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The conversations I have privately with Republicans are always very different than the public presentations that are made of them.Even when their leadership wanted to cooperate, the tenor of the Republican base had shifted in a way that made it very difficult for them to cooperate without paying a price internally.Every economist I’ve talked to—including Republican economists — thinks that we need to do a big stimulus, and I’m willing to work with you to figure out how this package looks.’ And typically, what you’d get would be, ‘Well, Mr.President, I’m not sure that this big-spending approach is the right one, and families are tightening their belts right now, and I don’t hear a lot of my constituents saying that they want a bunch of big bureaucracies taking their hard-earned tax money and wasting it on a bunch of make-work projects around the country.Fox News coverage had already started to drift in that direction.By then, you realized that the attitudes that Sarah Palin had captured during the election were increasingly representative of the Republican-activist base.’ And he shrugged and looked a little sheepish and said, ‘Probably not.’ I see a straight line from the announcement of Sarah Palin as the 2008 vice-presidential nominee to what we see today in Donald Trump.There have been times when I’ve said confidently that the fever is going to have to break, but it just seems to get worse.
If they were able to maintain uniform opposition to whatever I proposed, that would send a signal to the public of gridlock and dysfunction, and that would help them win seats in the midterm. Typically, what would happen, certainly at the outset, would be that I would say, ‘We got a big problem, we’re losing 800,000 jobs a month.
On the drive up to Capitol Hill to meet with the House Republican Caucus, John Boehner released a press statement saying that they were opposed to the stimulus.
At that point we didn’t even actually have a stimulus bill drawn up, and we hadn’t meant to talk about it.
So we think that government’s got to do that same thing that families do.’ So, you kind of hit that ideological wall.
I’m sure that after about four or five of those sessions, at some point, I might have said, ‘Look, guys, we have a history here dating back to the Great Depression,’ and I might at that point have tried to introduce some strong policy arguments.