How do we explain the House Republicans' behavior on the stimulus package vote? Their behavior is irrational. Or rational. One of the two. Well, it depends on what we consider rational.

Woefully outnumbered in a legislature in which the simple majority dominates, the logical course of action for the House GOP would seem to involve cutting the best possible deal with realistic expectations. The Democrats have an 80-seat majority. When the GOP threatens to hold its breath until it gets what it wants the inevitable response is "OK, good luck with that." There is absolutely no incentive for a majority that large to negotiate with assholes. If the minority feels like behaving, i.e. recognizing that they can't dictate the outcome with 188 seats out of 435 and making a few demands, it is worthwhile for the majority to logroll and make a few concessions to build goodwill for future conflicts. But if the GOP expects to get its way by pitching hissy fits they are simply going to get bypassed. Hence they are irrational.

They might be rational, though, depending on how rational you consider the Gingrich Plan.

The Gingrich Plan originated circa 1986, an era in which the GOP was not only the minority but had been the minority for decades. The party's strategy was to play along and take what they could get from the majority. Newt, an unknown at the time, disagreed. He urged the party to oppose the Democrats tooth-and-nail on nearly every issue and eventually the public would be persuaded by the inherent correctness of the Republican alternative. Because of the Republican takeover of 1994 the Gingrich Plan was widely hailed as a success. It might be a good minority strategy, but it's really a dice roll.

Their logic today is that getting a few concessions is not that valuable because it gets them a share of ownership in case of failure. By having voted against the bailout in unison it is owned by the Democrats entirely. So they are essentially making a huge gamble that the stimulus legislation is going to fail. They're rolling the dice that it will be a big disaster and they can beam smug we-told-you-so smiles to a voting public that will come begging for the GOP alternative. In short, if the GOP:

  • supports the stimulus and it succeeds, the Democrats get 99.9% of the credit anyway
  • supports the stimulus and it fails, they share the blame
  • opposes the stimulus and it succeeds, the Democrats get 100% of the credit anyway
  • opposes the stimulus and it fails, the GOP gets credit for having opposed it

    Of those four options they obviously chose the correct one. "Correct" in terms of their own interests. Note, however, that they chose an option that involves them rooting really hard for America and the world to spiral into a Depression unlike anything we've seen in 100 years. You know, just like they hope really hard for a terrorist attack so that they can wring out a few more votes.

    America First!tm That's the GOP. Every single time.