republicans want to undo. Democrats see this time to push for what seems nearly impossible with a Republican-controlled House: tax increases. Democrats are expected to ask for one dollar to undo the non-defense sequester cuts for every dollar they give back to the defense department.
The deal struck to end the government shutdown and avert a national default also had this provision: Democrats (led by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Republicans (led by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) will come together in a conference to produce a budget by December 13th. It was hard to see what the two sides could possibly agree on before Democrats brought tax increases into the picture. Now?
Now we have a social experiment. Democrats and Republicans both have a spine, both figure to be intractable in negotiations, and they are working with the same deadline.
Watch this space.