As has been aptly demonstrated by every poster and almost every commenter on this blog, the Ryan plan is a political fuckup of the first order, with 58% opposition from a fairly unengaged electorate. But Republicans can’t back down — in this respect, they’re like the habitually philandering, verbally abusive, binge-drinking husband who wants to keep his long-suffering wife from heading out the door. Deep down, they know that they deserve the heartbreak that’s coming, but they’re desperately casting around for a way to keep the little woman in the kitchen where she belongs.
Enter the debt ceiling. Yesterday’s vote was telegraphed to the markets as a joke, but, like the philandering husband cleaning his guns on the kitchen table, it’s a preview of coming attractions. Republicans showed Democrats that they have a united caucus, and that half of the House Democrats will vote the way that Fox News scares them into voting.
So what will happen next is pretty dreary and predictable. Republicans will attach some kind of Medicare “reform” to the debt ceiling bill. They’ll pass it at the last possible minute, probably a week after Tim Geithner is hospitalized for nervous exhaustion, and a day or two after Paul Krugman is put under mental hygiene arrest. It will be carefully calibrated to be the worst thing that the Senate can pass and Obama can sign. And, just in the same way that the wife always goes back to her jackass husband for the sake of the kids, Obama will then sign it, for the sake of the country.
Once this grand bipartisan consensus is achieved, Republicans will call the bill that they passed the “Ryan plan”, tell their base that they won, and argue that the fuss over the original, real Ryan plan was just histrionics from the lieberal media. Their claims will be accompanied by a hosannah chorus from the usual DC media suspects, who will hail its bracing realism and shared sacrifice. By this time next year, the plan to replace Medicare with vouchers will be firmly ensconced in the memory hole, and the Bachmann/Cain ticket will be blaming Obama for the double-dip recession.