Finally taking on the extremes

After something like 1600+ days without a budget, after the better part of the days since President Obama’s first inauguration, and after a lot of manufactured problems, there is a budget deal on the horizon:

The plan, a product of months of negotiation between Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican, and Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, lacks many priorities Republicans have fought for during the Obama era. It posits no major reforms to Social Security and Medicare, for instance, nor does it balance the budget.

But for the first time in years, many Republicans showed openness to a temporary truce.

“It’s a positive step forward,” said Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “It gets us past these minicrises that have caused all kinds of disruptions on our American citizens and government.”

But that’s not the real story here. The real story comes from Rep. Boehner:

This is not to say conservatives are rolling over. A number of well-funded outside groups, notably the Club for Growth, Heritage Action and FreedomWorks, have blasted the plan as insufficiently conservative and vowed to punish Republican lawmakers who support it.

Their antagonism has infuriated Republican leaders.

The frustration was on full display as Republican House Speaker John Boehner unloaded on the groups after a reporter asked about their opposition.

“Most major conservative groups have put out statements blasting this deal,” the reporter said. “Are you worried that there…”

Boehner cut the reporter off and boomed: “You mean the groups that came out and opposed it before they ever saw it?”

“Yes, those groups,” the reporter replied. “Are you worried that there are…”

Boehner interrupted again: “They’re using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals,” he said, raising his voice. “This is ridiculous! Listen, if you’re for more deficit reduction, you’re for this agreement.”

Does this spell doom for Boehner’s political future? I hope not. It isn’t that I like or support him or anything about him. It’s that the culture of elections is fundamentally flawed. This is largely a result of gerrymandered districts that make it all but impossible for moderates to win (which is one reason the House is consistently more crazy than the Senate), but it’s also about who goes out and votes. If the U.S. had required voting like, say, Australia, would we have the problems we have today? Probably not. We’d still have problems, but I think they would be lesser; we would inevitably see a better reflection of what the American electorate wants, and so our politics would be less extreme. Not that required voting will ever happen here. But I digress. It would be preferable to see Boehner maintain the level of power he has over his party while continuing in this reasonable direction. Government shutdowns, debt ceiling debacles, and sequesters don’t help the economy. Those things don’t help the nation.